Hello! As a pair of reasonably assertive and opinionated women, we are delighted to be your guest editors for Two Bossy Dames this week.
Terri and Kate: The Best Mix of American and Canadian on the Internet Since This Gif
Terri is Canadian. She currently lives in Newfoundland, but spent many years in Toronto and the city the rest of Canada loves to hate still holds a special spot in her heart. Kate has been married to a Canadian since the last millennium and they live in Sacramento.
But the Great White North is not the only bond that we share! We’ve been friends on the Internet for many years now. We are both freelance writers, we are both fond of sheet masks, and we both like a nice lipstick—though admittedly, Kate is the winner in that category. (Fave of the moment: Hourglass Confession, which comes in a sleek gold refillable case, in At Night.) Read on to learn more about your guest editors!
Hi! I’m Terri, and I’m a freelance reporter living in St. John’s—Canada’s most easterly city, and the capital of Newfoundland and Labrador. If you would like to know more about Newfoundland—the island part of the province, with Labrador being the big chunk of land connecting to Quebec—then this comic by the excellent Kate Beaton basically sums us up.
I cover a wide variety of topics for a great number of outlets, which keeps my job interesting but always seems like a terrible idea when I have to file my taxes. I’ve recently started working with the CBC, a Canadian institution of which I am unironically fond, where I have so far managed to write about how porgs are really puffins, and why my home province is oddly fond of heavy metal. I write about parenting, social issues, and food for HuffPost Canada. I recently began covering artificial intelligence and machine learning for ITPro Today. (I welcome our tech overlords as long as they continue to help me stay organized.) And I also cover topics as weird and wide ranging as bidets, baloney, and helping teens chill the hell out.
Other than finding me in the various places that pay me to write words, you can avail yourself of my unpaid labour via my oft-neglected but recently revived newsletter, All The Things, and on Twitter, where I mostly complain about the weather and retweet good memes.
Hi! I’m Kate. I’m a writer and restaurant critic in Sacramento, California, and yes I do live a few blocks from the blue house in Lady Bird, and yes living Sacramento very often feels just like it is depicted in Lady Bird, albeit with rather less Timothée Chalamet sitting on cars.
That said, Sacramento has been in the news this week for a tragic reason, the unjust fatal police shooting of unarmed Stephon Clark, which sparked big downtown protests yesterday. If you’re horrified, as I am, and inclined to take action, a few small suggestions: You could contact the mayor (or if local your city councilmember). You could donate to Black Lives Matter Sacramento or to the GoFundMe for Clark’s family. Signal boosting any of these on Twitter, or hitting me up with further action opportunities (which I will in turn boost) is most welcome.
Back to my introduction, I’d like to take this opportunity to invite you to subscribe to my newsletter Already Toast, which is still on the doomed TinyLetter platform. In it, I share thoughts about the nature and (frequently) problems of caregiving—specifically acting as an unpaid caregiver for a family member, as I’ve done for several years for my husband during his cancer and stem cell transplant. I’ve written about it a lot (including at Avidly, where I also talked about the wild subplot of Leslie Moore in Anne’s House of Dreams, and Empty Mirror, where I wrote about Middlemarch, possibly my very favorite Victorian novel) and am writing a book about it, too! I also write restaurant reviews for the Sacramento Bee, topical satire when the spirit moves me (my latest, on the delightful all-woman and nonbinary humor site The Belladonna Comedy, is “Self Care Tips for Senior White House Staffers”), essays, and whatever else it strikes me to write; I’m currently in the middle of a long piece about falconry, and would like to inform you that a crucial problem in jet-engine design was solved by engineers observing the nostrils of falcons.
If you would like to keep up with my doings, you can also of course follow me on Twitter or follow my alt account, Kitchen MacGyver, where I give meal planning advice to people who tweet at me desperate to know what to make with the, like, one parsnip and random freezer-unearthed half a pound of ground pork they have on hand. Sadly, not very many people have been using this free real-time (within reason) service of late, so please @ me. (For the record, with the parsnip and pork, an example I just made up, I would suggest some kind of lightly creamy root vegetable soup with tiny meatballs delightfully called frikadeller, a suggestion based on a recipe from a beloved Belgian cookbook I have.)
CALIFORNIA AND CANADA: THEY BOTH START WITH C AND END WITH A
California and Canada might seem pretty distinct (weather being a key differentiator, of course), and yet there are some key points of comparison. First of all, nobody understands just how far apart things are in them. Canada is, of course, a lot bigger, but Kate is here to tell you that it’s shocking how many visitors to northern California think they might be able to day trip to L.A. Uh, folks, it’s a minimum six-hour drive. Kate, who grew up WELL north of where most people think “NorCal” is—i.e., the Bay Area—never even visited southern California until adulthood. (That hometown is three and a half hours from San Francisco, and there’s, like, a whole ‘nother three and a half hours of driving until you get to Oregon. California is very long, is what we’re saying.)
California and Canada have a similar number of people (in the 40 million range). And their major cities work analogically, too: Toronto and L.A. are the great big cities many people love to hate (but that have super cool neighborhoods and a lot more character than they sometimes get credit for). San Francisco and Montreal have artsy character, though S.F.’s is sadly, infamously getting priced and squeezed out by all things Google Bus and tech-y. (Rent is still incomprehensibly cheap in Montreal and the government subsidizes childcare, don’t tell anyone.) And their capital (and distinctly third-if-not-lower-most-appreciated) cities feel kind of similar. Sacramento—where Kate lives—and Ottawa—where her husband grew up—have a surprising commonality, mostly in that people think they’re boring but they are actually nice places. Sure, Ottawa is still waiting for its Lady Bird moment, but we have it on good authority that Sacramento is hella tight now. Though, friends, if you come visit? Hit me up for recs and under no circumstances take advice telling you to eat in the kitschy, fakey tourist district of Old Sacramento, about which Joan Didion is rightly very cutting in Where I Was From.
The vastness of Canada, second in size only to Russia, is similarly incomprehensible, even to many people living in Canada. Terri lived in Ontario for more than a decade, and there are people living in that province who think that Ottawa is just about as far north as you can get. But it takes about 16 hours to drive from Ottawa to Thunder Bay, and there is still a whole bunch of Ontario above there. Terri now lives in Newfoundland, which is an island in the North Atlantic—think Iceland but with Irish-sounding accents and less gender equality. (But with puffins, which Kate finds quite exotic! Please enjoy a puffin poem Kate was fond of as a small child, and also now.) There are a good number of Canadians who believe that you can drive to Newfoundland via some kind of engineering marvel of a bridge. There is no such bridge, and you cannot, but please visit anyway! (More on that later.)
Another similarity? Legal weed! Well, soon. California made recreational marijuana purchase and use legal this year, and is now contending with the transitions from a black-market to a legal industry, an adjustment that may soon bring about lowered taxes on above-board pot. Tensions with the federal government, however, remain; one problem, for instance, is that the industry has trouble doing business with banks, a problem that has been easing but may increase again thanks to federal crackdowns. Another thing California legalization isn’t fixing: troubling racial discrimination in pot arrests and convictions, which have long been disproportionately harsh for black weed users—many of whom still languish in prison on relatively minor charges, while plenty of white growers and distributors in California are now getting rich(er) from the “new gold rush” of legalization.
At a not-yet-determined date Canada will legalize marijuana use across the country, though a lot of questions remain about how every province will deal with legalization—they all get to set their own programs, which is also the case for alcohol—and what the new marijuana economy will look like. Two things we do know for sure: the Trailer Park Boys will find a way to monetize this, and our weed packaging will be easy to mix up with your David’s Tea stash.
EVERYTHING IS TERRIBLE: 2018 VS 1918
Sure, everyone thought 2017 was the worst, and yet 2018 is on track to outdo it. We don’t need to belabor all the reasons why, do we? It’s probably enough that as of this writing there are threats that we might all, as a human race, be forced to see Trump dick pics. Honestly, even knowing they exist is bad. But! Every time we’re tempted to think that 2018 is the worst year of all time we think of 1918 and World War I and the influenza pandemic and we feel a little bit better. Kate would like to take this opportunity to put out there that someone ought to be doing a centennial-tweets day-by-day account of the pandemic, akin to the On This Day World War II account. If you, too, would for some reason like to read more about pandemics, Laurie Garrett’s The Coming Plague is a classic and Steven Johnson’s The Ghost Map tells an amazing true tale of the containment of cholera in pre-germ-theory Victorian London (they first thought it spread by “miasma,” not water, which made the disease very hard to contain!). And Kate will be picking up The Great Influenza, by John Barry, at her earliest convenience.
Newfoundland went through hard times of its own in 1918, when the island was still more than a quarter century away from joining Canada. As a British dominion, Newfoundland was heavily involved in World War 1. The island had already suffered significant losses on July 1, 1917 during the Battle of the Somme, when hundreds of men did not return from the battlefield. In fact, in Newfoundland and Labrador July 1 is still observed as Memorial Day until noon, when the celebrations switch to honour Canada Day. As the year turned into 1918 the war was still going and the Newfoundland Regiment suffered losses in other battles, including during the 100 Days Offensive. And in August 1918, just months before the war’s end, the SS Erik was sunk by a German U-boat after leaving St. John’s for Halifax.
Newfoundland experienced another disaster at sea with the sinking of the SS Florizel in February 1918. The ship was heading to Halifax and then New York but didn’t get far after leaving the St. John’s harbour, hitting a reef and sinking with all 94 hands on board lost. A statue of Peter Pan in a St. John’s park was erected in honour of a three-year-old girl who died in the sinking. Even for a province where ships going under is not a rare occurrence—the Titanic sunk just 375 miles off Newfoundland’s southern shore—1918 was a bad year.
Being an island in the North Atlantic insulates Newfoundland from a lot of things—for example, we have some of the world’s healthiest bees. But it did not protect us from the 1918 Spanish Flu. More than 600 people were killed by the influenza in less than five months, and the toll was particularly heavy in Labrador, the mainland portion of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. The coastal Inuit community of Okak went from being one of Labrador’s most prosperous to seeing the death of every one of its adult Inuit men, eventually leading the remaining population to disband and relocate. Close to one third of the Inuit population there died due to influenza, and the Spanish Influenza eventually killed 10 percent of the overall Labrador population.
WAYS TO MAKE THINGS SEEM LESS TERRIBLE
Now that it is officially spring, a lady’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of caftans (that link is an oldie but a goodie that’s always worth a reread). Naturally, the most beautiful caftan in recent memory is Meryl Streep’s in The Post, which makes us both want a glorious billowing golden muumuu, like, yesterday. Maybe the way to go if you’re dressing for a new you is a caftan—or a Marimekko dress, the caftan we covet for when you actually need to leave your house. If you have recently come into money, naturally, you can buy a formal caftan imprinted with the face of your beloved pet. If you have no pet (we both endorse cats) or, possibly, no extra three hundred American dollars, Kate suggests the generously cut, colorful, and cost-friendly cotton kaftans (sic) from the Etsy shop Silkandmore, which offers curiously soothing item descriptions. There are a LOT of non-kaftan items in the shop now (it’s taken a hard turn into Bridesmaid-land), so to cut to the chase you can click straight to this striped one (which Kate owns along with two others). She would also like to advise that a) you can request pockets and b) if you are bigger busted, you do not want one of the empire-waist cuts and you may wish to request a height range that is a little taller than your actual height to get good placement on the drawstring waist. There are also ones without drawstring waists (yes, she has one of those too).
Kate wore one of these at a Caftans and Rosé fundraiser she threw for Planned Parenthood last summer, at which she invited people over to do sheet masks and chill and support women’s access to affordable healthcare. This is a model that anyone can adopt for a favorite cause. If, like Terri, you are in Canada and wish to advocate for women’s equality—nay, their very freedom—by supporting reproductive freedom, you can contact your elected officials about ensuring funding for Mifegymiso or support National Abortion Federation Canada.
Truly, the Best Caf to Ever Tan.
Speaking of causes, a good place to read about good things happening in the world is the anti-hate news project 500 Pens. A recent piece on food projects that involve social justice and equality work had a lot of options for putting your food dollars toward good causes, and also covered places (including Sacramento) beyond the usual suspects.
On a less altruistic note, something we both enjoy is espresso and we both firmly endorse Nespresso, the makers of which have put a lot of R&D into making very nice-tasting espresso shots. They are also cute and there is a recycling program for the capsules to help us feel slightly less bad (if no less basic) about it all.
I mean, would George AND Jude lead you astray?????
Kate has just gotten over a cold (which may in fact have been influenza, as her husband was diagnosed with it) and feels very fortunate to have escaped a sinus infection. Terri also has problematic sinuses (really, what sinuses aren’t problematic, it’s basically a wretched design) and harbors a deep longing for a Navage, a mechanized Nosefrida for adults. It has a clear compartment through which you can see all the things that were in your head but now are not! Now that would be some satisfyingly gross self-care.
This is horrifying and We Your Dames are both ordering one tonight.
Naturally, watching things on the internets is a time-honored way of forgetting about the grinding context of the world. Currently, Kate’s Netflix zone-out choice is Nailed It, where terrible bakers turn beautiful cakes into ugly ones and it still manages to be both hilarious and kind of uplifting. Terri’s is Queer Eye aka the most perfect and loving show on not-really-television, even if Antoni maybe can’t cook. [Ed. Note: Dame Margaret agrees with Terri and loves Kate (and Linda Holmes, and Tara Ariano) for reminding us what a rich tapestry life is.]
Now that the Olympics are well and truly over, we miss the opportunity to zone out with the thrill of victory and the agony of international sports defeat. We particularly badly miss Tessa Virtue/Scott Moir shipper conspiracy theories, which were a much-needed distraction from less savory news, and also curling, which vaulted into new prominence in this Olympiad despite Canada’s abysmal performance. Recently, Kate had the pleasure of attending a wedding in a literal mansion (it had all the rooms from the game Clue) and the gang of kids who congregated in the game room, all clearly recent Olympics watchers, consistently referred to shuffleboard as “table curling.”
In Canada, we have always been on to curling. It is an excellent social sport, you can play it indoors no matter the weather outside, men and women can play on mixed teams, and curlers are secretly hard partiers.
And yes, it is true that Canada did not perform as well as expected in hockey or curling at these most recent Olympic Games. But it is okay, because we were instead able to turn our full national attention to Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, everyone’s favourite ice dancers and secret couple. Sure, sure, they went on Ellen and said they merely have a totally normal and non-romantic working relationship but Ellen wasn’t buying it and neither are we.
I MEAN COME ON.
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