Friday, December 27, 2013

Cookie Overload

I haven't eaten a healthy thing in four days now.  I am going to have to go on a vegetable IV drip if this keeps up.  Since Erik started on his Christmas Baking Frenzy, we have switched our four food groups to sugar, flour, butter and chocolate.  So much deadly deliciousness in such a small package.

It is hard to say how this came about.  Perhaps Erik was feeling lonely.  This has been our first Christmas without family since 2010, and only our second ever as a foursome.  Perhaps he just missed his mother's Christmas baking, which is understandable, as the woman is a champion.  But, whatever the reason, Erik got in a baking mood.

Just in case it has somehow escaped your attention, Erik only has two modes: full out, or full stop.*  And, like his mother, he mentally takes the number of people he is ostensibly cooking for and multiplies it by ten.

I found Erik at the computer, merrily typing away.
"I thought you were going to bake cookies," I said.
"I am."
I looked over his shoulder.  "That's Excel."
"Well, I have to make a shopping list, don't I?"
"One point two kilos of butter?  A kilo and a half of sugar?"  I shook my head.  "I have the basics here, you know.  Can't you just make some cookies from what we have?"
"You don't have everything I need," said Erik.  "Not the specialty ingredients.  This way we can plan to have these items in stock every December.  You know, if you'd just let me set up a Kanban system for you..."
But I had already fled to safety.  I know better than to stick around when the Kanban talk flares up.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Visiting the Toy Aisle - French Edition

Here we are, two days from Christmas.  Time to break out that wallet and go buy some cheap junk that your family neither wants nor needs!  And even if Christmas isn't your thing, there are all the sales to think about, right?  If you're going to buy things you don't need, you might as well get them at a reduced price.

But, oh, what's this?  Hmm.  Something is fishy here.  It looks like home.  Huge floorspace.  Big crowds.

Industrial-sized bottles of ketchup.

Aha!  There's a clue.

A forty-foot display of Champagne is always a good tip-off that you are in a French territory.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Christmas Madness: Hunting Down Impossible Presents

It's that time of year again when even the most patient parents consider slipping out of the house and hiding under a tarp in the backyard until December 25th has come and gone.  And even though it is hot and humid here and about as un-Christmas-y as you can get, our family is gripped by Christmas fever.  My delightful children have been replaced by screaming hyperactive terrors belched forth straight from the Parental Punishment levels of Hell.  How my mother ever made it through those final days before Christmas with four kids whirling around her ankles is a mystery to me.  At least my dad could escape to the office when we were too much to take.

But, despite the fact that the girls are currently driving me crazy, I'd still like to get them something nice for Christmas.  As you can imagine, gift-giving on a boat takes some extra planning.  You can't exactly nip off the the store the night of the 23rd and expect to mop up your last-minute gifts.  For one thing, there usually is no store.  But, for once, we are somewhere completely first world in terms of available commercial goods.  Being a French territory, New Caledonia is well-served out of France.  But since I hadn't planned on being here and I wanted things like English-language books, I did the bulk of my shopping months ago.

The girls made their Christmas lists about six weeks ago.  As the ultra-prepared boat children they are, they wanted to give Santa and me time to get everything sorted out between us.  Stylish handed me her list; I cast a critical eye over her choices.  She won't get it all, but good ideas.  No surprises there.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Cruising Talk: A Translation Guide

What is this woman talking about?
I hope everyone has read Michael Robertson's The Complete Guide to Caring for a Cruiser in this month's Sail.  If not, go on; I'll wait.  Back?  Okay.  Michael's article is a timely reminder that cruisers are, to put it kindly, a little different.  But I feel compelled to add on to his fine work.  Communicating with cruisers can be a challenge, whether you are a friend, relative, cruising spouse or simply a normal person.  Below you will find some common points of misunderstanding.  I hope this translation guide helps you to talk to the cruisers in your life.

Cruiser:  "Could you help me out here, Mavis?"
Cruising Spouse:  "Sure thing, Pete."
What the Cruising Spouse hears:  Pete needs some minor assistance for a few minutes.
What the Cruiser hears:  "Pete, it would give me the utmost pleasure to be your assistant/slave for the next eight hours."
Lesson:  Before agreeing to help a cruiser, ask for clarification regarding time, difficulty and dirtiness level expected.  Then triple it.
Hold that flashlight steady for me, would you?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

A Cruiser's Difficult Relationship With Water

I think I smell bad.  After spending three hours in the park then hiking over the hills of Noumea in 30 C heat, how could I be anything but sweaty?  I lean away from the woman sitting beside me in French class, hoping that the cool air in our basement room will mitigate my stink before it reaches her. But I know the real answer to my problem: I need a shower.  Again.  The very thought fills me with despair.

You may have noticed that cruisers are somewhat preoccupied with resource consumption.  Obsessed is a better word.  But when you carry around all of life's necessities in what amounts to an oversized backpack, you want to be sure you have absolutely everything you need.  Especially water.  If you run out of your favorite saltines out on the blue, you'll live.  If you don't have drinking water, it's an emergency.

So cruisers learn to conserve.  I mean, really conserve.  We are a stingy bunch when it comes to H2O.  Every guest who comes aboard gets the same lecture.  And they all nod and agree and are eager to cooperate - absolutely, we'll be careful with the water.  Be sparing, got it.  And then we hear the water pump run, and run, and run, until Erik and I bury our faces in pillows so no one hears us sobbing.  Because "being sparing" means something very different to a land-dweller than it does to a cruiser.  To them it means: try not to use more than you need.  To us it means: use the absolute bare minimum.  Land-dweller: don't forget to turn off the tap when you're done brushing your teeth.  Cruiser: you get two tablespoons of water for brushing your teeth and not a drop more.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Joys of a Rainy Recess

Stylish was hard at work on her math when the light mist turned into a pelting rainstorm.  She dropped her pencil and looked out of the cockpit.  "Mom, it's raining.  Can I go outside and have recess?"
"Sure.  Put on a bathing suit first."
It is a pleasure to say those words again.  The bathing suit part, of course.  I've never been a don't-get-wet kind of person.  But, for so long, going out in the rain meant a pile of gear, drippy wool socks, and demands for hot chocolate at the end of it.  Sending the kids out to play in the rain is much more fun when they don't come back hypothermic.