Cabin Fever Lunches


As I mentioned in a former blog, about thirty years ago I decided to call up some friends and invite them for lunch.  I told them to feed their toddlers and then we could eat while they played.  I thought we could play a little Trivial Pursuit after dessert and chat.  Well, the Trivial Pursuit box was never opened.  We ate, gabbed and laughed all afternoon.  We enjoyed our get-together so much we decided to do it every month and so we have (except for July and August) for the last twenty-nine years.  We no longer come with children.  Instead we all bring pictures of our married children and grandchildren to pass around.  We set up a schedule in the spring; each of us takes a month to host and we are all slotted in for turns to bring appetizers or dessert.   We have a great time and it has led to fast friendships and some funny experiences.

This month is my month to host and I am bustling around like a whirling dervish, as my mom would say.  I have planned my menu and now its just clean up time.  Well, I’m not the best housekeeper.  I tend to lean more towards comfort than pristine, if you know what I mean.  When you come to visit me, just don’t open any closets or look under the bed.  You will either be avalanched by hidden flotsam and jetsam or grabbed by the ankle by dust bunnies.  I do enjoy company, but I get a bit flustered on the day or so before no matter how many times I have hosted.  You see, no matter how much I prepare there are always surprises.

I remember one particular year when our garden was very productive.  We had tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, broccoli and cucumbers up to our armpits.  We were very proud of the garden and I was extremely pleased as I realized that I wouldn’t have to spend a lot to feed my guests.  I’m not too sure what the main dish was, maybe ham and scalloped potatoes, but I do know that one of the dishes was steamed broccoli.  I soaked the broccoli ahead of time in slightly salted water.

Everything was ready.  The table was set, the mood music was playing, and the punch was in the bowl.  Then my guests arrived and we sat down to eat.  Well, they sat down.  I had a few extra things to do in the kitchen.  Suddenly, I heard giggles coming from the dining room.  It became even more uproarious as I went to find out what I had missed.  Had someone told a funny story?  No.  It seemed there was an uninvited guest at the table, well, on one of my guest’s side plate.  She pointed and I looked.  There was a still- wriggling green caterpillar that had crawled out of her broccoli.  Embarrassing!

On another memorable occasion, I was attempting to whip cream in the kitchen when my dishtowel got caught in the electric mixer and sprayed the topping all over the back of my friend’s little black dress.  Very embarrassing!

Well, to be fair, not everything has happened at my house.  At one lunch, we were having a meat fondu, when the table cloth caught fire.  Another time, lightning hit the house of one hostess and the power went off.  At another home, some of the children decided to play with the coloured sand that you can make pretty pictures with all over the white shag carpet.  In spite of all these things (and more) we are all still friends and we look forward to many more Cabin Fever lunches in the future, even if someday we have to park our walkers at the door of a restaurant.

Hmm… guess I’ve procrastinated long enough.  Time for some vacuuming, just in case someone decides to look up at the cob webs on my chandelier.

Word Game Obsession

ImageWe are word game junkies and pushers for that matter.  Scrabble is a family obsession, but we will try any game that involves words.  The photo above is one of my mother, ninety-two years old, pondering her next move.  Mom was having trouble with dementia at the time but not when it came to Scrabble.  She would start off with a few small words, but after a warm-up we noticed she was going for the triple word scores.  Got to love it.

My dad was suffering from cancer and taking heavy drugs for the pain which caused him to be drowsy.  He would fall asleep during lulls between turns, but he would wake up and put down a word using all his tiles. ” Damn,” we’d all complain, “we can’t even beat you on morphine.”  We sure miss our favourite gamesters now.

My brother, sister and I, (and now all our children) grew up playing Scrabble, but we also enjoyed playing other word games.  We even played car games with words.  On long car trips we’d play alphabet games such as “Hangman” or “I Packed My Suitcase and In It I Put….” or naming countries or celebrities using the last letter in the name to make the first letter in the next name.  Word games were a relief after the umpteenth chorus of “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” or “Ten Little Monkeys Jumping On the Bed”.

Now we did play other board games like “Monopoly” and “Life”, but our  favourite games involved words.  “Balderdash” is a lot of fun because it introduces very obscure words for which each player has to supply a possible meaning and everyone must choose the one they think is the real definition.  We laugh a lot in this game as most of the daffy definitions are quite funny.  There are games in which you have a time limit to list items beginning with a certain letter or in a particular category (eg.  fruits that are red).  Games in which you must give a clue to another player are fun as well, whether they involve miming,  words or drawing.

Our family has had its fad games of the moment as well.  We all became enthusiastic about “Trivial Pursuit”, taking special pride in that it was a Canadian game.  My husband and I own at least five different versions.  As a matter of fact, we have a cupboard full of board games.  I’m hoping that as our grandchildren get older the games will see a lot more action.

I don’t know where the root of our fascination with words began, but I suspect it was with a mother and father who loved the spoken and  written word.  They read to us at bedtime and any other time we wanted it.  My father enjoyed reading aloud and my husband does too.  He read aloud to our children at bedtime from wonderful fantasy novels and he would individualize each character’s voice.  Our children loved it and so did I.  Over time during our marriage, we have also read aloud to one another from the Bible, poetry and fiction.  Listening has advantages over watching television.  The imagination is a wonderful entertainment tool.

Thank God for our voices.  Words are an amazing treasure.  They become tales around a campfire, poetry to a lover, lullabies for a baby, and cues to an actor on stage.  In music, words can open up the locked mind of a person with alzheimers, even for the briefest moments.  As well, if you are in need of some solitary entertainment, pick up a crossword puzzle or a scrambled word puzzle.  Or crack open the box of “Spill and Spell”.  Word games are presents that keep on giving, especially in this family.

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