Tag Archives: candy

My Mother the Squirrel

Happy New Year, World! I hope we can see more peace and calm and less fanaticism this year, but it’s not looking likely. However, I’ll do my bit for compassion and understanding and remember, it’s the microcosm, your neighbors, your friends and your family that can make for a more loving place.

winter, pack rat, cold, hoarder, food

Creative Commons: Zeeksie @ Deviant Art

On that note, I traveled to the frozen wastelands (as I see it) of Alberta to visit friends and family over the holidays. While I’ve been back in recent years I’ve tried to avoid winter  because it is evil and bone-chilling. I decided to brave it for the winter festivity and because my mother is 91. Two weeks I spent, and overall the weather was only -28 for about three days. The rest was in the -5 range, balmy for Alberta.

It gave me a chance to visit friends, find some long lost cousins, and do the family thing. Staying at my mother’s, and with my organizer personality, it meant cleaning out drawers, cupboards or closets. Even my sister, who might be considered closer to the hoarder personality (she moved in the this summer, purportedly with boxes to the ceiling) felt my organizer bee abilities. We were driving all over the city to do some pre-Christmas shopping and as I sat in the passenger seat of the moderately messy car, she asked me to look for her Superstore card.

purses, overstuffed purse, hoarding, pack rat

Not my sister’s actual purse but a close representation. Creative Commons: http://jewelrypurse.blogspot.ca/

Grabbing that rather pregnant purse, I pulled out the overstuffed wallet. No card. Turns out there were two other holders with plastic cards. Still no card but I started to go through her bulging wallet, putting Tim Hortons (the Canadian doughnut gods) and Shoppers Drug Mart gift cards together. There was more than one and I have never seen so many store cards before. My sister could be the goodwill ambassador for commercialism and store marketing.

In the process of cleaning her wallet I found coupons that had expired and others that soon would. There was a forest of business cards, many for businesses she no longer frequented. In fact, this mothership of store cards had very little actual cash and took up most of the room in a moderate sized purse. When I was done, there was a small plastic shopping bag full of paper. Her wallet lost several inches in girth and actually closed by the clasp.

At my mother’s it was much as it had been two year’s previously. I exclaimed, “Mom, you’re a squirrel! There’s candies and nuts everywhere.” This time, as I started to clean up for Christmas dinner, I decided to inventory my mother’s squirrel hoard. To put some of this into perspective, my mother grew up during the Depression, in a small coal mining town. A treat at Hallowe’en was an actual fresh apple, something we would sneer at today. She traveled to a large city with her friend to find work. They slept in ditches with their one small suitcase and hitchhiked to get there, when it was much safer to do so.

squirrels, hoarding, food, pack ratss

This is not my actual mother but she stores food like the queen of squirrels. Creative Commons: http://theairspace.net/commentary/squirrels/

Going through the Depression and then WWII where rationing was practiced everywhere, my mother learned to appreciate being prepared. Long before the days of Costco she hunted out food wholesalers and would buy toilet paper and other items in bulk. After her divorce, she continued her frugality, and would buy day-old bread from a bakery, up to 24 loaves, which were then frozen. She also sold Tupperware, when we were very young and I remember my brother and I playing in the large container suitcase. So yes, my mother still has nearly three shelves of Tupperware, which, by the time I organized it, was only two.

She had five knife sharpeners (and nothing but dull knives), six cheese/food graters and more pots than a restaurant kitchen. In fact, she’s never thrown out a pot or handle-less cup since I was a child. A Taurus mug that I used when about 12 was there, the handle gone. I convinced her to throw out a few pots where the Teflon was worn but then she balked at getting rid of the two aluminum, electric frying pans that she no longer uses.

In cleaning out a spare closet I found crafts going back to the 70’s; unfinished potholders and head-sized balls of wool. One partially finished needlepoint of a forest, with the bag of woo, she told me she had bought it in England during the war, before any of us were born! She’d never worked on it since. There was a pillow cover, to be embroidered that had Canada’s flag, the Union Jack. That’s how old it was. There was a three-foot plastic bin of gifts for unexpected g, which she had forgotten about. Then there were the cosmetic bags, for traveling. Two were stuffed full, then a triple decker bag, extra deep, chock full of lotions, shampoo, conditioners and other small toiletries. Some were very ancient and dead. Others half used, and many unopened. She must have gone on a burglary spree of hotels.

I cannot name all of the things I cleaned and boggled at, such as health supplements in at least four places, or the spices in pretty much every cupboard. If you’re thinking my mother is going senile, you’re wrong. She’s pretty sharp still and has always liked to keep things, lots and lots of things. Like every scrap of wrapping paper ever used (I threw out a three–foot pile some years back), or enough bulbs to light half of the city, or coats.

Purdys, candy, chocolate, food, hoarding, sweet tooth

My mother’s not so secret love affair is with Purdy‘s made in Vancouver, Canada.

All of this pales  in comparison to the food items and not just any food, but chocolates and candies. My mother shrunk this last year to 4’9″ and she lost weight. She was never overly large but stores like a squirrel. In doing the inventory, I counted every bag or container that was open on the kitchen table (her place has two kitchens,up and down but she used the bottom one for eating) or on the table by the chair where she watches TV, or on the counter upstairs. There were the nutrolls in the fridge upstairs, and then in the deep freeze there were 17 boxes of After Eight mints. She claims she can only find them at certain times of the year and when her stomach is upset the mint helps (with chocolate of course). There were also another five boxes of Purdy’s chocolates.

Purdy’s should have a plaque to my mother: I’m sure she keeps them in business. The upstairs cupboard had the main squirrel hoard. There were hard candies, contained in bags or bought bulk. I pooled many into one container. There were Scotch mints and licorice all sorts, mint chocolate bars from Purdy’s, Jordan almonds, nougat (hard as a rock), and some Italian coconut confection, a few Smarties or M&Ms. I didn’t count raisins because they’re a natural food. When I thought I was done, I discovered a container of icy squares and of Ferrero Rocher in the closet. Then, as  we pulled dishes out of the china cabinet for Christmas dinner, lo and behold there were two large bulk bags of chocolate squares and a mega box of liqueur chocolates where the liqueur had dried up.

I thought I was done but I was looking in a cupboard for a pot and lo, there was a box of chocolate covered cookies. And then I looked in another cupboard and found another five boxes, plus some other cookies. My mother was given another two boxes of chocolates for Christmas and chocolate covered cookies, plus some Italian candies. And then three days after she bought a tin on sale. She said to me that she had all this stuff because if she got sick there was enough to carry her through. I told her, “Well, Mom, if the apocalypse comes, you’ll survive it on chocolate alone.”

Readers may recall that I did the apocalypse diet a year ago, and with the food in my place (no hoards of candy) I survivef for three months without buying anything. My mother would run out of real food in probably less time than I did but then I didn’t count her dry goods staples. However, the final count of cookies, candies and chocolates in my mother’s place was…ready for this? ONE HUNDRED AND SIX! Yes, indeed. The Guinness Book of Records needs to talk to my mom.

All in all this was a lesson to me. I determined there are three levels of “collector.” I’m the curator because I have many ornaments and tchatkas (like my mother…sigh) but I dust and you can walk through my place. My mother is the pack rat, because she stores things for unforeseeable disasters, and my sister is the hoarder, who keeps more than my mother but can’t find things. It’s a fine line between them and it’s a lesson to me not to hang onto things I no longer use or need. I barely escaped without a suitcase of chocolates.

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Filed under family, food, home, life, people

How I First Learned About Money

money, working, first jobs, allowance, chores, babysitting

Creative Commons by cupwire.ca

CBC Radio One was talking about allowances today and whether they’re good or bad, or should be allowed. As a child, I was one of four to a working class family. We didn’t have a ton of money, or at least that was the way it always came across. I wasn’t given money that I can remember and maybe as a small child I was, so that I could learn how to spend it and count it out. Or maybe I learned about it in grade school. I actually can’t remember any specific lessons about money.

But…by the time I was six or seven I had my first job. It wasn’t a paper route but it was selling Regal Cards, a mail order company for Christmas and birthday cards, door to door. They’re still going strong Probably the cuteness of being a little child helped me sell those cards but I was working early on. My mother didn’t believe in letting us shirk any duties and she’d grown up a Depression Era child so making your own way was part of the game. We may have been lower middle class but my siblings and I were richer in goods than my mother had been at that age.

After Regal Cards, came babysiting, when I was old enough. I babysat for the people across the street and for a while had a job babysitting on Saturdays for a woman who worked. A full day of entertaining a two-year-old who wouldn’t sleep if the didn’t have his bottle (and threw it over the balcony one day) was more than I could take and I eventually quit. But the fact is I was familiar with working and being paid for it probably since I was seven. I opened a savings account between the ages of 12-14, where my mother had to come with me because they weren’t used to kids with bank accounts at that age. Now, every kid can get a bank account. I had a chequing account just a few years later.

In between all this I asked my mother, probably around the age of 13 or 14 if I could receive an allowance. By this time my two older siblings were out of the house and it was just my brother and me. We already had chores to do, such as vacuuming, mowing lawns, shoveling walks, washing dishes so it’s not like the bribe of money made us do the chores. The threat of grounding or being spanked made us do the chores. However, my mother had started working so she was less diligent about such things. But when I asked for that allowance I was pretty much told it wouldn’t be fair to give it to one and not the other, and because my brother never did his chores I was punished for his chaos.

By the time I was sixteen I was working in a movie theater, my first real job with a regular paycheck. I had that job for a

ju jube, candy, working, movies, entertainment, first jobs

Ju Jubes from charlieschocolatefactory.ca

couple of years, until art college. It was a great job for a teenager. We could sneak in to watch some shows at the slow time. My girlfriend also worked there with me and we’d pick out the choicest popcorn to eat. Sometimes we’d order a pizza slice or two from Stromboli’s next door and dip the thick puffy crusts in some butter we had poured off. We’d count the ju-jube bags and buy the ones with the most red or black ones and we’d buy the Twizzler bags that had the highest count. Something only teenagers could get away with.

I was definitely buying most of my own clothes by the time I was 16, with little if no cash from my mother. So I learned the value of money from a very young age and I learned how to save. After all, I put myself through college, no savings from relatives. But back in those early days, yeah, an allowance would have been nice.


Filed under consumer affairs, Culture, family, memories, security

Candy of an Era Past

It’s sunny and finally like spring out there and who wants to think. So I decided instead to write about candy.

I think that since I was a child candy has changed but I wouldn’t say there is more variety. Maybe some but overall there are just more chocolate bars, all a confection involving chocolate and nuts or chocolate and wafers. A few exceptions are the Lowney’s Eat More bar, molasses and nuts (okay so nuts are also a big part). I loved the Eat More’s for their chewiness. Over the years I think the nut content went down some and the chewiness lessened.

Twax bottleshe coolest items were these wax thumbs or lips. They were made of some sort of soft parafin wax (probably cancerous for all we knew) and filled with a sweet juice. You would bite into the wax and suck out the juice and often chew the wax, sometimes with the juice in your mouth so it would mix together. Maybe I swallowed the wax and maybe I spit it out; I don’t remember but it was sort of like a chewier bubble gum.

Gum itself hasn’t changed a lot. Different flavors, soft, hard, coated like a gumball, a stick like Wrigley’s or filled with jelly. Oooh, gold mine gum (gold nuggets in a cloth bag) and bubble gum cigars (pink, green and yellow). Most of these still exist as do jawbreakers. I think there was less of what I would call the adult gums then except for Wrigley’s, and that particular brand I haven’t seen in a while. If it’s still made they don’t seem to come in the stick packages like they used to. But then, I don’t like chewing gum much anymore because some types stick to my crown and the texture is…meh.

We used to be able to get packs of candy cigarettes (also gum cigarettes) but I think theycandy cigs were discontinued as being politically incorrect. There were two types, one at least had Popeye on the pack. The one type had almost a slightly fruit flavor and more chalky in texture though not chalky in flavor (akin to but not as acidic as candy necklaces) and I preferred it. The other was a harder, shinier white candy with a red tip. It was crunchier but not as flavorful.

There was also this long (like a ruler) flat piece of taffy or nougat, usually in the Neapolitan colors/flavors of vanilla, strawberry and chocolate. Something else was stringy and I have visions pink elephantof pulling off the strings of sugary goodness but I have no idea what it was. There were of course various licorices, including black licorice pipes and cigars, and strawberry shoestrings, which somehow tasted the best. And Necco wafers (still available in the US), each color tasting differently. The purple (lavender?) and black (licorice) and brown (chocolate) were the best. And of course there were Cracker Jacks, carmelized popcorn with a prize inside. But even better, Pink Elephant popcorn, sweet and pink and with some sort of cool prize.

Those were the corner store variety of candies. Oddly I really don’t remember the chocolate bars. There were still candy counters in the department stores like The Bay and Sears and Eaton’s. Chicken bones were peanut butter flavored, crunchy candies. Jordan almonds were nfruit slicesearly hard enough to crack teeth with the hard sugar coating. I was never big on jellies, jujubes or gumdrops but there were these orange and lemon slices, gumdroppy, sugared and with a rind like the real fruit but just harder sugar. The best part of these was that they had a tang like the real fruit. In later years they degenerated to just being sweet. And there were the little ice cream cones with a marshmallow in them.

Once in a while you can still find these things in a larger supermarket but they’re getting rarer. Which makes me believe we’re getting down to just varieties of chocolate bars. There are still chocolate shops, and a few more than there used to be. My favorite chocolate memory was of these Easter eggs my mother would give us. They were about the size of my hand, decorated in hard, sugar icing and when cracked open, had about four or five real chocolates in them. They were made by a chocolatier in Calgary and they were beautiful. I’ve seen some mass produced versions of late but they’re not the same.

Many of the corner store items still might exist. There is one store (with two locations) in Vancouver called the Candy Aisle. They specialize in nostalgic candy though sadly I don’t see most of the ones I remember. http://www.candyaisle.com/index1.html And one aspect of nostalgia that’s long gone is cost. Ahhh, the confections of yesteryear.


Filed under consumer affairs, Culture, food, life, memories, shopping