Tuesday, January 31, 2012

One little word - 2012

There is a blog thing called "one little word" and I joined in on this day a year ago with this word. 

Certainly having made a conscious decision to have "one little word" and the visual reminder (that I never managed to hang on the wall but that was propped against the wall next to my bed) was helpful and I did often ponder how "content" I was feeling.  It was more often in the moments of feeling disgruntled or discomforted that I tried to choose to be "content"...... I was not always successful!

2012

I have been thinking a lot (like a ridiculous amount of brain time) about my word for 2012.  I have had the benefit of  seeing which words others have chosen (most do it for Jan 1 but I do it for Feb 1).  I have considered many words but nothing really settled well in my mind or heart.

But ever the one to rock a deadline - I have my one word......

Also ever the non-conformist it's not a "little" word........

My word for 2012.......


I love the word "Aloha" but much more than that I love what it means, the spirit of Aloha

There are whole websites like this one on the meaning of the word and what it means to Hawaiian people. 

I loved the way it was used so often and with so many intentions in Hawaii.  It was obvious it meant more than just Hello........ I like that - a multi-purpose word!!

So I will try to live by "aloha" this year......try and emulate the gentleness and joy and unity of "aloha".


Monday, January 30, 2012

Zzzzzzzzz's Please

This blog post came to me fully formed in my head at 11:59pm last night.  After 89 minutes of sleep I was awake.  And concluded I had likely just had the best 89 minutes of sleep I was likely to have for the rest of the night.

How maddening!

Here's the thing with me and sleep:

1. I come from a long line of insomniacs......on my maternal side.....figures I got the gene. 

2. My Dad on the other hand (and his father before him) could nap for 30 minutes on a train station platform in Mumbai and awake refreshed.  Grandpa R called it "40 winks".   My sister is the same, although if I had 7 kids I would likely be able to nap on the loo for a few minutes just to keep going (not that she does that.....that I know of).  This napping gene missed me.  I would love to nap but it takes me an hour to fall asleep.....and when I wake up.....well lets just say....not good!

3. My best sleep of the night is right after I go to sleep IF I get to fall asleep with no interruptions - if this process is interrupted I am toast and hours of ceiling staring ensue.

4. I need darkness and I wear ear plugs.

5.Late nights are bearable occasionally and by late I mean midnight but all-nighters are just.not.worth.it anymore (if they ever were).  Even if I don't physically turn into a pumpkin when the clock strikes midnight my witty, engaging personality turns to dust.

6. My second best sleep is right before the alarm goes off.  I am often awake in the 5am hour but usually dead asleep when the alarm goes off at 6am.

7. I can hit the "sleep" button on the alarm with deadly accuracy, again and again.....because of course now I feel like I could sleep for hours. Doubtful but worth testing one day soon :)

8. My husband goes to sleep in less than 10 seconds.  There are times I imagine smothering him with a pillow such is my frustration at listening to his contented whiffling sleep as I lay wide awake.  This is a guy who slept through a deafening thunderflash going off outside his window when he was in the army - lucky they didn't need him to defend the country. And good luck to me if I hear "a noise" and try and wake him for assistance....

9.  When I do wake up in the night......often I stumble to the bathroom, trying not to open my eyes much, trying to tell my body it's not really out of bed or awake. This is why my legs look as though I have been beaten by a baseball bat......one tends to hit things in the dark with your eyes closed.



10. If my body/brain figure out I am up and awake my brain decides to start cataloging things.  And writing blogs, letters to the Editor, whole novels.  And the calendar part of my brain starts going through the week and all the things that need to be done.  And then the panic part of me awakes too so I can worry about getting it all done.

11. I have no strategies for any of this........I don't like to get up....it's cold and I am frankly scared of being downstairs on my own in the dark...I don't read because I would still be reading at 6am when the alarm went off.....I don't plug into an iPod or the radio because that would wind me up too much (well I could try quiet music but if it was sports or, God forbid, politics I would be done for!)

12. Now that my children are self sufficient in the mornings and I could sleep in ...... I can't..... or very rarely and then not past 9am..... cruel irony.

So I suck at sleeping well............

Do YOU have any trouble sleeping?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Weekend Whizz By

My life is at full tilt right now......it's usually busy (and I like it like that) but the last few and the next few are especially so.......

During the week Allan injured his neck and was in alot of pain and immobilized.........so I worked from home (why am I so much more efficient when I work here?). I also had a friend move house and I helped her out - a brave friend making a fresh start......so proud of her!  And I had the first Board meeting of the year at work with a touchy issue to deal with.

SO the week was busy.

Friday

Allan boarded a bus with some smart kids and robots and headed to Courtenay BC on Vancouver Island for a competition in which they took both first and second and two other awards!! The Cambie Robotics Dynasty continues.....

I went to Fab Abs - it was hard and my abs are still protesting......but that's good right?

My godson Arlo and his sister Sola came over for dinner and a visit on Saturday while their parents had a date.  We had a lovely visit - nice to have time to chat to them and play.....two such sweet children I feel lucky to spend time with.

I fell into bed Friday night so very tired........with my teenager for company......

Saturday

I had to teach all day Saturday so it was an early start.  I had a colleague come to help me out for the day and we ended up having a pretty fun day of learning and laughing - the students rated it very highly.

In between times I ran out to take David to soccer in snow and hail......which was thankfully short-lived and Lindsay came over to help David and I clean up after my class.  We came home and veged on the couch and ate take out.

Then I spent a lovely hour or so organising my new scrapbook cart. I do so love organising and moving out of three plastic boxes into this lovely unit with space for everything was a joyous task. 

Allan was home by 11pm.......(don't even get me started on the morons who don't think teachers work hard enough or deserve better pay - when my husband just worked over 36 hours unpaid so his students could participate in the competition).

Sunday

A blessed sleep in until 8:30am! 

Around 10:30am David and I headed downtown on the Canada line to do a shift at my Dad's booth at MissionsFest.   This huge expo of organisations serving across the world is amazing and inspiring. But I do find it frustrating at times.  I staff the booth once a year - it's my homage to my MK status (Missionary Kid)......once an MK always an MK........

After we finished our shift David and I went in search of sublime hot chocolate at the 2nd Annual Vancouver Hot chocolate  festival (thanks to Janice K for the hot tip :) we struck out.....but we found the crepe shop and feasted of crepes and I had a pretty sublime coffee!

Home now and hanging out as a family........recharging for another busy week.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Thouper Thursday

I made this soup on Tuesday and it was one of the best I have ever made.  Someone even suggested it just may have been the best soup group soup ever ....and there have been dozens.......so I feel pretty good about sharing it with you!  I baked the potatoes the night before and chopped the leeks so when I got home after 5pm I had soup ready in 45 minutes.......

Baked Potato and leek soup with cheddar and bacon (I did not use the bacon as I wanted the soup to be vegetarian friendly).

Serves 4 (I doubled it and it made a large pot and fed 8 adults and 3 kids)

3 medium, russet potatoes
1/4 cup unsalted butter
2.5 cups sliced leeks , rinsed well
2 medium cloves of garlic minced
2 cups vegetable of chicken broth (I used organic low sodium vegetable stock)
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk
4 slices bacon, diced (optional)
1 cup grated sharp cheddar (use the sharp cheddar - it makes a difference)
2 Tbs thinly sliced green onions for garnish

1. Bake the potatoes - 375 degree oven. Let cool completely.

2. Melt butter in pot and add leeks and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally until soft - about 10 minutes.  Add the broth and 2 cups of water. Bring to a simmer and cook until leeks are very soft - about 15 -20 mins. (I hurried this part along).

3. Cook bacon in a skillet (if desired) until brown and crisp. Drain and then let cool on paper towel.

4. Cut cooled potatoes lengthwise and roughly scoop out the middle and dice into bite size pieces and set aside. Coarsely chop the rest of the potato (skin and all) and add to the pot with the leeks and simmer for 5 minutes.

5. Puree everything in the pot in a blender in small batches.  Add more stock or water if it is too thick.

6 Reheat pureed soup gently, stirring often.

7. In a bowl whisk together the milk and sour cream until smooth and then whisk into the soup along with half the cheddar.


8. Stir in the diced baked potato.  It should be thick but if you prefer it thinner then add more water or stock.

9. Serve garnished with remaining cheddar, bacon bits and green onion.

ENJOY!!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Project

We have a particular flair as a couple/family for doing projects around our house. 

We are like a pot of cold water on the stove that takes forever to come to the boil but then quickly blows the lid off the pot!  We talk about a project for months (even years) .... little ideas like little bubbles........ we mull things over , look at various options, ponder, think, suggest......

And then all of a sudden at the most unlikely moment we leap into action, agree on a plan and execute immediately. 

It can make your head spin!

One late Saturday afternoon in our townhouse we suddenly decided that the "sunshine ceiling" we had lived with for years just HAD to go and go NOW.  We ripped it down, patched the ceiling and installed the new lights before the weekend was over.

This weekend was crazy busy and by Sunday afternoon at 3pm I was d.o.n.e. But I had bought some big bags to bag up some old clothes that were piling up in our room and I was determined to do that.  Allan who had been either at soccer or writing a paper all weekend appeared upstairs and a project of reorganising our room, long talked about, was ON.  The kids dived in to help and we were off!

A mere 4 hours later we had cleaned, sorted, organised, measured, gone to IKEA, returned, assembled furniture and installed it all in our room.

A new and much needed workspace was born.
Not quite "before" - more like middle of the project

Getting close

For all my scrap booking supplies - SO excited to organize it

Storage, books, a desk,........almost done
BEFORE

AFTER
A great new space to be creative and for Allan to work quietly when needed........ It was a crazy couple of hours but a really great result!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Check it out

One of the things I enjoy doing is writing reviews of place I go. I am now a Senior Reviewer with TripAdvisor.  I also use the TripAdvisor site when doing.....pretty much anything and most certainly before I book hotels.

I have learned the nuances of reading reviews too - you have to filter out the ranters and ravers - some people vent rather than review and although there may be a genuine issue at the heart of the matter it is lost in the rant.

You also have to read for expectations.  The people who stay in budget friendly hotels but expect 5 star service and amenities and total silence in their suite in a 400 room hotel and elevators that work at lightening speed through 37 floors over the holidays........ ridiculous expectations.

But when you read a reasoned review with genuine pros and cons and photos it can be such a valuable tool. 

And when you see a manager of said restaurant or hotel respond to EVERY review....it says ALOT about their attention to customers and their experiences and the power of review sites. 

One of the reasons I chose the hotel we stayed in in Hawaii was not because the reviews were perfect - they were mixed but better than average - but because the Manager responded to all the reviews with a well toned response.  I also made a change to our choice of suite because I did enough research to know I would be disappointed if I didn't have a view of the ocean....and I was right ......about what I needed and about the hotel...and I reviewed them honestly.

I have just booked our Spring Break trip - it seemed so awfully close to Christmas break but with only 10 weeks between the two I had to get on it.  The kids and Allan really want to surf again so we researched good beginner surfing spots along the central California coast - a place we have never managed to see and somewhere we could drive too (and see the cousins in Oregon on the way to and fro).

We are at the age and stage in our family that being in an all suite hotel works best for us on many levels.  A separate bedroom for Allan and I means better sleep all round (all 4 of us sharing a room is NOT my idea of a vacation and it's no longer appropriate for Lindsay and David to share a bed at their ages). We have found the Hilton Brand works well for us - Homewood Suites and Embassy Suites in particular.  I have become a Hilton Honours member and collects points for future stays and room upgrades.  The free in-hotel breakfasts are great - I hate going out to find breakfast and the kids love a breakfast buffet.......and having the option to eat in at night after a busy day works for us and saves money.

I was happy to find an Embassy Suites in Monterey until I read the TripAdvisor reviews.  They were quite nasty and there was a consistent thread of issues recently. 

So I emailed Hilton International with my concerns.  And they forwarded my email to the hotel with an assurance they were watching the response.  Within 2 days I got a phone call from Monterey from Connie.  She missed me at home but called me at work the following day. 

We had a good chat. She acknowledged the issues I had brought up, gave a great explanation for why those reviews had happened (8 basketball teams staying 6 to a room and pulling the fire alarms in the night three nights running and overwhelming both housekeeping and breakfast service) and saying they were both embarrassed by failing to rise to the circumstances and by the negative reviews.  She indicated they had reviewed their internal systems, notified me that there was some upgrading happening in February that should be completed by mid March when we visited and assured me they would do all they could to make our stay pleasant.

I made the reservation and know that even if things are not perfect Connie and I can talk about it and work it out.

Moral of my story - check it out if you are concerned, check the source and don't expect perfection when traveling!  Most hotels and restaurants and attractions are trying to please their customers but the saying "You can't please all of the people all of the time" is a truism.  And some of the onus is on me/you, the customer, to do enough research to know what you are getting into.  We know what we value when traveling and I spend hours finding the closest thing to our needs and wants that I can afford.

I'll post a link to my review when we get back in March!  Just counting the days until my toes hit the sand again.......and managing expectations with my family........Monterey is not Waikiki people.......here's hoping it's warm and sunny and the surf breaks just right for my guys!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

A date with a difference

Our current Monday - Friday schedule is hectic - we manage dinner as a family on Monday's but on Tuesday/Wednesday and Thursday we are all off in a variety of directions.  Fridays are hit and miss too and in this first three months of 2012 we have more weekends booked up than ever.......

This Friday both our kids had events on and it looked for a few minutes like Allan and I might sneak a date in. Alas Allan is under huge pressure from his regular job plus a pretty intense University Course and has a huge paper due and I could see he was stressed.

I had a moment where I felt frustrated and disappointed ....I wanted my time with Allan and a nice dinner out.  But the more I thought about it I realised what I wanted to do was give Allan the gift of time, quiet time in the house, to get a good grip on his paper so he would feel less stressed.

It was one of those times it seemed more important to serve my spouse than be served.

 I sent him a note during the day and told him I was gifting him time to go and work out while I drove the kids and then I would make him a nice dinner and then he could get to work while the house was quiet.

 And that is exactly what happened....... we had date night at home.......we chatted and had a lovely meal and Allan got in a couple of hours on his paper.

Win-Win-Win.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Frosty Friday

As the rain begins to fall outside my window it looks as if our one week winter is coming to an end.  Just a people were glorying in the mildest winter on record we got a good wallop of winter - it has been extremely cold (for us) and icy but for many of us, not enough snow.  My children have eagerly anticipated the forecasted several inches of snow only to awaken to one or two inches - certainly not enough for a "Snow Day".

The weather has been the topic of the week and so whether you love it or hate it, whether you still hold out hope for more snow or if you can't wait for the rain to wash it all away..... here are some Frosty Friday photos from my drive into work this morning and some of the park across from my office......I hope you enjoy them.


Snug Harbour


Always leave the porch light on!






Boo Grandpa Nick




Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Local / Natural / Organic.....or not

I haven't blogged about food in a while........although our goal to produce food from our own veggie garden into the Fall was met - it turns out we don't like the masses of kale we grew.....now we know!  As winter takes a grip here it is so much harder to stick to the "eat local" plan and where as in the summer I would turn my back on a <insert fruit/veggie of choice> if it wasn't from our region, now I easily pick up one shipped from miles away because I just have to have <insert fruit/veggie of choice>.

So fickle and weak am I.  So easily sucked into the "have what you want when you want it" mindset.  I politely silence the facts I know to be true about carbon footprint etc.. etc.... and I justify the heck our of my choices........"the children need fresh veggies".......

Allan buying the fish off the boat
So when Sunday rolled around and I cast around for inspiration for Tuesday Soup Group I was feeling pretty awesome that I would use a salmon in the freezer we bought locally in the summer from the docks in Steveston (I even helped filet it and skin it ), bought my veggies from the local small green grocer in Steveston and use salmon stock Allan made and froze months ago.

Saint Nicky of the Salmon Chowder..........giving my halo a good polish with the dishtowel.  Before I checked where the fennel and dill came from........ oh well......at least half the soup is "local", it is all veggie and all organic.....and I have my fingers crossed it will be delicious. 

Two posts on FB this week made me realise that we have a long way to go in this whole "eat local" movement but I think the very fact it's getting out on social media so much and people are talking about it and making choices, even inconsistent choices like mine, then maybe that is at least half a step in the right direction.

Here are those links that made me think........I haven't had time to "verify" the facts here but even if only half of it is true it's horrifying enough....


Can You Guess What McDonald’s Food Item This Is?

Say hello to mechanically separated chicken. It’s what all fast-food chicken is made – things like chicken nuggets and patties. Also, the processed frozen chicken in the stores is made from it.

Basically, the entire chicken is smashed and pressed through a sieve — bones, eyes, guts, and all. it comes out looking like this.

There’s more: because it’s crawling with bacteria, it will be washed with ammonia, soaked in it, actually. Then, because it tastes gross, it will be reflavored artificially. Then, because it is weirdly pink, it will be dyed with artificial color.

But, hey, at least it tastes good, right?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Dissatisfaction

On a day when Americans have a statutory holiday to remember the contribution of the great Martin Luther King Jnr., his remarkable and inspiring speech will be oft quoted.  So often we only read the "I have a dream" part..... or other snippets (read the whole speech if you can - or listen to it)
 
The part that really stirs my soul though is the end of the speech.........I think of the world when I read these words (not just the USA).....it applies......and imagine if we were all dissatisfied enough to move to action on these things......imagine.....
 
 
 
"So, I conclude by saying again today that we have a task and let us go out with a "divine dissatisfaction." Let us be dissatisfied until America will no longer have a high blood pressure of creeds and an anemia of deeds. 

Let us be dissatisfied until the tragic walls that separate the outer city of wealth and comfort and the inner city of poverty and despair shall be crushed by the battering rams of the forces of justice. Let us be dissatisfied until those that live on the outskirts of hope are brought into the metropolis of daily security. 

Let us be dissatisfied until slums are cast into the junk heaps of history, and every family is living in a decent sanitary home. Let us be dissatisfied until the dark yesterdays of segregated schools will be transformed into bright tomorrows of quality, integrated education. 

Let us be dissatisfied until integration is not seen as a problem but as an opportunity to participate in the beauty of diversity. 

Let us be dissatisfied until men and women, however black they may be, will be judged on the basis of the content of their character and not on the basis of the color of their skin. Let us be dissatisfied. 

Let us be dissatisfied until every state capitol houses a governor who will do justly, who will love mercy and who will walk humbly with his God. 

Let us be dissatisfied until from every city hall, justice will roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream. 

Let us be dissatisfied until that day when the lion and the lamb shall lie down together and every man will sit under his own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid. Let us be dissatisfied. And men will recognize that out of one blood God made all men to dwell upon the face of the earth."  

-- Martin Luther King Jr., Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Georgia 1967.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Weekend

There have been few weeks as busy as the last in our house .......things conspired to fill every afternoon and evening and scheduling and juggling skills were needed on an hour by hour basis.  We even had to call in reinforcements to help.   I can see from several of my friends Facebook statuses it was a tough week for more than our household.

My week finally ended with a 10pm pickup of Lindsay from youth group and as I sank into bed my whole body was exhausted.  Nevertheless I was up at 7am Saturday and off to a Jazzercise class and then we decided to take the rare soccer-free Saturday and head to the States to do some clothes shopping. 

We all needed something and the thought of a mini road trip and a day as a family are two of my top 5 best things in the world.  The little bit of snow overnight Friday scared a good number of people off the road and out of the outlets so we have no border waits, no traffic and no crowds or line-ups and had a very pleasant few hours getting bargains.  I was especially delighted with a great deal on my new workout shoes......delight that turned to disappointment when we got all the way home and found I had left them in a store at the outlets........a bit of a damper on an otherwise lovely day and I am presently working on a plan to get the shoes back to me somehow as the snow today precludes a 2 hour round trip for a pair of shoes!

While shopping David spied a long board and thus his day became focused on this thing he really badly wanted.  I ceded decision making to Allan on this one as I have no idea what a long board is, what the things to consider  are etc and if this was a good deal or not.  We waited until the end of our shopping to make a final decision and with David chipping in half of the cost from his holiday money (a sure sign he wanted this badly!) we came home with a long board.

Allan and I were reflecting on the way home how that feeling as a child of wanting somethings so badly and then getting it (or not) still resonates today and we can both recall how it felt to get that thing (for me a First Love doll and later a bike) and how great it is to be able to give that to our children.  Lindsay was equally glad I sprung for a pair of funky and trendy Osiris skater shoes for her.

 We ended our day with a grocery stop at Trader Joes and a very pleasant meal at the Olive Garden before we encountered a very gracious border guard who overlooked our greatly exceeded daily shopping limit and waved us through.

As always on these days - we laughed (mostly at Lindsay's inappropriate but stinkin' hilarious jokes while banning her from ever repeating them), we talked, we sang, we caught up with each other, chatted about what is coming up this week. 

Although it was a long day it was a break and a time to reconnect as a family and that is fuel for the week ahead for me.

Now if I can just figure out how to get those shoes home I could declare it a perfect day!


Bad iPhone shot of waiting at Olive Garden