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North American Weirdness: Age Appropriate Activities Edition

Welcome back to North American Things That I Still Find Weird Despite Spending Two Decades Here: Age Appropriate Activities Edition

I was born in Finland but have lived in Canada since I was 11. In the years since moving, my penchant for soap-boxing has combined with nostalgic childhood fairy-dust into the terribly annoying habit of picking on North American ways of doing things. And then telling you about how much better it is across the ocean (conveniently omitting any unflattering bits). This is just one of the many perks of interacting with me! I suppose I should also mention that I continue to live in Canada and have no plans to move, so take that as you will. Not that that makes me any less right.
 

I have done most of my adult-ifying in North America, but that doesn’t stop me from finding it all rather weird.

Exhibit A: Letting kids drive. Because 16 years old is a kid. That’s not just my opinion based on the mind blowing ignorance they display online – I’m pretty sure actual medical professionals will tell you that teenagers do not have fully developed impulse control. Which turns out to be essential for holding back the impulse to pimp up your car metallic one-tonne murder-device with other smelly teenagers, loud music, and a lead-heavy foot on the accelerator. My point: I’m pretty sure you should at least be trusted to wield a vote before you can wield an automobile.

Exhibit B: Not letting adults drink. I’m referring here to the narrow band of adults between the ages of 18 and 19 in Canada (which I find slightly silly) and 18 and 21 in the US (which I find ludicrous). I’m no lawyer but I believe for most other purposes the law considers you to be an adult after 18: you can vote, you’ll get in pretty deep shit if you break the law, and you can buy a gun! – all years before you can be trusted to operate a beer. But then again I’m one of those wacko liberal European types who thinks alcohol is better introduced slowly and in the safety of your parents’ home than through a beer bong at a frat party. (Are beer bongs a thing? Seems like they should be. I honestly have no idea.)

Exhibit C: Not letting adults out after dark. Specifically to establishments that offer dancing and drinking. I haven’t quite figured out the finer details but as far as I can tell this applies to anyone who has children and/or is over the age of 40 (if you’re a parent in your 30’s it’s vaguely acceptable – as in you probably won’t have the authorities called on you – but be careful). Acceptable forms of socializing for these mature stages of adulthood appear to be: the PTA, dinner parties with other couples, coaching a sports team, and mommy-yoga. If you leave your house in the evening hours to socialize in other settings you are clearly a cougar/non-dedicated parent/creeper in a mid-life crisis.

Luckily in Finland it is quite common – practically expected – that people go out regardless of their age. On a trip a few years ago I had the best time dancing up a storm with my mom at a bar where neither of us was out of place and we both actually liked the music. In fact, no one considers getting married/having children/turning 30/turning 40/turning 50/turning 60 to be the end of fun. And AMEN to that.

North American Weirdness: Floor Edition

Welcome to North American Things That I Still Find Weird Despite Spending Two Decades Here: Floor Edition

I was born in Finland but have lived in Canada since I was 11. In the years since moving, my penchant for soap-boxing has combined with nostalgic childhood fairy-dust into the terribly annoying habit of picking on North American ways of doing things. And then telling you about how much better it is across the ocean (conveniently omitting any unflattering bits). This is just one of the many perks of interacting with me! I suppose I should also mention that I continue to live in Canada and have no plans to move, so take that as you will. Not that that makes me any less right.

Example of an acceptable flooring material

Back in my young and naive days, I thought floors were pretty simple and basically figured out throughout the world by now, but boy did I ever learn how deeply wrong I was:

Exhibit A: Wall to wall carpeting. Seriously, who thought that attaching a permanent dirt, mold, and allergen trap to your floors was a good idea? Your dog/kid/drunken self pukes on the floor once and the remnants of their revolting bile and partially digested burrito are forever trapped on your floor now. FOREVER. I don’t care if you have some fancy carpet cleaner that your mother in law recommended. That shit is not coming out.

Doesn’t seem so cozy on your feet now does it? Well the little baby mold-spores would beg to disagree as they nestle quietly in their perfect little nursery under your feet, undisturbed by things such as “cleaning.” Insanity I say! My mom and I were pretty perplexed by the whole thing when we arrived – what’s wrong with some strategically placed mats that can be washed?

Wall to wall carpeting becomes downright disturbing when combined with Exhibit B: Not taking your shoes off inside.

I can’t believe this is even an option in anyone’s home. Most of the people I know are civilized enough to know better, but I know this is an issue because an entire Sex and the City episode was dedicated to highlighting the right of extravagant women to wear their Manolo Blahnik’s wherever they please, children be dammed! Because if a toddler ends up sucking on a piece of feces-encrusted gum that came off your shoe, well that’s a small price to pay for not cutting your leg line short. Kid might as well learn the E-coli lesson early! Survival of the fittest and such!

There is a reason we wear shoes outside – to put a layer between us and the grimy, disgusting world – so don’t then drag that shit all over where I eat, sleep, and do push-ups once or twice a year (yes I eat off the floor, what of it?). So what I’m saying is, wearing shoes inside a Finnish home is basically an offence equivalent to killing their firstborn.

This concludes North American Things That I Still Find Weird Despite Spending Two Decades Here: Floor Edition. Stay tuned for upcoming parts of this potentially infinite series!

Six o’clock train out of Grump-ville

Rage. I have it. I have it over rain when it is coming at me sideways, over the fact that in the first three hours of 2012 CEO’s made the annual wage of the average worker, over commercials that come on WAY LOUDER than the rest of the show, and over Reddit for making my husband chortle out in laughter for hours while I’m trying to write a post.

Also on this list is making dinner (yeah it doesn’t take much). Or rather, figuring out what to make for dinner because we can’t seem to be able to plan ahead. And because I always get home from work before John I am faced with the consequences of our laziness.

The ‘meal planning’ starts once I head out with Cassie for her walk. Step one: mentally tally up the contents of the fridge. Usually it is some combination of the following: wilting chard, a few peppers, olives, a questionable bag of mushrooms, a few sweet potatoes and onions, plain yogurt, pasta sauce, and a block of cheddar. Oh and a pile of tofu blocks. No easy meal idea jumps out at me, at least not one that we didn’t already make yesterday and the day before.

Step two: phone John to ask for ideas, not because I think he’ll actually have any (he doesn’t possess the ability to keep a mental tally of the contents of the fridge*) but rather to make clear how burdened I am by having to think about this to the only person who might give a crap. And I should point out that by this time I am usually headachy and one dumb suggestion away from complete grumpiness. Invariably John suggests a stir-fry. And that my friends, is the one-way ticket to Grump-ville, decorated today with shit-coloured balloons! (i.e. Cassie eating goose-poop at the park while I run and scream at her to stop.)

We have tried to meal plan. We’ve tried doing it very casually by scribbling a few ideas down just when we’re about to head out shopping, but sooner or later it falls apart. We’ve tried the hyper-organized spreadsheet approach. That truly was an honest effort, including compiling a list of our favourite dinners so we could just pick a bunch for the week and have a plan ready to go. It really seemed like it was going to work.

We managed it ONCE.

Then this December I heard about the Six O’Clock Scramble on the Unclutterer blog.

It’s a very simple idea really: a service that tells you what to eat for dinner. Seems TOO simple really but somehow we can’t manage this ourselves.

For a small subscription fee, they send you five recipes each week (usually 30 minutes or less to prepare), including a shopping list categorized by grocery store section. If the chosen recipes don’t suit you – for example, we want only vegetarian and fish options – you just swap them out for something else from their searchable recipe database and update the shopping list. Luckily the recipes are pretty healthy and vegetarian-friendly already, though I wish you could also add your own (maybe you can, haven’t played with it too much yet).

After some recent, extra potent rage on my part, we decided to splurge the $21 to give this service a try for a few months (cheaper than marriage counselling!). To complete the food-planning make-over, we also cancelled our subscription to the organic produce delivery service we were using** and vowed to grocery shop like normal people.

Tonight we made our first shopping run – to nearby Granville Island Market for fish and produce and the grocery store for the rest – with great success. Having a list in our hands that we knew was complete was wonderful for my clouded-by-the-day brain. The meal we made – fish with butternut squash and couscous – was a bit more involved than our usual weekday fare but still pretty quick (about 40 mins total – but 15 of that was waiting for the oven to pre-heat) and leaps more creative. And from this single recipe we already got some good cooking ideas for future meals.

I’m hopeful this meal-planning trial might actually work. And at the very least, it’s nice to be excited about food again.

*The gene that enables a person to do this is believed to reside on the X-chromosome, next to the skill that enables one to keep their farts in until they are somewhere private. Due to the presence of two X-chromosomes, women are far more likely to possess these skills. [Disclaimer: the author is not responsible for the scientific accuracy of statements presented.]

**This is a service for getting local and organic produce delivered to your door year-round. We have been getting a portion of our produce from them for the past 3 years. Some of the items understandably cost more than at the grocery store, but every time I started doubting if this was a good use of money I reminded myself of the importance of voting with my dollar. And paying fair prices for quality food is something I STRONGLY believe in. But we’ve started to realize that other local produce options are available to us and we don’t need this particular service to make our money count in the right places. Instead, we are going to buy produce from the nearby market in winter and at farmer’s markets in the summer, and hopefully waste less food (and money) in the process.

Images from we heart it.