Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Conversation between 2 teenage girls overheard on the streetcar on my way home yesterday:
Girl A - Yeah, we had our concert already. I told them not to come because I was working backstage so they wouldn't actually see me. Plus, the grade 8 girls really butchered the ending.
Girl B - How?
Girl A - They were doing a routine to [insert name of Christmas song here] and wore, like, fishnet stockings and really short skirts.
Girl B - Eww. Why would they do that?!
Girl A - I don't know, it's so skanky. It's like Whatzername at Halloween - did you see what she wore?
Girl B - Yeah, like the cat outfit with the tights and tube top? So gross!
Girl A - I know. That was way too much skin. She needs to, like, respect herself.
Sign of Hope #2
A little girl playing with 2 dolls that I overheard yesterday in the doctor's office as I was sitting waiting to get my allergy shot:
Girl doll - I'm so sad. I don't have a date.
Boy doll - Well we could go on a date.
Girl doll - No, my mom won't let me go out on a date.
Boy doll - Let's go on a date.
[this goes on for a while]
Girl doll - Okay, my mom says we can go on a date - but no kissing!
Boy doll - Okay.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
I realized the other day that it's been a while since I've updated you on all the crafty doings round these here parts. I'd like to say it was an oversight, but I've simply been too lazy to take the pictures, download them to my computer and then upload them here. After a wonderfully relaxing and fun-filled weekend spent crafting and spending time with TC, I finally got around to it. Ready? Off we go...
This is part of an afghan that I'm currently working on. It's done with a lot of top-stitching, which means a lot of ends to darn in, which is why it seems to be taking a long time to get it done. I love how it looks, though, so I'll keep plugging away at it. I always like to have one or two big projects on the go that I can work on while I'm between smaller projects.
One such project was this tam that I was originally hoping would fit me, but alas! I used a lighter weight yarn than the pattern called for, and the result was a hat for a toddler. It's still pretty cute, though.
Isn't this yarn just gorgeous? I fell in love with it in the store, and brought it home to knit into a scarf for myself since my current scarf, which I've worn for almost 10 years, has started to discolour around the neck. All I need to do now is block it to keep the sides from curling in - I can't wait! It's so soft and warm and cozy. I'm also working on a hat to match made from a yarn the colour of the dark blue-green in the scarf. Here's hoping it fits this time!
And last but not least, I made these Christmas potholders for my mom as part of her present. I know she doesn't read my blog on her own (the internet is still pretty much a mystery to her), so I'm not too worried about posting them here, but just in case - Dad, if you're reading this, don't show it to Mum until after Christmas :)
I'm also still knitting away at the Jaywalker socks that I started back in the summer. I put them on hiatus for a while, since I was starting to see them in my sleep! I'll probably break them back out once I've finished my hat.
And that's basically it on the crafting front!
Friday, December 12, 2008
Resolution #4: Fellowship - I have finally come to the realization that friendships do not just happen here in TO ... So, I shall be going out of my way to get to know people this year. I'm not talking about strangers, but the people that I already 'know' but don't really 'know', you know? Stepping up my efforts to crack through the Toronto-shell that everyone has developed.
This is the last of the resolution recaps, and the one that I am most thankful we've been able to achieve. I knew we'd made a lot of progress when we came back from our trip home in July, and it felt like we were coming home. For me, that only happens when I feel like I'm part of a community - that I've missed people, and they've missed me. TC and I have gotten to know the people in our home church a lot better over the past year. That has meant being very deliberate in our efforts to reach that stage, but the result is very much worth the effort.
The only thing is, we can't let up. It's so easy to be busy here, and if we're not careful we end up too busy to spend time with the people we care about. So we have to continue being proactive about booking time with people in advance, and making those times a priority. That makes it sound a bit like a chore, doesn't it? I don't mean it that way at all. It's just a different style of life, and we're settling into it rather nicely, thank you very much :)
Monday, December 8, 2008
Resolution #3: Fun - I want to cross one of the things off of my 'to-do-before-I-die' list this year, whether it's going on a ride in a hot-air balloon, having a glass of wine at an outdoor cafe in Paris, or one of the many other things on the list.Check. One of the things that I had on my list was to have a spa day, and back in March, thanks to my wonderful hubby, I did. It was a lot of fun, but I won't go into great detail because I already did that here.
I also had a great deal of fun visiting with our friends JP & KP this weekend. They came to Toronto for a conference at which JP was presenting and stayed with us. We managed somehow to get a lot accomplished and yet still have a blast :) On Saturday, while JP was at his conference and TC was at school, KP and I got groceries, made brownies, baked bread, roasted a chicken, and made a batch of grapefruit-scented soap with calendula petals (so pretty) all before the boys came home. Very domestic, non? Then we played some games and watched a couple of episodes from the BBC's Planet Earth series, an early Christmas present for TC. Oh. My. Goodness. What an amazing series. If you ever have the opportunity, it's definitely worth checking out.
Also worth checking out - the sermon that our teaching pastor gave this Sunday. I don't normally make unsolicited recommendations in this area, but if you're anything like me, every Christmas season you experience a lot of guilt and/or confusion about the best way to celebrate the season. Our church is dedicating the next few weeks to a series called Don't Drink the Kool-Aid: Exposing the Lies Our Culture Tells Us, and yesterday's lesson was entitled "Lie #1: Christmas is for Giving." I found it really helpful, since the point wasn't to condemn people for how they celebrate Christmas, but to make us aware of the different aspects at work in the process and the choices that we have. You can listen to it online here or download the podcast here.
Friday, December 5, 2008
Every weekday I spend about an hour and a half travelling to and from work. Most of the time it's a rather uneventful affair - walk to bus stop, take bus to subway station, transfer to streetcar, take streetcar to another subway station, take subway to final subway station, walk to work (or the reverse if I'm on my way home). I usually knit or crochet, some people read, and everyone carries on in the common purpose of getting wherever it is they're going. That's the norm.
There are some days, though, when things happen that for whatever reason break me out of my commuter coma. Sometimes those things make me laugh, and other times they make me want to hit people. Sometimes it's neither good, nor bad - it's just interesting. It seems that yesterday was meant to be a day for noticing things. Let me take you with me on my commute...
It began in the morning as I was standing in the little holding pen that's serving as a bus stop while my road is under construction. It was quite chilly out, so I thought it was rather odd that the car sitting at the red light right in front of me had two of its windows down. I then noticed that the driver was smoking, which explained it. No big deal - if she wanted to smoke in her car (she was alone), that was fine by me. I couldn't help but think, though, that it seemed a little silly to be driving around in winter with your windows down just so you can slowly poison yourself. But I digress...
The rest of the trip to work was uneventful - I got 2 or 3 rounds of my Jaywalker sock knit, which is a good showing for one trip. On my way home, I needed to pick up some mozzarella at the grocery store, which is located in the complex above the middle subway station. As I came outside to wait for the streetcar, there was a guy with a guitar standing at the street corner, playing Christmas carols. It took me a while to figure out what exactly he was playing, though, since his tempo was way off - sort of like this:
I had to laugh - this was either a guy who had had a bit too much to drink or who had read the music but never heard the songs before. Or maybe it was his artistic interpretation? Whatever the cause the effect was highly amusing.
Eventually the streetcar came, and I got on and sat in the front of the back section (if that makes sense). It was pretty quiet, except for this lady and her son sitting somewhere behind me having a conversation. It. Was. Hilarious. Their conversation consisted of Junior telling Mom about his day, and Mom spouting reams of advice. Comme ca:
Mom - So how did things go at your dad's yesterday?Junior - Well, I broke his box of chocolates.Mom - How did that happen?Junior - I knocked it over and it broke open and everything fell out on the floor. So I hid it.Mom - Don't you think you should tell your dad about it?Junior - Why?Mom - Well, a box of chocolates can be replaced, but when you decide to lie or hide things from people, that affects who you are and that's a lot harder to fix. And you know that your dad would respect you for telling him the truth about it and be a lot less disappointed than he would be if he found out you hid it from him. So how did things go at school today?Junior - Whatshisname was picking on me again.Mom - Isn't it only Whatshisname's second day at your school?Junior - Yeah.Mom - Well, I know if I were Whatshisname, I'd be feeling pretty nervous about being in a new school with a lot of people I didn't know, and maybe I'd want to be friends with people but I'd be too afraid that they didn't want to be friends with me, so I'd be mean to them first so they wouldn't have the chance to be mean to me. You should be friendly to Whatshisname, and I bet he'd stop picking on you and start being your friend.
This went on for the duration of the trip on the streetcar! Every time the kid mentioned anything, the mom had all this incredibly well-articulated, reasonable advice to deliver in this lovingly patronizing June Cleaver-esque voice. I felt like I was an extra in an after-school special. Freaking hilarious. This kid is going to grow up to be either the most well-adjusted person on the face of the planet, or a psycho with a vendetta against TV moms.
Then, as I was waiting in line for the bus that would take me on the last leg of my commute, I noticed an older man who didn't seem to be quite right. He was rather loud, and continually attempted to carry on conversations with anyone he made eye contact with. Now, my initial response in this kind of situation is always twofold. First, my heart hurts for this person who obviously is broken in some way. Second, I studiously avoid making contact, not because I'm uncaring, but because if I'm alone I don't want behave irresponsibly or in a way that puts my safety at risk. Yet I always feel guilty about it, and this time was no exception. I sat there and hoped that this guy had someone who cared about him.
Finally, on the walk home from the bus stop I go past a wall of windows that look into a brand new Italian restaurant. Being subject to the same whims of human nature as everyone else, I am always compelled to look in and see what's going on. And every night it's the same thing - one or two people sitting at a table, and that's it. But yesterday the cook saw me (the kitchen in this place is visible from the seating area - and the windows), caught my eye and grinned at my unashamed voyeurism. I grinned back and then I was past the restaurant, smiling the rest of the way home.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Resolution #2: Food - This is an area that we have been working on since we started fending for ourselves, and while there has been some improvement, there is always room for more! For me this is going to take the form of having no more than one serving of sweets and/or baked goods each day. For his part TC has sworn off pop, except for an occasional diet version.
Okay, so on this one we haven't done quite so well... TC's pop embargo lasted about two weeks. In his defense, though, he has been drinking a lot less than he used to (at least around me) - but none of it is diet. It turns out he can't stand the taste of the diet stuff, and aspartame really isn't all that good for you anyway, right? Right?
As for me, I have succeeded in cutting down on the overall amount of sweets that I eat. The key has been that I just don't bake as much as I used to, which kind of sucks since I love to bake, but since I also love to eat it was a sacrifice that had to be made. I haven't completely stopped baking, but I am no longer compelled to keep some sort of baked good always available. I've found that if I'm really jonesing for something sugary, I can eat a tablespoon or so of milk chocolate chips and I'm good to go. I realize how desperate that sounds, but hey! It works!
Would it be fair to say that we partly accomplished this goal?
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Well, December is officially here and the year has almost come to a close, which makes this a perfect time to look back over the year and see how I've done with my 2008 resolutions. Since there were 4 of them, I'll be posting about each of them separately. So here we go!
Resolution #1: Finances - We have been so blessed with resources in this area, and I don't think it's because we're supposed to have lots of things. To that end, we are going to be actively budgeting and trying to live wisely and simply so that we can share a greater proportion of those resources with people who need them more than we do.
I'm actually rather pleased with the progress we made here. We did indeed budget for several months, keeping track of where our money was going, until our computer went on the fritz and killed our excel program forever. But by that time we had set up a pretty good system of saving, spending and giving. Speaking in terms of percentages, we spend roughly 50% of what we earn, including necessities like rent and school, and frivolities like yarn and books. The rest is split between saving for a down payment on a house someday and giving to three organizations we believe are making a difference, both here at home and around the world (you can check them out here, here and here).
In some ways, achieving this balance has been easy. Right now we're in the position of making much more than we need, so it's not too hard live within our means. On the other hand, we have had to be very careful not to give in to the temptation of buying more than we need. It's much easier to convince yourself that you don't need those new shoes when you know you can't afford them anyway. We haven't always been successful in resisting that temptation, but on the whole I'm happy with the way things have gone.
(On a side note - though it's not completely unrelated - my piano has arrived! We ordered it on Wednesday night, and it came on Friday afternoon. And I'm loving it!)
Thursday, November 27, 2008
In 3-5 business days, I will be getting an early Christmas present - and I am SO EXCITED!!! My wonderful, generous and thoughtful husband is getting me one of these this year:
Isn't it beautiful? We ordered it from Costco last night, with the help of some friends with a membership, and it will be arriving sometime next week. Another great thing about it? We got $350 off the regular price, a free bench and free shipping! Woo hoo!
For those who are wondering why I'm so excited, I've played the piano since I was 5, but for the past 9 years I've had to live without regular access to one - the last 5 of which without any access at all. I do have a real piano, but it is currently sitting in the living room of my parents' house in NB, where it will remain until we're settled enough to make the cost and hassle of moving it worthwhile. In the meantime, thouhg, this one will do quite nicely!
Merry Christmas everybody :)
Thursday, November 20, 2008
The first thing: I was reminded of how important it is to always, always, always read the entire recipe when planning to make a dish. That way you won't realize after you start making said dish that it is going to need to simmer for an hour before you can finish making it. Causing dinner to be late. Very late. And then because you won't be feeling rushed, you won't forget to put some of the ingredients in. Causing dinner to be edible, but rather monochromatic. (It was a beef stew, and I forgot to add the green veggies, so everything was red and orange.)
The second thing: I am turning into my grandmother. Whenever anyone visits my grandmother, she will not allow them to leave her house empty-handed. It may be cookies, it may be a side of beef, or a set of decorative tins, but you will be taking something with you when you leave. TC pointed out last night that I do the exact same thing. Poor Nick & Maureen - I wouldn't let them leave last night without taking some grape jam and 2 kinds of soap. At least it wasn't decorative tins :)
The third thing: I'm not quite sure yet how to articulate this one, so please bear with me if I seem to be rambling - there is a point, I promise :) I've known Nick & Maureen since my earliest university days. Maureen I knew sort of in passing - it was a small university, so everyone knew everyone, but we travelled in different circles. Nick was someone that I hung out with on a regular basis, so we became good friends. Life happened, as it usually does, and I didn't see either of them for several years.
Then a couple of years ago, we reconnected through facebook. I learned that they had a blog and became a regular visitor, which has helped me to know Maureen quite a bit better, since she does most of the blogging over there. We also share an enjoyment of tea stores and yarn crafts (though she's a knitter and I'm a crocheter - for the uninitiated, that's sort of like being a Capulet and a Montague), and discovered that we're both part of the online community at Ravelry. Then when I started this blog, Nick & Maureen were some of its first readers and commenters. So when they came to visit last night, it didn't feel to me like we hadn't seen each other in years, although in reality it had been years. Instead, while it was a treat to be able to be with them in person, it was more like we were continuing a conversation that had already been taking place.
It became clear at a couple of points during the evening, though, that this was not the case for TC. As you may or may not have guessed by this point, my husband is a bit of a Luddite, at least in some respects. We do not own a cell phone, and although he's comfortable using email, TC does not and will not participate in any other form of online communication. He does read this blog, and will read entries from the blogs of people we know if I bring them up and put them in front of him and tell him he should read them, but that's about it. And to be completely honest, he's not entirely comfortable with the extent of my own participation in the online world, though he's always supportive. So for him, it wasn't just the first time he'd seen Nick & Maureen in years, it was the first time he'd interacted with them at all in years. And if he wasn't married to me, he would have gone on in that sad Nick & Maureen-less state for who knows how long!
I'm not saying that online communities should or can replace face-to-face interactions with people. There's something important about physical presence in any kind of relationship - that's why it was such a treat to actually spend time with Nick & Maureen. But at the same time, I guess I was struck last night by how friendships that might otherwise never have been possible can be started, renewed and/or maintained through the medium of the internet. It's really a rather amazing thing, when you think about it. Which I did. Until way too late last night. Which is probably why this such a rambling post. Sorry.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
And I wore a skirt and ballet flats to work today.
Note to self - CHECK WEATHER BEFORE DRESSING IN THE MORNING!!
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
I could keep going, but I'm not telling you all this in order to brag about how many 'famous' people we've seen. We're not celebrity watchers, and I honestly think that our society spends way too much time following the activities of people who have done absolutely nothing to warrant that kind of attention in the first place. As such, we make a conscious effort not to support that kind of behaviour - we don't watch those entertainment shows, or buy any of the magazines. It just doesn't interest us.
What does interest me, though, is that despite my belief and my efforts to abstain from the cultural celebrity obsession, whenever I've seen or met anyone recognizable, my immediate reaction has been one of excitement and I felt the need to tell someone about it. Why is that the case? What part of the human psyche makes us want to associate ourselves with someone who we don't know and who don't know us just because they are 'famous'? Why do we place such value on these people that the thought of any kind of connection with them is an exciting prospect?
Don't get me wrong - I know that they're people too, and there are some celebrities who I think it would be interesting to know. I just can't help but think that if we equally valued the people around us, we'd be a lot farther ahead.
Monday, November 17, 2008
The morning started out well enough. I had one very sociable little 3 month old guy who was just waiting to give you a big toothless grin as soon as you paid any attention to him - so cute! Then the other volunteer arrived, so there were 2 of us. By the time the church service started we had 3 babies - the grinner, and 2 little ones who were at the stage where they can walk while holding your hands, but not on their own. One of them was a very serious, solid little fella who was perfectly content to sit and play on his own, and the other was a little girl who was fine as long as she maintained some kind of physical contact with a grown up.
Everything was going along swimmingly until it seems that the parents who had decided to take their kids into the service with them changed their minds. A little over half an hour into the service, we ended up with 3 more little ones - a 9-day old (so tiny!), and 2 who were able to sit on their own, but weren't walking yet. Again, all was well, if a little busy, until one of them started to cry. As if they had been waiting for that cue, every baby suddenly started crying! Six crying babies and only 2 people to try to calm them all down. You can probably imagine how well that worked. After about 10 minutes of the wailing chorus, we waved the white flag and started paging the parents of the wee ones who had been there the longest.
It was a rather exhausting experience - my legs are actually sore today from all the squatting and lifting involved in trying to calm 6 screaming, relatively immobile infants at the same time.
And you know what? I can't wait to do it again :)
Friday, November 14, 2008
One Friday every month, I give myself a little treat. It started back when I hurt my neck and began seeing a chiropractor - the wonderful woman who keeps me aligned and pain-free. Initially I was seeing her every other week as she worked out the immediate issue in my neck, as well as the other issues in my back that were the root causes. Now I see her once a month just to check on things and make whatever small adjustments are needed. It has really worked, too. I used to get these kinks in my back every couple of months or so, but since I've been going to Dr. F, it hasn't happened once. It's amazing - but I digress...
My appointments, like the one I had today, are always very early on Friday mornings. No stores are open, except coffee shops and convenience stores, and a little breakfast place that's about a 15 minute walk away. Every month, after my appointment, that's where I go to sit and enjoy a leisurely breakfast while I read a book that I've brought with me. It's a lovely, quiet time, away from home and work and the sundry pressures of life. I eat my breakfast, drink 2 or 3 cups of tea, read my book, and thoroughly enjoy every moment. It's my treat to me.
What are some things that you do to treat yourself?
Thursday, November 13, 2008
I booked the tickets to fly us home for Christmas! No lamenting being away from our families this year, folks - we're headed east to spend the holidays with them.
And for those who are wondering about the connection with Bing Crosby...
Saturday, November 8, 2008
Look what arrived in our mailbox on Friday...
...this lovely hat for TC...
...and these gorgeous fingerless mitts for me from Blogless Annie! It's been a hard week - our friend G, who is part of our home church, passed away on Wednesday morning - so it was a perfect time for a pleasant surprise. Thank you so much Annie! TC liked the hat so much he wore it around the apartment for a while on Friday night :)
We spent this morning at G's funeral and burial. She was an amazing lady - came to Canada from Zimbabwe eight years ago to make a place for her son, who waited for her back home. Almost 2 years ago, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor, which was successfully treated. Just this past year, she was finally able to bring her son to join her here, after 7 years of waiting. Her tumor then reappeared, and this time there was little that could be done. Thankfully, her son, who is 11 or 12, was granted permanent residency late last week, so G knew before she died that he would be able to stay here.
Something that struck us as we were sitting at the reception was that there are a number of similarities between funerals and weddings - the booking of facilities for the ceremony, there's a special car, the reception (where you meet a lot of different people), sending out thank-you notes, the procession of cars, people get all dressed up - the difference (other than the obvious) being that you usually have months to plan a wedding, and for funerals you only have days to pull it all together.
As draining as it all was, it was a good thing. There's something beautiful about gathering together to celebrate a life well lived. And G's life, though brief, was lived with grace, dignity, generosity and love.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
It's not that I'm feeling down or anything like that. TC and I were talking the other day about how we're both rather content with who and where we are right now. Life, with all of its craziness and unexpected turns, is good. So why, then, do I seem to be in this state of blah-ness?
The stunningly obvious answer to that question hit me a few minutes ago. I'm tired. September and October were extremely busy months, both professionally and personally, and I just don't have the mental or physical energy to do much more than I have to at this point.
The pendulum seems to be swinging back in the other direction, though. I've been feeling the urge to do up my meal plans again, and my Jaywalker socks have been calling me. I've even started working out in the evenings, since I can't seem to motivate myself to get up extra early in the mornings.
Who knows - I might even start posting entries with pictures in them again... :)
Friday, October 31, 2008
Thursday, October 30, 2008
For anyone just tuning in, I don't normally subject you to this sort of post, but I'm feeling a little creatively challenged today :)
1. What color is your toothbrush? Green and white - it's from my wonderful dentist. I seriously have the most amazing dentist in the world.
2. Name one person that made you smile today? My co-worker N. I was being visited at my workstation by Creepy Guy, who likes to drop by occasionally, and she came by with a question, letting me gracefully evict Creepy Guy. That made me smile.
3. What were you doing at 8 am this morning? Starting my work day by visiting all the people I supervise.
4. What were you doing 45 minutes ago? Looking for extra carpeting in the dungeon in the basement where we store all our excess office furniture.
5. What is your favorite candy? Anything containing chocolate.
6. What is the last thing you said aloud? "Where on earth is that coming from?" - I'll let you imagine the story behind that one...
7. What is the longest you have gone without sleeping? Back in my university days, up to 40 hours. Dang all nighters!
8. Have you bought any new clothing items this week? Yes, I did! I got my bonus at work this week, and rewarded myself with new shoes, a pair of pants, a cute brown corduroy skirt, 2 tops, a necklace and 2 pairs of earrings. I know it sounds like a lot, but I only go shopping twice a year, so it has to last :)
9. The last sporting event you watched? It think it was a Raptors game a couple of years ago.
10. Ever go camping? Not really - I've done some pseudo-camping, but I don't think it really counts.
11. Do you take vitamins daily? I try, but some days (like today) I forget.
12. Do you go to church every Sunday? Usually.
13. Do you have a tan? No, nor will I ever. I burn or freckle.
14. What are you doing tomorrow? Work, and then we'll be helping out at the gym program.
15. Where is your dad? He could be anywhere in Atlantic Canada - he travels a lot for his job.
16. Look to your left, what do you see? A filing cabinet, a tower fan and seven audit bags (a ginormous briefcase on wheels).
17. What do you think of when you hear 'Australia'? Kangaroos, sunshine and blonde people.
18. Do you go in at a fast food place or just hit the drive thru? Since we currently don't own a car, the drive thru is not an option right now.
19. Who's the last person you talked to on the phone? A lady in our accounts payable department.
20. Any plans today? Working, and then we're having some friends over for dinner. Their daughter, who is not yet 2 years old, just received an ebook from her grandparents and they want TC's advice about what books to download for her. How do you know what books a 2-year old will like when she's old enough to read? TC's answer: stick to the classics!
21. Biggest annoyance in your life right now? Contractors who don't show up when they say they will. Plus side: I have time to create a post like this :)
22. Do you have a maid service clean your house? Yup - the Thelmanator comes in once a month and saves my sanity. Bless her heart.
23. Do you use the word 'hello' daily? Now that I think about it, I don't think I do. At least not verbally. I usually say 'hi' or something equally witty and clever ;)
24. What colour is your car? Transparent.
25. Last meal? A cup of tea and some sunflower seeds.
26. Have you ever slept until 1pm? Not since I was a camp counselor. I'd come home on the weekends and basically sleep, eat and do laundry until it was time to head back.
There you have it, folks! More than you ever needed to know, I'm sure :)
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
[Edited at the request of TC, who doesn't want to offend on the extremely off chance that one of his colleagues might read this post. If you haven't already read it and for some reason really want to know what it said - sorry! Leave a comment and I'll try to fill you in through some other means.]
Monday, October 27, 2008
We spent the weekend at a retreat for the elders of our church (I still find it wierd to think of myself as an 'elder' - it evokes images of old men in suits, which I most definitely am not!), which was a lot of fun and very uplifting. And cold. Very, very cold. Extremely cold! But we survived, and it turns out that extreme cold is an effective stimulus of interpersonal bonding - it was either bond or freeze...
I was very thankful to return to my grocery-less, laundry-laden, warm apartment :)
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Damn protestant work ethic.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
I'm back! And it was a wonderful trip :) Thanksgiving dinner with the extended family on Saturday (with veggies that were all grown in my dad's garden - yum!), visiting with old friends at church on Sunday (one of whom is expecting - yay!), seeing for myself that my grammy is okay, having a good visit with all my grandparents, spending time playing games and being silly with my mum and dad, going for a long drive with my brother, eating way too many sweets - life really doesn't get much better than that!
And I even remembered to take the camera :) Which is why I'm able to share my dad's homemade applesauce recipe with you... Here goes...
Start with a whole bunch of apples - preferrably a kind that doesn't winter well or retain its shape when cooked (I think these are Gravensteins).
Then you get to peel them all, and slice them up into a large pot, filling it to the rim (that's my dad doing the slicing - I was the designated peeler).
Now comes the yummy smelling part! Add a bit of water (for his 20L stock pot full of apples Dad added about 5 cups) and cook uncovered on med-high heat, stirring frequently as the apples soften. You won't need to do any mashing, as the apples should almost melt as they cook. You don't want them to boil, but they will simmer and sometimes splatter, so watch out!
Once it has simmered down into the delightful consistency that apple sauce should be, it's time to add the sugar and spice. For this batch, Dad added 2 1/2 cups of sugar, but feel free to decrease that by up to 1 cup if you don't like your sauce to be too sweet. Then he sprinkled in about 2-3 Tbsp of nutmeg (I'm guessing here - according to him it's a 'pinch' of this and a 'dash' of that), and 3-4 Tbsp of Barbour's Mixed Spice. The mixed spice will form into little balls, so you'll have to watch for them and smoosh them flat with your spoon against the side of the pot as you stir.
Pour the apples into the reusable jars of your choice and voila! Your very own homemade applesauce! (Side note: If you're going to use plastic jars, like the peanut butter jars we used, be sure to let your applesauce cool sufficiently so that they won't melt.) You'll need to freeze it, since it's not a sterilized process, but you can thaw a bottle whenever you feel like having some fresh applesauce.
Friday, October 10, 2008
What about all of you? What's something that you're thankful for?
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
I think mice are rather nice;
Their tails are long, their faces small;
They haven't any chins at all.
Their ears are pink, their teeth are white,
They run about the house at night;
They nibble things they shouldn't touch,
and, no one seems to like them much,
but, I think mice are rather nice.
This is a poem that runs deep in my psyche, mainly because it's one of the two poems that my dad knows by heart, and he would always recite it whenever the topic of mice came up. (The other is a poem he wrote in grade one and goes like this: "I had a little doll. I stuck it in the wall. That's all." Pure literary genius!) I've always liked the poem, and I sincerely agree that mice are rather nice. Which is probably why I've felt so conflicted about trapping the one that had decided to become our new roomie.
I first spotted him on Saturday, scampering across the dining room floor - so cute, with the little ears and feet just a-going. But the reality of it is that they poop everywhere and get into our food and garbage, so he had to go. We considered buying one of those live traps, so we could release him back into the "wild" - but then we realized that there is no "wild" in Toronto. Anywhere we left him, he would simply make his way into someone else's home. So we got a trap that promised to kill him instantly so there would be no suffering, and last night I heard it go off.
The poor little guy! All he wanted was a warm place to sleep and food to eat, and all he got was killed and flushed down the toilet.
It's a cruel world.
Monday, October 6, 2008
Hey folks - sorry about the derth of posts. Life isn't leaving me a whole lot of time for it at the moment. Work is the busiest it's ever been, and the MIL is visiting for a while, which can be both fun and frustrating.
On a brighter note, TC won some soap from SherrieG in honour of her blogiversary the other day, and on Friday we received four lovely bars in the mail:
A bar of delicious pumpkin pie soap, which I'm seriously have to keep myself from covering in whip cream and devouring.
One of peppermint poppyseed - TC likes soap that exfoliates (or as he calls it "scratchy soap") - and the poppyseeds are great for that.
One bar of oatmeal, milk & honey soap - doesn't that sound decadent and good for you all at once?
And finally a bar of coffee soap, which is great for using in the kitchen since the coffee tends to absorb nasty odours like onion.
I can't wait to start using them - thanks SherrieG!
Thursday, October 2, 2008
There are times, though, when it gets to me. When I feel like if I have to make one more sacrifice or set aside one more thing that I'd like to do so that he can pursue some aspect of his school life, I'm going to explode. And it's not that TC is overly demanding or insensitive to this imbalance - he's not, and he does try to make sure I have room for a life too. It's just that when I repeatedly end up holding the bag because he's overcommitted himself, doing things on my own that we were supposed to do together, or having to give up something to fill in for him in another area because something has come up and my activity was less urgent, I start feeling angry and resentful. Taken for granted.
And I know I shouldn't feel that way, because I know that I'm not taken for granted. I also know that sometimes these things just can't be helped - life comes at you fast and furious and all of a sudden you realize that you need to be in three places at once. I'm glad that I'm able to be here to help him when that happens.
Is it selfish to wish that sometimes our life was structured around me instead, though?
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Well, it's officially the last day of September - time to take stock of the 2 goals I had set for myself this month.
1) I am going to start attending yoga classes once a week at the studio down the street.
Okay, this didn't go exactly as planned. It's hard to motivate myself to join something like this on my own, and no one else I know was interested in joining with me, so I took a different path. At the beginning of the month I purchased a DVD with five 25-minute yoga workouts designed to be done in the morning. Then for the first 2 weeks, I did one every other morning, changing it up on the weekends with one of my other workout videos. For the last 2 weeks...let's just say that sleep has been winning out over yoga. On the plus side, though, I've been doing a lot more walking, so I'm hoping it all balances out :)
2) I am going to cut out any and all desserts for the month of September to break the habit of needing something sweet after a meal.
I'm so proud of myself! For this entire month I haven't had a single dessert. I have had some sweets (2 pieces of birthday cake, 2 pieces of 'congratulations on your promotion' cake, 1 piece of 'congratulations on your engagement' cake and 4 of J's brownies, because they're J's brownies), but none of them were for dessert. I couldn't help but laugh at the fact that we had 4 cakes at work this month, when we're normally lucky to have one every other month or so. What are the odds? Now the challenge is going to be keeping myself from gorging on chocolate...mmm, chocolate...
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Attention Toronto Home-owners!
This is a broom. It's a marvelous object, invented in its modern form by 19th century Shakers, and serving any number of purposes, from traditional floor cleaning to not-so-traditional crime fighting.
The reason that I bring it to your attention, however, is that it also works very well as a means of removing leaves, dirt and other detritus from your driveway. (Why you feel the need to remove said detritus from your driveway I'm not sure I understand, but you obviously do so we'll leave that as it is for the present moment.)
I have noticed lately that the vast majority of you have been using your hoses to wash your driveways and sidewalks clean, and I know that you must all be aware of how detrimental that is to the environment, what with the incredible amount of water that is wasted and the number of pollutants that are consequently washed into the water system. I have therefore reached the conclusion that you must be unaware of this valuable tool and how to use it.
Having come to that conclusion, I realized that it is unfair of me to expect you to switch to the broom method without any training, so I have included an instruction manual below.
How to Use a Broom to Sweep Your Driveway
1. Make sure you choose a broom that is suited for your task. In this case, your best bet would be a push broom, such as the one pictured to the right. It's large enough to cover a lot of territory quickly, and its bristles are generally designed to withstand the rougher texture of most outdoor surfaces.
2. Check to see that it isn't too windy out. This will help to keep the wind from undoing all your handiwork.
3. Beginning in a corner of your driveway next to your house, sweep (push the broom against the ground in one direction, lift and pull it back to the beginning edge) in overlapping strokes toward the street.
4. Work your way to the street, collecting the debris into a small pile or piles.
*Tip: It's best to be systematic, working from one end to the other. This helps ensure that you don't miss a spot.
It's really that simple, folks! An added bonus in using your new found broom-wielding skills is that you will be burning off way more calories than you would using the old method. So how about we put away the hoses, m'kay?
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
I love our apartment. I love the fact that the walls aren't white and the floors squeak when we walk on them. I love that it's relatively cheap for the area. I love that 6 out of 7 of our neighbours are pleasant, reasonable people. I love that there are windows on all 4 sides that let in lots of light.
It's really quite a nice little spot - perfect for TC and me. The only fly in the ointment is our landlord's idea of repairs. Case in point: When we first moved in, we noticed that the caulking along the edge of the bathtub had become moldy, not just on the surface but the caulking itself. We called our landlord who promised to come look at it right away, which he did. His solution? Slap some more caulking on top to cover the moldy stuff. That's basically his answer to everything, so we've stopped calling him for anything unless it's going to cost $$ to fix.
About a month ago, the handle on the toilet broke half. Since neither TC nor I are plumbers, we thought it would be best to notify the landlord to come fix it, which he did rather promptly. And for the past 2 weeks, we have had to re-attach the blasted handle he replaced the broken one with a number of times. Until yesterday, when my ingenious husband found a cost effective solution, using nothing but a napkin ring and some stainless steel wire (and I'm guessing a pair of pliers):
Isn't it beautiful? It works perfectly! My favourite thing about it, though, is that we didn't have to go out and buy anything to fix it. Hooray for TC!(I'm inwardly laughing at the realization that I'm excited enough about this to post pictures of my toilet on the internet. Sorry you had to see this, loyal readers!)
Monday, September 22, 2008
Now I'm pooped.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Worker: Can I help you?
TC: Yeah, I'd like to get a large BBQ chicken pizza, but I need to know first whether it has any MSG in it - that's short for monosodium glutamate.
Worker: I don't know.
TC: Could you please check? My wife is very allergic to it.
Worker: Just a sec...
[Worker walks to rear of kitchen and confers with Manager.
Manager: [hollering from back of kitchen] No, no...there's no MSG in anything. Chinese food is the only thing that has MSG in it.
TC: Not really - MSG is actually in a lot of stuff, like some sauces and processed meats.
Manager: [still hollering from back of kitchen] Oh, yeah, well there's MSG in everything. You can't avoid it.
TC: [getting slightly frustrated] That's not true - your pizza sauce is MSG free, but I'm not sure about the BBQ sauce. Could you please check the ingredients?
Worker: [reading something - presumably an ingredients list] I don't think there's any.
TC: Fine. I'll take one to go.
Any guesses as to whether or not I ate any of this pizza? It happened a little while ago, but I couldn't help remembering this incident yesterday as I read an article about kids being bullied with their food allergies at school. Remember that Simpsons episode where Bart discovers that Principal Seymour is allergic to peanuts and threatens him with a peanut on a stick to make him do what Bart says? Not so funny when it happens in real life.
Part of the reason behind the bullying, according to the article, was that many people who don't have food allergies just don't understand the severity of it all. To them, it seems that those with allergies are just being picky or trying to get attention. I've run into this attitude more than once, and it never ceases to make me angry.
And it's not just food allergies. I've been blessed (I think?) to have a family that has allergies, so they understand when I tell them that I'm reacting to their perfumes, etc. when I'm there and they try to make reasonable accommodations. But I know someone who developed allergies to dust and pet dander in adulthood, and whenever they visit their family, they immediately start having an allergic reaction to the carpets filled with the offending allergens. And their family's response? You're not really allergic to it - you're making it up - it's all in your head.
Making it up?
I wish that there were some way to make it possible for every allergy-free person to be given a food allergy and/or an environmental allergy for a week. Nothing life threatening - just something that would make them miserable and help them understand what it's like to live with allergies. Then we might see a little less of this ridiculous attitude of blaming the allergic for their allergies.
Friday, September 12, 2008
What I didn't realize was that she would leave the leftovers for our home church hosts, who also host a games night every Thursday that I usually attend. And what were the snacks for games night? J's brownies. Who had to sit and watch everybody else rave over them while not being able to eat any? You guessed it - me!
On the plus side, J did give me her brownie recipe, and since I can't make them until October 1 (can you guess what I'll be doing that day?) you'll have to try them yourselves on my behalf. Here's the recipe - it's very simple, but oh so delicious!
4 rows of President’s Choice extra dark or bittersweet chocolate from a 300 g bar
¾ c butter
2 c white sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 c all-purpose flour
Line a glass 9” x 13” pan with parchment paper. Heat oven to 350. Microwave chocolate and butter in large, dry, microwaveable bowl in 30 second increments. Stir in between. Repeat until chocolate is completely melted.Stir sugar into melted chocolate until well blended. Stir in fork-scrambled eggs and vanilla until completely mixed. Mix in flour until well blended. Pour into pan.Bake until cake tester comes out clean (25-30 minutes). Allow to cool completely. Loosen edges, pull on parchment paper to lift brownies out of pan and onto cutting surface.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
There are aspects of the whole process that annoy the heck out of me, though. I hate the signs that start going up until every conceivable space is covered in red, blue, green, orange or whatever colour any independants are using. I hate answering the phone only to hear an automated voice telling me to vote for this party or that candidate.
But what I hate the most are TV ads like this one. I completely agree with everything Harper says, but it has nothing to do with whether or not I should vote for him. Instead, it makes me angry that any party would try to use the sacrifices made by our veterans for political gain. I'm supposed to watch this ad and think, Yes, I owe a debt of gratitude to our veterans. Wow, Harper feels the same way. He must be the best candidate for Prime Minister - I'll vote for him. I mean, come on! It's nothing more than a cheap attempt at emotional manipulation.
Shame on you, Mr. Harper!
Thursday, September 4, 2008
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Do you remember those socks that I started way back in July? I finished them this past weekend - yay! They're not perfect (I still haven't nailed the 'finish-off-the-toe' thing), but for a first attempt at sock-making, I'm immensely pleased with them :)
We actually did quite a bit over the weekend, come to think of it. Friday was spent with some friends from Calgary who were in town at a part of the city known as the Distillery District - one of my new favourite parts of Toronto. Check out this picture from their official website:
Very Dickensian, don't you think? Of course it was daytime when we were there, and there were no Christmas lights, but there was an Art Fair and my new favourite store - Soma Chocolate. Mmm...all you have to do is go in the store and breathe and you get your chocolate fix. They make it all right there (you can watch them do it) and it is soooo good!
I need to stop thinking about it, though, or I won't be able to avoid sweets this month. So far so good, by the way. As of Monday morning I haven't touched anything that might be classified as 'dessert' (which, for me, is a pretty extensive list). 27 more days to go...
Anyhoo, on Saturday we made one of our tri-annual trips to Wal-mart (that horribly addictive place) and came home with so much stuff (I console myself that none of it was useless - we actually did need all of it). I won't bore you with all the details, but I did spend September & October's yarn budget for an afghan that I'm excited about. Another awesome find:
That's the first of my Jaywalker socks with the Fleece Artist Seawool, which isn't what I got at Wal-mart. See the bag that it's sitting on? We've been needing a new set of sheets, and the ones we bought came wrapped in that bag rather than in plastic. I think it's rather cute - it's now my knitting tote for the subway. Hooray for reuseable packaging!
Sunday and Monday were spent visiting, relaxing, knitting (see above) and making a batch of lavendar soap, which I'll show you once it's out of the mold. All in all, the weekend was a perfect blend of activity and inactivity. Don't you just love long weekends?
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Everyone has heard of 'spring cleaning'. After a long winter shut up indoors, out come the cleaning supplies and everything gets a good scrubbing while the windows and doors are flung open to let in the fresh spring air. It's a ritual performed by households all over the northern part of the hemisphere, including my own and probably yours!
What I've just come to realize, though, is that for me there is a counterpart to the spring cleaning ritual - 'fall organizing'. Every year, as soon as that crispness hits the air, I begin to feel the need to get my life in order. Closets and cupboards get emptied, sorted and organized. The filing cabinet, with its myriad of paperwork, is given a once-over and reams of stuff is sent off to be shredded and recycled.
So far this year, all of my organizational zeal has been focused on my crafting stuff. With some wonderful results! I have now condensed and downsized the contents of 2 giant storage tubs into 1 giant storage tub. How, you may ask, was this miraculous feat accomplished?
To begin, I pulled out all of my scrap yarn - a rather sizeable collection of leftovers. I then channeled all my crafting energies into completeing a scrap yarn afghan that I have been working on for 5 years. It felt wonderful to finally have it done, but I still had a huge amount of scrap yarn to use up, so...
...I started working on another afghan - this one not quite as stylish, but definitely colourful! Right now I've used up about 90% of the scraps, so it's almost done.
I was also able to give away this afghan to some friends of ours who just got married this weekend. And I've made the commitment that I will not be buying any more yarn until I've used up the rest of my stash.
That being said, before I made that commitment, I had stopped by a local yarn store that's having an inventory sale for the month of August where if you pay cash, you get 10% off and they pay the tax. How could I not buy something? So I picked up a skein of Fleece Artist Sea Wool, which is going to make a lovely pair of Jaywalker socks. But not until I finish all my WIPs!
Monday, August 25, 2008
I learned today that these decisions were made not a moment too soon, as I was asked by someone at work if I was expecting. I am not. Awkwardness ensued...
Friday, August 22, 2008
Behold the incredibly yummy Raspberry Custard Kuchen that I made this week. I was looking for a way to use up some plums that I was given, and stumbled across this recipe and just had to try it. I'm so glad I did! It's good as a dessert or for breakfast - or both :) And I'm pretty sure that you could substitute just about any fruit for the raspberries, depending on what's in season. Here's the recipe:
Raspberry Custard Kuchen
1-1/2 cups + 1 Tbsp. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup cold butter
1 cup + 2 Tbsp. whipping cream
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 cups fresh raspberries (or other fruit)
1) Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
2) In a medium-sized bowl, combine 1 cup of flour and 1/2 tsp of salt. Cut in 1/2 cup of butter until it has become the consistency of coarse crumbs. Stir in 2 Tbsp of whipping cream. Pat into a well-greased 9"x13" baking pan to form the crust.
3) In the now empty bowl, combine 1/2 cup of sugar with 1/2 cups of flour and sprinkle it evenly over the crust. Evenly distribute the raspberries on top of this.
4) In a large bowl, combine 1 cup of sugar with 1 Tbsp of flour. Add the eggs, 1 cup of whipping cream, and 1 tsp of vanilla extract to the flour mixture and stir it in. Pour this evenly over the berries.
5) Bake for 45 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned. Let stand for 10 minutes or so before cutting.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
I saw something rather amazing yesterday on my way home from work. As I sat down in the subway train, I noticed a guy a little way down from me playing with a rubix cube, which in and of itself isn't that remarkable. What caught my attention was the way he was flipping it around like he'd been doing it his whole life. He then proceeded to mix it up and then solve it 7 times in the 20 minutes that I was on the subway with him. He even took some time in the middle to make different patterns with it, like having the 4 corner squares on each side the colour of the opposite side. Everyone in the train was watching him, to which he seemed oblivious. I couldn't help thinking that he was either an exceptionally gifted person or someone with way too much time on his hands. Probably both. In any case, it was fun to watch!
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Friday, August 15, 2008
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Tip #1 - Avoid sitting or standing near black women.
Now before you get upset, let me explain. The fact of the matter is that the majority of black women use a significant amount of hair product, which is usually very heavily scented. There are, of course, exceptions to this, so look to see if the woman's hair is straight or looks like it's glued in place - those are the ones to avoid. Anyone with a more natural-looking hairstyle is probably safe.
Tip #2 - Avoid sitting or standing near teenage girls.
This one shouldn't need much explanation. Without a great deal of perfumery experience, it's easier for them to overdo it. As a bonus, you don't have to sit and listen to a conversation riddled with the word "like."
Tip #3 - Avoid sitting or standing next to anyone wearing animal prints, fur, or with extra-long fingernails.
This goes for both genders, folks. These are the people who think more is better - trust me, you want to stay far away.
Tip #4 - Try to sit or stand next to people with small children.
People travelling on public transit with small children are either: a) environmentally conscious yippies (that's a cross between a yuppie and a hippy) who wouldn't wear such chemically laden products, especially around their children, or b) too busy or sleep-deprived to even remember such frivolities as perfume and hairspray.
Tip #5 - Try to sit or stand next to people dressed in work clothes.
Anyone dressed in work clothes, and I don't mean suits and ties, is going to be doing some significant labouring and generally doesn't bother with scenting themselves. That's saved for when they clean up after work. There is one exception - if the work clothes are covered in paint, you may want to avoid them unless you'd like to get a passive high en route to your destination.
Tip #6 - Try to sit or stand near a window or door.
That way, if you are unable to avoid the three categories of people mentioned above, or a seemingly innocent-looking person turns out to be a walking scent bomb, you can at least get a brief whiff of fresh air on occasion. Another bonus: if you're sitting next to an open window in the winter, chances are no one is going to want to sit near you anyway. Just make sure you bundle up!
I can't guarantee that following these rules will keep the scent assaults at bay, since there are always exceptions, but I've been riding the TTC with allergies for three years now and can attest to the fact that every little bit helps!
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
I found a few more pictures on our camera from Stratford, so I thought I'd share them with you all.
I didn't realize when I took this one that the bottles framed the lady's derriere quite so well.
We had to walk past this tree to get to the theatre - isn't it just begging for a tree house?
This is a group of Korean drummers that were rather amazing to watch. As they drummed they were dancing and spinning those ribbons on their heads. It was making me dizzy just to watch :)
The Avon River. It looks very pretty from a distance, but smells horrible and has all kinds of unidentified floating sludgy stuff in it. Mmm...
The sludgy stuff doesn't seem to bother these guys, though. There were quite a few ducks and swans swimming in the river.
That's all folks!
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
I decided that this year I wanted to make my own bread & butter pickles, using my MIL's recipe:
8 cups thinly sliced cucumbers (the little ones)
2-1/2 cups thinly sliced onion (peel and slice into rounds)
1/4+ cup salt
2 cups white vinegar
3 cups granulated sugar
2 tsp. celery seed
2 tsp. mustard seed
2 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
Combine the cucumber, onion and salt in a large pot. Cover and let sit for 3 hours.
After the 3 hours, dump the cucumbers/etc. in a strainer and rinse well. Then dump into an extra-large pot.
Add the vinegar, sugar, celery seed, mustard seed, turmeric and cinnamon. Stir until all the sugar is dissolved and the cucumbers are coated.
Bring it to a boil for 20-30 minutes, until the cucumbers are transparent. Remove from heat and pour into sterilized jars. (Makes approx. four 500ml jars.)
So I went out on Saturday morning to pick up the ingredients that I needed, as well as the canning jars, since I didn't have any. I thought to myself, These cucumbers look rather small. It will probably take quite a few to make 8 cups. Big mistake. It really doesn't take that many.
A plethora of pickles - 3 batches on Saturday, 2 more on Sunday, and the one last night.
I have learned an important lesson this weekend, and that lesson is this: It is always better to start small and have to get more than to start big and wish you hadn't.
On the plus side - I may never have to make pickles ever again :)