What I’m grateful for, 2021 version

I saw a Tweet today that said, “COVID is just like Sex and the City – it keeps coming back, and it’s worse every time.” That kinda sums up December 2021.

Last weekend I was with the Bell gals @ The Chalet (which perches atop a now almost scandalous private ski club), making tacos, drinking wine and playing Exploding Kittens. In the dark during a power outage (fun!). And this weekend I’m afraid to go to the grocery store, ordering K95 masks on-line, and thinking about another Christmas alone with hubby. What a difference a week makes. Thanks Omicron.

So in the midst of this shitstorm, I’m trying to focus on the blur of 2021 and what I am grateful for over the past 12 months:

Mahone Bay. Tops the list, of course. After 20 months away, G & I got to Mahone Bay in late July and stayed until early October. It was lovely there every single day, even when it rained. Living on the ocean is good for the soul. And we got to visit with Anne & Mark, absolute bonus.

Nothing beats the view from our deck in Mahone Bay.

Cape Breton trip. We took a fabulous vacation in Cape Breton, did the Cabot Trail (Caper Gas anyone?), stayed in a magical cabin in Ingonish with a hot tub watching the sunset over Cape Smokey. Spent some fun time with Mark & Anne in Port Hood – lovely beach and sunsets. Although it was a LOT of driving, which meant our day in Baddeck was basically spent with me sleeping in our hotel room.

Yes, the Caper Gas slogan is “Drive ‘er”
Our view of Cape Smokey – even better in a hot tub 🙂

A Gentleman in Moscow. I listened to this audiobook last winter, and it was truly the perfect pandemic lockdown book. Count Rostov faced his imprisonment in the Metropole hotel in Moscow with grace and humour; I can’t say it inspired me to do the same, but I appreciated that book so much. One of my favourites of all time now. Read at the perfect time, in the perfect way, listening to it on my daily walks to the grocery store, all masked up. Reminds me that when you read a book is sometimes as important as the book itself – like reading The Time Traveller’s Wife while visiting Chicago, it made me love the book even more as I walked around its setting.

Count Alexander Rostov is my hero

Silly sweet romances. Especially by Kristen Callihan and Tessa Bailey. I ate them up on my e-reader and on Audible. Also grateful to the Libby library app, which saved me a fortune in audiobooks. I am profoundly embarrassed by my Mahone Bay addiction to Linda Lael Miller cowboy stories, but they were what I needed at the time, apparently. I take that back – I am no longer embarrassed by my reading/listening choices. Fuck you if you’re judgmental about what people read. It’s month 21 of the fucking pandemic you fucking ass caterpillar!

I will read anything by these women. Loved Kate Clayborn’s Luck of the Draw series too.

Firefly coffee sessions. My pal Sharon turned me onto this great creative writing team. For between $10 and $50/month (whatever you can afford), you can participate in a 30-minute creative writing session every morning via Zoom, Monday-Friday. The sessions start with a question (“if you were a weather system, what weather would you be this morning?”), and then a writing prompt. You write for 20 minutes, and the facilitator ends the half hour with a poem. It’s a gentle and thoughtful way to start the day. We all have our favourite facilitators – mine is Asifa. Asifa is like starting the day with a hug. And she has great taste in poems, which are the best part of the session IMO. Everyone is encouraged to turn their camera on, on Zoom, so it feels more personal. And almost every single attendee is female – I think I saw one dude, once, clearly second-guessing his decision. And I love Lori, who has the lovely green-painted feature wall. I feel like I know Lori just because of that green wall.

Asifa = morning hugs.

Old El Paso tacos. For real. Very old school, but I’ve rediscovered the taco kit, and G & I are addicted. And they are an entire meal (with veggies!) in 20 minutes, start to finish. I took them up to The Chalet last weekend for Friday night dinner. They were a hit. And Candy has now turned me onto the soft tacos too. My sister introduced tacos to our family after she went away to U of Waterloo in the early 80s. Tacos will always be early 80s to me. And sis still makes them, to this day. Her vegan kid fills them with a black bean mixture instead of ground beef, and I could totally get down with that.

Sushi in Paula’s backyard this spring. As Wave 3 seemed to calm down, and spring fever hit, Paula and I got together in her backyard, for her birthday and then another time after that, ordered in local sushi and gorged on it. A lovely setting, very safe, with great food and much needed best friend company. What a luxury. I am also now a huge fan of seaweed salad. I can’t remember the name of the sushi place on Queen East, but it is damned good. Dragon rolls, umagi. Yum.

Sushi on the back deck, with Lu’s water bowl …

Rug hooking. I lost a bit/lot of hooking inspiration during the pandemic, but it came back in full force in Mahone Bay. Sitting in that brightly lit condo, facing the ocean, with natural light streaming in … that’s my inspiration space. I started on a new rug with many happy colours. It’s still down there, waiting for me to finish it this upcoming summer 2022 (fingers crossed). (Does anyone else think 2022 sounds like sci-fi? For some reason 2022 seems so much farther in the future than 2021.)

My comfy rug hooking space w/ inspirational view
Can you hook while drinking beer and eating popcorn – yes!

Sweetie making coffee. It’s the small gestures that mean the most. Hubby gets the coffee ready every night, so I just need to push the on button in the morning. Invaluable for those 8 am Condo Board meetings via Zoom. He has various little signs he sets out against the coffee maker, letting me know it’s set to blow. They are adorbs. I have promised to rug hook that fish for him. It’s his signature. I remember him passing me notes in the library during law school, when we were supposed to be studying, with that exact fish on them.

Beautiful art. We added to our collection, here in TO and in MB.

Lynn Misner, Power House Art Gallery, Lunenburg
Cape Breton Gallery, Inverness (photo of Inverness Beach)
More Lynn Misner, we love her
My birthday present to me – Birds of a Feather, Morgan Jones, Collective 131 Toronto

Colouring. I don’t do this enough, but again, I seem to be inspired by Mahone Bay. This was one lovely afternoon in September.

All from Jenny Lawson’s You Are Here

Eating out. You don’t know what you love until you miss it. Going out to eat with pals is such a simple luxury, and one we didn’t have for months and months. I’ve had only a handful of meals here in TO in 2021, but they were all fabulous. And with fabulous friends and colleagues.

Steak frites @ Biffs with Paula & B – July
Momos at Momo Hut w Paula – October
Grouper soup @ Hanoi Three Seasons with Paula – November
Butternut squash ravioli with prawns, Cactus Club Sherway with Janet – December

Burnt Church! I got to visit Paula at her family cottage in Burnt Church, NB, for the very first time, over a long weekend in August. And got to meet some of her family. Places and people I’ve heard about for 20+ years. It was a blast (except that P had a HORRIBLE tooth ache the entire time). We made poached salmon & homemade mayo, which totally changes my mind about what mayo is. It is spectacular. We went to The Gully (beer was imbibed in the truck on the way, yikes). We played Left Right Centre with her bro & sis-in-law, both of whom are more fabulous than Paula led me to believe. And P’s poor beleaguered kitty cat Em – simple-minded, needy yet aloof fluffball – bonded with me out of desperation. That cat hates P’s dog so so so so much.

Poached salmon, boiled potatoes, yellow beans & homemade mayo. Delish.
The Burnt Church church (no longer there! dude bought it and moved it!)
Sweet simple Em, starved for affection, would NOT leave me alone in bed
The Gully

Please tell me shoulder pads are not coming back

Because Nordstrom is selling a t-shirt with shoulder pads. Like, for real.

Treasure & Bond Padded Shoulder T-shirt, yikes.

And now to see what crazy jeans Nordstrom is selling these days:

These are Burberry heart-motif leather jeans. They appear to say, I love my crotch. I guess they’re a statement piece. US$3090.
Baggy, saggy crotch jeans. US$1140. And only comes in size 2. Hubby says these look like clown pants. Indeed.
Asymmetrical, “deconstructed” inside-out “effect” jeans. US$890.
Profoundly ugly shorts, US$845. I don’t know what’s with the socks and shirt, either.
These button front “military style” jeans make even this skinny model look like she has thunder thighs. Imagine these on an actual human. US$810 (40% off, whoo-hoo).
“Heavily distressed”, “crossover fly”, and bleached to pink. I have a hard time believing this was done on purpose and isn’t just a horrible mistake marketed as such. US$575
No, “drop crotch” is not a good look. No. US$495
Can you imagine how emaciated you’d have to be to pull these off? US$495
These are horrible “scrunch leg” jeans. And they apparently don’t work with any shirt that Nordstrom sells, so the poor model has to go topless. US$470
Truly hideous “patchwork” jeans. US$450

What I’m thankful for, 2020 version

  1. Food made by other people, especially Paula’s mac & cheese when I got out of hospital, Candace’s mom’s divine lasagna, Mary Jane’s birthday feast, and my mom’s Xmas turkey & dressing

2. August trip to Vineland’s Inn on the Twenty and a patio lunch, like it was almost normal

Best fish and chips, ever, plus a civilized glass of rose

3. A reprieve from work – extended health leave. It was lovely not sitting at my computer all day, and I’m determined to make sure I don’t fall back into old patterns in 2021. Work, it turns out, is highly overrated.

4. Getting better in hospital, with visits from Graeme & Paula. Visitors are an essential part of the care plan. And realizing, even in hospital, that there were a lot of people much much sicker than me.

5. Schitt’s Creek. My hospital roommate Joy said that David Rose is her spirit animal. I feel you

6. Weekly Zoom/Houseparty check-ins with the girls. Although I have so missed those impromptu weekend lunches at Le Select Bistro or Hanoi Three Seasons. I would kill for a restaurant meal, honestly.

7. Jennifer L. Armentrout’s Blood & Ash series – counting down the days to April 20th for the third in the series.

8. Ditto, K.A. Tucker’s Wild series, with a surprise Christmas novella, was a great diversion.

9. Many great audiobooks, including:

10. My new favourite Bleusalt scarf, so soft and sustainable:

11. My hair has finally stopped falling out. Yay!

12. And my house has never been so clean, while we were waiting to hear the results of the US election. Looking forward to Biden/Harris 2021.

13. My sweetie!

Damn Delicious’ One-Pot Beef Stroganoff

OK. Highly recommended. Not “fine dining”, but Pure Comfort Food. Makes a ton. And even better as leftovers on Day 2. (I recall the days when I used to be snobby about leftovers. Can you imagine? What’s better than making a ton of comfort food and having a ready-made lunch and dinner the next day.)

It’s easy peasy to make, and don’t scrimp on the mushrooms.

I think it goes without saying, but nevertheless: I probably at least doubled the amount of sour cream. Because it’s stroganoff, and you want it creamy.

Here’s the recipe link: