Slow Down & Smell the Borscht

Shannon Kernaghan Borscht-for-Post-400 Slow Down & Smell the Borscht Culture Food Humor Lifestyle Parties Relationship Travel

 

My friend  gave me a book entitled In Praise of Slow by Carl Honoré. The author investigates the phenomenon of slow living – slow food, cooking, traveling, napping and sex. Honoré writes that going slow is a way to be more efficient in the unavoidably fast parts of your life.

Sure, I love speed – fast Internet, fast replies and fast planes to name a few. Speed helps me accomplish the obligations in my life while leaving free time to enjoy the areas I prefer. Like napping. (Assume I’d say sex? Never realized I had a speed issue.)

Last summer my husband and I celebrated Canada Day by taking a slow trek through Alberta. We headed for the Ukrainian Pysanka Festival in Vegreville, Alberta, where we saw the World Famous Pysanka – a gigantic Easter egg.

Not only did we plan to enjoy the festival’s rich heritage and food, but we also wanted to take township and range roads for part of the journey.

We cruised over gravel terrain because we wanted it all and we wanted it slow. Let fast traffic take the highways, we reasoned. Instead, we traveled at 25 mph, took pictures of moose and deer grazing along quiet roads, and literally stopped to smell the Alberta wild roses.

When you spot more wildlife than people, you know you’re taking the slow road. My husband pulled over to photograph an abandoned schoolhouse at the edge of a field. An impressive spear of lightning zigzagged behind him and he started to race towards our truck. Fast.

“What a baby!” I called out. “That lightning is miles away.” And then he pointed.

Two wolf-sized dogs tore towards him from the other end of the road. Since my back was turned, I hadn’t seen them appear. No barking, they were serious. And by the way they bared their teeth and raised their hackles, they weren’t greeting him with open paws.

When it comes to running from snapping jaws, fast is advisable. We hopped into our truck and slammed the doors.

At the Vegreville festival, we ate wonderful Ukrainian cooking and listened to live polka music. Then we bought loaves of bread baked – slow – in clay ovens. Our treasure d’jour was the ice cream pail of beet borscht we purchased to take home.

Once home, we dipped into our borscht supply non-stop.

“Slow down, pace yourself,” my husband said when I gestured towards the soup pot with my ladle. “I can’t handle more than one bowl an hour.”

When it comes to slowing down, I’m not perfect but I try. Neither is the author of In Praise of Slow. I read that he got a speeding ticket while researching his book.

*Jonesing for holopchi and perogies? Check out this year’s July 7-9 Pysanka Festival in Vegreville, AB.

 

 

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Stop Cluttering My Mind

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There’s a lot of chatter about clutter. The subject is explored on talk shows and dissected in “how-to avoid it” articles.

When I spent the day helping a friend unpack at her new home, she told me she needs to hold a yard sale.

“Now? Why didn’t you do that BEFORE you moved instead of dragging everything to your new place?”

Too busy, she said.

I know what she means because I’m the antithesis of a clutter expert. The only advice I’ll give is to NOT take my advice.

When my husband and I decided to leave the west coast, we purchased boxes, spent days wrapping and packing, and hired movers to put everything in storage for two years.

Throughout those two years, we paid storage fees and insurance. When it was time to settle in Alberta, we once again paid movers to reconnect us with our belongings. After days spent unpacking, I was awash in a sea of cardboard – cutting, folding and hauling the works to the recycling depot.

Then what did we do? We gave away a third of those belongings!

“I don’t need this,” my husband said again and again, tossing the ski poles, thermos and tent-in-a-truck contraption into the give-away pile.

“Honey, why didn’t we do this BEFORE we moved?”

Too busy, he said.

But then he went overboard. Forget clutter cleaning – he was on a minimalist mission and started to purge. If there were two of anything, one had to go.

“Um, those are book ends . . . we do SO need both!” I whined and grabbed one from the pile.

Worse, when he realized we had two blenders, he gave away the cool-looking silver one and kept the stained harvest gold relic that neither of us remembered buying.

On countless occasions I heard myself shriek: “You’re giving away your fishing rods and all your gear? Everything’s like new! And your binoculars? Again, like new!”

“I have another pair I like better,” he argued. “And I’ll probably never use any of the gear.”

“You might.”

“Nah. Out it goes.”

I’d created a clutter-free monster! (I should have unpacked on my own and put him on cardboard duties.)

He does deserve credit for his philanthropy in finding new homes for his belongings because some items went to appreciative new neighbors and others headed to charity.

But then he’d toss out an expensive or useful object and I’d squeal in a high-pitched voice: “With what we’ve wasted on moving and storage for two years, we could have spent a month in Hawaii!”

If I had to leave for any length of time during the culling process, I’d point out my precious gewgaws and give him loving instructions: “Touch any of this pile, and you die. Got it?”

If I were a dog, I’d have territorially peed around my pile.

Once everything was tidy and in its place, and once the fresh sheets were on the assembled bed . . . I still wanted most of that stuff back. Being a minimalist wasn’t high on my list of aspirations.

Wait. I’m no better than the rest with their talk shows and how-to articles. It’s not enough that you might be dealing with your own clutter, but now I’ve made you hear my own rant in the process.

Mea culpa, and happy uncluttering. But don’t touch my stuff!

 

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Bear Facts on Bikinis

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Some believe that life imitates art. For me, life imitates news. I read a piece on the myriad of distractions that drivers face on today’s roads.

Any number of activities, both inside the vehicle and out, can cause a distraction. Some may be difficult to predict or control, such as an event along the roadside or a loose object moving inside the car.

I once watched a woman wearing a string bikini and strappy high heels ride her bicycle down Edmonton’s busy Whyte Avenue. If based on the number of rubbernecking cars that crawled dead slow to get a better gander, she was a definite distraction.

Unpredictability is key. Take your screaming baby in the back seat, or the bear that appeared before my father while heading home from the lake. Had Dad been texting or multitasking, there could have been a fatality. Actually there was – the poor bear – but it was either collide with Smoky or get creamed by the fast-moving stream of Sunday traffic behind us.

Another word of advice: if you’re a bear, please don’t lounge on the highway at dusk. If you need a ride, stick out your paw on the side of the road. Or consider a Commuter Pass with Greyhound.

Sure, some distractions you can’t anticipate, but there are others that drivers choose. It’s these choices that leave me clenching my jaw, everything from selecting music, interacting with passengers, making or receiving phone calls to studying the GPS.

To find an article on distracted driving was apropos. I’d just arrived home after witnessing a parade of distracted drivers while stopped at a red light with my husband.

Turning vehicles had the right of way, which gave me time to watch as they maneuvered the turn. None was doing the dreaded texting or phoning, although one man laughed uproariously, with his head thrown back and his eyes pinched shut. The next dude turned his car but stared at something over his shoulder.

Vehicle number three’s driver fought with a food wrapper and the woman following adjusted her scarf in the mirror. The final man to make the light was looking down and digging at something in his lap.

Very few traveling the roads today have lives so vital that they can’t pull over and park for a few minutes. Can’t they at least wait for a red light before eating that drippy fajita or mining their lap for gold? No wonder there are accidents!

Imagine an idyllic world where people simply drive the highways without distraction, eyes front and hands at ten and two on the wheel? That’s the artwork I want to create for my living room, with emphasis on “living.” And I’ll remember to sketch in the poor bear who gave his/her life – along with our car’s front end – so we could enjoy a beach day.

Ten-4, rubber ducky.

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Don’t Sniff It on Father’s Day

Shannon Kernaghan Fathers-Day-scent-2017 Don't Sniff It on Father's Day Family Humor Pets and Animals Relationship

 

My father’s primary loves were his family, his pets and his television store, in varying order. No doubt that love toggled, depending on which source offered the most pleasure, the least annoyance.

Although I was less appreciative as a teenager, now I cherish the Saturdays and summers I worked by his side in “the shop.” There, I had a front-row seat to watch him operate in his favorite his territory.

His sense of humor was wry, often edging on rude. Since he was impossible to insult, he assumed everybody had the same thick skin. His guileless smile and kind heart enabled him to get away with more than the average proprietor.

I blanched when I heard him greet a customer: “Mrs. Finegold, what happened? You got so fat! Did you leave any food for the rest of us?”

“Such a kidder,” the woman said, laughing and hugging him. I don’t think he was kidding.

He was also a fan of practical jokes, whether on the playing or receiving end. One night my parents went for dinner with another couple. Outside the restaurant, someone had been sick on the sidewalk.

“Doesn’t say much for the food here,” Dad said as he gallantly scooped up the mess with his white silk scarf.

“Leon, what are you doing?” his friend gasped. “Not your nice scarf!” Dad eventually ‘fessed up to his prank: he’d brought along his own novelty store rubber vomit.

Trust was another strength my dad possessed. He’d hand over big-ticket items based on a handshake. Only once did a customer give him a bad check. After repeated and patient attempts to settle the bill, Dad drove to the customer’s home and took back his new TV. Solved! Um, he might have climbed through an unlocked rear window to retrieve it, but why sully this sweet tale with borderline B&E.

That same trust went for payment plans. Customers could have their new TV if they verbally promised to make regular payments. He accepted a few dollars each month until the bill was paid.

These scenarios were ordinary events during my childhood and teens. As an adult, I have a renewed admiration for my father’s view of humanity. A person’s age, culture, gender and income was irrelevant; my dad had respect for everyone. By the time he retired, he’d sold TVs to several generations of customers. I never grew weary of hearing their praise for him through the years.

Besides humans, he treasured animals. When my mother phoned our nearby pet store to find a remedy for our pet turtle’s filmy shell, the store owner said, “And by the way, Donna, your skunk’s ready.”

“That’s funny, I thought you just said skunk.”

“I did, the one your husband ordered? Flower has been de-scented and can come home now.”

“Over my dead body!” Mom said and quickly hung up the phone. Who surprises his wife with a skunk? We’d already sheltered and rescued a plethora of critters under our suburban roof, from dogs and cats, chickens and pigeons, to rabbits and rodents.

This weekend, do something special to celebrate your father. But don’t surprise him with a skunk. Brunch and a new gag gift should do the trick.

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High Sticking with Goldfinger 

Shannon Kernaghan Goldfinger-400 High Sticking with Goldfinger  Challenge Dating Deception Humor Sex

 

In my early twenties I accepted a date with a man I met in a night club. He owned a major business and I recognized his face from news articles and TV profiles. Although I wasn’t attracted to him, my girlfriend convinced me I’d have fun, that I should “go for it!”

Date night didn’t begin well. He phoned ten minutes before his scheduled arrival to say he was running late and I’d better take a cab to the hockey game.

While seated at the stadium he ignored me but enjoyed the game, leaping and roaring with delight or disgust, punching the air.

I sure didn’t remember as much gold when I met him several nights earlier. For hockey night, “Goldfinger” wore a lot of jewelry. Even the sheen of his hair and skin seemed unnaturally bronzed.

When the game ended, we headed to the parking lot. A group of people had gathered around his expensive foreign car. As we approached, he leaned over and whispered, “They’re not looking at you, they’re looking at my car, Sheri.”  Rude! And Sheri is not my name. Tack these onto the list of bad date indicators.

My middle name was hopeful . . . make that stupid. I should have listened to my intuition, not my girlfriend. Questions: 1) why didn’t I escape to the row of idling cabs outside the arena and 2) why did I agree to stop at his office when he offered to show me “something special”? Sheri’s decision-making skills were sorely lacking that night.

“Take a seat,” he said, pointing to a couch. He went to a wall unit and pulled out a key ring from his pocket. Then he removed his shiny gold baubles – the bracelets, watch, necklace and two jumbo rings he had to lick before they’d budge. He placed them inside a drawer and locked it.

“I’m not going to steal anything,” I called out. He mumbled about them getting in the way. “In the way of what?” I asked. No answer.

With my coat still buttoned, I watched him disappear behind a door. Suddenly his office lobby transformed – the bright lights dimmed and a gas fireplace ignited with a pop. Next, the couch vibrated. I jumped up. It quickly expanded to a semi-circular bed.

My fight-or-flight instinct kicked in and I started to breathe heavily. Got to get out. The moment I fast-walked to the door and hauled on the handle – locked! – another door opened, releasing the smell of damp cedar. There stood Goldfinger in a short brown robe.

“Here,” and he tossed a matching robe at me. “Get comfortable.”

I let the robe fall to my feet. “I want to go, you said we weren’t staying!”

He stretched across his couch-cum-bed.

“Come on Sheri, let’s relax in the sauna.”

My back hugged the door. “No, I want to go. Now!” I pulled out my cell phone and quickly punched the number for a cab. I didn’t have Goldfinger’s address but knew the company name and added, “Please hurry!”

He remained on the bed and thumbed through his phone, probably looking for a replacement to slip on his guest robe. Sheri was a disappointing dud.

Finally, he threw the ring of keys at me. With shaking hands, I tried several before the cylinder clicked.

Glorious freedom! I left the key ring dangling in the lock and fast-walked to the road. I’d never felt so relieved to be done with a date.

As for that “something special” Goldfinger promised to show me, I assumed it was a memento from his trip to Africa, not what was under his short robe. I wonder if it was covered in gold?

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Push-Up Bra under a Spruce Goose

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Missions. We all have them. Some of us are driven to distraction by them.

Howard Hughes is a perfect example of a man with missions. When you inherit your father’s tool company and become a millionaire at age 18, those missions go from dreams to done deals.

One of his missions was to become a movie mogul, where he enjoyed the perks of dating Hollywood stars. He was also known for inventing the first push-up bra, specially designed to lift and separate the frontal assets of Jane Russell in The Outlaw.

Movie mogul and “star support” aside, his mission during the Second World War was to create a plane that could transport troops to Britain. Since allied shipping in the Atlantic Ocean was suffering heavy losses to U-boats, an aircraft was needed to safely cross the ocean.

Although Hughes wanted to build such an aircraft, there were wartime restrictions on metals. Hughes wasn’t deterred – he owned the Hughes Aircraft company.

To skirt the metal issue, he invented a laminated wood product called Duramold that was both light-weight and strong.

His wooden plane – nicknamed the Spruce Goose – took five years and millions of dollars to complete. Finally, it lifted off from the waters of Long Beach in 1947 to make its one-minute flight for one mile. Period. We’re not talking a great return on investment.

The last ignominious scoop on Hughes was that he holed up on the top floor of a hotel. There, he bottled and saved his urine, and supposedly let his toenails grow long enough to curl under his feet until the end of his fascinating life.

Paul had his own mission: to find that Spruce Goose. A Google search pinpointed our mission to the Evergreen Aviation museum in McMinnville, Oregon. Forty-eight hours later, we hit the road.

We envisioned a scenic tour of Washington and Oregon. Instead, we were trapped on the I-5, white-knuckling our way through non-stop merging traffic. We almost rear-ended a semi-trailer that slammed on its brakes and smoked its tires.

And while the I-5 was a direct route, it was a rootin tootin rough and rutted ride. We bumped along for hours. Paul said, “I used to be a boob man . . . until I grew my own.”

“Huh?” I looked over and immediately understood. “Sorry for your jiggle, but there’s always the push-up bra.”

We arrived in McMinnville to a wonderful museum filled with planes and memorabilia, in addition to the Spruce Goose. Better yet, all of the docents were retired military people who’d flown the makes of planes within this sprawling museum.

Except for the Spruce Goose. No one could lay claim to that behemoth. It was enormous and towered over everything. Inside the aircraft, I was in the belly of a whale.

After we toured and then did our damage in the gift store, we needed re-fueling. At the café, mere feet from the Spruce Goose, I slurped my bowl of soup. There I was, within cracker-throwing distance of a plane that put Hughes on the map. It also put him in front of a US senate committee for wasting so much government money.

While the Hughes missions are over, the lust for an open road never leaves Paul.

“What’s that, honey?” I say. “We have a new mission to plan? Sure, but first take off your shoes? I wanna quick peek at your toenails.”

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