Thursday, February 28, 2008

Blessings in disguise

I shall never cease to be amazed at how life always seems to balance itself out somehow. You see that list typed out so quickly below? Were you able to pick up on the frantic insanity that has been my life lately? The laboured breathing of someone who has been running full tilt for far too long but can't stop because the finish line is so close and there are so many people depending on her (including herself)? I think I was going to explode when God sent an unlikely gift our way - a bout with some type of respiratory flu.

What kind of gift is that, you might wonder - well, let me enlighten you. Because of said flu, which left me a coughing, miserable, feverish, voiceless, dizzy, mucus-filled wretch all day Saturday, Sunday and Monday, and is now performing the same wonders for the TC, we have both been forced not only to slow down, but to stop and do absolutely nothing but watch movies and blow noses for 3-4 days. And this was perfectly acceptable because nobody else wants our germs! No one expects you to attend 5 meetings in 3 days when you can't breathe. No one expects you to get all your housework done when getting up off the couch to put a movie in takes all your strength. And best of all, no one expects you to be able to conjugate verbs in another language when you can't form a functional sentence in your own. I don't even expect it of myself! Being sick gave me the permission I needed to take it easy for a while.

I can't believe it, but I'm actually thankful for the flu!

Friday, February 22, 2008


I've been, and continue to be, too busy to post much, but here are the last few days in a nutshell:

do French homework
do French homework
go to meeting
do French homework
go to meeting
do French homework
update budget

And the next few days:

do French homework
eat dinner with Adrienne Clarkson
go to meeting 1
go to meeting 2
go to church
do French homework
get groceries
cook something

I'll fill in some details sometime after March 8th, which is when all the craziness will end...I hope... Until then, please forgive the lack of effort put into my postings.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Spa Day

Well, I'm back from the spa and I had an amazing time! I got lost on the way there, but a nice lady with a beautiful black lab got me turned in the right direction and then proceeded to walk there with me, chatting the whole time, which was a fun way to get things started. My spa experience started with choosing the type of mud I wanted them to use - I picked the Oceanic Clay-Mud which smelled like lavendar and was supposed to be really moisturizing. Then I was given a tour of the facilities and given a locker, towels, a kimono and flip-flops. At this spa, before you begin any treatments you do the water circuit, which goes as follows:
  1. Shower (using a delicious smelling mint-lime bodywash) to remove any impurities from your skin.
  2. Spend 5-10 minutes in the warm salt-water pool in front of one of the massaging waterjets.
  3. Spend 5-10 minutes in the 100% humidity eucalyptus-scented steam room.
  4. Shower.
  5. Take a plunge in the cold pool for a minute to stimulate circulation and regulate body temperature.
  6. Spend 5-7 minutes in the infared heat sauna.
  7. Shower.
  8. Another plunge in the cold pool.
  9. Steep in the hot green tea pool for 5 minutes.
  10. Shower.
  11. Last 1 minute cold plunge.
  12. Sit in the warm salt pool for a few more minutes.

Once you've done all that, you sit on one of the lounge chairs next to the pools and sip water or tea or juice until someone comes to get you for your treatment. I didn't have time to get steps 11 & 12 in before they came to get me for the 1/2 hour massage, but that was alright. I was already feeling much more relaxed, but by the time Christiana finished I seriously had all I could do to keep myself awake! She took me back out to the lounge chairs, where I sat with my cup of 'Vitality Tea' and did my best impression of jello.

After about 10 minutes, Rachelle came to take me to my 'body bake and beyond' treatment. It was just like the description said - nirvana! I couldn't really see what was going on because she kept a warm cloth over my eyes almost the whole time, but there was a great deal of sloughing, slathering and rinsing taking place. I have never felt so pampered in all of my life.

Friday, February 15, 2008


I've wondered in the past about how I could possibly be making a positive impact on the world working for an company that is a rather significant cog in the machinery of capitalism, but some of those thoughts were laid to rest last night as I spent the evening with some colleagues preparing and serving a nutritious gourmet meal at Evergreen, a drop in centre for street kids in downtown Toronto. It turns out that my employer supplies the funds and the people for 5 of these dinners every year, and they're looking to expand that involvement by doing it monthly. That's not to say that I don't still have issues with my company and all that it stands for (ie. wealth management), but I at least feel better that they're doing something good with all of that wealth.

The Evergreen is a truly amazing place. They provide hearty, nutritious lunches and suppers 5 days a week, and warm, safe place for the kids to hang out during the day. They also offer the kids some amazing services, which you can check out on their website. It's a beautiful facility. And the kids desperately need as much compassionate help as we can give them. Some of their stories are absolutely heartbreaking, like the guy from NB who has been living on the streets since he came home from school when he was 14 and found a note on the table from his mother saying that she had taken his sisters and wouldn't be back. Can you imagine what that would do to your sense of self-worth? I find it hard to wrap my head around. I'm so glad that a place like Evergreen exists to show these kids that somebody cares about them.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Life Cycles

Why is that everything always happens at once? Life seems to go through cycles of intense busyness and intense not-busyness, with brief transitional periods that hit the ideal mix of the two. What prompted this particular line of thought was the realization that between the beginning of February and March 8th, there is very little time in my schedule that isn't designated for a specific purpose or event. And it's not from an inability to say no - it has just worked out that all of the things that we were already committed to have collided in this 5 week period: home church leadership training sessions, volunteering commitments, appointments, my French exam, various people coming to visit, another Massey 'high table', TC's trip to Washington, an artisanship initiative brainstorming session, a church elders' meetings, the list could go on.

On the plus side, a significant amount of time this Saturday is designated for using the spa gift certificate that TC got me for Christmas (bless him!). I can't wait! As I was sitting in my cubicle at work on Friday after dealing with yet another stressed out accountant, I was overwhelmed by the need to do something to de-stress, but I didn't think I had the time. Then I remembered that Monday is a brand new statutory holiday (thank you Premier McGuinty!), so I had an eight hour chunk of time originally slotted for work that was now free! So I shoved all of Saturday's tasks to Monday, and booked my spa time. I've never been to a spa, so I'll let you know how it goes. The description on the gift certificate sounds divine, though:
This exceptional treatment will send you to nirvana. Using our body wash and scrub mitt, the skin is cleansed, exfoliated and stimulated before mud is slathered over the entire body. As it heats up under our specially designed infrared lamps, the scalp is nourished with our stimulating scalp serum. A mineral enriched seaweed mask is applied to the face followed by our tightening wild~seaweed face serum and calming face moisturizer. The hair is washed and conditioned. A neck-to-toe application of our mint~lime body lotion will leave you feeling replenished, renewed and truly radiant. It's been years since Mother Nature treated us so well.
This is preceded by a 30-min massage and the use of the spa's detoxifying water therapy (a sequence of pools, saunas and steam rooms). I'm starting to relax just thinking about it :)

Saturday, February 9, 2008

All about the food...

I seem to have food on the brain today. It started when I dreamt about making a smoothie, so I woke up this morning with a major smoothie craving. So I blended together some frozen raspberries, strawberries and mango with vanilla yogurt and enough oj to make it liquidy, and voila!

A yummy smoothie! Then I went grocery shopping, and found these:

Aren't they a gorgeous colour? They looked so beautiful and plump and crisp, I couldn't walk past them.

I also couldn't walk past these - a snack that Cousin P introduced me to, for which I'm very thankful. They're cheddar cheese pretzel bits, and they don't have any MSG so I can eat them. Mmm...

Snow Pics

I took these pictures Friday morning, and it still hasn't stopped snowing. 4 days of snow in a row!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Snow, snow and more snow...

Okay, I'm all for snow but this is ridiculous! It has been snowing here in Toronto for the last 3 days, and it's not supposed to stop until next week (although it is supposed to taper off a bit). I even experienced something that I've never experienced before - did you know that you can have thunder and lightning during a snowstorm? I didn't until last night.

I find it rather funny that Toronto freaks out whenever they get snow. I mean, yes it's been snowing for 3 days, but we've still only accumulated about a foot and a half of the stuff. For most of the rest of the country, that's nothing! But because Toronto doesn't usually get a lot of snow, they aren't prepared for it when it comes. It's the only city I know of that has called in the army to shovel it out - and even then it was only 15cm! I mentioned that to a colleague, and they replied by saying that unlike the rest of the country, the Canadian economy loses 4 billion dollars for each day that Toronto is shut down because of snow. I didn't say anything, but my thoughts went along the lines of 'The rest of the country doesn't let a bit of snow stop it from going to work'. Can you imagine what would happen if Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax shut down every time they got more than a few inches of snow? Nobody would have to work from December to April! Come to think of it, that might not be a bad idea...

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Fun stuff

We had some friends over for supper last night, one of whom is an avid gamer. He introduced us to two really fun ones.

The first was a game called Thurn & Taxis, which requires each player to create the German postal system - a lot more fun than that sounds, trust me! And the little post offices are so cute, don't you think? :) It took us a little while to understand all the rules, but it was well worth the effort. Who knew that mail could be so much fun?

The second was called Zooloretto, and instead of a postal system, each player has to build the best zoo. The board is really pretty and the gameplay is very interactive, meaning that you can really mess with the other players if you want to. Not that I would ever want to...

Monday, February 4, 2008

The best laid plans...

Isn't it funny how things never go quite as planned? I had my weekend all mapped out, with a list of things I wanted to accomplish and people we were going to see. Saturday was going to be laundry and groceries, then going out with some friends that evening. Then Sunday we were going to head off to church and run some errands, and then come home to make a pot of soup, finish a unit of the French course I'm taking, and make a batch of vanilla soap.

Well Saturday went largely according to plan. All the laundry got washed, dried and folded, this week's groceries got tucked into their respective places, and we had a wonderful time going out for supper with our friends H & B. We went to a restaurant called "Hoodoo McFiggin's" - which, in retrospect, should have been our first indicator that things were going to go awry. Very early on Sunday morning, we began to seriously regret our choice of restaurant. Apparently the ribs that both TC and I had initially enjoyed had been the residence of a considerable bacteria colony, which our tummies were less than thrilled to host and proceeded to rather violently evict. So there was no going to church or running errands on Sunday! The plan changed to simply laying around the house and recovering - or so we thought.

Unbeknownst to us, TC's aunt had arrived in town for a conference and wanted to get together with us Sunday afternoon, which was the only time during her conference that we were all available. Off we went to another restaurant - this time a well-established chain restaurant of good repute - where we gingerly ate lunch with Aunt B, who is one of our favourite people. We visited with her for the rest of the afternoon, which was great, but by the time we got home around suppertime we were both so incredibly wiped that absolutely nothing else got done.

So much for those well-laid plans! On the plus side, I now understand the game of football, which was a complete mystery to me until yesterday. TC, Cousin P and I watched the Superbowl, cheering for whichever team happened to be losing at the time. With the exception of the Hoodoo aftermath, it was an enjoyable weekend ;o)

Friday, February 1, 2008

Hats, Streetcars and Unexpected Sweetness...

Happy February! We're ringing it in here in Toronto with a good old-fashioned snow storm. I wish I could have stayed home to enjoy it, but the age of the snow day is no more - at least for me :) I saw something on my way home from work, though, that warmed my heart and made it all worthwhile. On the streetcar portion of my commute I was sitting behind a lady who had a beautifully hand-knit hat made from a scruptious-looking chocolate brown and rich burgundy variegated yarn. As I was sitting there admiring her hat, she noticed that the older gentleman sitting next to her was travelling with the older lady sitting in front of him, and she offered to trade seats with her so that they could sit together. He declined since they were getting off in a couple of stops, but he and the lady with the scrumptious hat then proceeded to have a friendly conversation until the time came for the gentleman and his lady friend to get off. I don't know what it was about that little scene that made me so happy. Maybe it was seeing two people who had never met before connect in some small way - something that happens so rarely in this city. But it does happen!