Archive for January, 2016

Day 7/100 Happy Days – Carnivorous Rex

Day 7-100 Meat Periodic Table

Day 7/100 Happy Days

It was my sister’s birthday yesterday and we went out for a family dinner. It was a celebration. It required meat.

Today is Saturday.  Have to make dinner for the gang. It requires meat.

Need to eat tomorrow. Better reach into the freezer and thaw some meat!

I am a carnivore. I love meat: beef, lamb, goat, poultry, game, fish. I like it grilled, barbecued, roasted, spitted, smoked, crock-potted, pan fried, seared, stewed, poached or simmered.

I am not sure where I developed the taste…maybe it is making up for my childhood, when meat was scarce and the occasional weekend treat. Maybe it is because I love the taste.

I know. I have read the ethical debates, the moral stances, the environmental concerns that swirl around the meat/vegan debate. I know there is a dark side to producing meat on an industrial scale.

I also know about the health side of the debate. I have been educated on fats, and cholesterol and cooking methods.

In the interest of expanding our horizons, and maybe our lives, we have now instituted meatless Mondays. There are some great alternatives to meat – some great dishes that are tasty involving vegetables and legumes and pulses.

But they are not meat.

Before you try to convince me otherwise or tell me how evil I am, I understand your viewpoint. And I get it.  I still love meat and will continue eating it – with relish. (Pun sorted of intended…). To me, a day without appeasing my carnivorousness is like a day with sunshine. A lovely steak, or stew, or soup, or roast just makes me happy.

Yum, yum – where’s my hasenpfeffer, rabbit?!

Later,

ASF

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Day 6/100 Happy Days – Camellia sinensis, or A Cuppa (if you prefer)

Day 6-100 Happy Days

Day 6/100 Happy Days

Major General Urquhart: Hancock. I’ve got lunatics laughing at me from the woods. My original plan has been scuppered now that the jeeps haven’t arrived. My communications are completely broken down. Do you really believe any of that can be helped by a cup of tea?

Corporal Hancock: Couldn’t hurt, sir.

Operation MARKET GARDEN in  A Bridge Too Far (1977)

‘Ow ’bout a cuppa Rosie Lee? A Builder’s? Or do you prefer exotic and dangerous like Lapsang Souchong or maybe Oolongs. Maybe a respectable, venerable Earl Grey….or maybe just some comforting and soothing Chai  – milk and sugar.

I grew up on tea. It was the staple hot beverage in our house. Nice strong traditional Indian tea, black or pekoe, was brewed with a heady mixture of  cardamom, cinnamon, cloves – a special ingredient my Mom called “chai masala”.  Loaded with milk and sugar, it still is beyond compare!

The cups of tea would start first thing in the morning, usually delivered by Mom while we were still in bed, just shaking the sleep from our eyes. It was the best tasting laxative that a child could ever ask for, and was the homeopathic solution to constipation and all sundry affliction related to it – headaches and grumpiness being the two most common.

That was the Pavlovian conditioning. Tea equals love and comfort and care. It has been that ever since.

Now I know that some people are coffee people – and I have to admit that I can be bi-caffeinal. Mostly at work. Coffee has its own unique merits, but comfort is not one of them. Coffee is a no-nonsense hot beverage.

Coffee signals business, business, business…wake up, stay awake, stay alert…it is the pick-me-up needed during long meetings or conferences. It fights boredom. It is the trophy of our constant drive-thru hunts. The extra large we rush in and out of as we dash from place to place and commitment to commitment. It is the human fuel of the long distance road trip. It is the drink of commerce, all frothy and tarted-up, flavoured with syrups and creams and covered in chocolate sprinkles or powdered cinnamon. It is dolled up to disguise its taste – mocha or pumpkin or brulée. It is the adrenaline that jacks us up and gets us all fuelled to take on the world.

It is not tea.

Tea is the yin to coffee’s yang.  Tea means that you are taking the time – the time to boil the kettle, the time to steep the tea as the lovely herb is brought back to life from its dehydrated stasis, the time to sit and open a newspaper, a magazine, or a good book and expand your horizons. It gently encourages you to sit and reflect. To pull up a chair and have a chin wag. It evokes images of family and friends and steaming cups of fragrance, fortified with lashings of sugar and milk.  It doesn’t necessarily solve the world’s problems, but it makes life so mellow that you actually don’t care about them!

After a particular demanding round of home DIY, after a hectic period of errands, after an evening meal, nothing hits the spot like ambrosia under the tea cozy…

Add a cookie – or biscuit, if you prefer – and it’s heaven.

Put the kettle on then, eh? Oh, Happy Day!

Later,

ASF

Day 5/100 Happy Days – Baby Faces

 

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Day 5/100 Happy Days

Twice a year, you can always recognize the serving Army guys. They are the ones sporting the hockey playoff beards, the mutton chops, the goatees and other facial hair during the summer and most definitely over the Christmas break.  I am not sure if it is some sort of low-level mutiny, a full-scale rebellion, or just a desire to take a break from the daily ritual of dragging a piece of steel across their faces.

Facial hair – you either love it or hate it.

And if 1 December is an indication, I am guessing the majority are not fans. I have never seen such looks of relief on so many partner’s faces as when the Movemberites shaves of the 30 days of growth.

Since I was a young lad,  I have been gifted with the werewolf look (except on top of my head). I had to start shaving at a young age, secretly at first.  My father warned me that my silky, but ugly, adolescent boy-beard would gradually morph into unsightly, coarse stubble. This transition was the gateway to manhood.

I remember watching my Dad using his Noxzema shaving cream, a cracked plastic measuring cup, and a double edged safety razor to complete this daily ritual, seven days a week. It was so manly.

I know this does not make sense to many of you. Maybe you do not have a beard; maybe you have a beard but you can shave with Kleenex. Maybe you put milk on your face and let the cat lick off your beard. If that is your fortune, you probably don’t get it.

But to many of us, shaving has just become one of those grooming things we have to do – like putting on deodorant or flossing our teeth. What a shame!

It is a unique rite of manhood!

As a 20th century man, I moved through a multitude of razors to achieve a closer and closer shave: first the disposable safety razors by Bic et al; then through the chain of cartridge razors – first the Mach series, and then Fusion series, and now I am wooed by the Pro-Glide FlexBall!.Oh, the money I have spent!

I have even tried the electric razor – but that experiment did not last long.

And I won’t even delve into the different types of creams – gels or foams, menthol or tropical breeze, tube or can  – or the pre-shave exfoliants, the post- shave balms, other razor burn soothers and the sometimes required step It is boggling.

Alongside the razors, the cream, and the various other products, I have adopted many different strategies to maintain the Army grooming standard. I am trying hard to forget the dry shave that many a man has tried while rouging it in the deep of winter – when warming up cold water and stripping off the shirt is just too manly to attempt.

I have tried hot shaving cream, hot towels, evening shaves, and shaving in the shower. For pure ease and convenience, plus the added benefit of spending time under soothing massaging jets, shaving in the shower is the winner – if you can find the right mirror that doesn’t fog and stays put!

I have always loved to grow outlandish facial hair when I could. To grow be Lemmy, the Fu-Manchu,  the Boer War Chops, or the Breaking Bad  has been fun – even if my wife and friends think I’m a nut!

After this Movember, I splurged for a relaxing straight razor shavette to smooth my bald pate and baby-faced cheeks. If you have not pampered yourself by fully reclining in an old fashioned barber’s chair, by having your face lovingly swaddled in almost too hot wet towels, by allowing liberal applications of facial pre-shave creams and hot mugs of foamy lather, by experiencing a slow, deliberate with-the-grain and against-the-grain straight shave, and ending with an invigorating facial massage – you are just not living to your potential!

It is the male equivalent of the pedicure and toe nail polish.  Expensive, yes – but I would argue, a periodic necessity!

During my time in the Army, I saw shaving as a necessity – something that had to be done, sometimes twice a day.  And even though I still can pull off the two minute panic shave to get myself to work on time, I believe that taking the time to pamper your face is important.

Occasionally you just need slow it down and to reconnect with males from yore. You need to wet the shaving brush, vigorously work up a lather in a shaving cream mug, carefully and liberally paint your face lovingly with warm , and slowly, deliberately and shave those whiskers off your face as you enjoy the unique sound of one thins steel blade dispensing with the whiskers in the traditional way .

In these hectic times, a slow, cautious, deliberate shave is a meditative experience that kindles thoughts of a simpler time! Something all we men deserve to be happy, happy!

Later,

ASF

Day 4/100 Happy Days – Ibuprofen and Hot Tubs

Day 4-100 Happy Days

Day 4/100 Happy Days

As many of you know, I have been ridden hard and put away wet oh so many times. Lengthy athletic & military careers and officers’ messes have taken their Knievelesque toll on my frame.  Multiple knee surgeries, bilateral tibia-fibula fractures, repeated broken noses and fingers, dislocated shoulders, cellulitis, and finally, a triple bypass, have resulted in many doses of Cepacol (inside army joke – sorry) and more than a few ice baths.

Many a specialist has told time and time again that maybe it was time to pack it in. But I couldn’t; I did not know how. Ever since high school I have lived by the credo that there are only have two speeds, “all out, or broken”.

Funnily enough, as I watched my son play rugby, I have realized that those words are the repeated mantra of youth and invincibility. I can remember when a whisper of tough skin spray and another layer of athletic tape could get all my teammates, and me, through the last few rugby games of the season, skating another shift on the ice, or setting up a few spikes with swollen. misshapen and sprained fingers.

Moe than one medic told 20-something Pal that perhaps it would be better to sit out the rest of the season – otherwise I would regret it when I was 45.  “Forty-five?  Who gives a sh*t about 45? Hell, that is over 20 years away, I might not even make it!  Tape me up doc there are still games left in this season!”

Foolhardy? Sure – when looking back at it as a 51 year-old. But would I take those moments back? Maybe…maybe not.

Many of those moments defined me… scoring the only three points in a lopsided rugby loss to West Point (though we hurt Navy a few months later), playing goal in several CF Regional Soccer Tournaments, numerous Army League hockey and broom-ball seasons with the soldiers of the Regiment, several half marathons and a full marathon where I was my only competition..

And maybe I should have taken it easy, because I tell you, I do hurt sometimes. But seriously, would that have been me?

Doubtful. I love sports too much!

I will continue to live vicariously watching amateur and professional athlete.  And as I seriously consider giving up hockey and rugby and soccer – save one last Ex-Cadet Rugby Game in 2017 to celebrate my 30th year since graduation , I will likely move to others that will provide the same thrill, but take less of a toll on me…whenever I figure out what those are!

Until then, I will continue to carry on in the tradition that many of us know well- the satisfaction and moral high ground of a solid cardio and strength workout, followed by a round of ibuprofen, and a comforting hot tub – like today! Despite the aches and pains, that keeps me happy…

Later,

ASF

Day 3/100 Happy Days – Music and Guitars

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Day 3/100 Happy Days – Keep on Rockin’ in the Free World!

Each generation grows up with a fondness for a certain type of music.  I  would describe myself as a small “h” head banger, big “c” Classic Rock freak (and by classic rock, I mean pre-1990s, though I do like the Seattle Grunge of Pearl Jam and SoundGarden).

Ever since the early days of listening to 1050 CHUM in Toronto and of using my cassette deck to capture the annual “best 1000 songs of all time” from the radio, to the hours spent listening to my brother’s extensive vinyl collection, music has been important to me. The Who, AC-DC, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Van Halen, Rush and countless others that will take too long to name, appealed to my thoughts of rebellion and “coolness”.  Their memorable riffs, shocking lyrics (well for that time anyway, as they really have nothing on today’s “pop” music lyrics) were a great counter-weight to the expectations and pressures of maintaining the requisite Honour Roll Status.  While my parents dreamed of my futre including medicine, or law, or finance, I always dreamed of getting on the stage and cutting a mean axe solo à la Peter Frampton!

But it never happened. My only school age foray into music was the double bass – a lot cooler now than it was back then – and that was simply to play school-sanctioned classical selections with the other violinists.  It was not very Bon Scott.

Instead my outlet was the myriad of concerts that came through Toronto and catching a lot of the bands I loved, live at Maple Leaf Gardens, Ontario Place, or Exhibition Place.   It was not a bad outlet at all.

I remember my ex-wife giving me my first acoustic guitar on our fifth anniversary. I used the traditional “Learn How to Play Guitar in 10 days” manuals, but soon got tired of “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain” and other lame offerings. So it went away.

It wasn’t until six years later that I took a serious swipe at figuring out the six string. And I have never looked back. Now while I am no expert guitarist, I do like banging away on my guitars and learning new things – classic rock and the blues are very forgiving! To my ear, it is just right – can’t speak for the others in the house.

Over time, I have expanded my musical taste – pretty much everything but acid country and hard core rap are on my playlists. Music and playing the guitar are my meditation, my diversion, and one of my passions. Both take an ordinary day and make it special. Music transports me to happy places; playing songs that I like in the way I want to hear them creates a different kind of contentment – one that you cannot get from a video game, a TV show, or a movie.  I am addicted.

I could not imagine a day without music, and I cannot go a long time without playing my guitar. And while it may not make those around me “happy|, it definitely makes me happy! Now all I have to do is find a gang to jam with…and figure out the keyboards!

Day 2/100 Happy Days – Parents!

2015-12-25 08.41.30Day 2/100 Happy Days.  Yesterday, I wrote of the special bond between parents and children – from the point of view of a soppy, middle-aged man bravely waving goodbye to his son at the airport, stifling a few tears in the process.  Today, I will turn the tables and write about things from the other side of the fence.

My parents have just spent the last two weeks with us over Christmas.  I do not think we could have spent time with anybody easier-going; all we needed to do was provide time and space for the twice-daily walks, and all the cereals know to humankind, and the never-ending cups of tea!

They are wonderful people  and they have accomplished wonderful things.

From humble agrarian roots in India, to hardworking merchant class in England, to demanding white collar jobs in Canada – their story is the classic tale of people seeking a better life, a 20th century version of the pioneer spirit that made this country what it is.

Frugal, hardworking, tough yet affectionate in their own way, they shared their morals, their values, their ethics, and formed the foundations for me and my siblings to  become who we are.

Now, as they and I have entered that last stage of the parent-child relationship – that of friends – I find that our discussions, our chats, our walks, our games, our times together are all special and cherished. I have had the privilege of reconnecting with my parents two years ago as they nursed me back to health after the heart bypass; and though I would never recommend a serious illness to anyone, the whole episode was an opportunity to renew our relationship as adults – to learn about each other and to appreciate what we all offered from a totally different perspective than that of child to adult and adult to child.

And as I have learned from the relationship with my children, a weekly phone call to just say, “All is good here,” is always welcome and rewarding

Time marches on; hair grays, hearing fades,eyes become cloudy, energy saps, but they are always the same, sharing the same old chestnuts of family jokes and stories and laughing those infectious laughs that seem to make everyone’s day.

I love my parents and I am also in the enviable position of liking them as well!. They are a pleasure to be with and they are one of the main reasons I am as happy a man as I am.

Love you, Mom and Dad.

Day 1/100 Happy Days – “Nothing new, Dad…”

A couple of years ago, I embarked on a little bit of narcissistic “performance art” that required a bit of introspection, a bit of creativity, and a bit of discipline, The project, 100HappyDays, was at times a chore, but I found overall it created a positive outlook as I searched each day for something that made me happy. As a result, I looked at things more positively – as opposed to negatively, avoiding focusing on things that made me unhappy. I truly did find it uplifting and judging by some of the feedback from friends, it struck a chord with them too. So starting 2 January 2016, I begin 100Days Part Deux. Indulge me! (for more info see  www.100HappyDays.com )

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Day 1/100

Just before New Year’s Eve, I hugged my daughter and watched her drive off with her lovely boyfriend to go live her life in Northern Alberta. Today, I dropped my son at the airport, knowing I will go many months without feeling a hug from that goofy Marmaduke-puppy of a man-boy. Saying goodbye to your kids is heart wrenching. It is a confusing maelstrom of emotions: on one hand, melancholy, self-pity, loneliness, trepidation, and worry as you see your “babies” challenge life head on without you. On the other, it raises a smidgen of envy, of much pride, of a sprinkle of excitement as you see them march off on their own, knowing that you have done well raising two tiny beings into confident, hard-working young adults.

Being a parent is a significant challenge. From the moment you accept the familial contract of pregnancy and child-rearing, with its evolution of roles – care-giver, teacher, coach, mentor, banker, counselor, confidant, friend – you pour your heart and soul to them and you love them more than life itself.

You feed them, you clothe them, you support them, you nurture them, you scold them, you guide them, you hold them when things go wrong, you smile the smile of a 1000 suns when things go right. You love them unconditionally with a love that is deeper than all of the earth’s crevices, and larger than all of the earth’s mountains.

I relish their every phone call, their every email, their every Skype chat, their every visit…even if the only things they yield are the contented silence of togetherness, punctuated by a brief “Nothing’s new, Dad, things are good here,” or a few lazy couch potato giggles. Just being able to talk to them, or even better, to hug them, is something you never quite get until you are a parent of older children – and something you wish you realized when you were a younger adult.

And if all goes well, the parent’s return on investment is huge – their smiles, their success, their happiness are all rewards of a job well done. As my Dad said to me when I was just starting on my adventure into adulthood, “Do whatever you want in life…just make sure you add to society and do not only take from it.” Sage words.

That is the grail, and proudly, that is just what I am watching my kids achieve.

Being a parent equals happiness; thanks Alex and Duncan!