Literary Inspiration: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Gawain Collage

So here’s the thing about Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, a 14th Century poem I recently re-read to satisfy the theme of an epic work in my friends’ reading challenge – it’s repetitive, preachy as shit, and as presented (in written form, translated from its oral, Middle English origins) it’s a deathly dull slog through what should be a thrilling tale of chivalrous knights, fair maidens and fantastic creatures.

Faulting neither the original, anonymous storyteller (or storytellers), nor W.S. Merwin, the scholar tasked with translating found snippets of actual archived text into something approaching readable English, Sir Gawain was simply not meant to be read, was in fact an oral tale designed to impart moral lessons whilst entertaining exhausted warriors around the campfire.

So if a read-through (my first since university) seemed stilted and lacking in detail (except for the endless passages devoted to inventorying the Green Knight’s admittedly pretty badass-sounding suit of jade-hued armor) that’s because the story was missing that certain – and quite necessary – dramatic flair that’s only present during the live performance of a thing.  I’ve no doubt that 14th Century audiences were enthralled by this spritely, sweeping tale of “verray parfit, gentil knyght”s and the murderous green giants who seek to behead them, but absent that live engagement, there’s precious little to the story itself.  Knights be knightin’, you know?

Ah, but the real fun (fun?) of Sir Gawain lies not in the story, but in the translation itself.  Just looking over the original Middle English will leave you feeling slightly disoriented, like staring at a door frame set ever so slightly out of square – there’s something wrong there, but you’re just not sure what that wrong thing might be.  But if you’re interested in linguistics and etymology, as I am, Sir Gawain is literary catnip.

Gawain 4

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a weird one, and I’m not sure I’d ever point to it as a favourite, but it’s an enjoyable enough read, and as a case study in translation, it’s utterly fascinating and indeed, quite epic. 🙂

Sir Gawain 1

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My Canadian Roots

My Canadian Roots

Here on the final evening of the Canada Day long weekend, I wanted to do a manicure inspired by Canadian manufacturer Roots, designers of one of my favourite items of clothing of all time, my pink Roots Athletics sweatshirt.  Considering there was not a Canadian kid alive in the mid-1980s who didn’t have one of these sweatshirts (including yours truly!) there are no photos of me in my beloved baby pink, mint green and white pullover, because we didn’t run around with cameras all jacked up in our faces at all hours of the day.  So I have no “adorable” throwback photos to share with you, just my nostalgic memories of an iconic Canadian trend (really, everyone had a Roots sweatshirt; they came in an assortment of bright rainbow hues – my best friend’s was a gorgeous indigo blue – and some people had one in every colour.  And they were not exactly inexpensive either.  Not bad for a sweatshirt bearing the silhouette of a chunka-butt beaver.) 😉

Muffin – and Teenage Boy – Madness

Muffin Madness 2

A breathtakingly stupid story from my youth forms the basis for these scrumptious-looking nails that pay homage to the mighty manicured muffin!

So it was round about the end of high school when a friend fell in temporary infatuation with a cute boy from another school we used to pal around with (I defy you to call it anything other than temporary when the boy in question wears an upside down bookkeeper’s visor unironically.)  There was a big party coming up, and it was pretty well expected that it would be during this soiree that they would declare their feelings for one another in all manner of debauched Hughesian awkwardness.

But because teenagers are generally giant tools, the very first thing they did upon arriving at the party was to furiously ignore one another, my friend seeking solace in some girl talk, with Upside Down Visor doing likewise.  With another girl.  And a whole lot of public groping.  Real party killer, that.  Also the end of any flirtation between my friend and Teenage Dirtbag.

Anyhow, some time later my friend and Upside Down Visor once again found themselves at the same party, and she asked him what had happened that night – it hadn’t been her imagination, right, there was maybe something there between them?  Why the stupid freeze-out?

Oh no, he confirmed, there was definitely something there; he actually liked her a lot.  But here was the deal – and then he launched into THE dumbest explanation of the romantic-existential dilemma I have EVER heard.  Seriously, this happened nearly 20 years ago and I still admire the balls-out stupidity of this guy.  Allow me to throw it to straight dialogue:

Upside Down Visor (UDV): Okay, so it’s like this.  What’s your favourite food?

My Friend (Friend): Muffins.

UDV: What kind do you like best?

Friend: Chocolate chip.

UDV: And after chocolate chip?

Friend: Blueberry.

UDV: Okay, so let’s say you go to the bakery and there’s two kinds of muffins there, chocolate chip and blueberry.  You want the chocolate chip muffin the most, but it’s been, like, sitting out for days and it’s gone all crusty and stale and it has this weird mold starting to grow on top.  But then beside it there’s the blueberry muffin, and it’s all warm from the oven and tender and buttery and ready to be eaten………like, seriously, which would you pick?!

Friend: You’re an idiot.

And scene.

And so here we have chocolate chip and blueberry muffin nail art.  I like both interpretations equally, but in the immortal words of UDV, like, seriously, which would you pick?!  Such decisions. 😉

Muffin Madness 1

Lifestyles of the Rich and the Sudsy

Soap Collage

Some weekends back my mom and I went out for one of our doughnut ‘n’ decorating dates, which involves a trip to a favourite local doughnut joint (Suzy Q’s in Ottawa, Ontario) followed by a bit of retail therapy at a favourite home decor shop across the street (Marie Antoionette’s.)  I’ve spoken about both before – and actually, hang on a tick, I’ve vlogged about both before as well!  I actually vlogged this doughnut date, much to my mother’s eternal embarrassment/amusement.  Here, ch-check (it out for) yourself, if you’d like:

Anyhow, it was during this Saturday morning shopping excursion that my mom, as is her sweet custom, asked me if I’d like a little treat from Marie Antoinette.  The answer to that question is always a delighted YESand I quickly snapped up a beautiful bar of soap from Juniper Tree, a soap supply company out of Berkeley, California.  I’ve actually purchased three or four bars of Juniper Tree’s gorgeously detailed glycerin soaps in the past, and all from Marie Antoinette, who display them on tantalizingly tiered trays like precious little petit fours.  This beautiful bar, with its crown of dried flowers, is in a fresh and sweet scent called Tiki Taffy.

But I clearly spaced on how much these little bars of soapy goodness actually cost, because there was a moment of sticker shock when the cashier read out our total.  “Sorry, how much was the bar of soap?” my mother casually asked in a not-remotely-casual tone of voice.  And when the answer came back as a shade over $10, we had a good, guffawing laugh (once we were outside, we’re not complete animals.)  My mom was positively in stitches over the thought that this one wee bar of soap cost more than her entire suds “budget” for the year.  What can I say, her daughter’s got tastes in high places.  This is really all her fault, wretched enabler. 😉

But seeing as I was now in possession of a very expensive bar of “company soap,” I thought I should do something impressive to best display its elevated status among the other suds-stuffs in my collection.  And that’s how I found myself carrying out a lifestyle photo shoot with a bar of soap, a bottle of Prosecco and my thoroughly annoyed cat at three in the afternoon on a Wednesday in the middle of May.  As you do.  Or as I assume wealthy people do, because what else would a $10 bar of soap be up to other than…

Soap 3

…drinking sparkling stuff out of fluted champagne glasses?  Or…

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…hunting big, deeply disinterested game?  Or my personal favourite…

Soap 6

…perusing yacht listings.  I’ll take the $74 mil guy at the top – he comes with a villa!  Mr. Finger Candy, grab my cheque book, we got a yacht to buy!  Quick question: Do you think they accept Canadian Tire money?

Really, though, I was just feeling exceedingly goofy.  This bar of Tiki Taffy will go into a soap dish and I will use it with relish.  Until the next trip to Marie Antoinette’s when we’re amusingly sticker-shocked anew!

Frozen Bubbles

Frozen Bubbles

As in Polish Me Silly’s fun Mr. Bubble glitter bomb over top of my frozen, lacquered fingertips.  ‘Cause it never stops snowing.  As I may have mentioned once or twice or 20 times over the past two days.  Fur real, though, it’s the middle of MARCH.  Time to wrap this up for the year, Earth!  Besides, there’s only so much time left before we all switch over to griping about the heat and humidity (also a thing in my in-a-valley city.)

Heh, that reminds me of a cute interaction I had with a reader years ago.  I had mentioned in a post at the time that my city sits in a valley, as in the Ottawa Valley.  If you’ve been to Ottawa, you know it has its lovely qualities, but it’s also a major (bureaucratic) city, with all the attendant ugliness that goes along with that descriptor – old, crap, perpetually breaking infrastructure (sinkholes!), sprawling, high density suburbs (vinyl!) and a death trap of a 400 series highway that cuts through the entire city like a gaping, infected wound (but tell us how you really feel, Sandra.)  Anyhow, this reader, who I believe hailed from the Philippines, left a sweet comment on my post to the effect of “You live in a valley?!  How wonderful, it must be so beautiful and magical!”  It was adorable, and I laughed for about five solid minutes afterwards at the thought of this girl thinking that I lived in freakin’ Fern Gully.  I tried to be as gentle as possible as I explained that no, Ottawa was your pretty typical metropolitan mess, and how its valley-ness manifested itself was mostly in poor weather conditions that would settle into the divot and then not move off for the next 10 days.  That’s kind of what we’re in right now – a snow cycle that’s trapped down here “in the Valley.”  No place like home, eh? 😉

A Very Disney Christmas

Four Park Collage

Right, so let’s get to the oft-asked question straightaway: Is Disney World busy at Christmas?

BAHAHAHAHAHAHA!  *Gasp, wheeze, struggle for breath* Is Disney World busy at Christmas?!

So yeah, this would be the part of the answer where I lob back a number of saucy replies involving the business that bears do in the woods or the activities of a one-legged man at an ass-kicking competition.

In other (less sarcastic ) words, YES, Disney World is busy at Christmas.  All four parks were busier than I have ever seen them over 11 visits and 40 years of existence.  And on Christmas Day in particular when the Magic Kingdom hit capacity for just the second time in Disney history, the kind of busy that regrettably pulls you right out of the magic as you question the efficacy of any emergency procedure that will involve the evacuation of 70,000 people.

However!  Mr. Finger Candy and I – particularly in light of our back-to-back trips in 2017 – kind of consider ourselves pros at this whole Disney business, and we viewed our adventure as a challenge or a task or a mission to be completed, and completed well!  So we were organized and motivated and driven.  Also willing to adapt, modify our plans as needed and just go with the flow, bro.

Magic Kingdom Castle Collage

“Park or Perish!” may seem like a pretty lousy rallying call for a vacation, but I assure you, we had a fantabulous time, in large part because we were up for just about anything.  Which led to all sorts of fun shenanigans that I will share with you in more exhaustive detail a little later, such as this awesome meet-and-greet with Buzz Lightyear in which he congratulated us on our top scores on Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin.

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Or this incredible retro meal we enjoyed (so much!) at the 50s Prime Time Cafe at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Prime Time 1

Or hugs from this hairy dude.

Chewie 1

For that matter, hugs from this hairy dude as well, who graciously received us in his study after our late (10 pm!) Christmas Day dinner at Be Our Guest.

Dinner with the Beast

Or this amazing moment, which I have already decided is going to be next year’s Christmas card.  “Merry Christmas, Force-choke a husband!”

Christmas Card

We had a blast, crowd levels notwithstanding (in fact, in some cases we had an amazing time not in spite of the crowds, but because of them.)  And I like to think that was our “reward” for our laid back, yet organized, approach to Disneying through the holidays – an actual good time to be had at the Happiest Place on Earth.  Revolutionary, I know!  But it can be done, and I’m looking forward to sharing all the fun with you over the coming days.  Please do stop by for a visit; there’s plenty more Star Wars and meet-and-greets and deeply unattractive on-ride photos to come!

Merry Manatees

Merry Manatees

Know what this is, friends?  A Sandra Lewrey original, and an early Christmas gift for my mom.  You’d never know I’m nearly 41 years old with art skills like these!

No surprise that “real” is not exactly my thing (you need look no further than my nail art designs for abundant evidence of that) but these manatees look like they were drawn by a four-year-old!  Which is appropriate, because I’m kind of feeling like a four-year-old.  Because tomorrow morning my husband and I are once again leaving on a jet plane for all places Disney World, straight through Christmas and a little bit beyond.

And I’m feeling only-child wretched about it.  Unbelievably excited, of course – oh my cats, we’re going to Disney for Christmas!!! – but also sad.  Have, in fact, here on the eve of our flights, been crying for the better part of the evening.  Before you (somewhat rightfully) declare me an epic wuss puss, allow me to say that I’m very close to my parents, and this will be the first Christmas in 40 years that we will not be together.  I’m trying to be mature about it, but I actually like hanging out with my parents, and as much fun as I KNOW Mr. Finger Candy and I going to have, I also know I’m going to miss them terribly.  Hence all the tears.  I’ve actually gone the full ham and we’re watching The Christmas Toy, a Jim Henson production of the late ’80s about an unlikely friendship between a stuffed tiger toy and a catnip mouse that makes me SOB from start to finish.

The quasi-joke among our family this holiday season is that my husband and I are ABANDONING them, AT CHRISTMAS.  Which we are.  Might as well own up to it!  So I made this painting for my mom of two manatees abandoning their family for the holidays.  I’m the one with the bow. 🙂

Happiest of Christmases, friends.  I will try to update this blog over the next week, but I’ve never blogged on the road before, and I’ve no idea what to expect.  Also, you know I’ll be back at you with a complete rundown of the entire experience, in exhaustive detail!  You’ll be begging me to stop telling you about the Star Wars fireworks and projection show at Hollywood Studios already.  But until then, the merriest of merrys to you and yours, and warmest of wishes for a wonderful holiday.