Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Joyeux Noel!

Merry Christmas everyone! We're currently at home, visiting family and friends, with very limited access to the internet, so I probably won't be on here again until January, but I wanted to wish you all the very merriest of Christmases and the happiest of new years!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

All I Want For Christmas... an office linebacker. Please, Santa, please?

This post is dedicated to anyone who has ever worked in an office environment.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Maybe there's hope after all...

Sign of Hope #1

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

Crafty Goodness...

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 Recap - part 4

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 Recap - part 3

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

Commuting Awareness

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:

Sil - - ver - - beeeeeeeells - - - -
Siiiiiiil - - ver - - bellsIt'sChristmastimeinthecity - -
Ring - - aaaaaaaaa - - ling - - -
Hearthemringsoonitwillbe -
Chriiiiiiiiist - - masday

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 Recap - part 2

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

Resolution Recap - part 1

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!)