THIS is why I should never drink.

Posted in food, kids on February 4, 2012 by penelopegeorge

We never have parties here. In fact, Tony and I have been together nearly 20 years, and we have never had more than four people over unless they were mostly under 12 and here for a birthday party. But we have been invited to several around the neighborhood and it is simply time to reciprocate. The date of this blessed event is coming soon.

Maybe I should have known better to even consider a party, but the idea hit me after too many glasses of wine at my friend Nicole’s house (who has been the best bad-influence, like, EVER). During the ingestion of these too many glasses of wine we were discussing the fact that Nic has several parties a year. Being more than a little drunk and in a party mood, I very generously offered to have the next one at our house.

The next day, I remembered our complete lack of experience at grown-up parties. The last time we had a large number of adults was at our daughter’s fourth birthday (she’s thirteen now). My husband, worried about hurting feelings of other kids and their families, invited two full preschool classes plus parents and siblings, and every other kid in the neighborhood. At some point during the festivities someone counted the number of guests. The tally was 18 adults and 32 children, plus myself, hubby, birthday girl, grandparents who were here to assist, and two hired teenagers to do face painting and bouncy castle.

It was a hit. Except for the fact that the day of the party is the only time in our 20 years I have ever seen hubby hung over, and he had it bad. Plus he was making balloon animals. With no pump. But I had warned him to stay away from the Grand Marnier.

In the years since that fateful day we’ve talked about throwing a party, because we apparently refuse to learn from our mistakes. The problem has been that regular party times are hard for us. Tony’s a professional magician, mostly children’s entertainment. December and weekends? HE WORKS WEEKENDS! AND DECEMBER! Summer is festival season and he’s rarely home. If he isn’t working, then that’s not the time to be spending $500 throwing a party.

Wait, did I just say $500? Really? Wow, that would be getting us off cheap. Because hubby started looking around the house, and all he can see is problems. The bathroom’s awful (true, it was awful when we bought the house in 2002 and it did not improve under us), the doors were outdated (true, they were original with the house in the early ’80’s), the chair rails and baseboards needed painting (not that badly) and the furniture in the front room is an eyesore (okay, it’s not lovely, but it’s not that bad).

Bathroom overhaul: $4,200 in labor, $1,500 for fixtures, $250 for toilet we forgot to buy with the other fixtures (oops), and $300 on accessories. Heck, let’s add in another $200 for random Home Depot runs. Bathroom total: $6,450. Total time: 4 days overhaul, 5 days shopping for stuff.

Hubby did agree, at that point, that the other projects could wait. He’s such a liar.

Ugly doors: $650 in new doors and handles (thank GOD they used the old doors as a template to cut the new doors, a service well worth the $30 per door), $250 on paint and accessories. Total was $900, plus a solid week of removing doors, washing, sanding, and painting the frames, installing new doors, and painting those. Yes, we painted them while they were hanging. Sue me.

Chair rails: you would think that since we had just painted the doors we would have the equipment we needed to paint the chair rails and baseboards. Ha! No such luck. I think about another $200 in supplies there, and a freakin’ eternity taping, washing, and painting.

He has now forgotten about new furniture and has moved into menu insanity. I’m not sure our marriage will make it to the party, except neither of us will give up that bathroom.


Are They REALLY Related?

Posted in family, kids on March 18, 2011 by penelopegeorge

The other night I was watching while my two children, our 12-year-old daughter, Shayla, and our almost 7-year-old son, Dimitri, were having cereal as a bedtime snack. I was watching because they really have to be watched. Really, Corn Pops shouldn’t be a challenge, but with our kids, one can never presume. But as they ate, I took notice of their little quirks, those little preferences that make them so, well, themselves. And I marveled at just how different these two are.

My son, as usual, had most of my attention. He is generally just one poor choice away from the ER. This time he was swinging between the table and cupboard. He supports his weight on his arms while he swings his legs from a foot off the ground. I very nearly stopped him, but I remembered how proud he was of this skill just last week, showing everyone and announcing, “Look how strong I am!” Because of this activity, the snack time conversation went something like this.

Me: “Dimitri, take a bite.”

Dimitri: “Okay.”

He drops down, takes a bite, and swings again while he chews. I wait for him to swallow, and we start the script over again.

Meanwhile, I kept close tabs on my daughter. She’s a terrible eater. This isn’t a new development. It started when she was a baby, so we are rather used to it. However, I was pleased to note that she ate quietly and calmly, in complete contrast to her brother.

I was suddenly struck by something at little eerie. Shayla eats like me. Or rather, like how I used to. I used to drive my husband crazy with the tiny bites I insisted were just the right size. We argued often about spoon sizing. He got bored in restaurants while waiting for me to nibble my portion to death. His biggest peeve was spaghetti, which I ate one strand at a time. Can you imagine how long it took me to eat a plate of pasta one strand at a time? He tried to teach me, several times in fact, how to put three or four strands on the fork. The thought made me want to gag.

But – and to this I say “HA!” to my husband – our daughter followed in my footsteps. Shayla won’t use a soup spoon for anything. Cereal, soup, Jell-o, you name it, it has to be eaten with a teaspoon. “Bite-sized” in our house could mean microscopic portions. And one strand of spaghetti? Forget it. While her brother needs a shovel to get this food in his mouth, Shayla takes a single strand and, while it is hanging at full length from her fork, takes a bitty bite from the tips.

This is just one example of how she is. Shayla is a dainty girl. We had a cat when she was a baby (Squeaker died before Dimitri was born), and she was the very definition of gentle. When she was a toddler I used to joke you could keep the fine china at knee-level and it would be safe from her. She would look at the stuff, admire it, but you could always trust her not to touch it. Nothing (much) ever broke under Shayla’s touch.

She never climbed the furniture. Never used the lower cupboard shelves as a ladder to get to the counter. At the park she was happiest on the swings, and she didn’t like climbing.

In her room, she keeps her papers in neat stacks, and though her stories look scattered over the various surface areas, to her they are “away”. She knows where each story she authored is, and she gets very upset if they are moved. All her stuff – her toys, her figurines, her stories – has a “spot” and she gets them back in that spot when she’s done. Move something out of that spot? It HAS to go back to where it belongs.

Not so with her brother. He’s a little hurricane. He thinks it’s funny to run into walls, and does so at every opportunity. I wouldn’t bring a pet into the house until he was old enough. The bigger the mess, the funner the game.

He learned how to get out of the back room (when the gate was locked) by climbing over the ledge and into the kitchen. At the playground the only way he will face forward on the slide is if he is going UP.

His room is full of toys scattered all over his floor, many of which are missing pieces. Many of these missing pieces would just pop right back on if only we could locate 1) the piece and 2) the body, preferably at the same time. This is more work than he is willing to do, and would much rather just replaced the toy. (Of note, he actually got away with this once. Within hours the replacement toy was in pieces.)

Yet, as I watched them chowing down on cereal that night, monitoring my daughter’s food intake and my son’s recklessness, I noticed they have the same face. Their eyes, their noses, their jaw and chin – Dimitri is a boy version of Shayla. So I can look at Dimitri and remember when Shayla was nearly seven, and I can look at Shayla and picture what Dimitri will look like when he’s twelve.

They will always be so different, but they will always be ours. And they will always belong to each other. Because that is just what family is.

My Addiction

Posted in TV on February 21, 2011 by penelopegeorge

I have a confession to make. I have an addiction. Not only do I have an addiction, but I have become the ultimate low-life; a pusher. I have gotten my husband addicted, too.

What is my drug of choice? It is “The Bachelor” on ABC.

Now I should point out that before this season, we never watched this show. This means I completely missed Brad’s last run, when he left not one, but two women at the end. Going into this season, I felt like I needed Cliff’s Notes on Brad.

Like all addicts, I didn’t plan on getting hooked. Really, I didn’t even plan on watching it. I stumbled upon the season’s premier whilst surfing the channel guide, desperate for something to record and watch after the kids were in bed. Nothing, and I mean nothing, on any of our fav channels, all of which are cable. And then I thought, “Hmmm…ya know, we never watch the network channels anymore. Wonder if they have anything good on”.

I am going to digress here, to whine and complain about the cable channels. See, hubby and I watch a bunch of those other reality shows, the ones that made us a little bit smarter in subjects we have no use for. If there’s an auction, ghost, conspiracy, or weird monsters…we were so there. Unfortunately, we only get these channels through Canadian cable stations, which purchase the episodes from their US counterparts. I know there are way more episodes than what we see, because right now we are in repeat hell. Not only are the same dozen or so shows cycled through, each one played a minimum of fifteen times throughout the week. One day hubby and I together were able to name all six “Conspiracy Theory” episodes and most of “Destination Truth” before we got bored.

And now, back to “The Bachelor”. I’m hooked. I can’t wait for the next episode. This is so not like me. Usually I don’t give a damn about anyone’s love life, including my own all too often. And it’s not like I know anyone on the show. The closest I come to personal investment is the bachelorette who looks a lot like a woman I know (Ashley Hebert will forever be known in this house as “the Mary Polly look-alike”). But I care about Brad. I care about the ladies. I have opinions on everyone, even though I KNOW it is all based on what the producer and director actually want us to think.

So we’ve been recording the show, every Monday night. I even double-check at least twice during the week to make sure it’s set to record, and I run down at 8:00 just in case the PVR has been shut off (thank-you, daughter). Yes, I’ve got it bad.

Still, I got to thinking about this formula for finding love. Take one very hot guy and twenty or so very hot women. Hot Women live together in a mansion, but in dorm-like conditions and ready to pack up and leave at any time. Hot Guy lives in another location. He doesn’t get to see who wakes up grumpy, who drinks too much coffee, or who leaves toothpaste in the sink for someone else to clean. These may seem minor, but if you have to live with this for the next thirty years? You can see my point.

So, Hot Guy can’t even see these women except for the dates. And let’s not make these dates just dinner-and-a-movie. No, that would be too ordinary. Let’s fly the group around the world so they can rappel down waterfalls. Or take them to Vegas so one of them can blow through $50,000 of someone else’s money (really not clear on whether that shopping spree came out of Brad’s pocket or the producer’s) and the rest can seethe in jealousy.

Next, every week Hot Guy has to eliminate Hot Women. He must base this decision mostly on how these women connected to him on their dates or, for the majority of the time, the little snatches of privacy they can steal with him. What a lot of pressure on these women! One random moment of insecurity or PMS, and they could be sent packing.

So, let’s see this formula for Perfect Mate: 1 Hot Guy + many, many Hot Women + isolation from support (let’s face it – in the real world, all the mothers and girlfriends of Hot Women would be telling them to dump his ass) + Cinderella dates + intense competition = HEA.

(That’s Happily Ever After, for those unfamiliar with romance novel lingo.)

If this really works, they should patent the process and sell spots on the Internet.

That darn cat

Posted in Uncategorized on July 1, 2010 by penelopegeorge

Some months ago, I permitted my daughter to get a cat. This was not a moment of weakness, but rather, I wanted a cat and I needed to tag-team my husband. My daughter was to use the big, sweet eyes on us, and I was to give in to her first. She and I make a great team.

I really like cats. I like dogs, too, but they require walking in all types of weather. Cats and I, we understand each other. They want love and affection on their terms, and otherwise they are very low maintenance. Like me, they need lots of solitude and sleep.

“Vanilla” was adopted from the pet store. We got him at the pet store because my husband was in charge of taking the kids to the shelter to pick a cat, and the pet store was closer and had better signage. (Thankfully, this store does not deal with pet mills.)  Vanilla wasn’t my daughter’s original choice, but the kitten she picked was one of a pair not yet available for adoption. The following week, we went back to buy it as a family.

My husband showed me the kittens. I took one look at the little balls of fluff and said, “No Siamese cats.”

I will quickly point out that I do not dislike Siamese cats. I have just learned to be leery of them. I’ve known three purebred Siamese cats, two on very long acquaintance, and they were all neurotic. Some people will argue that would describe all cats, but Siamese really do raise the bar. Of the three cats I knew, if they were human, they’d be the ones cutting off people in traffic and making obscene hand gestures. Or they would be standing on the street corner yelling for everyone to save himself, or they would stick their date with the check. I know for a fact their owners loved them to pieces, but I often felt it took a special kind of cat lover to truly want a Siamese for their very own.

But back at the pet store, my husband was confused. How did I know they were Siamese? Well, for starters, the sign on the window said Siamese, but other than that they had the markings of Siamese kittens.

Now, to calm the ire of Siamese cat lovers everywhere, I will confess that I would have lost the battle but for the fact the kittens still weren’t available for adoption. So, under the promise that the little darlings would, indeed, find a kind and loving home another day, I encouraged my daughter to pick a different cat, and we found Vanilla.

Vanilla was nearly all white, save for some orange on his ears and tail (in the months since his back has gotten quite orange, too). The staff informed me he was a Siamese/Snowshoe cross, but by this time my daughter had already cuddled the cat, which all parents know is as good as sold.

Okay, I thought, determined to find a bright side. He’s not all Siamese. He’s only half. I had no idea what a Snowshoe was, nor did the staff, and I assumed it was like Domestic Shorthair, an industry standard code name for “cat”. Snowshoe, I figured, had to refer to the abundance of white. Weeks after we brought Vanilla home, I Googled “Snowshoe cat”. This is what I found.

In 1965, a Siamese breeder had three kittens in a litter with very unique, non-Siamese markings. A breeding program was immediately begun. The name Snowshoe refers to the fact that only the paws are white.

So, no, I do not have a purebred Siamese. I have a Siamese/Siamese Mutant cross. How wonderful.

So far he has displayed several neurotic tendencies, battles all ankles who dare climb the stairs, and still prefers the wall-to-wall carpet to the EmeryCat board, of which I accidentally ordered six plus refills. (For all those who would send me letters defending their precious Siamese against the likes of me, know that the telephone menu at the EmeryCat order line was punishment enough.)

Vanilla also protects us all from drinking straws (he alone has learned those plastic tubes are “bent” on world domination), and will chase them all over the house. He also sits quietly for hours at a time, loves my daughter, tolerates my son, and keeps me in great company early in the morning when I’m the first one up. He leaves my yarn alone and seeks my lap over and over. He learned to trust me with a brush and is doing his best with the nail clippers. He doesn’t head-butt me awake at four in the morning, and he helps us keep the house clean by dumping clutter on the floor until we actually put it away.

I figure if I warn people he’s an ankle-nipper, I’ve done my duty.

Going for (insert G-word here)

Posted in Uncategorized on February 28, 2010 by penelopegeorge

Today is the last day of the Vancouver Olympics. Now, I am forced to admit that for the first week and a half, I paid almost no attention. This wouldn’t be unusual for me – I’m not a sports fan in the least – but I live in Vancouver. There has been so much hype about the Olympics for the past few years, good and bad, that I’ve sort of shut it out. When a friend on Facebook started a countdown one day, it took me a minute to realize she wasn’t going on vacation.

Ah, yes, I thought. The Olympics. (And now that I write that word – the O-word – I’m wondering if I’m allowed. Some of the negative hype over the years has been the list of words VANOC “owned” and threatened serious repercussions if they were found in print. Some of these words are fairly innocuous, such as “2010”, “winter”, and “gold”.)

What brought out my Olympic Spirit (there’s that O-word again!) was, of course, HOCKEY! And I’m not a hockey fan. Vancouver is a big hockey town, yet in the 20 years I’ve lived here I’ve been to one Canucks game about three years ago, and I won the tickets through work. I’ve never watched a televised game in its entirety, though I’ve been known to watch portions during the Stanley Cup. Yet I’ve watched three in the past week, one of them between Slovakia and Sweden, and I was not a passive observer. I was into it. Like the last 2 minutes of the Canada vs. Slovakia game, when, as the timer on the last period fell below eight minutes, Slovakia was quickly closing the 3-0 gap, and scored 2 goals in about 4 minutes? Ohmygawd, that was a nail-biting, amazing, driven bit of hockey.

Okay…okay. I’m alright now. Just a little flushed. And with just 20 minutes until Game 30, I better finish this blog.

This morning, I began to wonder about my sudden interest. There have been (insert O-word here) before, when both the Men’s and the Women’s hockey team brought home the (insert G-word here), and every year there are the World’s and the Stanley Cup. Obviously the fact that the games are all here plays a large role, but that can’t be it. It’s our game on our soil (which, in Vancouver this year, has not been touched by snow). Canada is watching with us, cheering with us. We have the chance, every four years, to prove to the world that this is our game. This time, it’s home-field advantage.

As the Coca-Cola commercial goes: Let’s make sure they know whose game they’re playing.


Posted in Uncategorized on February 6, 2010 by penelopegeorge

For those who know me, it is not news that we have done quite a bit of renos this year. It has been stressful, to say the least. When my husband gets in his head that he wants something done, it gets done.

I think I should point out here that I am the ultimate “make-do” gal. Throughout much of these renos I squawked about the amount of work involved. (Of note: I forgot to mention that though my husband gets things done, he does not often do the work alone. He recruits his wife at every opportunity, and insists on very tight timelines.)

When I vented to friends I was told to count my blessings, because they were all waiting on their husbands to finish some project(s) around the house. Yet I think I might be the ideal woman. Never in my life have I uttered the words, “I think the couch would look better on that wall.”

In spite of my griping we have a beautiful house. I hadn’t appreciated when we started just how much anxiety was caused by looking at the house. It was filled with general clutter (very little of it mine), old furniture, dated decor, and it desperately needed a paint job. We had both stopped “seeing” it, making do instead of doing the work that would bring our home up to it’s potential.

This can be true of anything. Take some time to think about what you want to see. This can be with anything from decorating to writing to Excel spreadsheets. Fixing something when it’s not broken is very satisfying

Hello world!

Posted in Uncategorized on January 31, 2010 by penelopegeorge

Hello, and thank you for visiting. I’m very excited about The Warrior Wizard. The manuscript is being professionally edited. Although I did some very heavy editing myself, having fresh eyes read it over is very important. I decided to hire an editor because this manuscript is my initiation to the publishing world, making a thorough edit even more important.

Cheers to all,