Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Sick Day

It's definitely a winter scene out our front window today, and rather appropriately, I've finally managed to catch this cold/flu bug that's been going around for the past month or so, despite my vigilant hand washing and vitamin taking. It's a doozy too - I'm so tired that all I want to do is lay on the couch, but my sinuses feel like they're going to explode if I sit still for too long, so I'm compelled to be up and about.

Also, I miss the days when I could just stay home and not worry about work, but alas that is no longer the case, so I brought my computer with me when I came home early yesterday and worked from here today. Do you like my home office?

It's a lot easier being sick at home, though, even if I have to work. I made myself a yummy lunch - curry chicken soup, chocolate chip cookies, tortilla crisps with hummus, mmm... And of course my constant companion at the moment - tissue. Isn't the little flower cute? TC bought it for me last week when I was having a rotten day. He's so sweet! Anyhoo, the soup I made is absolutely wonderful for anyone with a cold. It's chock full of flavour, vitamin C and all kinds of chicken soupy goodness. Here's the recipe:

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Granny Smith apple: peeled, cored and chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. flour
1 Tbsp. curry powder
1 tsp. cumin
5 cups chicken broth
1 tomato, chopped
1 large potato, peeled and chopped
1 lb pre-cooked chicken, shredded

Saute the apple, onion, carrot & garlic in oil for 5-6 minutes. Mix flour, curry & cumin in a small bowl and add to vegetable mix. Cook 2 minutes more, stirring constantly. Stir in the broth, tomato & potato, bringing it to a boil. Lower the heat and cook at a gentle simmer for 20-30 minutes. Add the chicken and heat 5 minutes or so. Season with salt & pepper.

I've also managed to fit in some time at the piano, working on a new song that I'm finding rather challenging but fun. I'm sure TC and the neighbours are sick of hearing it by now - I need to get ahold of some headphones :)

Ugh, I've been sitting still for too long - my head feels like it's going to pop. Cheers.

Sunday at Casa Loma

Our friends L & M from Kingston came to visit this past weekend. It's the first time we've seen them since their wedding back in August, so it was great to have them here. Not only are the good friends, but they force us to become tourists in our own city. Last time they visited, we went to the Toronto Zoo and had a blast. This time they wanted to visit Casa Loma, a castle built here in TO back in the day by a rich guy who lost everything in the Great Depression. It's now a tourist attraction, and kind of neat.

This is the library, located just off of the great hall. You can't tell from this picture, but most of the books are actually fake. When the castle was privately owned, though, it was filled with the family's books.

I took this picture of the lady of the castle's sitting room because I think I could spend a significant amount of time here. Look at all that gorgeous light! There are comfy chairs to curl up in with a book or a craft project, a piano to play when the mood struck - and servants to clean it up when need be. Me likey :)

After touring all the main floors (there were three of them), we climbed an endless number of spiral stairs up into the highest tower to see the view from the little windows (that's M, taking a pic of the view). Every available surface of the tower was covered in the signatures of others who had made the climb, people from all over the world which was neat.

From the top of the castle we went all the way down to the bottom, through the secret tunnel that connects the main castle with some of the outbuildings. First stop...

...the potting shed. Apparently the grounds of the estate are spectacular, and after seeing this place I completely believe it! We'll have to go back in the summer to see the gardens. The next stop (and the final one)...

...the stables. The original family that owned the castle had quite the horse collection from the looks of things. What struck me was that it hasn't been inhabited in more than 50 years, but it still smelled like horse pee. Mmm. And, tucked away behind a locked door and down a shadowy hall, we beheld a rather creepy sight...

I bet you didn't know that Santa and his helpers hung out in the basement of the stables of Casa Loma during their off season, did you?

Creepy Santa workshop notwithstanding, I think my impression of our visit to Casa Loma was summed up rather nicely by another visitor:

Monday, January 26, 2009

Warning: This post may gross you out a little...

As I posted earlier this month, one of my resolutions for this year is to reduce the amount of water that my household uses each day. So far, most of what I've done has been in the way of observing our water usage habits - and it's not always pretty, people! My eyes have definitely been opened since I started taking note every time a tap is turned on or the toilet flushed.

We waste a lot of water! Turning the tap on full blast and letting it run for the duration as we brush our teeth - gak! Turning on the shower as soon as I enter the bathroom in the morning - oy vey! Flushing after every little dribble - egad! That's litres of perfectly good water down the drain.

All is not lost, though. We've started implementing some changes to this water-logged lifestyle. I'm working on remembering to turn off the tap between toothbrush rinsings, and not turning it on full blast at all. I'm also annoying TC by constantly pointing out his water wastage in this area :) The shower now waits until I'm ready to start, though I still have to let it run a little to warm up - I draw the line at cold showers! And our new flushing motto is "If it's yellow, let it mellow. If it's brown, flush it down." Unless we have company, of course, in which case we flush away. So there is progress!

Can I vent just a little bit, though? I'm also trying to be water-conscious wherever I go, and since starting this project I've developed a new pet peeve - people in public washrooms who feel the need to flush 15 times while using the toilet so that other people won't hear them do their thing. To those people, I just want to say...


It's not like we're sitting or standing outside the stall wondering if maybe you're composing a sonnet or plotting to overthrow the government. Everyone else in that bathroom knows that you went in there to relieve yourself - and nobody cares. We all do it, and it basically sounds the same. So smarten up, get over yourself and quit wasting water because of your vanity!

Okay, I'm done now.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Comfort Week - Image

Well, today is the last day of Comfort Week, and it's definitely the most challenging topic so far! Sherrie has asked us to focus on image by showing or linking to a picture that represents our idea of total comfort. After careful deliberation, I chose the one you see above. It was taken while we were in Yarmouth this past summer, and in it you see TC, walking with our good friends Blogless Annie and her husband Matt down a sidewalk-less road on a very foggy day (I'm walking behind them to take the picture). Why does this represent total comfort to me?

I guess the main reason is the sense of relaxed freedom - there are no boundaries here, in both a physical sense (road, shoulder, field - it doesn't matter, just walk wherever you want) and a relational sense (Matt and Annie are some of the closest friends we have, and we're able to share just about anything with them). We're not on a schedule, there's no concern about destination - we're in it for the experience, enjoying the journey wherever it may take us (and if you want to see where that was, you can find it here). There is a present-ness about it, at least partly because of the fog, which prevented us from seeing too far ahead or behind and allowed us to be content in the here and now.

To me, that is the essence of comfort.

[Be sure to check out everyone else's images - you can find links to their blogs here.]

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Comfort Week - Routine

Sherrie's challenge for today is to post about a behaviour/habit/routine that brings us comfort. To be completely honest, there are probably a million things that I do for the comfort it brings me, like every time I brew a cup of tea, or sit down to knit or crochet something, or bake a batch of chocolate chip cookies. (Actually, if I could sip a cup of tea and crochet between switching pans of cookies in the oven - I think I'd be in comfort heaven!)

But I've recently discovered a new routine that has fallen into place which is also very comforting, and I didn't realize it until this morning. As those of you who have been tracking along with me on this blog know, TC and I have had a rather difficult time making significant friendships since we moved to Toronto 3 years ago. In fact, it has only been in the last year that things have really progressed in this area, due in a large part to our new church.

The thought started last night as I put on a pair of slippers that I now keep at the home of some friends of ours. It hit me that the reason those slippers are there is that part of our routine is to be at their house at least twice a week, if not more, which is a rather remarkable thing. The couple whose house it is have become quite good friends of ours, and have made us feel so welcome in their home that it almost seems like a second home to us - so much so that TC no longer knocks before he goes in the door (although I'm trying to break him of that particular habit).

I guess it's not so much the behaviour/habit/routine of visiting these friends that I find comforting so much as the fact that it is a behaviour/habit/routine. Does that still count?

[Be sure to check out the posts of other Comfort Week participants, which you can find here.]

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Comfort Week - Place

I had to give a lot of thought to what I would consider to be the one place where I am the most comfortable. Memories of my parents' brown couch that was in the basement family room came to mind, where I'd often fall asleep in the intense heat from the wood stove while listening to the snap and crackle of the burning wood, but that place is no more since they moved into their new house so that won't do. Where, then, am I currently most comfortable?

Well, it's still a warm place - a place where I know I am loved, and where I could spend an unlimited amount of time if I was able. It's a place where I feel safe, and where I am most free to be myself. Where is that place? I know it may sound a bit cheesy, but the one place where I am most comfortable is in my husband's arms.

[Edit: I just noticed that today is National Hug Day in the US - how appropriate!]

[Edit Again: I forgot to mention that if you want to check out the other participants in comfort week, you can find them here.]

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Comfort Week - Home

The most comforting thing about my home is the light. We have a sun porch on the east side of our apartment, which lets in all the glorious morning light, and the great big bay windows in the bedrooms on the west side of the house do the same for the afternoon light. There is nothing more comforting than sitting or lying in a pool of sunlight, soaking in the warmth and sunshine-y goodness.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Comfort Foods

It's Comfort Week over at Sherrie's blog, and today's post is supposed to be about our favourite comfort foods. That turned out to be a perfect topic, since it's a cold, snowy January day, and after the long commute home comfort food was exactly what I needed. Something nice, simple, uncomplicated and easy. What did I make?

A great big, steaming bowl of creamy tomato soup, which I love to fill with crunched up crackers. And for dessert...

...a nice, hot cup of tea and some Toffifee. The comfort factor of tea should go without saying, but the Toffifee is a special treat. For as long as I can remember, my brother and I have always received a package of Toffifee from my grandparents for Christmas. It's become a tradition now, so I'm always reminded of my grammy and grampy whenever I eat a Toffifee. Plus, they have chocolate in them :)

Monday, January 12, 2009

I can't wait to have a house...

So you've probably noticed the lack of pictures around here lately. Part of the reason for it is that we no longer have internet access at home, so I would have to take our camera in to work and download the pictures onto my computer there if I wanted to post them online. The other part of the reason is that I'm too lazy to do so :)

Why, you may be asking, are we now internet-less? Apparently our landlord decided to nix the free wireless internet connection that's supposed to come with our apartment without telling us that he was going to do so. That's not entirely true - he didn't nix the whole thing, he just put a password on it and didn't tell us what it is. We are somewhat put out, since we were told when we agreed to live in this apartment that internet access was included.

It may all be a simple misunderstanding, as we haven't actually had the chance to talk to our landlord yet, but he's pulled stuff like this before (like not turning the heat on when it was 9 degrees in the apartment back in October because "it will warm up soon"), so I'm thinking it's deliberate. He came to our door the other night, and TC was going to mention it, but he was there to give us a belated Christmas present, so TC didn't want to ruin the warmfuzziness of the moment.

As far as I see it, our landlord has 2 options: 1) Give us the password so we can use the internet connection that we've been using for the past 2 years, or 2) Decrease our rent, since the amount we agreed on is based on the inclusion of free internet. Does that sound fair?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

A Rambling Revelation

I had an interesting revelation the other day. It happened as I was getting ready for bed. As is my custom most nights, I sat on the edge of the bed while I flossed, etc., thinking about the day and whether I had everything ready to go for the next morning. My train of thought was suddenly interrupted by the sound of wood cracking and a rapid decrease in the bed's elevation. Lo and behold, the wooden frame of the box spring had come off of the bed frame at some unknown juncture, and had slowly been bowing until I sat on that spot one too many times and it cracked in half.

That event was not a revelation in and of itself, but my reaction to it caused me to step back and realize how much I have been influenced by the culture I live in. After I had picked myself up, and TC and I had evaluated the damage, my thought process went as follows: First, I decided that we'd have to get a new mattress set. Then I remembered that the mattress itself is undamaged and only 5 years old, so I decided that we really only need a new box spring. We needed to sleep somewhere in the meantime, though, so we set about moving the things that we had been storing under the bed so that we could set the box spring directly on the floor, where the cracked wooden frame wouldn't matter until we got a new one.

Then it hit me. Why was my initial response to throw away the whole thing and get a new set? And why was I so quick to want to throw away this perfectly good box spring when all we had to do to make it work again was sit it on the floor instead of in a raised bed frame?

Our culture teaches us that people who sleep with their mattresses on the floor must be poor, since anyone who could afford one would obviously have a proper bed with a frame, and being poor is a very bad thing. It means that you have somehow failed as a person in the eyes of our highly materialistic society. But really, for anyone who doesn't have trouble sitting down or standing up from a low position, what purpose does a raised bed serve except as a status symbol?

Originally, beds were raised to avoid draughts, dirt and any little guests that might want to snuggle up with you while you slept. In most modern homes, these are no longer issues. For the majority of us, a bed frame has become a 'necessity' simply because that's just how most beds are. It's true, a raised bed provides extra storage, but my thought is, if we have to store it under the bed, do we really need it?

Now, I'm not knocking anyone for using a bed frame - there's nothing wrong with sleeping in a raised bed. That's not the point I'm trying to make. What struck me was that I had obviously been influenced by our culture's materialistic mindset to some extent, despite my efforts not to be, since the idea of keeping the mattresses on the floor didn't even cross my mind until I stopped and thought about it. My default position was the "chuck it and buy a new one" response.


I guess I haven't quite reached perfection after all ;o)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Be It Resolved That...

As promised, here are my 2009 hopes and dreams, folks!

Resolution #1 - I've been really inspired by our teaching pastor's latest sermon series on recognizing and unplugging from the lies our culture tells us, particularly relating to consumerism. (It's an awesome series called "Don't Drink the Kool-Aid" - you can listen to it here if you're interested.) As a society, we have become almost completely disconnected from the reality of how goods are produced and the true costs of that production. We also have more of those goods than we really need, and are constantly bombarded with the message that we won't be happy until we have even more. So this year, I will be making sure that every gift we give is a useful object that I either made myself or bought from someone who made it themselves, a donation made in the person's name, or the gift of an experience rather than a thing.

Resolution #2 - In my ongoing quest to decrease the demands that my household makes on the environment, for 2009 I will be actively looking for ways to reduce the amount of water that we use. Any tips and/or suggestions are welcome, and I'll try to keep you updated on the progress we make (if any).

Resolution #3 - I want to incorporate more prayer in my day-to-day life. And by "prayer" I mean having conversations with God about my life and His will and our relationship. Does that make sense? Right now, we don't really have those conversations. I kind of just assume He knows what's going on and will let me know if anything needs changing. I do let Him know if something comes up that I think needs His special attention, and I try to live my life in a way that He'll be pleased about, but we never really talk, just the two of us. I really want to try and change that, but I'm not quite sure what it will look like yet. Again, any tips and/or suggestions are welcome :)

And that's it! Hopefully 2009 will turn out as well as 2008 did :)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Highs and Lows...

We're back! It was a doozy of a trip, involving a cancelled flight, an overnight stay in the Montreal airport, hurricane force winds, 2 days without power, visiting with as many of our family and friends as we could manage, eating way too much food, and just generally having a wonderful time :)

What was the highlight of our trip? The incredible opportunities to watch and interact with nature. There's a spot not too far from TC's parents where a flock of chickadees live who are so tame that they will come and eat out of your hand. All you need to do is stand still with your hand extended (filled with bird feed, of course) and all of a sudden you feel a little grip on your finger and there's the cutest little bird watching you out of the corner of its eye as it gulps down a seed or two before flitting off to the bushes. The wildlife was a little larger but no less amazing at my parents' place, where they're visited by four or five deer every day - sometimes close enough that you could reach your arm through the window and touch them (though they'd never allow you close enough to do it). They're such beautiful creatures.

And the lowlight? Definitely the innumerable amount of comments from the MIL and FIL about their lack of grandchildren. Seriously, I'm hard-pressed to think of a two hour stretch in which some type of comment wasn't made - even if we were in the company of other people. Actually, now that I think about it, especially if we were in the company of other people! "And I told Mildred that if I had a granddaughter *meaningful glance in my direction* I'd have bought her that little dress...", "We'd like to have grandkids while we're still young enough to enjoy them...", "Well if you'd just forget about the pyjamas at night, it might help things along..." - this one was said while at a church pot-luck. I wish I was kidding, but I'm not. The MIL's last words to her son before he left for another year were "Keep making those babies." Nice.

But we're home now, and starting to get back into the swing of things. I've even come up with my goals for 2009, but I'm saving them for another post...