Friday, December 29, 2017

It's over already?!

Since my last post, I started and finished my Christmas shopping, had a birthday, and celebrated Christmas. Now the tree is down, decorations are mostly put away and it's all in the past.

But it was a good month. In fact, I'd say it was one of the better Decembers I've had. Doing my Christmas shopping later seems to work well for me. It seems like it would be more stressful but somehow it's not. I have less of a tendency to over-buy and over-think things.

We also had a lot of quiet evenings at home and some outside entertainment as well. Dale and I took the kids to see A Christmas Carol at MTC. We literally had front row seats (cheap seats!) to all the action and all five of us loved the show. Another evening a bunch of us went out for Vietnamese food and to a Christmas concert at the West End Cultural Centre. I saw the ad on Facebook and rounded up a crew to go see a band none of us had ever heard of before (Sultans of String). They were great and it was a spontaneous fun night.

We had friends over for appetizers another night:

Dale's work party was another night, which is not my favourite. I don't know anyone because it's the staff of the office where he rents space from. We literally talked to one guy the entire time - it was just the three of us at a table - and I spent a fair amount of time strongly encouraging him to seek counselling to get over a wrong that had been done to him in the past. That was not super festive.

It really makes a difference having no kid activities in December. The days of school Christmas concerts, recitals, and gymnastics parties appear to be behind us. I kind of miss them, but I guess there's a reason this was such a relaxed December.

Now let's talk about my birthday in great detail. You can skip this paragraph if you saw my pics on Instagram. I basically photo-documented the whole day. But I'm glad I did because it was such a great day. From now on, I'm going to try and replicate it exactly every year. Every month would be even better! Or every week! Every day might be a bit much.

Dale is always good about making my day special and tries to keep it separate from Christmas. He always wraps my gifts in birthday wrapping paper. He left me Ferrero Rocher chocolates in my underwear drawer and there was a stack of gifts on the table when I got up. He commissioned Chloe to bake me a chocolate cheesecake birthday cake.

Darla, Shannon and I went for to Stella's for brunch. Darla's birthday is the day before mine (and Shannon's is in January) so it was a general celebration. Once we all found parking, it was a great way to start the day. They could set up a Stella's in the middle of a cow pasture with parking a mile away and it would be packed all the time. Even if people had to walk through knee-deep cow shit and deal with raging bulls. But I love every menu item I've ever tried there so I guess there's a good reason for that.

I stopped in Osborne Village to do some last minute shopping and then headed home. On Academy, I saw a car ahead of me lose control on the road and her car slid around and crashed to a halt when it smashed into a street sign. I was right behind her and stopped to check on her. Her window had smashed all over her and she was very shaken but she was physically okay. I stayed with her a while to make sure she was okay and knew what to do and luckily she could still drive away. She was pretty distraught and I felt really bad for her. But it could've been so much worse.

In the afternoon, Kristin stopped by for a short visit and then Janet came over and we went to Starbucks. When I got home, it was almost time for happy hour. My neighbours brought all the food and even made fancy birthday crantinis.

Right after that, Dale and the kids took me to the Marion Street Eatery for dinner. I've been there a couple of times and it never disappoints. I had a gourmet grilled cheese sandwich which I would definitely have again.

We came home for birthday cake and presents. Chloe always does an amazing job of organizing and collecting from the other kids and buying gifts I love. They got me a yoga mat, soap and more. Dale's not too bad himself - I got clothes, a puzzle and a Hamam gift card from Ten Spa.

This is one of my favourite gifts. I always beg Neve to let me do her hair like I did when she was younger but she always declines. So she made me this clever jar where I can pick out hairstyles to do on her. I love it so much.

Later Dale, Neve and I went to Jim & Sabrina's Christmas party. By this time I couldn't eat another bite which is too bad because the charcuterie board they put together was like nothing I've ever seen. I should've taken a picture.

So that was my birthday. I'm very thankful for my family and friends who made it such a great day. Hashtag blessed. Hashtag ILoveThem. Hashtag IlookforwardtotheexactsamedaynextDec.22. Yeah, that's pretty annoying.

Dale's sister and her family from Florida come for Christmas every other year and this was an "on" year. It's always a treat to have them here and makes the celebrations more fun. They came over for brunch on the 23rd, and then we celebrated Christmas with the whole family on Dec. 26.

On Christmas Eve, we cleaned up, played games, and watched a movie. Then we had our annual fettuccini-scallop dinner, followed by the candlelight service at Grant. Singing Silent Night with all the candles lit is probably one of our favourite things ever. Dale's mom joined us for the service and then came over afterward. We had a chocolate fondue and opened a few gifts. Later, we went for our annual Christmas Eve walk to see lights and then watched the animated version of "The Grinch."

Thanks to Pat for that beautiful centrepiece - it should be turned 90 degrees to show an even better side!

Santa must have put the kids on the Nice list because this is what we woke up to on Christmas morning.

Followed quickly by this:

Dale and I usually just buy each other a few little things like socks or a book but sometimes he surprises me and goes all out. I thought I'd beat him at his own game this year and buy him a foot massager that he wanted (it's really a gift for me since that means I don't have to do it). I was going to make him wait until Christmas morning to open it but he suspected what it was and really wanted to open it on Christmas Eve. So I let him, and sure enough, he was all excited. He unwrapped it and took it out of the box, plugged it in and pressed the "on" button. Nothing happened. We tried many times, with different outlets, but it was a dud. I was so mad. Especially since of course he bought me something bigger too. I got a heated mattress pad which sounds like something old, sick people use but let me tell you how awesome it is. I turn it on about 15 minutes before I go to bed and climb into a toasty warm bed. It's a game-changer. Anyway, I went to exchange the foot massager after Christmas but they didn't have any left so they ordered me a new one.

The karaoke machine was a hit

I'm going to stop there and leave the rest of the Christmas updates for another day. I've been enjoying this mixed-up, unstructured blur of days between Christmas and New Years. I've finished one 1000-piece puzzle and am about to start the second. I've read, watched movies, and barely left the house. No exercising and lots of carbs is a temporary lifestyle I'm enjoying to the fullest. Chocolate covered pretzels for breakfast? Yes please.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Party on


I'm breathing a big sigh of relief and happiness over here.

We hosted our sort-of annual (we sometimes skip a year) neighbourhood party last night. A large part of the past week was spent cleaning and preparing for it but it was definitely Worth It. We had a great turnout and had a lot of fun. We have awesome neighbours. We have a mix of young and old, singles and families and I love it when they all meet and mingle. I feel like a proud mother watching her children get along and have fun together. Some of them didn't know each other before but everyone was chatty and friendly and fun. One of my favourite moments was when two women who knew each other professionally spotted each other and were shocked to find out they'd been neighbours for over a year. They live literally straight across the street from each other. They were both so excited and made plans to see each other. There were other great connections made as well; it really is a small city and an even smaller neighbourhood.

I regret not taking pictures during the party. It's just a bit weird to start taking pictures of people that I don't know super well. I wish I'd at least taken a photo of the table spread. We had so much food. I made a lot of it but people brought stuff too. I love appetizer/snacky foods SO much. We set up a photo booth in the study and mostly forgot to tell people to go use it. The kids had a heyday with it - it was quite entertaining to see the pictures on my camera today. At the end, we did some pics with Janet and the girls (honourary neighbours!).

Tia wins by far for the best face. Actually I didn't know we were making faces. Neither did anyone else - I guess it was Tia's secret.

Other happenings last week included a busy week at work. Thursday was our annual luncheon with the premier and you may have seen the news about an a comment he made there. It caused quite a stir because it was inappropriate and put all involved in an awkward position.

On Friday we had our staff Christmas party. We had a nice dinner, followed by virtual reality games. It's the first time I've done VR;  I didn't really know what it was. But it was so cool! I did "The Plank," which involved walking a plank off the edge of a really tall building. I was okay with walking the plank even though it was pretty freaky, but when I was told to step off the plank, everything in my body resisted the idea. It took me a couple of minutes to build up the nerve to step off. The company who did the VR has a place in the Exchange District called the Portal. If you're looking for something to do during the holidays (or any time), check it out!

Another thing I did this week was go on another tour of the North Forge Fabrication Lab (the place I talked about a couple of weeks ago). This time my dad and two uncles came and I think they all found it very interesting. I don't get many opportunities to hang out with my dad and his brothers so that was fun.

Now that the party's done and work is less busy, it's starting to feel like Christmas. Yesterday morning I zipped over to Shelmerdines and walked around the greenhouse with Janet. I bought a wreath (pictured above) which I love but ironically it's made of real greens and is meant to be hung outside, while the wreath I have hanging outside the front door is artificial. So I keep switching around the wreaths to give the real one as much outside time as possible. Whenever anyone comes over, I'll quickly switch them. Except if they come to the front door, it's going to be awkward. Christmas is complicated.

Today I slept in, went for a run, wrote out a few Christmas cards to people who live far away, went to the Forks with Dale to do a bit of shopping, and then went to Starbucks for eggnog lattes. We had planned to have coffee at the Forks but it was so full. It's nice to see it all vibrant and busy but the older I get, the less time I like to spend in a crowd. After our usual Sunday nacho dinner, we played Dutch Blitz and watched Elf. How's that for a good weekend?!

This week I hope to turn my attention to Christmas shopping. We have a few other fun things going on so I think it's going to be a good week. Wishing you all a happy mid-December week!

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Day 30

This is the end of the line for my 30 days of blogging that took me 40 days to complete. The same thing happened the last time I did a 30-day challenge. I'll have to start calling it the "30 in 40 challenge." It was kind of fun forcing myself to write something but I struggled with meaningful content. Maybe that's a sign that I need to shake things up and find new things to do and experience. I'll let you know how that goes.

The vast majority of the day today was spent at Neve's gymnastics competition. Unlike her last in-house one, this was a competition with at least six different clubs competing. Neve's club is less intense than some of the others so our expectations are realistic. She did really well, but unfortunately so did the others. I was secretly willing her competitors to fall off the beam. A lot of them did. Is that bad? Coincidentally, she placed second in beam which was her best event. I'm mostly joking about wishing ill upon her competitors; I'm really not a hardcore sports mom and generally want everyone to be happy. But it's nice if my kid is the happiest.

In an exciting and unexpected turn of events, her final score earned her a spot in the 2018 Manitoba Games, which are being held in Thompson in March (the top six gymnasts in each level were chosen). A week or two ago, I heard Neve mention this possibility in passing but apparently I wasn't listening or didn't think it pertained to us. So when the announcement was made at the competition today and the team members were instantly whisked away to get fitted for new team bodysuits, I was caught totally off guard. I had to ask other parents what was going on and they all seemed to know all the details and some of them had booked hotel rooms in Thompson in August already. WTF? How am I the only mom that is totally clueless?! So I guess we're going to Thompson. Except all the hotel rooms are already booked so we might have to sleep in the van (fortunately the gymnasts already have accommodations). I suck.

Of course Neve was super excited about being part of this team, and also excited that a friend from school came with us to watch the competition. This is a new friend she's made this school year, and I have to say a new friend that will sit for over three hours to watch you is a very good friend indeed.

It's a busy week ahead filled with work, cleaning, shopping, decorating, Christmas parties, appointments and more. Bring it on!

Day 29

Today I toiled in the kitchen from sun-up to sun-down. I made:
  • white velvet cookies (and icing)
  • chocolate peanut butter balls
  • caramel chocolate squares
  • chocolate pretzel bark
  • chocolate mini cupcakes
You may notice a pattern in my baking. I like chocolate.

The above list doesn't count the banana bread I made first thing this morning. My kids are odd - they preferred the banana bread to my Christmas baking. Even Spencer, who is repulsed by bananas.

We went to Mike & Darla's tonight. We had a delicious dinner of Chinese food, followed by Rook. I didn't win but I've done worse. I should've gotten their cute puppy on the picture too. And their cute kids. I had a really great time, especially since it was the first time I left the house that day.

I also got the lights and ribbon on our Christmas tree this afternoon. Tomorrow we need to finish that up along with the rest of the decorating. I was inspired by Mike & Darla's simple yet festive holiday decor. I'm hoping to sort through my bins and remember that less is more.

Friday, December 01, 2017

Day 28

It's December! All five of us went to pick a tree. It wasn't as idyllic as it sounds; Dale and I had to zip to Costco first so we met the kids at the tree lot and picked out a tree in 30 seconds. Spencer took off the instant we decided on a tree and walked home. The girls said, "Why did we all have to come?" and also left. For the record, I asked the kids if they wanted to come and I was surprised when they all said yes. No one was forced to be there.

When we got home, the girls and I watched the Grinch (the one with Jim Carrey) while Dale watched hockey and Spencer roamed the house. But we were all home and it was nice. The smell of pine is in the air and it's starting to feel like Christmas.

I was super productive today. I had a long list of things to do and I accomplished all of them except one. I even bought a couple of Christmas gifts (although a couple were for myself) which wasn't even on the list. It felt good to get so much done and I definitely deserved happy hour today. Who am I kidding, I always deserve happy hour.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Day 27

I'm feeling pretty good tonight. I finally finished a writing project I've been working on for over four years. I could've written the great American novel in all that time but I assure you I did not. I can't give more details at this point because it's a Christmas gift (for someone whom I don't think even reads the blog), but I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I should clarify that I haven't been working on it for four years straight - it's been a very sporadic project with a few years off in between. But tonight I finally sent it to the printers and all that's left to do is wait for it to arrive and wrap it up.

Now that that's out of the way, I need to get in gear for Christmas. There's so much that I need to do that I need to make a list of the lists I need to make.

This afternoon I had high tea in Rosenort. That's something you probably never thought you'd hear. But yes! It's a thing at the Farmhouse CafĂ©. Before today, the only time I'd ever had high tea was at the American Girl store in Miami so my experience was limited. Dolls and small children are not very picky (although it was actually considerably better than I expected). High tea at the Farmhouse was quite lovely with its elegant table setting and yummy little finger food. I went with my sister, my mom, Dale's mom, and my sister's neighbour. I would post a photo of us but I don't know how the neighbour feels about being on the interweb.

It just so happened that on tonight's episode of the Great Canadian Baker, the bakers had to make high tea goodies for one of the challenges. The creations they came up with were much (much!) fancier than what we had. I wish I hadn't seen that. I'll just tell myself they probably didn't taste as good as ours did.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Day 26

It felt like spring today. I wasn't ready for the snow to stay in early November so every morning I look out the window with hopes that it would've melted in the night. It's supposed to be nice all week so my wish may still come true.

I just finished one of the best books I've read in a long time. It's a thriller called Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris. By "best", I don't mean in a highbrow literary way, I mean most riveting, can't-put-it-down way. Without giving anything away, this woman marries someone who is not as the person he appeared to be. After reading this book I'm going to scrutinize every person I thought I knew and search for red flags. I probably shouldn't give you advance warning; if there are any psychopaths among you, now you'll be extra careful the next time I see you. Good luck with that, I'm still going to expose you for you really are.

We had a cute little visitor tonight. My great-nephew hung out here while his parents were out. I've said it before and I'll probably say it again, but this is such a chill kid. He is so content and easy-going, it's almost hard to believe he's real. He played happily with trains for a long time and then went to bed with basically no objection. I got a little carried away with the picture-taking and posting but I'm sure no one's going to complain about excessive cuteness.


Sunday, November 26, 2017

Day 25

I'm starting to think about starting to think about Christmas. The only festive sign so far is the red berry wreath on my front door. It's very old and a little bit broken but I just try to answer the door really fast so no one looks at it too closely. If you ring my doorbell and I leap out from around the corner to swing the door open, don't be scared.

So yeah, one shabby wreath is where I'm at. Oh, and I also listened to The Killers Christmas songs today. December 1st is usually tree day and I like doing some cleaning before it goes up. Let me rephrase that: I like the idea of a clean house before the tree goes up. If I waited until the house was actually clean, there would never be a tree. But I'll give it a shot this week before I pull out the decorations and go get the tree next weekend.

We had a decent family picture of us taken at Bailey's wedding this summer, so I've considered sending Christmas cards this year. I was planning to just print out a stack of photos and stick them in cards but then Janet gave me a nice printed photo card tonight so I went online and looked into ordering some. I've since talked myself out of that since the timing is getting tight. But who knows - by tomorrow I may have talked myself back into it. The point of this story is don't expect a Christmas card. The problem is that I really like getting cards so I feel I need to reciprocate every few years.

I'm also trying to find a Christmas concert or something to go to this year. Our days of school concerts have come to an end so we need to fill the void. There were many years that I complained about school concerts but I guess time really does heal all wounds because I now look back at them wistfully (mostly the ones at Neve's old school). I'm considering MTC's Christmas Carol but there's no night that works out for all of us to go. I'm trying to convince Chloe to switch a work shift but she's reluctant to do so. That means going without her or finding something else to go to. We went to the JP Hoe Show last year and loved it but we can't make it this year. If you know of a good concert or performance of some kind, let me know.

The weekend ended on a high note with a get-together at Jim and Sabrina's. They put on a delicious taco bar spread and it was great seeing everyone. They have a rental house occupied by a family from Spain who just found out they are being transferred to Alberta. So tonight was a chance to say goodbye to them. They are a sweet family with two adorable kids and we're sorry to see them leave. Probably not as sorry as Jim and Sabrina though. If you're looking for a great house to rent in Waverley Heights, check it out.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Day 24

My perfect Saturday involves:
  • getting things done
  • exercise
  • relaxing
  • having fun
  • seeing people besides my family

I could check off all those boxes today except for the last one, which is okay because I was with people yesterday and will be again tomorrow.

I slept in til about 10:00 a.m. which felt amazing even though the last hour was spent dreaming terrible dreams that traumatized me yet I can't remember one detail.

I went for my first outdoor run in weeks and it felt really good. After some cleaning and gymnastics carpooling, Dale and I did a bunch of errands. Costco and Canadian Tire are not on my list of a perfect Saturday but they were a necessary evil.

Then I spent an hour and a half at Starbucks working on a project. Every single time I'm at our neighbourhood Starbucks, a staff member is on the customer side of the counter, ordering a drink, often with people waiting in line behind them. I didn't realize the guy holding up the line today was a staff member until later. He couldn't decide what to order and hemmed and hawed and changed his order several times with at least five people waiting behind him. Really? Can't they just make themselves a drink on their down time?

It was a rare Saturday night with no plans for any of us. We had nachos for dinner, played Qwirkle, and then Chloe and I went to see a late movie. We saw Ladybird which was funny and quirky, just the way I like my movies. It reminded me of Juno (although I think I liked Juno better).

Now I'm off to bed with a belly full of popcorn and a bladder full of Coke Zero.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Day 23

Today was a Leadership Winnipeg day with the focus on Start-up and Innovation. We started out at the Manitoba Technology Accelerator where we learned how they help entrepreneurs and then had a little Q & A and tour with the founders of Skip the Dishes. I don't know if you know much about them but it's an amazing story. It went from a few guys trying to figure things out on their own to a huge company with 950 employees (and hiring many more every month), not without a lot of stress and frustration and the usual challenges of starting a business. The founders seem like really down-to-earth guys who are prairie-proud and invested in keeping the headquarters here.

After a Chamber luncheon at the Delta, where we heard from the CEO of GE Canada who talked about innovative things they're involved in, we went to North Forge Fabrication Lab in the Exchange. It's a makerspace where anyone can go to collaborate, get advice and use equipment and machines like laser and 3D printers for building prototypes, etc. They have an open house and tour every Tuesday night if you're interested. I'm going to take my dad - I think he'd find it very interesting (Dad, tell me which Tuesday you're available!).

So that was my day. I zipped home as fast as could be and made sushi during happy hour. We wolfed down our sushi while Dale watched the PVR'd Jets game, which was not quite like I pictured his family birthday dinner. But we had to get to the final birthday celebration ... an escape room!

I'd suggested doing an escape room a few times, but Spencer has always been strongly opposed to it. I have no idea why. So I kept the plan a surprise until we got there. The boy was not impressed. But once we were in the room, we all enjoyed it. Okay, Spencer appeared to enjoy it but told us later he didn't like it at all. This picture makes me laugh.

Only Neve and I had ever done an escape room before but our previous experience apparently did us no good whatsoever. Despite TONS of hints, we still didn't get out in an hour. Apparently we are not good at puzzles. Or at looking for clues. Or figuring out hints. Oh well, we can't be good at everything. But we are good at having fun despite our failure.
This was a brand new place on Provencher. They had a great deal on Groupon, so check it out. Just don't rub it in if you succeed where we failed.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Day 22

It seems wrong (at my youthful age) to be married to a 51-year-old. But it's not about me today, it's about this guy:


We've been through a lot of birthdays together and I'm very thankful for each one. They've been good years. Not always perfect, but pretty great. The older we get, the more I appreciate every happy, healthy year!

Dale is very difficult to buy presents for. In the past I've bought things that I thought were so brilliant but he never used them. There are many unread books and unused items and gadgets littering our house. Now I usually just buy him clothes which are at least practical. The kids also got him a game (Qwirkle) and I bought him a murse (man purse). Every day when he goes to work he scurries around collecting his wallet, phone, sunglasses, lunch, extra warm clothes in case he goes for a walk at lunch, and so on. He crams it all into one or two plastic Safeway bags. I hate plastic grocery bags so much. It's seriously one of my biggest pet peeves - they're messy and crinkly and look cheap so unless you're actually using them to carry groceries you've just bought (even then, I dislike them), I don't want to see them.* So I bought him a nice small simple black backpack. He wasn't thrilled and I don't have very high hopes that he'll actually use it because he has no problem with plastic bags. Obviously this gift is more for me than for him. I have secret dreams that he will grow to love this bag and won't know how he could have managed without it. Oh well, he loved the Jets hoodie.

* I happened to see this in the news today. Now THERE'S a good use for plastic bags!

To celebrate Dale's birthday, Neve had a gymnastics competition. I think it was called The Dale Classic. At least it should have been. It was an in-house competition to get some practice before the real competitions start. Neve did well and emerged as the gold medalist in her category.

Following that, the grandparents came over and we had strawberry cream cheese trifle (shout-out to Darla for the recipe - always a hit!). Dale let loose and had some, even though it was well after 7:00 p.m.


 Due to gymnastics and Chloe's other plans tonight, we will continue with more celebrating tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Day 21

Here I am! Still chugging away! I think I can, I think I can...

I'm responsible for several very different things at work and this week I've been busy with all of them. My brain is tired from switching from one thing to the next all day long but it's all stuff I like. One thing I accomplished was finalizing the details for our next trip and starting to market it. Within hours of sending the trip information to our travel group, I received two registrations, several "probably"s and a bunch more that are very interested. So ... if you want to come to SPAIN & MOROCCO with me, sign up soon! Well, you have a bit of time - the info session isn't until Feb. 27 but based on my limited knowledge and experience, I think it could sell out quickly. Click here for more details if you're interested (you should come!).

My biggest accomplishment today was cleaning the upstairs bathtub. I never shower up there so I trust the kids to clean it. Chloe makes an effort now and then but it needed more attention than quickly wiping it between episodes of Stranger Things. So I scrubbed it thoroughly with my Mr. Clean magic eraser, hoping all the while that it's safe for tubs but it seems fine and it's now basically as clean as the day we got it. I've gone into the bathroom several times this afternoon solely to admire my work. It inspired me to go one step further and clean the light fixture in that bathroom. I took the bulbs out and removed the covers and washed them. That's never been done before and may never happen again.

My second biggest achievement was finally finding the sushi seasoning that I use when I make sushi. Our usual Superstore doesn't carry it anymore and I went to three Asian food stores downtown in the last few days with no success. But then tonight I went to the St. James Superstore with its larger international food section and just when I was about to give up, there it was! This my not sound very exciting to you but I was envisioning our bleak future without homemade sushi. As a bonus, when searching the Asian food stores, I discovered beautiful bowls and dishes. I was in a hurry so I didn't have time to look much but I'm definitely going back. In fact, I'm going to buy all my souvenirs there before I go to Japan so that I don't have to drag them across the world. No one will ever know. Now forget you read this. If your memory is anything like mine, that won't be an issue.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Day 20

It's tricky to come up with something to say when there is nothing new to report. I slept in, made scones, went to church, read and napped in the afternoon, and then went to Dale's mom's for dinner.

The most productive thing I did today was save all my iPhone pics to the Mac, and then backed up the Mac. Now I can delete all the pictures from my phone in hopes that there will now be enough space to play Google Music. I don't understand iPhone storage. I've pared down all my apps to the bare minimum, have barely any music or photos on my phone and half the time I still don't even have space to take a photo. First world problems, I guess.

I also delivered party invitations to my neighbours for our upcoming Christmas party. We have a bunch of new neighbours so it was nice meeting some of them for the first time. We'll see if they actually come to the party but at least I did my part. Well, except for the part of actually preparing for the party. That seems daunting but now that everyone's invited, I better make it happen.

And with that, I will say goodnight and proceed to the week ahead.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Day 19

I'm hesitant to say it on the record, but it's starting to feel like Christmas. I'm not quite to the decorating stage yet but a Christmas song came up on my iPod when it was on shuffle and I didn't skip it. That's a big step. I did some baking this afternoon followed by the Santa Claus parade tonight which is always a sign that Christmas is coming. We watched it from the boardroom at work as usual but this year it was more of an official work function rather than just a casual thing with friends and family. Pizza and snacks were served complete with an appearance by Santa himself. We missed the parade last year so it was nice to be back, no matter how many times we've seen the same floats.

At the end of the parade the streets empty out quickly, but this year there were three little children left on their own, with no adults around. The oldest child was about ten and she was holding a baby. Thank goodness for the Downtown Biz patrols, who took charge of the situation, waited with the kids and eventually led them away when no one came for them. It's sad to think that while many were enjoying a fun, festive event, these kids were left on their own and probably worried and scared. I have no idea what the situation was but it definitely can't have been fun for them.

We continued our festivities when we got home by making popcorn and watching a Christmas movie. Spencer opted out of coming to the Santa parade so I negotiated that he had to watch the movie with us instead. We all wrote down our movie pick on pieces of paper and I drew the winner, which just happened to be mine. I was accused of cheating but in the end everyone came to terms with it and we watched a movie I found on Netflix that looked good. It wasn't. It was terrible and we fast-forwarded a lot of it. I think it was called Once Upon a Holiday. Don't watch it. To erase it from our minds, we followed it up with a Christmas episode of The Office.

In other news, we went to Clay Oven with Blake and Kristin last night, which means I had Indian food two days in a row and it was delicious both times. Afterward, we went to the Forks and walked around. I hadn't been there for a while; there were a lot of new restaurants (Red Ember!) and shops. A lot were already closed at that hour so I want to go back when I'm in the mood for Christmas shopping.

See how many times I mentioned Christmas?! I really must be getting in the spirit.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Day 18

Here are today's highlights in chronological order:
  • A meaningful conversation with the lady who waxes my eyebrows. So meaningful in fact that not only did I shed a few tears during our talk, I shed some more when I told Dale about it later. I am not a cryer, never mind twice in one day. When I say it like that, it doesn't sound like it should be a highlight but when someone is vulnerable and shares personal things with me, it feels good.
  • I briefly met one of Neve's teachers for the first time. I knew all her elementary teachers so well but middle school is a whole different story.
  • I had lunch with my aunt at Falafel House. I hadn't seen her in months and it was great to catch up. She's a pretty cool aunt. I had a falafel pita that was so huge and thick that once I picked it up, I couldn't put it down again because it would've fallen apart. So I held it lovingly in my hands until it was all gone. Then I used a lot of napkins to wipe up the sauce that had dripped all over my hands. It was delicious and I'd like one again tomorrow.
  • I bought two Christmas gifts today: one online and another one from a little shop. I'm not in shopping mode yet, but I'm trying to get a jump on a few things that I have to order.
  • A friend who was on the India & Dubai trip compiled and ordered photobooks for anyone who wanted one. Tonight she hosted a little get-together for people to come and pick up their books. She made several Indian dishes: paneer, biryani and butter chicken. Sabrina brought samosas and others brought dessert. It was fun to see everyone (including my parents and sister-in-law) again, talk about the trip and dream about the next one.

Here are today's low points:
  • I hit my head on the van door today, hard enough to cause a bump on my forehead. How could that happen, you ask? I'd like to know too. I was about to get in the van and opened the door exactly like I have ten thousand times before but somehow I misjudged my proximity to the van door and it smacked me HARD right on the forehead. That was awesome.
  • While Spencer got a haircut, I browsed the shops on Lilac near Corydon. That was pleasant until I went into a store called City Haul, which you may be familiar with if you are a purchaser of bongs or other drug paraphernalia. I am not, so I naively went in to browse. The first thing I saw was the clerk with a big parrot on his shoulder so I froze at the door. I fought my impulse to turn right around and walk out but I didn't want to be rude (it's reassuring to me that my social graces trump my phobia) so I tried to act like nothing was wrong. I don't know how well I pulled that off when my first question was, "So ... does she fly around?" Turns out "he" has his wings clipped but I was still wary as I browsed the bizarre and varied selection of everything from cereal to board games to the aforementioned bongs.
Now it's your turn - what's your high/low?

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Day 17

When we were at the bookstore in Fargo, I picked up a book about hygge. I'd heard the word "hygge" a few times but didn't know what it meant. Now I do, and I use it as many times a day as I can.

It's a Danish word pronounced HOO-ga and it's basically a hipster thing that means comfort and contentment. There are more detailed definitions involving relationships and a philosophy of life, but in a nutshell:

Things that are hygge:
  • candles
  • hot beverages
  • books
  • fireplaces
  • warm sweaters
  • thick knitted socks
  • scarves
  • board games
  • cinnamon buns

Things that are not hygge:
  • cell phones
  • the opposite of everything above

So could you just use the word "cozy" instead? Sure.
Don't most people with common sense already know how to be cozy? Well, yeah.
Is hygge more fun to say? A million times yes.

Now that winter's here, my only goal is to say and do hygge as much as possible (I'm pretty sure I'm not using the word correctly). I'm all about comfy sweats, snuggling under a blanket, a good book, soft music, hot tea, and warm cookies (except where will the warm cookies come from if I'm too hygge to bake? Maybe the Fargo cookie place will make a special trip). All previous goals and efforts to be productive and energetic are going up in the smoke of my scented candle. So expect nothing from me for the next five months, unless I can do it while hygge-ing.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Day 16

My 30 day challenge is obviously not happening in 30 consecutive days. I think that defeats the whole purpose because I can easily do 30 posts if I have no timeline. I've been doing it for years, in fact.

I shall regroup and try to do better.

I have a good excuse for missing the last two days though. We realized last week that all five of us had a very rare clear schedule this weekend so we decided to go to Fargo from Saturday morning to Sunday night. We had such a good time; as the kids get older I find myself clinging onto good family time like that. Staying in a hotel and enjoying the pool and hot tub, eating out, watching TLC and the Food Network, and lots of junk food make us all happy. Shopping doesn't hurt either. The boys were happy to chill at the hotel while Chloe, Neve and I did a Target-Kohl's-Hobby Lobby circuit. We didn't buy a lot but everyone came home with something.

We all went downtown on Saturday before check-in and again on Sunday. There are some great shops on Broadway, including Zandbroz, our new favourite. It's a book store & gift shop with a little bit of everything; we spent hours there and even bought a few Christmas presents. They had new books in the front - you could tell they were carefully selected because I wanted every single one - and secondhand books in a back room that used to be a soda shop. Spencer was fascinated with the age of some of the books and didn't want to leave. He was seriously considering buying a trigonometry book from the 1800s but decided against it in the end. Sometimes I find it hard to believe he came from my womb.

There was another used bookstore across the street, more cute gift stores and even a cookie shop that will deliver warm cookies to your home until 3 a.m. seven days a week (I assume your home has to be in Fargo). There was a lot more to explore but time and temperature (no snow though!) were not on our side.

It was short and sweet, but still felt longer than two days. The downside is that it got us dreaming of longer family trips to places that are more difficult to turn into reality. Until then, we'll grab whatever opportunities come our way.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Day 15

My nightstand.has been overrun with books lately. I'm reading more than usual; you'd think the stack would be going down but the opposite seems to be happening. I often pick up books from the little free libraries in our neighbourhood and put them back when I'm done. I'm also a sucker for the discount books at McNally Robinson and Chapters. Three for $10? Yes please. Sometimes there's a reason they're so cheap, but I often find books I really like.

One book I didn't like was The Almost Moon. I liked the author's first book The Lovely Bones, but this one was slow and dumb. How's that for an articulate review? Sorry, it's late and I'm tired.

The Wilfred Thesiger books were recommended by our guide in Dubai (whom I was not fond of so I'm not sure why I trusted his judgement). Wilfred Thesiger was a British guy who loved exploring uncharted territory. I think I've given up on The Life of My Choice because it's thick and boring but I'm liking Arabian Sands so far. It's about his time spent with the Bedouins in the desert (now United Arab Emirates). It's interesting to see how the world has changed in a relatively short period of time.

I've finished most of the books in the picture so if you have any good suggestions, let me know.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Day 14

The first ten days of daily posts were pretty easy but now I'm heading into the part where I struggle. If you thought the content was weak until now, just wait. You ain't seen nothing yet.

To prove my point, here's a picture of the dinner I made today:

It may not be very photogenic but it's yummy black bean soup from my beloved Loonyspoons cookbook with sourdough bread from Stephen & Andrews on Academy. That place always smells SO good. If I worked there, I would eat all day long.

Speaking of bread, I watched the Great Canadian Baker show again last night and it was Bread Week. They made focaccia bread and it looked so delicious that I'm going to try it myself. Although I said the same thing after Cake Week last week and that went nowhere. Maybe things will be different this time so if you have a good focaccia bread recipe, send it my way.

It's been really busy at work this week and I've had stuff up almost every evening. Last night I went out for dinner with a friend. She's actually more a friend of Teresa's but we occasionally get together to feel a little closer to Teresa. We mostly talk about how much we still miss her after 4.5 years. I know now what people mean when they say it doesn't get easier, you just get more used to it. Which I guess means it's easier it some ways, but it still sucks. And if it sucks for me, I can't even wrap my head around how much worse it is for her kids, husband and family.

Tonight I went to the gym with my neighbor who's been inviting/bugging me to come with her. It was my first time at the new GoodLife. I ran on the treadmill and then spent the rest of the time wandering around awkwardly pretending I knew how to use the weight machines. It was confirmation that I'm not a gym person. I don't like the wasted time of driving to and from the gym, being surrounded by 20-year-old bodies, and the wiping-sweat-from-the-machines protocol. So I'll just keep working out with my vintage Jillian Michaels CDs in my musty basement.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Day 13

I read a fair number of books; most are pretty forgettable but some have stayed with me for many years. A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout is definitely one that sticks. Amanda is the Canadian woman who was kidnapped and held for ransom in Somalia for 15 months. She's been in the news again recently because the Canadian government lured one of her captors to Ottawa and he's currently on trial. (I'd like to learn more about that luring process - go Canada!)

Anyway, Amanda's mother Lorinda Stewart recently wrote a book called One Day Closer about her role as mother and negotiator, trying to bring her daughter home. I haven't read it yet but McNally put on a book launch/talk with both Amanda and her mother, so Janet and I went to hear what they had to say. I've thought about A House in the Sky many times since I read it so it was kind of moving to see the author and her mom together and up close after all they've been through.

There are several things that stood out for me:
  • The will to survive: I guess this is different for different people but despite her horrific ordeal when all seems endless and hopeless, Amanda seriously contemplates suicide only once. When she is about to do it, she sees a bird in the strip of light from her partially open door. She hasn't seen a bird for a year and she takes it as a sign of hope. (A bird would probably not be my sign of hope, but it is hers). She realizes she wants to live and is determined to survive.
  • The mother-daughter bond: Both Amanda and her mother get through those 15 months by dreaming of the day they'll see each other again. The most heartbreaking thing was when Amanda spoke to her mother on the phone after being tortured (and almost killed) for three days straight. Her first words were, "Mommy...mommy...mommy...mommy...mommy... please help me." I want to cry for both of them just thinking about it. I cannot even imagine getting that phone call. The stress took a physical toll on Lorinda, who developed a tremor during that time which has never gone away. Both Amanda and her mother suffer from PTSD, which they still struggle with.
  • All my problems are tiny compared to this.
  • I need to go hug my children and tell them never to travel. At least not without me.
  • I heard Wilma Derksen speak a few weeks ago and couldn't help comparing the stories. I don't know which one is worse. I'm glad I don't have to choose. It's incredible to hear what people go through and still be able to function and lead meaningful lives. I guess you just do what you have to and get through one day (or one second) at a time. I hope I never find out.
  • Practice gratitude (Lorinda mentioned that). Look for the positive.
So there's my report. If you want to read more about them, click here.

Monday, November 06, 2017

Day 12

Monday again. He keeps coming back even though no one likes him. I almost admire his perseverance.
But I shall bask in the glow of a well-spent weekend until the next one comes. Fun stuff included Happy Hour with my neighbours and Siobhan, going to Wasabi Saturday night with friends, seeing both Dale's mom and my family, and shopping & Starbucks with the girls. On the productive side, I cleaned my oven (in hopes that the smoke detector will quit going off whenever I use it), finished raking the backyard and putting away summer stuff before it snowed, and Dale and I cleaned up papers and odds and ends that somehow accumulate in our bedroom. It feels much better although there is still work to be done.
The cleaning bug continued today with this situation:

I know - there is a lot to look at in this photo. Neve's balance beam and gymnastics make this look even more busy than it is.

We have two bins of dolls, clothing & accessories in the playroom. I keep them there for my nieces but they were over Saturday night and didn't even touch them. They prefer the Playmobil these days. So I spread out all the doll stuff and made Chloe* choose her most beloved dolls; the rest will be passed on. Chloe and I both feel sad about removing any babies from our care but we tell ourselves that the dolls will be happier when someone actually plays with them. We'll choose their new homes carefully and have scheduled visitation rights. Okay, we're not that crazy. But almost.

*Spencer and Neve were never into dolls. I remember Dale's mom buying Spencer a Caillou doll which he wanted nothing to do with. Neve always preferred being the baby rather than taking care of one (still does). She loved Barbies and stuffed toys instead.

So that's the most exciting thing that I did today. How about you?

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Day 11

Today is Three Picture Day.

It's not the weekend without pancakes. We alternate between three different recipes: the old classic which is the easiest, one that's more work with whipped egg whites folded in, and one in between with sour cream. Each kid prefers a different recipe so someone is always unhappy. But they've mostly come to terms with it and barely complain when it's not their recipe. Maybe they're growing in maturity and are just thankful and appreciative that their mother is taking the time to make pancakes for them. Or maybe they've grown to like all three kinds. It's anybody's guess.

The girls and I went to Starbucks for one of their Christmas drinks. I've never had an eggnog latte because I'm not sure if I like eggnog but I was going to try one today. I guess it wasn't meant to be because they were sold out.


This is my nephew and niece's son (the ones who eloped this summer and had their wedding celebration party the night before we left for India. I was sure I had posted about their party but when I tried to link to that post, I couldn't find it ... hmm, not sure what happened). Anyway, we went to my parents' tonight and this cutie was hanging out there as well. We got him a pancake playset for a belated birthday gift and he loved "cutting" the butter pieces that were velcroed together. He is such an easygoing, laid-back kid and so fun to have around.

It's only 9:45 p.m. and I'm exhausted. I'm looking forward to blaming the time change for every problem I have for the next couple of weeks.