Public Service Announcements

Here are a few fantastic things you need to know about if you don’t already:

The other day I was scrolling through YouTube trying to find some music to play for Little B. I’m trying to expose her to a variety of songs and genres. Somehow, I stumbled upon a cover of Olivia Newton John’s Physical by Juliana Hatfield. We loved it, and upon further investigation, it turns out she’s made an entire album of Olivia Newton-John songs!

I was such a big fan of Juliana Hatfield in the 90s – remember that time that she played the Christmas angel on My So-Called Life? Ya, that was awesome. Coupled with the fact that as a child I absolutely worshipped Olivia Newton-John, this combination is musical heaven for me.

Speaking of amazing women:

Have you heard the Unladylike podcast?

It’s a wonderfully sensible approach to feminism hosted by two very likeable and relatable women. They tackle a variety of issues and feature real stories from women who have faced adversity. Each episode has left me feeling informed, empowered and slightly outraged.

And, completely unrelated:

Dill pickle crunchy toppers!

A friend recommended these last week and I’m hooked. I guess you’re supposed to put them on burgers or casseroles but I don’t really make either of those things so I’ve just been eating them by the handful. They’re delicious and they’re made with real cucumber!

Seriously though, it always irks me a little when a company has to boast about the fact that a product actually contains the thing for which the foodstuff is named. How is that a selling feature when you’re reminding people that your products are mostly processed crap? Just let me assume I’m eating something akin to food, even if I’m not, thank you very much! Anyway, despite this, I can’t seem to keep my paws out of the container whenever I pass through the kitchen.

What are you excited about this week?

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What I’ve Read This Winter – Part 2

No One Is Coming to Save Us, Stephanie Powell Watts

This book touted as a modern version of The Great Gatsby but having read it, I think it’s a bit of a stretch. This is not to say this isn’t a good book though. I did enjoy reading it. It just wasn’t exactly what I was expecting.

Set in a small economically depressed American town in the south, the story mainly focuses on busybody matriarch Sylvia, who despite having her own apartment, spends most of her time at her former house, now owned and occupied by her middle-aged married daughter, Ava. Ava’s marriage was troubled at best and then further complicated when her childhood friend JJ shows up after a long absence. Now that he’s achieved some degree of success, he’s back to win her heart.

There are a few common themes and moments that loosely connected it to The Great Gatsby but the characters are far more endearing despite their flaws. It was really more about regular people struggling to get what they want out of life. I supposed though, had it not been blurbed with the comparison, I may not have picked it up so I guess from a marketing perspective, it worked.

My Name is Lucy Barton, Elizabeth Strout

This was such a random book selection for me. I needed to download something to my eReader right away and this one was the first one that was available in the “recommended” section from our local library. I didn’t even read a synopsis before I began and had no clue what it was about or what to expect.

Most of the story takes place over a few days when Lucy is laying in a hospital bed while fighting an infection after a surgery. Her mother had come from rural Illinois to visit and as they talk about some of the folks from her hometown, she reflects on her upbringing. She is very subtle in her revelations so that, as a reader, you really have to stop and consider her implications.

It reminded me a tiny bit of The Glass Castle in that the (in this case, fictional) protagonist grew up in abject poverty and has moved on to a much different life while maintaining a complicated relationship with her family.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Shirley Jackson

I can’t remember the last time I’ve read a novel that had such palpable tension right from the start.

The story is narrated by Mary Katherine, a teenager who lives with her older sister and feeble Uncle on a large familial estate. The rest of their family had perished in a tragedy many years before and they live in isolation from the locals who seem to fear and loathe them. As the story unfolds you begin to understand the events that occurred years before.

It was fantastically bizarre, and apparently, there’s a movie version coming out sometime this year.

The Lonely Hearts Hotel, Heather O’Neill

When I started reading this book I found something oddly familiar about it. The theme of being young, poor and exploited in Montreal reminded me of Lullabies for Little Criminals and then I realized they were authored by the same person. Lullabies for Little Criminals is one of those books that just haunts you years later. That gave me a bit of an idea of what to prepare for as I read on.

The novel is about Perriot and Rose who met when they were orphaned babies. Both talented and charismatic, as teenagers they fell in love as they toured the city performing on behalf of their orphanage. They were separated when they were sent out to work as servants, but spent their early adult years trying to find each other while they tried to stay afloat in the city during the depression.

Overall, it was a bit weird. The prose is unique and visceral. At times I could almost feel the grit and hunger of depression era Montreal coming off the pages. It wasn’t as upsetting as Lullabies though. It read more like an early 20th-century fairy tale, but without a conventional happily ever after.

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Foods I Miss From My Childhood

The other day I had a hankering for pudding, but not just any pudding – I wanted Laura Secord butterscotch pudding. I did a quick google search to find out what direction to set out to procure the snack for which I craved, only to discover IT NO LONGER EXISTS!!!

I thought back to the last time I actually bought pudding cups and I was at a loss. Did I stop buying pudding because they stopped making it or did I just stop eating pudding at some point? Growing up, these cups were a staple in our home for lunch boxes and after-school snacking. We used to buy them at Costco by the case.

I know I could have just gone to any grocery store and picked up a Snack Pack (I assume these are still around) but Laura Secord pudding had a particular texture. It was – I don’t know how to describe it? Silkier? Is that an accurate pudding descriptor? Anyway, nothing short of the real thing was going to fill this void for me so I just moved on, but it did get me thinking about some foods I would revisit if I had a time machine.

For a brief time while I was a McDonalds sold pizza in our area and it was legit. At that time my University residence was literally next door to a participating location. It was not only awesome pizza but also super cheap. The crust was just the right thickness, and it was crispy in all the right places. The sauce was sweet with a kick of spice and was topped with the perfect amount of gooey, stringy cheese. It was perfection.

Apparently, they stopped offering it because of the 11 minutes it took to get it out to the customer, which I find hilarious because, at the train wreck of a McDonald’s that I frequent these days, I’m sure I’ve waited more than 11 minutes for a black coffee and a hash brown (the staff is really nice though).

According to this relatively recent article, there are three stores in the United States that still make the pizza. None of these locations would be very convenient for a road trip though, nor are they near anywhere we would visit though. I’m sure it wouldn’t be nearly as good as I remember anyway.

While I’m thinking about McDonald’s, I also miss their deep fried (not baked) apple pies and the McDLT – which was the burger that was served with the meat and bottom bun packaged separately from the lettuce, tomato, cheese, pickles, sauces and top bun, to keep “the hot side hot and the cool side cool.” The packaging was styrofoam and was phased out around the same time they switched to cardboard wrappers. I guess losing the McDLT was a small price to pay to keep what was left of the ozone layer.

These were the best chips ever. EVER!

In case you missed these, O’Grady’s were extra thick rippled potato chips liberally coated with a incomparably delicious cheese dust that would cake in the deep ridges. I think these disappeared sometime in the late 90s. I know I bought them into my 20s, as I recall they paired well with the economical Sawmill Creek Red I used to swill back then (apparently that still exists – 36 bucks for a 4 litre box!)

Someone told me that the Ruffles Au Gratin was a decent substitute. I recently tried them and after sampling an entire full-sized bag just to be sure, I can tell you, these are not the same thing. Not even close.

What foods do you miss?

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