Friday, November 30, 2012

Jazzer Party

Jazzercise Christmas Party......

I know the image that conjures up in your mind.

I know what image it conjured up in mine a few years ago.

I know what people think about Jazzercise in general. I only have to say that I do it.....or mention it and I see that look.

I drove past the sign offering Jazzercise classes for years myself.

I tried gyms, I tried running, I tried a personal trainer......and then one day just shy of my 40th birthday I joined Jazzercise.

And I have never looked back.

And I have never stopped loving it.

Last night we had a potluck after class to celebrate the Holidays.

I am not a big fan of those sorts of social events.....ones that are not at my house....where I don't know people really well.

But I decided to go because this group of women has become a community of mine, a part of my circle.

At a usual class we all meet and chat for just a few minutes before Janice (our inspirational and motivational leader of the dance) gets us moving into the routines...... at the end after we give ourselves a round of applause, we yell our cheery goodbyes as we leave.  So this party was a chance to chat for a bit longer - to get to know one another a little better.

We're a motley crew - but I think we are pretty inspirational. 


There is a lady who stands in the front row who is over 70 - and she rocks it ... truly amazing!  She told me last night she has been a bit dizzy lately because her blood pressure is a bit up....but did she miss a class...no way!

There are several older ladies who put me to shame - despite creaky joints, tired shoulders....they keep on moving.  The inspire me to keep going when I think one more set of squats will kill me.

There are those of us who are a bit doughy around the middle - with stories of babies, surgeries, challenges of one sort or another that shaped us the way we are.  We huff and puff and laugh when we go the wrong way (that whole left/right thing can be tricky when dancing).

There are the skinny ones too - trying to get fit and stay in shape - young and old.....doing the moves.

There are the new "kids" who are gangly and clumsy - who get cheered on and encouraged by us "oldies" who still misstep the odd time or two.

We even have some guys joining us now! 

I am proud that we go to class after class, put our efforts in, burn those calories....we are moving, we are taking care of ourselves, setting examples for our families.

So as I looked around the room last night I wished those who laugh or are scornful or who don't believe Jazzercise is an awesome and effective workout could see us........beautiful, strong, women ..... who have moves.

Man.do.we.have.moves.

Come join us anytime! 1 hour = 600 calories burned (ask my pants - they will vouch for it!)

And no...you don't need big hair, a leotard or leg warmers!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

You don't know what you don't know

Never was there a decision to get a dog that was more debated than in our house.  As discussed in THIS post we have a puppy called Spanner.  In many respects things have been going well.  He sleeps well, no accidents inside, nothing major chewed....etc..... we put some of the behaviour we did see down to puppyhood.

We were proud that he "sits", "downs" and "leaves it" and is very invested in food as a reward.  He walks (after the first 6 weeks of refusing to move his butt off the sidewalk) but now he pulls and I am sure my shoulder joints are going to wear out.

He does well at school and with Allan but the rest of us are struggling.

But what was supposed to be a happy addition to our family was more work and more confrontation that any of us were enjoying.

We asked friends for suggestions and got some great ones.  I contacted his breeder with whom we have maintained a lovely relationship.  Her dogs were so incredibly well trained and she put us in touch with their trainer.

Scott came to our home last night.   A big, friendly, giant of a man.

He started with a long conversation with us before he saw Spanner.  We were almost immediately feeling information overload but he said so many things that just made so much sense.

He totally De-romanticised the whole dog/human relationship which I think was helpful for the kids especially.  Too many Disney movies, too much smother love from us.

And then he met Spanner.  

Who jumped on him. 

And then the "magic" began.  Our very own "dog whisperer" in action.

He talked in a calm quiet voice and used a clicker and treats to modify Spanners behaviour in under 15 minutes.  We all stood in awe as he repeated commands in a calm voice and reinforced the appropriate behaviour and ignored the inappropriate behaviour until Spanner just stopped doing it.

Over the next 90 minutes Spanner did things he has never done (like heel off leash and lie quietly in a "wait" for over 40 minutes) and we soaked in as much info as we could and asked dozens of questions and took furious notes.

Scott left us with tools (clickers and chains and retriever toys) and treats (rollover) and information.......and his email......and an invitation to his class in Vancouver so we can practice what he taught us.
The clicker and the website

We were a little overwhelmed when he left (I will be honest I wanted him to move in with us) but we had hope that we can have the well behaved, calm and confident dog we want...... David was beaming from ear to ear .....

This morning it was a whole new world for us and for Spanner who sat on his bed in the kitchen all morning as we bustled around him.  We clicked, we jangled the chain a couple times but we have a strategy, a plan and some new skills to try.

P H E W.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Wordless Wednesday - Kitchen Dancing

While I made Broccoli Cheddar Soup - Lindsay schooled David in some waltz techniques as they start dance in PE on Monday.....and then a dance party broke out in the kitchen.  Apologies for grainy blurry shots from my phone while stirring soup.









Saturday, November 24, 2012

A long ago letter

I recently wrote THIS post on the delight of getting mail.....real snail mail....and many of you agreed that it is a delight and should be done more often.

In that same week our new Pastor at our new church (who had been the youth pastor at St Johns Shaughnessy when I was a youth and visiting Canada for 8 months back in 1988) told me he had a letter to show me.

He mentioned this letter again in passing and said I would enjoy reading it.

I was intrigued and a little worried.

And then one Sunday a couple weeks ago he handed me a letter I had written from South Africa to him here in Canada in 1989.

Oh.my.word.

I didn't want to open it.  My heart was literally hammering as I imagined what my 19 year old self could have written.


I extracted the letter, written on that familiar thin airmail paper, saw my still familiar handwriting, took a deep breath and began to fall through a time warp to 1989.

So.very.weird.
So.very. interesting.

To my relief the writing was coherent and intelligent if full of the intensity and angst of a 19 year old feeling oddly displaced after a year of international travel and living in a country blowing apart.

It was clear I was missing Vancouver

How funny to see a vow made 23 years ago be so completely fulfilled although at the time of writing it I could not have even dreamed that it would have happened.

Also so hard to be drawn back into the emotional maelstrom of what 1989 was like in South Africa


Those were dark and scary days.......the country was on a knife edge.....change was being demanded...there was hope for a different future at the same time as desperation that it could ever be peacefully found.  It was terrifying at times but there was a certain energy you get from living in turmoil that I have never felt since...... not that I miss it....just that when you are in that turmoil it normalizes somewhat and when you come out of it...move away to a peaceful, safe place.... the calm and quiet is disquietening at first and can seem bland after a while.

Sitting in the pew at St Johns Richmond - reading the words
in my letter from so long ago felt very surreal......like I had just completed a full circle....that maybe I was home now, here.

That the plan for my life is unfolding as it was meant to....as it should.

When my heart quit hammering and I had time to ponder it all I felt amazed at the journey my life has been thus far......so incredibly grateful for a faith that has been a constant refuge through the mountains and valleys I have traveled.

I felt gratitude for innumerable people, places, experiences, jobs, moments that have filled my life.

And then as I was slipping the letter back in the envelope I saw the stamp.

I cannot be old enough to have licked a stamp that only cost 16c for international airmail can I?

Oh.dear.me.


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Shopping with Purpose

I have been trying to shop with purpose as the Holiday season approaches.

Not just to check off that TO DO list or complete the spreadsheet....but to give gifts that matter to the person who is making and selling them, to me who cares where my dollars go and to those I love who will receive the gifts.

My dollars are not many but I chose to place them where they can make a change....where they will matter.

I have been guided many times to the vendors Heather Hendricks has been linking to in her blogs on this topic. 

A few lovely packages have already arrived at my home and will be treasured by those who receive them.

If you want to give a gift that gives twice check out Heather's post HERE.

Let the inspiration of these crafts and art from around the world bring you Hope as you give a hand to lift the burden of poverty that rests on too many in our world.

Happy Shopping!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Dan Dan/Tan Tan/Yum Yum

After my first couple of forays into local Asian cuisine detailed here, here and most recently here things had stalled.

I lapsed into my subway/starbucks ways with only one foray into an Asian bakery.

I voiced my frustration at work that my Asian Education had stalled......I needed a kickstart.

I went back to basics with Pho from Westlake.

This time I went with chicken and Vietnamese sausage.  It was every bit the comforting bowl of goodness I wanted although I found the chicken and sausage a little bland - the beef was more flavourful.

I love the bean sprouts and the noodles and the broth but I feel like such a waster when I cannot finish it.

But at least I was back to Asian food.

Things really took off last week though when I lunched at Chen's with my colleague Jennifer Chen! Not related!

 This unassuming store front on Park Dr piqued my interest when the 365Richmond Food blogger declared their XLB's to better than the ones as Shanghai River ....how can this be true..... my first love XLB's bested?  I needed to check it out!

And Mrs Chen was a willing accomplice....and she had another agenda...she wanted to introduce me to Dan Dan (sometimes called Tan Tan) Noodles.  She felt it was the perfect next step in my education.

We entered a very plain, dated interior and the usual indifferent service that I would have had trouble navigating without someone who spoke the lingo!

Jen efficiently checked off our order on the extensive menu
And soon the XLB's arrived
Bigger than expected and completely impossible to eat in one bite which makes for a messy experience which they almost made up for with the tender and flavorful filling.....almost ..... but my personal verdict was that the Shanghai River XLB's are better!  If you can't get the whole soupy, meaty hit all at one the experience is flawed for me.........look at me..........XLB connoisseur......I've come a long way!

But then for the main event
The Dan Dan noodles....... a dish that easily surpassed all others until now...... hands down.  Hot and spicy and so peanutty with perfect noodles...it was sublime.....I could have eaten just that....so so delicious.  I realise I truly love peanuts in......everything from Dan Dan noodles to hot choc fudge sundaes and I am EVER so relieved no one in my family has an allergy to them and yet I hardly ever cook with them.....I don't think we have any in our house at all (we have friends with allergies so we are pretty careful)......maybe that will be my next cooking adventure ...... peanut something......

Yesterday in the cold and rain and wind I sat at my desk dreaming of this dish.....wondering if I could make myself understood enough to order it.....I didn't do it.  But today someone in this building is going to teach me "One order of Dan Dan noodles to go please" in Mandarin.

The green beans were also fantastic...
It was an amazing meal.....I loved it all.

Thanks Jen Chen and Chen's ..... lets do this again sometime soon!

What could my next Asian food foray possibly be?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Timeline to Olympic Glory

We hit Friday night with a collective sigh and slumped onto the couch.

Those 4 day weeks are sneaky little weeks - they lull you into thinking they will be a be a breeze and then they sucker punch you.

I am onto them.  I didn't end up on the ropes.  But I was ready to be done!

Saturday was the usual Byres Madness with a touch of added craziness thrown in because we Byres like to take busy, crazy, mad to the next level....it's like an olympic sport with us.....and trust me when I tell you we would make the podium.....no, no....we would OWN the podium!

7am             Alarm

7:15am        Al walks the dog

8am             Me to Jazzercise (3 days of consecutive workouts after a work induced break - my abs are protesting....much)

8:30am        Boys to soccer

9am             Lindsay to babysit

9am             Me home, let the dog out to ..... play?, shower, put on the laundry, blow dry hair, put dog back in crate.

10am          Me at Vancouver Winter Farmers Market (locals - go to this market - it is so wonderful!).  I did a quick spin around and got some great food and collected the case of frozen organic chickens that were donated to my work for our silent auction.

10:45am     Deposited chickens at work

11am          Me home

11:15am     Boys home from Soccer soaking wet.

11:15          Allan walks the dog.....again.

12:00          Lindsay home

12:15          Lindsay and I head for the border

1pm            We are across in pouring rain and headed to Bellingham.

1:30pm ish  Fred Meyer to get Starbucks VIA for Al's sister and brother-in-law in South Africa who need it STAT .  We find other things to buy at FM.  As do 50,000 other people.

2pm            We are off to the post office to mail the package full of VIA coffee.  With no GPS (left it on the couch at home).  We pull up outside Starbucks and steal WiFi and we are off again.

2:25pm        Locate Post Office in dubious part of town.  Have no money for meter so run into RiteAid and buy something to get change.

2:35pm        Dash through rain into post office.  Which is clearly closed. Assemble parcel and address it hoping for a postal miracle. No luck.  Postal worker appears and tells us about a different office which may be open. Across town.

2:50pm        It is not open.

2:55pm        Steal more Wifi at Starbucks parking lot.

3:10pm        Arrive at UPS store.  They can't accept an international package.  But I can courier for about the same price as a University Degree.

3:15pm        Dejected and frustrated we pack it in and head to the Mall......a perfectly logical solution to dejectedness and frustration......and if you disagree I can find you 55,000 people who felt the same was as we did and were also at the Mall......listening to Boney M Christmas music.

3:20 - 5:10pm   Shopped.

5:10pm         I was seized by the notion I should check what time the Costco closed seeing as that was the other point of going to Bellingham. The website said 6pm.

5:11pm         Yell for Lindsay - dart through Target and the rest of the Mall like people on the run from the Law or on the Amazing Race. (I then proceeded to inexplicably trip every 10 paces - it was ridiculous)

5:15pm         Arrived at Costco (no that is not a typo if you are following the timeline but we are not going to talk about that) It seems everyone who was at the Mall with us did the same thing because there were 55,000 people there too.  We split up did mad crazed loops around an unfamiliar Costco and were out the door by 5:45pm.

5:50pm         We sat in a booth at Bobby McHales - a mega restaurant in the Costco parking lot - tired and hungry.  We both spied the Holey Moley Guacamole Burger and ordered it.  It was magnificent in a way only an American, oversized, inexpensive burger can be for two hungry Canadian girls who may not have conquered "The List" but did accomplish much.

6:45            We staggered to the car via a Starbucks for actual drinks this time not just their Wifi..... and while we were waiting Lindsay looks over towards Costco and remark it appears to still be open.

WHAT??

Indeed the website is wrong and the sign outside (which we missed as we blasted through the doors) says its open until 7pm.....SIGH!

7:00pm        Filled up with gas.

7:45pm        A kindly border guard lets us through seeing as we didn't buy guns or alcohol

8:15pm        HOME - Costco unpacked in record time

9:15pm        The Pastor FB's me to ask if I will speak at a General meeting after Church tomorrow. I say yes. Of course.

9:30pm        Boys home from Bond.....James Bond

10pm           All lights in the house out.

Think you could beat us to the CrazyMadBusy Family Olympic Podium?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Unexpected events

We headed to our cabin after a wonderful day on Friday - speediest pack, dog in harness, Friday night long weekend traffic, dark.....Fun times!

We got there alive.....and tired and it was a very chilly -5 degrees.

Once we un-winterized the cabin, cranked the heat, lit the fire, settled the dog....opened a bottle of red wine and plopped on the couch I said to Allan that I felt as though I had just run a marathon .... working 18 of the last 21 days. 

I was soon tucked in under the comfy duvet and asleep.

The next morning, in the daylight we surveyed the cabin bathroom floor.

It was a mess.  A few leaks over the years had left a mess of warped laminate.  Tired as we were we knew that floor had to come up.

As these things tend to....the more we removed the bigger became the problem.

With the whole floor up we could see that the water was coming from the base of the toilet every time it flushed.....Grrrrreat!
One thing led to another and pretty soon we realised we were headed back to Hope BC to get a new bathroom floor and some plumbing supplies.

We went to the trusty RONA in Hope (having checked it out earlier) to get what we needed.

I found a RONA guy and told him we needed bathroom underlay and then some laminate flooring.

We walked outside to get it.


"So you are using laminate in the bathroom floor?"

"Yes - that is what was there before"

"There is some laminate that works ok in bathrooms and kitchens."

"I am assuming from your voice that this isn't it?"

"Nope we don't sell Aqualock laminate here"

"Ok then I guess we are stuck with this. My husband knows it's not the best choice but we have to get this floor down this weekend."

"Well I used Aqualock in my home and I have a couple extra boxes I could let you have"

"Oh wow...um.....ok....is it this colour we wanted?"

"Nope...it's this darker brown.....but it doesn't matter because it's the right stuff for a bathroom".

"Riiiight....ok...how much would you sell it for?"


"$20 for the two boxes and I will throw in the underlay foam"

"Wow...that is amazing.....let me find my husband and I will be right back"

I dash inside to find Allan in the caulking aisle and breathily relay the story wondering if I am being scammed.....Allan is on board in a minute. A guy who loves a bargain!

I dash back outside and tell Rona dude we will take it but where does he live and when can we get the "goods"?  He says "come with me".....of course Allan is nowhere in sight so I wander off with Rona dude to the sidewalk and he points at a house 3 doors up the street and says " Pull your truck in there and I will load it up - I think it's about time for my coffee break anyway".

I reconfirm the deal.  And realise we don't have $20 between us.

We tell Rona dude we will be right back and drive across Hope (4 minutes tops) to the Credit Union.  I leap from the truck and dash to the door.

It's locked.

I can see the ATM but I cannot get to it.

I do the classic shake of the locked door as if it may magically spring open at my willing.

I hear a honk behind me.

Crap.

I turn and a lovely older lady in a huge truck yells "There is a drive through ATM around back Honey".

I wave in thanks as I take off at a sprint (lest Rona dude sell our goods to the next DIYer or the police arrive) and leap (gazelle-like) around an RV trying to make the corner and beat it to the ATM.  Funds in my hands I can't resist running through the rest of the drive through and returned triumphant at the truck resisting the urge to yell "Start the car, start the car!".

We dash to the little house with the red roof by the Rona and the dude loads the two boxes and the underlay and hands Allan the tool to lay the floor with a casual "Just drop it by the store when you are done".  We handed over the $20.

Incredible....we just saved $150 and he lent us his tools. 




We returned and the renovation was done in around 8 hours.  Of course it was the one only time we have had a puppy in tow but he took careful note of all the work and waited patiently for his Dad to be done.  It went pretty well with the requisite sighing and dire mutterings from Allan but not many curses..and the result is amazing.
And we returned the tools to the Rona dude on our way back to Richmond musing on how cool it can be to live in a small town sometimes. 


Or did we just meet a nice guy who could have lived anywhere?


Either way we felt grateful.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Wordless Wedensday - First Snow

We woke on November 12 to 3 inches of snow at our cabin in Sunshine Valley.  There is something magical about that first dusting.








Photo credits to Lindsay Byres using my iPhone