27 February 2013

Some Whimsies on the Web

There are a few websites I visit regularly that I would highly recommend to pretty much anyone. Today I thought I'd share them with you. (Please pardon the higher-than-normal linky list.)

The interwebs are like the lines on your hand; mysterious, twisty, and full of speculation.
Firstly, I'd like to personally thank David Malki for keeping me laughing aloud for the past few nights and distracting me from the loneliness. He is the author of the Wondermark comic series, and we purchased two of his collections on the weekend because they looked seriously cool. His commentary on society through the use of vintage images is refreshing. Note the comic I linked to above; given my current situation, it is quite apt.

To those readers who, like myself, enjoy old cookbooks, a visit to the Feeding America: The Historic American Cookbook Project website is a must. There are PDF versions of many 19th Century rare books, and you can even browse by recipe! A must-know reader's note: the books here are old enough that they refer to recipes as 'reciepts for food'.

Being crafty, and crafty as a fox, is something I have been known for (see my awesome ascot photo here). When I want images to use in my artwork or decoupage, I always visit The Graphics Fairy. She carries all manner of vintage images on her site, all free to use and royalty free, and encourages followers to send in photos and DIY guides of the crafts made with her images.

For more colour images and instant artwork, I also go to Vintage Printable. I found some fantastic old advertising posters there to hang in the bathroom. To make the pictures look their absolute best once printed, I recommend printing on photo paper (you can get 10 sheets of 8.5 x 11" for $2 at your local Dollar Tree/Dollarama store). Also, make sure you have lots of ink in the printer. I learned that one the hard way.

If you ever need a reason to celebrate what human beings are capable of, I strongly recommend stopping by I Believe in Strangers. (Yes, the link is to my submission. Just click "Home" for the latest.) Here you can find people at their very best: strangers helping out strangers. Pour a coffee and take the time to browse. You'll feel better about the world, guaranteed.

And finally, if you're seriously bored and want to know what happens during the blog's downtime, you can follow Flat-Out Whimsy on Twitter! Don't be shy - follow me today!

25 February 2013

Week in Review: Sad Face is Sad

It's early (for me) Monday morning. I'm sitting at the computer with a Timmies and sad face. I have been up for HOURS. Why? Because Matt has left.

Just for the week, and just to Wainwright, but this signals the first in a long spring full of time apart from one another. He will be spending 3 of the next 4 months in Wainwright, off and on, and while I have found many ways to keep myself busy and in good company, there's nothing like being held in Position 35 after a long day. (NB: Position 35 is where Matty lies on his back, and I curl up beside him with his arm around me; 35 Alpha is when I curl up on the other side and 53 is where I hold him. It's an us thing, established very early in our courtship.) So while I lament the lack of 35-ing, let's recap what went on this week.

After a wonderful, relaxing Family Day together, I spent most of my Tuesday-to-Friday in waiting rooms for various medical visits. I have a lovely bruise where they took my blood (in gills, remember?). I also had a gratifying visit with my psychiatrist, and headway has been made on the subject of getting a therapist to see weekly, which is something I have been lacking since my move to Edmonton last July. We went out on Friday night to a friend's birthday party, and though we were having a great time, had to come home early because I was edge-of-tears exhausted. The party was themed "ABCs - Ascots, Bowties, and Cardigans", and Matt dressed up in his dapper bowler hat and vest combo, complete with an ascot that I sewed together from an old tie.
I think I did a pretty good job, if I do say so myself.

Saturday and Sunday we focussed on getting Matt ready to go to the field, so trips to Walmart for last-minute supplies and a drive up to the base was on the agenda. When we left the house on Sunday, he promised me that he would get me one of the tiny My Little Pony figurines I've been collecting as a treat (I think he was already feeling guilty about leaving me alone). However, with each stop we made there were no ponies to be had. So Matt, who when he gets something in his head gnaws at it like a dog with a bone, drove all over the south end of the city in the search for 2-inch vinyl ponies. Finally, we ended up at a toy store, and he was so happy they had some that I got two instead of just one.

This week, to keep myself occupied, I have many aspirations, including cleaning the apartment. Yay. Also on the list are thank you cards from our wedding in September and an appointment to get the car serviced. My enthusiasm holds no bounds. If you're bored, remember: so am I. I just wasted 2 whole hours on the internet looking at clipart.

22 February 2013

Flat-Out Friday: Oh, What a Night

Since I was up this morning far too early because of one, I thought today would be the perfect time to discuss my sleeping patterns post-accident and the "zombie dreams".

Trucks will run me over
No, they aren't dreams filled with actual zombies (well, not all of them). In this case, the term refers to dreams where, once I wake, I feel like a member of the living dead. Typically, they are vivid, frantic, uncharacteristically harsh, involve a significant amount of crying (both in dream and in real), and I either wake up groggy and drenched in sweat, or else I'm ejected from sleep and acutely awake. In either case, nothing cures it like being held by my devillishly handsome husband*, but since he's an army officer and gone many hours of the day, this cure is in short supply. The best I can often do is hug my teddy bear a little tighter and pet a cat, which usually calms me but isn't enough to lure back into sleep.

 *He insisted I write about him this week, and strongly suggested using this exact phrase.

How do these dreams impact my overall health? In any given week, my sleep patterns could look like the following: Monday - struggled to fall asleep and slept intermittently, totalling 13 hrs; Tuesday - slept soundly, 11 hrs; Wednesday - slept poorly, 8 hrs with 1 hr nap; Thursday - slept soundly, 8 hrs, woken by zombie dream; Friday - struggled to fall asleep and slept intermittently, 10hrs. As you can see, they are unpredictable in the extreme, and as such make it difficult for me to imagine doing something like working a steady 9-5 job again, at least not in the foreseeable future. Hell, they make it difficult for me to eat breakfast before noon sometimes.

My psychiatrist told me yesterday that it would be the anxiety medication that I would be taking longer than any others, and I can completely understand this. I have nearly overcome my depression due to the accident, but what remains is a hyper-aggressive vigilance and sometimes crippling periods of dealing with the loss of control. Both of these are huge factors in the zombie dreams. Unable to stop something something from happening, being forceably removed from the presence of loved ones, and the inability to walk, stand, or climb stairs in order to achieve a goal - these are recurring themes. As far as Freudian analysis goes, it's pretty cut and dried, but it doesn't make it any easier to experience them. And when the dreams involving my inability to move are coupled with the sweaty, intense physical reaction that they produce, I often need to change my pyjamas in the middle of the night.

I have to admit that the zombie dreams have changed in content since the accident. Immediately after, while still in the hospital, I couldn't sleep because I replayed the accident every time I closed my eyes. 6 months later, I was thankfully past that, but had moved on to being completely and utterly immobile in any dream I had. That was the period where I changed my pyjamas twice a night because the sweats were so bad. When the first anniversary went by, I was acknowledging in my dreams that I had been horribly handicapped and could move, but none of the other characters would ever believe me, forcing me to do things that I physically couldn't. And now, 18 months down the line, my dream self has developed a temper and is taking her anger at being in this situation out on the people she loves most.

These next few weeks will be a test in itself, as Matt is off to Wainwright and I'm left to fend for myself against myself. If you see me posting randomly on Facebook in the wee hours of the morning, or find yourself unable to contact me around lunchtime, it's probably because I've been zombified. Pay no attention; this, too, shall pass.

20 February 2013

How Many Gills is That?

As I've mentioned before, I've got a thing about old cookbooks; one of my prized possessions is one. When my grandfather died, I was lucky enough to inherit a cookbook that had belonged to my great-grandmother. Published in 1910, Ogilvie's Book for a Cook cautions against using flour that is inferior to their "Royal Household" blend. Now, I'm fussy about my flours but if they still made this one, I'd be buying it. Apparently Ogilvie's was, by royal warrant, the flour millers to HRH George V, Prince of Wales. Fancy flour kinda makes me all hot and bothered.

The Ogilvie Flour Mills Company, Limited of Montreal, in accordance with the Department of Agriculture, Ottawa

Anyway, near the back of this book is an old-timey weights and measurements table. And since we are also fans of Archer in this household, it caught my eye. Why? Because frequently, the characters refer to the amount of blood they have lost in "gills".

Which, first of all, who uses "gills" as a measurement anymore, and secondly, always prompts the follow up question, "Imperial or metric?". I can honestly now say I know what a "gill" is. And more importantly, apply it in my daily use as a way to determine amount of blood loss. For your own reference, to print and put on the fridge, or keep in your wallet in case of blood-related emergencies, please see chart below.

As you can see, 4 gills is equal to a pint. 8 pints is a quart. This is perfect for measuring blood. And alcohol, now that I think about it.
So there you go. A new random fun fact to pull out when you're trying to impress someone at a bar or make the nurses at the hospital laugh, whatever floats your boat. As for me, I'll just have you know that I gave 1 gill of blood this morning to the lab across the road, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't want it back when they were done. I will, however, take the 4 ounces back in a substitute form of liquid, one that preferably involves sugar or fermentation. Not unlike Sterling Archer.

18 February 2013

Week in Review: Hello, Rollercoaster Emotions Called...

Happy Family Day to all of you who are lucky enough to celebrate! Now for a photo of my family doing something ridiculous (I have many, many, MANY of these):

My sister and I as kids, showing off the family talent. Just let me know, and I'll crack this baby out at your next party!

I am writing this week's "Week in Review" with a cat beside me and my hubby on the couch, watching the original Tron. So yeah, I'm one of the lucky ones.

As you noticed in my previous posts, last week was awash with emotions.
  • It was the 18-month anniversary of my accident. What this means for me: anything that occurred during the accident, any physical damage still remaining, is now permanent. I will now live with nerve damage, soft tissue damage, and aching break sites for the rest of my life.
  • We visited the "Star Wars: Identities" exhibit at the Telus World of Science for the second time, and this time we were able to fully appreciate the awesomeness as it was WAY less busy.
Totally awesome technical drawing of the Millenium Falcon. Lucas has said he modelled the shape after a hamburger, and then put the pointy bits on so fans would know the front and back.
  • Thursday was Valentine's Day, and to celebrate Matt and I went out to dinner at our favourite pizza place. We always have a lovely time there making fun of the endless supply of hipsters. He also bought me a bouquet of flowers and made sure they added orchids and roses, my very favourite flowers.
  • I had my doctor's appointment, and we all know how that turned out.
  • Friday night we attended the Valentine's Day dance at the CFB Edmonton Officers' Mess. We got to dress up all pretty, and have a great meal with some good friends. We met people we hadn't seen in a very long time, and I got a lot of compliments from the officers that I met when Matt did his course in Kingston (the one he was on when we first started dating). We also got to dance, something we haven't done since our wedding. 
  • And since I am not drinking, I drove us home. Yay me! It's been quite a while since I've been behind the wheel, and this was by far the furthest in Edmonton I've ever driven. Big win!
  • This weekend has been an orgy of classic movies and video games, and I can't complain in the slightest. I have gotten to spend quality time with the love of my life (which is rare) and our three furry babies (not so rare).
Also, you'll be pleased to know that I started tracking my food and water intake, and after day 4 already feel a million times better. I think the tracking is helping me stay accountable for eating well and drinking enough water, and it's also recording my caloric intake, so I feel more connected with how my food affects my mood. The last thing I plan on doing is starting a sleep journal and recording the time I sleep and number of hours. This should help me figure out exactly what I'm doing in the day that causes me "zombie dreams" or a restless night.

Now I'm off to watch Matty kill stuff with his PS3. Yes, this still counts as quality time together. Enjoy your loved ones, all!

15 February 2013

Flat-Out Friday: The Four-Letter "D" Word

Yep. You all know that word. And to celebrate the 18-month anniversary of my accident, my doctor has decided that I need to do it. This picture demonstrates what happens every time I think about the "D" word. Something to do with being a plump child and the doctor saying, "There's nothing wrong with you that a good diet won't fix!". Now picture yourself not getting to have anything the other kids have. Or your mom slowly shaking her head as you ask for "just one gummy bear". Not cool.

I'll be the first to admit that since the accident I've slowing been gaining weight. A myriad of factors contribute to this: I can't do even half of what I used to physically, I am on a significant number of medications for the PTSD and other phobias I have now developed, I have an erratic sleep schedule and therefore an erratic eating schedule, and lastly,


Ahem. In addition to the dreaded "D" word, the doctor also told me I needed to start exercising more. This is how I feel about that.

I wish I could say that after pushing myself to go beyond the limits of what I can do (ie, walking the entire trip through Walt Disney World), I feel great. But the truth is, I just feel tired. The "I'm gonna cry and it ain't gonna be pretty" kind of tired. I think my endorphins got broken along with everything else. So my cycle of thought has now come back to what kind of shape I was in before the accident, and if I'm honest, I was in the best shape of my life. Strong, toned, awesome shape. Which invariably I follow up with,


Sorry. I'm working through a lot of anger about this whole thing.

Since I can't very well just head to the gym and start lifting free weights, the doctor recommends that I lane swim to build muscle strength and increase my cardio. Which, don't get me wrong, is probably the best thing she could have said. I love swimming. I grew up on a lake, my parents still live on a lake, and I love love LOVE being in the water. But now I'm worried that swimming will become a chore. And I don't want it to. Matt has already admitted that he'd love to come swimming with me whenever he can, and I know that he is planning on dieting with me, and these make the whole pill easier to swallow. At least I'll have his support through all of this. And yeah, blah blah blah, make the best of what you have, but a tiny part of me still just wishes she could turn back time and stop all this from happening.

So a happy anniversary to me. I'm cutting out carbs and sugar (okay, I'm cutting out most carbs and sugar because I'm afraid if I stop all together the cumulative bread craving will literally kill me), and we are figuring out a way to pay for a membership to the YMCA. But... I'm still here to do all that stuff.

I guess it really is a happy anniversary after all.

13 February 2013

For The Lovers

I have recently decided to start collecting cookbooks. Why? Because cookbooks give us a window in the households of old. Recipe books were maintained by the midwives of colonial America. They called them "physick books" or "poppits". Such books were held up as evidence in the Salem witch trials. Some recipe books were treated like the family bible, handed down generation after generation, marked with the writings of each woman as they modified or added ingredients to their own tastes.

Written by Pilaff Bey
To me, cookbooks give me a chance to view the past in a language in which I am perfectly fluent. I have decided that only cookbooks printed prior to 1960 should be worthy of collection, being at least 50 years old. And while I was at the local thrift shop on Monday, I stumbled upon an excellent addition, not to mention a seasonally appropriate one. May I present Venus in the Kitchen, or Love's Cookery Book, a collection of aphrodisiacal dishes by Pilaff Bey. Originally gathered for the amusement and benefit of her friends in the 1920s and 30s, Bey eventually published them in a small printing in 1952. Bloomsbury tagged Norman Douglas to edit, and Graham Greene to introduce the whole mess, probably in the hope that it would bring respectability.

And it does, until you open the cover. For the faint of stomach, skip this list. For the brave, read on; the following is by no means a comprehensive list of recipes contained within, but enough that you get the point.
  • Athenian Eels
  • Skink (a reptile aphrodisiac)
  • Brain of Veal a la Mustafa
  • Curried Kidneys
  • Lambs' Ears with Sorrel
  • Pie of Bull's Testicles
  • Roti Sans Pareil (featuring the best use of fowl stuffed inside one another that I've ever seen; Turducken take note)
  • Vulvae Steriles (If testes, why not vulvae? Also from a cow)
  • Hysterical Water (With dried millipedes!)
See? I totally had to buy it. My favourite recipe of all, however, has been scanned in so that you may all try it out tomorrow night when you're craving something of an "aphrodisiacal nature":

The Latin roughly translates to "The leopard marrow drink is miraculous".

Should be easy to get all the ingredients at the local Safeway. Happy Valentines Day!

11 February 2013

Week in Review: Lunar New Year

Ah, fortune cookies. They never lie, you know.
 This time of year always fills me with a sense of hope and renewal. Much more so than the traditional calendar New Year. It's Lunar New Year, or as most people refer to it, Chinese New Year. The actual event day was yesterday, but there are 15 days worth of celebrations in China, so if you start today, you won't be left out!

Matt and I had a few people over for Lunar New Year's Eve, and we made a party out of it. I spent the weeks previous handcrafting paper lanterns, door hangings, and red envelopes (ours were filled with 8 chocolate coins). We served Chinese food. We asked the guests to bring Asian-themed beverages. We had a fantastic time.
The star shaped origami lanterns turned out great! Next time I'm going to rub them with a little oil to increase the translucency.
Except for the Nian Gao. That recipe did not turn out well. Sorry about that, y'all. I can make better-tasting cakes. Really.

I think what I like about the Lunar New Year is that there is a sense of rejuvenation when you celebrate it. Calendar New Year I find lacks that feel of wellness. Mostly, I just feel tired from Christmas, depressed about the state of our finances, and saddened by the fact that I have to give my husband back to the Canadian Forces soon. Lunar New Year, however, typically comes during a time of year when all that is behind us, and we are looking for something to look forward to. It fills the itchy, dragging wee winter months with a warm glow, not to mention appeals to my love of both parties and giving gifts!

It was a nice ending to a week otherwise filled with stresses. On a career front, Matt is coming into a period of extreme busyness, and his patience is being tested time and again at work as they try to pull it all off. On a home front, we were privy to some news about my step-children that was worrying and maddening.

This is my cat, Will. He's the oldest. He is currently demonstrating the face that Matt and I both made upon receiving the news. My knee-jerk reaction to these kinds of things is always to take action, so it's really hard to restrain myself sometimes. However, they are not my children, they are Matt's, so all I can do is support him in whatever he decides to do. Sometimes, though... Sometimes I still make this face.

We are hoping to make the Lunar New Year party a household standard. As I said above, it makes us feel good, and that's really what's most important. Which brings me to today's take home:

Do whatever makes your heart soar, and you will find yourself flying.

08 February 2013

Flat-Out Friday: Ordinary Hero

I am a hero (she says without a trace of humility). How did I become so lucky? By being unlucky, as it has it. It's a long story, and honestly I'm hoping to get many more blog posts out of it, so I'll just re-cap the important part.

I was walking to work one August morning, headed to the first of my two jobs. The sun was shining, I was happy. I was not texting and walking, nor talking and walking, or even listening and walking. I waited for the light. The light turned green. The little walking man lit up and the audio signal started going. Following years and years of training to be a good pedestrian, I began to walk, safe in the knowledge that the little white striped lane was a safe zone. Or so I thought.

I'd be lying if I said I don't remember what happened; in fact, I was completely conscious throughout. A shadow fell over me, I looked up, held up my hands, and then went under both tires on the driver's side of the vehicle. I struggled to see what had hit me after it happened. It was an armoured van. Bulletproof. With security guards. Having just left a bank. I was shocked. Shocked because I was still alive. Hero factor: +1

So blah blah blah, painful memories and lots of shock later, the roll call of my injuries came in: broken back, broken pelvis, broken leg, broken ankles, broken foot. Broken, broken, broken. 11 fractures in all. The paramedics told me I had suffered one of the "seven deadly injuries". Everyone was anxious to see what my insides looked like.

I spent two weeks in the intensive trauma ward, lying flat on my back. Then, one day they decided they needed a weight-bearing xray of my back. Weight-bearing, as in exactly the opposite of what I had been doing since the accident. You could call it stubbornness or pride, but I wasn't letting a stupid xray beat me. I stood for it, with sobbing, shaking, and anxious nurses all around, but I stood and did it. I hadn't even realized I could bend at the waist still. Hero factor: +2

Lots of people would say I was determined. Doctors have praised me for my persistence and tenacity. But it was none of those things that helped my bones miraculously knit themselves together without any outside help. But they did. (I think Wolverine might be a distant relative. We are both Canadian, after all.) So the next step was re-learning all those things you take for granted: sitting, standing, going pee... Everything. But I did it, and you know what? I did it in SEVEN WEEKS. Yep. 49 days, and I went from a completely immobile invalid to a strong woman walking out of the hospital under her own power. Hero factor: INFINITY.

This is me, walking in real shoes for the first time. The therapists called me "Iron Woman".

So now you know my story. Well, part of it anyhow. And the take-home from this is simple: 

Anyone can be a hero. You just have to believe you are capable.