Monthly Archives: January 2011

Real Estate, Relations, and a Few Favorite Things

The Domestic Goddess said “Hah!”

The crochet injury I was so cavalier about in my last post brought down Her wrath. My elbow’s no better, and at I have a sprained left thumb from buttoning my jeans left-handed. Not that I’m going to put the elbow on you for donations to my newly organized Foundation for Victims of Double Crochet — I’m asking in advance for permission for a post heavy on the pix and light on the captions. Typing hurts like an SOB.

I love the street where I’m living temporarily. Every house is different, every house is freaking huge (except ours) and I never tire of acting the rube rubbernecker, trying to imagine living in a late 19th century/three full storeys/serious square footage pile.








The pillars are too tall and skinny but I love it anyway.








The windows from the copper dome down are curved glass — replacements must be pricey. Yikes.








That evergreen on the left is six storeys tall.

Last week was one of those amazing Facebook family reunions . My cousin  Charlotte and I haven’t seen each other since we wore bellbottoms and walked the sands at Sauble Beach, Ontario. (Respect was number one that summer.) She, a daughter of Wooster Ohio, married a Canadian. I, a Canadian, married an American — we switched countries. In a fab act of familial generosity she offered to drive five hours with her husband Gordon to , well, catch up. Man, did we catch up!  A couple of glasses of bubbly and we were pouring over old family pictures  and climbing the branches of the Moss/Simpson family tree. We sat over the dinner table (Ina Garten’s Company Pot Roast)then met for lunch the next day.










Although Charlotte’s a year or two younger than I, she’s more closely related to Daddy — he’s her first cousin once  removed, I’m her second cousin.

I nominate this for coolest hostess gift ever: Charlotte and Gordon make their own maple syrup! That’s hard core, my friends. Pictured on the mantle next to an antique cranberry glass pickle jar:










We did a needlework swap — one of my tea towels for four of these adorable knit Easter chicks:








I have really cool cuz. My cousin Kent’s mastery of origami exposes me as the lowly Paper Bum I am:








One last fave thing before I ice my elbow: a Victorian sterling silver Sardine Casket:








Sorry this post’s so scattered, but I wanted to play a bit of catchup. By the way, you don’t need to write your check to the Foundation for the Victims of Double Crochet. Just make it out to me, and I’ll take care of everything.














Filed under Cheap and Cheerful Object of the Day, Free, History, Home, On the Street Where I Live, Origami

Penalty: Hooking

I’m not spending a two minute minor cooling my skates in the penalty box. It feels like a two game suspension.

For those of you so underprivileged, so culturally bereft as to not know hockey, check out this dead-serious sweetly dull explanation of the hooking penalty, here:

If I had a pair of skates here in Ottawa I’d lace ’em up and hit the Rideau Canal, two long blocks away and hit the World’s Longest Skating Rink, channeling Hans Brinker  and avoiding all the crazed kids playing hockey and hooking like mad. But I’m just fooling around with a pun here, and not a clever one.

This morning I found that doing anything — reaching for The Ottawa Gazette, lifting a coffee mug, brushing my teeth, brought tears to my eyes faster than watching Dumbo. I have a searing, brutal flame running along the top of my right forearm that makes picking up anything heavier than a cocktail coaster freaking agony. I tried to pour myself a glass of wine thirty seconds ago and squealed like a little girl. What the hell?

Friends, I’m off the ice for two games because of a crochet injury. (Hooking, get it? Lame.) I’ve been crocheting like a fallen woman in an eighteenth century convent. (Yes, there’s bilingual pun there: crochet is the French word for hook, and the good sisters made those French hookers crochet lace to earn their keep. ) I’ve been crocheting like a woman trying to save her immortal soul, but not to make lace to trim the trousseaus of Ottawa aristocrats .

I want some Vicodan to combat my injury making tea towel toppers. You know them, a staple of any good Crafts Table at the Church Ladies’ Christmas Bazaar. Take half a tea towel, then crochet a doohicky so that you can hook it (sorry) from the handle of a stove, handy for hand drying during messy kitchen tasks. I love mine, a birthday gift from family friend Betty who’s the boss of the Crafts Table at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian’s Xmas wingding. I blame blameless Betty for dumping me on injured reserve because she said “I wish I could crochet. Those tea towels sell like mad.”

I do crochet, and here in Ottawa I can walk a mere ten minutes to Yarn Forward, a classic yarn store owned by a stereotype: an English lady sporting a salt-and pepper crop, sensible shoes and a hand knit Fair Isle sweater. (Er, jumper.) Bliss!

I cranked out four of these beauties in four days — it was crazed crochet because it was so much fun. I tell you, I cranked!
(I gave the fourth to Betty.) For those, like me, who are Needlework Engineers, the task, the personal improvements to the pattern, the ornament, the sourcing of vintage buttons (thank you, Sassy Bead Company) the snowy strolls to Yarn Forward — well, let’s say, I overextended myself.

So totally worth it.

But would you mind plumping my cushions? My cup of tisane is over there on the sideboard — thanks! Oh, and would you mind calling my tennis coach and tell him I can’t make it tomorrow? You’re the best!



Filed under About a buck, Cheap and Cheerful Object of the Day, Needlework

Freaky Father, Fitted Sheets

I told my father that he’s a freak. I suspect the words stung a bit, but I ask you…  and I will ask you . I’ll add a poll and the people can decide.

My father’s recovering from recent hip replacement surgery– left hip. He’s been doing an hour and a half of rehab exercise at home every day, and is a star , according to his physiotherapist. Medicine struck again this Monday — he spent a day in the hospital  for an angiogram, that wire threaded through a blood vessel in the same left leg. The cardiologists’s order’s? “Do nothing for two days.” No driving, no exercising, rest that leg.

Har. I would have taken the cardiologist’s advice to indicate that I should sprawl on the long, accommodating living room sofa and catch up on Daddy’s stack of Vanity Fairs, assuming the upright position only when concerned family members  tottered in bearing trays. My father is genetically or spiritually incapable of such sybaritic behavior, and after noticing an absence of a half hour I tracked him down and busted him. He’d been standing on the tile floor of the laundry room, ironing sheets!

That’s when I lost my daughterly cool and yelled: “Daddy, you’re a freak!”

Am I wrong? Sure, I iron the occasional pillowcase when the planets are aligned just so. But Queen sheets, both flat and fitted? A couple of pairs? I aim low: I grab the bed linens out of the dryer and get them onto the bed still warm, so they don’t acquire the peaks and crevasses that result from a week piled in the laundry basket as they wait to be toted upstairs.

We had a Sheet Summit, right there in the basement. Daddy can barely slide onto an unpressed sheet — icks! Nor does he favor the thread counts preferred by Mideastern royalty: ‘The really high thread counts make it hard to make the bed, because they don’t slide across each other. I find them itchy, too.” He took up percale after his retirement. “As your mother said, ‘Ian, you haven’t retired, I’ve retired. You’re just taking on new responsibilities.’ Fine by me: I didn’t marry your mother to bury her in the basement ironing sheets!” (NOTE: I doubt my mother ironed sheet one, ever.)

As he unplugged the iron he said: “I think I’ve bought my last fitted sheet. They’re such a pain to fold.” (Hmm, is he really a freak, or only an engineer? Engineers care about such things.) But this was my opening for daughterly redemption — I booted up his laptop and showed him Martha’s method for dealing with those pesky elasticized corners.

It’s cool: check out the laundry origami : I printed out the instructions and stuck them in the basket where he keeps his car keys, reading glasses and financial statements. Maybe we’ll have a folding fest before I leave Ottawa!

So, Dear Readers, please take this poll: perhaps I’m the one who needs a reality check!


Filed under Body, Free, History, Home, How Cool is That?, Polls

Paint it White

Baby, Baby it’s a white world here in Ottawa. Although I’m furious that my camera was too lo bat when I tried to capture the whiteness yesterday, maybe it’s just as well I didn’t.  I’m forced to make you imagine the soft and the brilliant .

When we arrived in Ottawa there was a first-class blanket of Yule snow  (“blanket” may be cliched, but it’s perfect )  minus temps and a wind that made my eyes water.The Hudson Bay Clipper whipped through my jeans, freezing my thighs and giving me pause: should I buy my first pair of leggings since 1982?  Through this I realized that my daughter’s 22 years in Chicago has been wiped clean by eight years in Southern California — her fingers twitched to call the SPCA after observing dogs going walkies sans sweater or boots. She was horrified by babies in walked by their nannies in prams — “Can that be right, Mom?”

On the twenty seventh it warmed up and rained for two days. That blanket was dissolved into a muddy mess, the California contingent was tempted  to step out in flip flops and I put the legging purchase on hold. The driveway, the front path melted down and dried up — whew! My father with his shiny new hip wasn’t forced to employ his cane’s ice blade. (Q would approve of that cane.)

Two nights ago the white came — a slow shower of soft snow on  roofs, that didn’t  stop. This snow came straight as a plumb line from the clouds, it fell and fell and fell. I went for a postprandial walk in through the soft white curtain in the dark, between the ramparts  of the  four storey Edwardian mansions on Clemow Avenue, still bedazzled with Christmas lights. It was so quiet, muffled, intimate.

Yesterday I woke to a white world. The lazy snow fell , but the sky was white and the sun didn’t shine like gold,  it glimmered like a pale opal. From the sun to the sidewalk, the world the world was wrapped in cotton wool. We collected a foot of the white stuff — the  barbeques, the roofs, the trees  lolled under a layer of quilt batting.

I dragged myself away from a crochet project, a winter hat, (more tk) and decided it was my daughterly duty to shovel the front paths. I hate shoveling because because a square foot of snow weighs as much as a holiday prime rib. But not during this fairy tale snowfall; I was hefting  thistledown, light and soft as a foot high dredging of powdered sugar.

The snow is still around, but today the sky was clear blue, it’s cold and the whipping wind made me cry. Leggings are back on the shopping list. Never mind; the Great Housekeeper in the Sky shook her pillows for a couple of days and we sunk into the soft, the quiet and the White.


Filed under Uncategorized

The Julia McArthur Gastronomic Star System


Meet my little sister, Julia Moss McArthur, a jolt of joy in a dreary world. She’s beaming about the traditional chocolate orange she pulled out of her Christmas stocking. She spends most of her day beaming, being helpful, making fun of her elders and giving us positive feedback.  To finish a dreary task and hear Julie declare “Good little worker!” is almost as good as being awarded the Meilleur Ouvrier de France. If one of us dresses up and looks spiffy, Julie will let out a wolf whistle. She oogles attractive men, like John, my cousin Cort or our friend Michael Histed, simpers, tosses back her hair and calls them “My Sveetie.”

At five o’clock sharp she nukes a bag of popcorn and distributes it in two baskets to accompany drinks.She’s the one who reports if toilet paper or dishwasher detergent is running low, and keeps on the case until it’s replaced. She can take care of Number One: On the kitchen calendar she got away with blacking out every entry that read “Julie, Dentist” for months. You’ve figured out from her pic that she’s Down Syndrome, and she’s not great at reading, writing or figgering, but for years, at my mother’s insistence, she’d do a daily weigh-in, and write the number on the calendar. So faithful was she that’s she’s write “NO BAT” until someone replaced the batteries on the scales.

Julie’s a gourmande — her table manners are neat and sure as she picks her way through a lobster (in Julia language”mobster”)dinner. Oysters on the half shell are one of her gustatory passions; she slurped her way through two dozen before I’d found my lemon wedge. Fish, fowl, game, caviar, Cheetos, brussel sprouts,stinky cheese tendon, cotton candy,pate, tofu — I have no doubt that if Julie were handed a raw sea urchin and a spoon she’d dig right in.

And she’d pronounce it “Wishious!”

“Wishious!” — always proclaimed with kissed fingertips a la Maurice Chevalier, is the Julie equivalent of a Michelin star. She’s enchantingly generous with one star. If you’ve stepped up your game, you’ll get a “Wishious!” followed by her second star — a Namaste.

Then there’s the dinner when you’ve wandered into Julie’s Bocuse/Achatz territory, the third star, the ultimate acclaim. First, an enthusiastic “Wishious!”, the kissed fingertips flung into the air. A few more appreciative bites wins you a beaming bow and a Namaste. If you’ve sourced your ingredients, cooked like a poet, and pushed up your presentation, Julia will tap her lips with her napkin, get to her feet, give you a standing ovation and yell “Bravo!”

It’s not as if other family members are stingy with praise — hey, we’re a family of cooks and eaters. But there is nothing, nothing like the unaffected, innocent and informed standing O from Julia. I’ m considering taking my sister on the road and visiting all my kitchen buddies. I’ll observe her reactions to your fab meals and compile the Julia Guide. As Julie herself would say: “No wowwies!” You’ll bask in that standing O within four meals, and you’ll beam and bow, just as I do.


Filed under Food, Free, History, Holidays, Home

Fam and Friends and Catchup

Dear buddies, I’ve been a bad bad blogger over the holidays! Sure, I’ll trot out a few (lame) excuses:

  • My son-in-law John was busy launching the new beta version of the the website he and my daughter run, the fab He logged more time at the laptop than most people spend during a work week.
  • Well, it is my father’s computer and we thought it would be fair to let him on for a few minutes a day!
  • My daughter needed to write posts on her blog — hey, she’s had over six million hits and gets first whack — and she has actual advertisers and such to talk to.
  • Shopping, and cooking three meals a day for up to nine people is a time commitment.

I was lazy bumming it.As I ease myself into 2011 — it’s gonna be a life-changing year and I’m tired already — I thought I’d do some holiday catchup — photos and such. I regret that my handsome son-in-law isn’t in the frame because he’s the camera man.

Lou had the brilliant idea to hit Lapointe’s in the Byward Market for a case of a hundred oysters. John was born to shuck oysters — he picked up the skill on the third bivalave. Here’s a pic of my nephew Miles manning up and slurping his first Sunnyside









He wasn’t knocked out by the flave and needed a pull on a Blue, but he did it! We had the full traditional tortiere spread Christmas Eve, and I should have made two pies. No one starved.

Christmas Day arrived with the usual swell haul of prezzies. Honor was the only recipient of a gift in the famous blue box.

Friends, I must Must figure out how to post photos here from my father’s computer. This glitch alone is why I haven’t been posting, but give me time. I’ll figure it out. (You reading, John?) I’m still in Ottawa, trying to square my citizenship in two countries and giving my father, who had hip replacement surgery three weeks ago, a hand.

I have a huge year looming, a life-changing, slogging year. I trust it will all be for the good. I have a daunting list I must achieve in Ottawa, then back to the ‘Ville for the really hard work. It’s only Jan. 4 and I’m tired.

And then there’s the Pudding Project –more anon.

To all of you the  best 2011. Mwah.





Filed under History, Holidays, Home