27 December, 2015

soul searching, end of the year edition

the time of the year is upon us again when we take stock of our sins and successes, our goods and our bads. there's something to this season that invites us to take a deeper look at where we're at and where we're heading.

i'm not one for new year's resolutions (i believe one can make changes at any time of the year and fail at them in a far less public manner) but i have found myself inadvertently learning a lesson in recent weeks, a repeat, if you will, of a lesson i'd smacked up against this fall. it's a painful lesson because it's never particularly comfortable to see oneself as a thoughtless selfish asshole, and this is precisely what happened. and no, the lesson isn't that i'm a thoughtless selfish asshole - though it's probably good to be reminded of one's faults every once in a while. no, the lesson is this: when faced with the choice of kindness or its opposite, it's best to err on the side of kindness. i've hollered and thrown myself about in anger at something that, in the end, was not only not worth that much negative emotion, but was quite literally the opposite of what i perceived it to be. the ways in which i saw myself being used were not there at all. the advantage taken was not really taken at all, or, at most, tiny crumbs thrown to the hungry, far far less than what i could easily spare.

i'm sorry if i'm not being more explicit, but there's really no need. suffice it to say that twice i acted like an asshole*, and twice was proven painfully wrong in my assessment of the situation. will i remember this lesson? one can hope for the best. if nothing else, not only for the sake of the world (because sometimes it's hard to care about the world, innit?), but for the sake of my own internal wellbeing, it is almost always better to err on the side of kindness. period.

stay koselig this winter, my beloved poultries, and stay kind!

*this particular flavour of asshole. i'm sure i've acted like an asshole far more than twice this year.

26 December, 2015

reason #483 why i am not a mother

i gave my oldest two kids a sort of velcro-based dartboard type toy for christmas. you toss these vaguely sperm-like balls at a spiderweb and because it's velcro instead of darts, nobody gets hurt...much.

my oldest nephew immediately fell in love with it and started tossing the balls in a manner that three year olds accomplish such feats: badly.

this is the conversation i had with my sister (and myself):

sister-in-law: this is perfect! he loves throwing!
moi (in my head): he's not very good at it.
moi (still in my head): granted, he is three....
moi (thankfully still in my head): but he really sucks.

24 December, 2015

merry christmas and all that jazz

you know you're polish when you've burned your thumb on beets before 9 am on christmas eve morning. it's a kind of test, i suppose. good thing, too, because i keep failing the vodka test - can't stand the stuff!

listen, my darling virtual poultries - may your holiday season be filled with all the cheesy goodness of your favourite christmas film, up to and including the sexy leading man/lady if you so desire. also, remember, there are no calories in christmas dishes, mulled wine is compulsory, as is cheese, in vast and unlimited quantities. may you be surrounded by as much love and support as you've given me over the years on this here wee site, and may the glow of joy light up your gorgeous mugs. mwah! giant and vaguely inappropriate christmas kisses to you all!

09 December, 2015

say CHEESE!!!

we're running around at breakneck speed mainly because there's so much to do, but also because mr. monkey knows this place inside and out, including all modes of public transit despite having left in 1988. on a recent trip to resuscitate his phone from a near drowning incident, we jumped from bus to metro to tram to another tram to...well, i sort of lost count. on another day, we went hither and thither, doing this and that, the holy grail of a hot meal and some reasonably priced sheepskins shining before us. we were both sick, bleary-eyed and congested, leaving the house only because it was absolutely necessary. i hadn't bathed, put on make-up, or even combed my hair that day and the weather necessitated a wooly hat so i was not at my best when, mid-run through the metro tunnels, mr. monkey suddenly turned into a wee shop that took passport photos and bade me sit in front of the camera.  granted, i'm not one who takes hours on my personal groomage, but when being recorded for posterity i prefer to be given enough of a heads up to at least run my fingers through my hair and slap on a bit of lipstick. the elderly couple who ran the shop were adorably supportive of my crankiness, and the man did his magic with photoshop (though he refused to sharpen, smoothen, smallify, and biggify appropriate facial bits). alas, age does its thing twofold: it makes me care less, and it makes me see less, both of which combine to make me find myself as good looking as i would like to be...most of the time.

but back to the various sheep products, which i mentioned merely in passing, but which ought to have been serenaded with an ode at the very least! walking down a side street the other day we passed a table laden with slippers, hats, cheese, and skins, all of sheepish provenance. turns out this is the exact same seller from whom i procured my wooly slipper socks that i wear to this day and his pile of sheepskins offered up for sale made me swoon a little. there were white sheeps! there were cream sheeps! there was a very large and fat beige and grey sheep! a long-haired pure white and a perfectly skunk-coloured icelandic sheeps! we were merely passing by, but the wanting burned deep within me until the day we returned and bought ourselves three sheeps. the prices were seriously good, and the cheeses even better! we bought (or were given to sweeten the deal) several of the smoked polish sheeps cheeses that are shaped vaguely like footballs but far more tasty:

they are salty, slightly squeaky, and quite delightful. we walked away with a couple kinds, and this marvel of cheesemaking technology that made me want to weep with joy:

i'm sure you've seen string cheese in supermarkets. this is nothing like it. this is what string cheese aspires to be and fails: the perfect beer snack, the perfect portable food, the perfect THING. i couldn't stop eating them until they were gone.

and since i've shown you the cheese, let me also show you the skins. this here is skunky (not actual skunky, but close enough as makes no difference):

this is fabio (again, not the actual fabio but an internet lookalike). note the long flowing locks through which i will run my fingers:

vaclav the grey is my last purchase and is simply a very large, beige-grey sheep, who's known a lot of love in his life, i'm sure of it. there's no photo on the interwebs that'll do him justice, so you'll have to make do with my craptastic camera shot:

and so, after a day of much adventuring in the hinterlands, we gathered up our sheeps, we headed home. that's that in a nutshell.

08 December, 2015

communist milk bar

after running errands we decided to hit a local milk bar for dinner. for those unfamiliar with the concept, the milk bar is a cafeteria style establishment typically run by grumpy but efficient middle aged ladies in nylon pinafores, serving ridiculously cheap home-style meals on trays and chipped china predating the cold war. what you lack in terms of ambience and charm, you gain in economy and flavour. because i'm super picky when it comes to dead animal flesh, i tend to stay away from the meats but always make out like a thief as far as the dumplings and salads go.

as we were starving, mr. monkey ordered a large bowl of tomato soup with pasta that tasted like it was made by an actual human, along with a huge chunk of meat with a side of raw potato dumplings. i had a plate of pierogis with cottage cheese and potatoes, a plate of potato pancakes, a side of sauerkraut slaw, and a side of hot beets. although it was hardly an instagram-worthy meal, we enjoyed every last bite and ended up paying something like 15CAD. 

these places tend to cater to students, the poor, and the curious traveller. if you live in poland and are doing ok, it's unlikely you'd eat at a milk bar, and that's a shame because the food was really really delicious. granted, when i went to drop off our empty plates and peered into the kitchen to compliment the cooks, the looks i got were somewhere between bewildered and suspicious (the default setting of a polish lady of a certain age). 

07 December, 2015

welcome to nightvale

our flight to amsterdam went off without a hitch. 7 hours, typically dwarf-sized* leg room, ok food, and an early arrival. we wandered around the city for a couple hours, caught the train to cologne, tried to enjoy the sparkling christmas market around the cathedral but by then were too drained and dispirited by jet lag and a run in with an unscrupulous train official who overcharged us for things. when it came time to get on the overnight train to warsaw we were good and ready for some shut eye. alas, it was not to be...

the overnighter to warsaw had, by far, the most comfortable seats of any of our modes of transportation, including actual leg room for people with actual human sized legs, seats that reclined in a way that wasn't merely frustratingly perfunctory but actually fairly close to horizontal, and a width that allowed for untucking the elbows from their chicken-like position mandated by air travel.  in a word: perfection.

unfortunately, the train also came with a drunk, high, exceedingly chatty, enthusiastically friendly, highly philosophical, and really loud dude, who immediately took a major liking to mr. monkey and promptly changed seats so he could more comfortably regale us with tales of his drug use and transport, theft techniques, and various family dysfunctions. it would have been entertaining for about 15 minutes had we not been on the road for well over 24 hours at that point; as it was, except for moments of peace when he went out for a smoke or a drink, it was exhausting. mr. monkey, never great on the instinct of self preservation front, failed to adequately feign sleep. worse still, he gave dude the sort of verbal cues normally missing from any conversations with me, i.e. "really?", "huh!", "he did what?" etc. which kept the conversation flowing. i managed to sleep a bit, but not nearly as much as i needed to.

eventually i did fall asleep until the train stopped for a longish time to get cars detached, attached, and otherwise seen to. i woke up, saw that we were in a big shiny station that looked like an american mall, saw that it was berlin, and promptly fell asleep again. 20 minutes later i woke up at another lengthy stop, looked outside and saw it was berlin-wiener-schnitzel. several small stations later, came another stop: berlin-schlauch-und-scheiße. feeling like we'd passed into an alternate universe that was all berlin all the time, i woke up for reals and started checking out the names of places we passed. berlin-schaf-wurst followed. then berlin schadenfreude. then berlin-schmutzig-löffel. then the train kept moving for so long that i fell asleep, secure in the knowledge that berlin was now gone for good. surely an hour later, awake again at a large station, i turned to mr. monkey and jokingly said, i wonder if we're still in berlin, ha ha, turned my head to look outside and saw a huge sign: berlin lichtenberg**. this was enough to shake my equilibrium so much that i fell asleep again - after all, if we were in the twilight zone, i may as well be rested.

we made it out in one piece, got rid of our travel companion (he got off 3 hours before us, assuring us at least a tiny bit of peace and quiet), had breakfast in the dining car, and arrived at our destination. we've been giving away furniture and things at breakneck speeds, seeing and being seen by friends and distant family, sorting the belongings of the dead, facing our own mortality and eastern european plumbing. i feel i may make it out alive.

*whatever the politically correct terminology is these days. short people? little folk? i really don't mean to be offensive, so let's just assume i'm talking about the dwarves of fantasy. ya know: can't tell the men from the women, great love of gold, really handy with an axe, huge beards, ok? ok.

** if you haven't already guessed, only this last name is a real and actual place. the rest i may or may not have made up. after all, i don't really speak german.

03 December, 2015

this is how much i adore travel:

while wiping the biggest gunk off the fridge shelving so that d and crusty juggler won't think i'm gross when they come to stay:

moi: (wistfully) if you went to poland by yourself, i could stay home and clean the fridge...

no word of a lie - if it turned out i couldn't go for some reason, i would clean the fridge and i'd really really enjoy it.

02 December, 2015

alligator tears (for greater zoological and geographical accuracy)

as you well know, mr. monkey and i are heading to poland tomorrow to deal with his aunt's estate. this morning i posted several ads in an online forum - most of the items i posted are free. within literally 2 minutes i had 20 responses. i left the house to run errands and when i came back there were nearly 90 messages, and they continue to trickle in while i write this.

as i went through the messages and answered them one by one, the stress and anxiety i'd been feeling for the last couple of days decided to take the emotional route as my imagination filled in the stories of all these people who were desperately interested in free furniture. before long, i was crying onto the keyboard. oh fuck, in my next life, i'd like to come back as someone who will actually DO something to help mankind, or else not give a shit. this in-between state i find myself in is as useless as it is painful.

meditation (and medication) or not, right now i'm feeling that we're not a very great species and all these tales of hardship and woe, all this unalleviated poverty, all this illness and damage, all these wars and shootings and terrorist attacks are making me ill.

UPDATE: last count, i had well over 300 responses to my ads. america's leaders, in the meantime, are praying and keeping victims of gun violence in their thoughts - very VERY useful.