Monday, December 24, 2012


I flew from Ottawa to Regina on Wednesday.

It was supposed to be a quick trip - get on the plane at 5, transfer in Toronto, arrive in Regina at 9:30.

That's not how it worked out.

Our first flight was delayed, which cut our 75 minute break in Toronto down to 15 minutes. We rushed to our second flight and made it just as the doors closed.

As we reached the Ontario border, the pilot made an announcement - there was fog in Regina, and we had to make an unscheduled landing in Winnipeg to get more fuel.

I was a little concerned that I'd end up in Calgary for the night, but there was nothing I could do about it.

We refueled - which took about half an hour - and then started to go again.

Almost immediately, we stopped again. There was a mechanical issue, and they had to call maintenance.

That took another hour or so.

They got the mechanical issue fixed, and we eventually continued on our way. We got into Regina after midnight.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Christmas by the numbers

(If you're under 12, stop reading now. Come back after Christmas.)

Trips to Fabricland: 4. Well, maybe 5. Or 6. I should check my credit card bill.  Too many, is the point. Especially since the whole goal of the sewing overload was to use up fabric. Sigh.
Number of sewing projects:  4 pairs pajama pants (+ 6 with Pathfinders); 1 pair fleece overalls; 3 nightgowns; 1 fleece vest; 1 fleece sweater; 6 [redacted]; 3 [redacted]
Trips to Chapters: 4. Also too many.
Number of books purchased: 2 + 7 + 10 + 1 = 20
Number of books for me: 0
Number of books purchased that I'd like to read if I ever had time: 4
Cookies baked: 8 dozen, all one kind, this afternoon
Chocolates made: Too many to count. Well, that's not strictly true - too many to count without walking into the kitchen.
Number of days of work left: 3
Belly dance shows this week: 1
Pathfinder meetings remaining this year: 1
Number of families sponsored in the last 3 days: 1 (with work colleagues)
Available time available to shop for said family before Tuesday: Um.
Number of trips to Lee Valley: 1. I forgot one thing but will have to live without it.
Number of Christmas cards sent: 0 (So far, check back tomorrow. Assuming I have time to buy stamps.)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Melodic dreams

Last night, I woke up at 2.

I have no idea why. It didn't snow, so it wasn't a snowplow. Wanda was home and presumably asleep, since she had an exam at 9:30 this morning. There were no unusual noises. Nothing was happening. I just was awake.

And I thought "Hmm, this is weird. At least it's early enough that I'll be sure to fall asleep again."

By 3, I was regretting tempting fate like that.

And oddly enough, thinking "I have to go to sleep, I'm going to be really tired tomorrow" does not help at all.

I don't remember anything between 3 and 5:30, so I must have fallen asleep again, but by 5:30 I was definitely awake. At that point, I didn't expect to go back to sleep. After all, my alarm goes off at 6:30.

Naturally, I fell asleep anyway.  And dreamed.

A complicated action story.

That turned into a musical.

Even in my dream, I was surprised. Where did that come from?

And why isn't it the first time I apparently composed a musical in my sleep?

Sunday, December 2, 2012


Wanda's birthday was last Thursday which means I can finally share the Mysterious Project of Mystery Part III - the flouncy skirt you see in the picture. I made it while she was out of town one weekend. It took a ridiculous amount of material

Our cousin Matthew came to town for her birthday, and we had a good time hanging out, talking, and playing games while he was here.

Belgian lace table runner
 He left last night, and after I dropped him off at the train station, I did the Christmas decorating.

Sigh. The flash made the lights invisible.
 And then today I did nothing, which was not actually the plan.

Oh well, sometimes you need a day of nothing.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Crying over spilt nutmeg

At Pathfinders on Monday, we made cookies in a jar.  (Have I mentioned that I quit working with the 5&6 year old Sparks and started working with 12-15 year old Pathfinders? Well, I did.)

The recipe we were making called for nutmeg, so I just grabbed a jar out of the cupboard. When I came home, I put the jar back in the cupboard, and it promptly fell out.

And broke.

Basically, the bottom of the jar broke off. The rest of the jar was intact.

I wiped up the nutmeg and picked up the pieces. (There wasn't much else to do at that point.)

And then on Tuesday, I found another big-ish piece of glass. I picked it up.

And then yesterday, I found another piece of glass.

I'm starting to wonder how many pieces I could possibly have missed. After all, spice jars aren't that big.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A shot in the arm

I usually get a flu shot. Yes, it only protects you from a couple of strains of the flu, but it's free, safe, and getting the flu is annoying, so I get the shot.

The company I work for has a flu shot clinic every year, so I signed up. Then I made my cyst appointment, realized it was the same day, and cancelled the flu shot. It wasn't a big deal - I had an appointment with my doctor on Nov. 19th.

Then my doctor cancelled, an I was rescheduled for today.

And then my doctor cancelled again. (As a side note, I'm a little concerned about my doctor.)

For those keeping track, that's three potential flu shot opportunities, zero actual flu shots.

The city of Ottawa always has flu shot clinics, so that was another choice, but Rexall PharaPlus is also running radio ads saying that their pharmacists will give flu shots.

I decided to give that a try.

There was a little bit of a wait - at the pharmacy I went to, they treat it like a  prescription request, so you get put into the queue as if it's a prescription - but 15 minutes or so later, I was done and out of there. Despite teh wait, it was much faster than the clinics.

Now all I have to do is hope they guessed right about what strains will be common this year. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Vague post is vague

Wanda was away in New York this weekend, so I had the whole house to myself.

Somehow, my brain translated "I can do whatever I want" into "I must three months' worth of work in 2 days". Stupid brain.

I felt like I was on fast forward all weekend. I recaulked the bathtub, worked on the mysterious projects of mystery, and made some Christmas gifts that I can't share yet since they are going to people who read the blog, as well as the usual cooking and laundry.

Most of these projects involved sewing.  I don't sew very often, but somehow I tend to pick up the hobby again in November.  This will last until the end of January or so, and then I'll stop again for months.

I'm not done, either - I still have more to do when I get a chance. Not tonight, though. Tonight I plan to sit.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Random updates

The down arrow on my netbook is broken.

It's one of those things that you think you hardly ever use until it's broken, and you can't use it anymore.

Work has been really busy. I'm not working a lot of extra hours, but I spend my days at full speed. It's exhausting.

And then I drive home in the dark.

I had my cyst appointment on Wednesday. It was a beautiful day - warm, with the sun shining - and it was nice to leave the office. They didn't end up removing the cyst since it had burst - it's possible that the lining is gone and it won't reoccur. If it comes back, they'll take it out.

The chicken wire I bought for Halloween is still sitting in the front porch. I'm glad I bought the small roll.

Week 2 and I'm still enjoying not boxing.  There is a punching bag in the gym at work, and I spent a few minutes on it on Tuesday. And then I decided it was too hard and I spent the rest of my time on the elliptical.

I took my winter jacket out this week. I'd forgotten how soft and light it is.

I desperately need some new shirts. I'm sure I wore clothes last winter, but I can't for the life of me figure out what. Every morning I stare into my closet hoping something warm will appear, but no luck so far.

I keep hearing about snow from friends and family - Utah, Saskatchewan, New York, Calgary. There's no snow here. I haven't even raked the leaves yet.

(There have been years where there has been snow before I rake the leaves. Sometimes it's even because the snow was early.)

I'm not ready for snow, anyway. I don't want to have to wear boots. And Wanda isn't working overnights this year, so I'm going to have to clean off the car. There's no rush. It'll get here eventually.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

I didn't vote today

As I'm sure everyone knows, it's election day in the US.There are a lot of similarities between Canada and the U.S., but every American election cycle reminds me of how far apart we are politically.

Not necessarily our political beliefs - although it's kind of weird to think that one of the most privileged countries in the world has a large percentage of people who believe medical care for their fellow citizens is optional but assault rifles are not - but in the political system itself.

For starters, my understanding is that when you register to vote in the US, you have to pick a party. That's ... kind of weird. I can register to vote when I fill out my income tax - and failing that, I can show up on election night with some ID and vote on the spot. No party affiliation required.

One of my American colleagues asked whether I'm a member of a political party. I'm not - and in fact, very few Canadians are. (One estimate I found online was that 2% of Canadians are a member of a political party.)

American politics are incredibly partisan - ridiculously so, from an outsider's perspective. Canadians, on the other hand, have more political parties but seem to be less devoted to a particular party.  (Last election, for example, I could have voted for the Pirate Party. I don't remember what their platform is, but I assume it has something to do with gold doubloons.) Canadians tend to vote against a party rather than for another party.

Unlike Americans - who vote for their president directly - we vote for our Member of Parliament. The only people who vote directly for the Prime Minister are those who live in his/her riding. The party who has the most MPs elected (usually) becomes the government.

And about that - the Prime Minister only stays the PM as long as he has the confidence of the House of Commons - so losing an important vote can bring down the government and force an election. Unless he prorogues the house to avoid losing a vote and having a coalition of the delusional take over. (I didn't say our way was better, just different.)  Obviously, we don't have fixed election days. And we certainly don't have a year or more of campaigning before an election. Well, not officially.

As for voting itself, CNN (which was on while I was at the gym) was saying that people were waiting 2.5 hours to vote.  If I wait 2.5 minutes, I'm tapping my foot and looking at my watch.

Well, OK, I don't wear a watch, but I'm looking meaningfully at my cell phone.

It's interesting seeing how different things are for our neighbours.

And I look forward to Twitter telling me who wins in the morning.

Assuming they've finished counting the votes by then, that is.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Fall Camp

This weekend was our fall Pathfinder camp.

Do you know how hard it is to find a site to camp in tents in late October?  It's not terribly easy.

Luckily, I have a big backyard, so we decided to camp there. As an added bonus, I didn't have to pack.

Friday was beautiful. We set up the tents (one 6-person tent for 4 girls, one 6-person tent for the leaders, one dining tent), then walked over to the Sportsplex and went for a walk on the trails in the dark.  The girls kept freaking themselves out by inventing stories that murderers were lurking in the bushes, which resulted in screams whenever we encountered people doing nefarious things like walking their dogs.

It was late by the time we got to bed, so we slept in on Saturday morning.  After making our breakfast and cleaning up, we went door to door selling cookies.  We had lunch, and then it was time to get ready for the zombie walk.

Most of the girls did their own makeup, so we had wildly different zombie looks. (Well, three were zombies, one was a butterfly. I don't get it, but points to her for being her own person.) I went with these instructions. It turned out OK.
Note the sad lack of brain hair clips
If I were to dress up as a zombie again, I'd add more toilet paper and prob ably go with different colours over top. It lasted quite well, even on the drizzly day. I didn't actually put together a costume, simply because it was cold and rainy, and my costume options required better weather.

We took the bus downtown - getting the occasional strange look - and walked to the start of the walk.  There were tons of people there, dressed as every type of zombie you could imagine. I took some pictures, but ... my phone is across the room, so just use your imagination.

A little after 3:30, the walk started. It was long. Really, really long. And by the end, my feet hurt enough that I was actually walking like a zombie. If I were to do the walk again, I'd join the group on Elgin Street.

We made it to the Parliament buildings, but didn't stay there long because everyone was exhausted. We bused home and cooked our supper inside.

We woke this morning to more rain. I unsuccessfully attempted to persuade the rain to go away via twitter, but we had to take the tents down wet.  I now have tents drying all over the basement.

Still, it was a good weekend.  The girls hadn't had much camping experience, and they learned a lot. They even managed to remain mostly cheerful during some difficult weather.

But I plan to sleep for the rest of the day.

After I cook supper and do my laundry, that is.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Mmmm, brains

The Zombie Walk is fast approaching. I decided last week that I was going. I have no idea what my costume will be - I'm having issues destroying perfectly good clothes. I'm also having issues destroying some of my clothes, which, frankly, are getting to the point where they should not be worn in public.

But in the meantime, I've been googling makeup ideas. Man, there's some cool stuff out there. I'm torn between trying it all tonight and being too lazy to bother doing it in advance at all.

I also found hair clips with brain pieces on them - and by found, I mean "saw on the internet". For the record, they don't have such clips at Value Village, Dollarama, Malobar's, or Party City (formerly Party Packagers). Party City does have a skull cap that is topped with brains, but that's too fake for me - unlike brains on hair clips, which are totally natural.

Tomorrow is out for costume assembling - it's the last boxing class of the session - but maybe I'll find some time on Thursday to figure it out. If not, I'll be the one at the zombie walk in normal clothes & awesome makeup. Or possibly mediocre makeup.

Either way, I'll be there.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Get me out of here!

I worked from home on Friday.

I love the idea that I can work from home on occasion. It makes it easier when I have an appointment closer to home than work, or when I take my car in, or when someone's coming to the house for some reason.

It's also good when I have personal phone calls to make - I can make them from work, but it's more convenient to make them from home.  On Friday, for example, I scheduled the removal of the annoying cyst on my back.

There are some issues with working from home, though.

First of all, I quickly run out of food in the house, because I snack constantly. On Friday morning, I finished all of the veggies in the raw veggie container in the fridge before 9:30. I would have moved on to potato chips, but we didn't have any.

Also, I miss everything that's going on at work - including the gym, and our newest activity of going out for lunch on Fridays.

And I notice things around the house - the kitchen floor needs sweeping, for example - but I shouldn't be doing anything about them because I'm supposed to be working. But I can't work, because the kitchen floor is dirty.

I don't have a comfortable place to work at home - on Friday, I sat at the table and worked, but I was pretty sore by the end of the day. (I don't know why I didn't move earlier.)

But the biggest issue with working from home - especially on days I don't have a car - is that I go stir crazy. I think things like "I know, I'll just run to the store at lunch" - and then I realize I'll have to literally run, because my car is elsewhere.  If I were at work, I'd never run to the store at lunch, but something about being at home makes me want to be elsewhere.

If you've ever tried to convince me to leave my house outside of work hours, I'm sure that's shocking to you.

The thing is, I don't think it has anything to do with wanting human contact - I had three conference calls before noon. I think it's more about not being able to leave.

(That's ridiculous, of course - I'm a 10 minute walk from the transitway, so even without a car I can easily get where I'm going. In fact, I took the bus to pick up my car on Friday.  It took 35 minutes, including 15 minutes of walking.)

I don't think there's much danger that I'll start to work from home every day.

Sunday, October 7, 2012


I pulled out my garden this weekend.  I picked the cabbage and (2) potatoes yesterday. There were 2 large cabbages and 1 small one, and the fridge is pretty full of Thanksgiving stuff. I fit one of the large cabbages into the fridge but was concerned about whether the second one would be OK overnight.

And then I realized I picked it from outside, which was not refrigerated.

(Today I made part of the second one into coleslaw & put the rest in the raw veggies container that's always in the fridge.)

Today was the harder part - not physically harder, emotionally harder. I had to kill perfectly healthy tomatoes.

Here's a picture of the last one I pulled out. It's a grape tomato plant.  The first tomato was ripe in June, which is a month earlier than usual.  The spiral that's supporting it is about 5 feet tall (a little shorter when it's in the ground), and the top of the plant snapped and bent over because it was about a foot taller than the stake.

Yes, that's a full size outdoor garbage can
 I also had to pull out a huge volunteer tomato plant that (since it wasn't supported) was as wide as one of the raised garden beds.

And the only cucumber plant that grew, that produced its first flower a couple of weeks ago. (No cucumbers, just the one flower.)

From the one grape tomato plant, I got 1/2 a gallon of grape tomatoes - and that's with eating a few a day since June.
And, in convenient timing, tonight it's supposed to freeze.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

At least I'm not sharing pictures ... yet

A few years ago at Christmas., I discovered a lump on my back.  It was red and sore and annoying, but frankly I had other things on my mind, and after a couple of weeks it went away, so I did nothing about it.

Last week, it came back.

Again, a red, sore, noticeable bump. It was kind of squishy - not solid - and by the end of boxing last Wednesday, it was driving me nuts.

But I had other things to do, so I didn't make it to the doctor until Saturday.

It turns out it's a something-cyst. It's irritated right now, but if I leave it alone and stop what's causing the trauma, it'll calm down. The only way to get rid of it completely is to have it cut out, but it's not in any way serious. Totally not a big deal.


It's right where the band of my bras go. Specifically, it's in a place where it gets hit - a lot - by a sports bra.

After I saw the doctor, I covered it with a bandaid. This week, it started feeling better - more itchy than sore, and not as ... bumpy.

Yesterday, I added a second bandaid. (Well, I made Wanda add a second bandaid - my elbows don't bend that way.) The cyst was protected by a cross of bandaids.

I went to boxing.

When I got home, I took off the first bandaid and, by the time I pulled off the second bandaid, it was bleeding.

Applying pressure is extra fun when it's a place you can't easily reach.

The new bandaid started driving me nuts today - my back was itchy all day - so I asked Wanda to pull it off. (I find this fascinating - she finds this really, really gross. She's probably looking for a new place to live as I write this.* )

It's not bleeding. But I'm out of boxing & going to the gym until it heals. 

This is the lamest excuse ever.

* Just kidding - she's watching Glee. Yes, I know it doesn't make sense.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Things I have not wanted to do in the last week

  • Go to work (tired, must sleep)
  • Go to sleep
  • Deal with unnecessary apple-picking drama
  • Write an e-mail to Sparks parents (especially since I don't work with Sparks anymore)
  • Go to boxing (this is becoming a theme ... again)
  • Dishes
  • Eat the eggplant-filled dish I made (it was good)
  • Go to the doctor
  • Go to the gym 
  • Burpees (I started a campaign to make sure the instructor knew they were so easy it was practically like having a break. Turns out he's too smart to fall for that.)
  • Deal with my Kobo, which forgot it had any books on it, again
  • Figure out how to print in colour at work ... again
  • Fix the doorbell
  • Replace the light bulb in the kitchen
  • Read the book I borrowed from my former manager
  • Buy new socks (1/2 of my socks are sprouting  holes again)
Most of them I did anyway.

Except the last 4.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Watch out, more newspaper ranting ahead!

So, about the Ottawa Citizen.

I know, I've ranted about it before. I've talked about how I got the paper delivered, but didn't read it. Eventually, I cancelled it and moved to reading it online.

The online version isn't as good as the paper version - mostly because there's not as much content. They might have everything online, but they don't link to it all, as far as I can tell.

The Citizen is going through financial issues. They've stopped the Sunday paper (which has always been a very small paper) and combined it with Saturday into a weekend edition. A lot of their columnists mysteriously decided to retire around the same time.

And they've decided to start charging if you want to read more than 10 articles a month online.

The thing is, a lot of newspapers started charging for online reading about ten years ago. Most (if not all) of those papers are now back to being free. It fundamentally isn't a business model that works. 

There are lots of reasons for that:
  • There are thousands of free news sources (including OCHeadlines, which is the Ottawa Citizen's twitter feed - you can't necessarily read the article if you're past your 10, but you get enough info to google it). There's also the TV news. The Sun network ( is still free.  CBC's website has news. And, of course, that's just for Ottawa-specific news. If you want world news, there are tons of options.
  • They're charging for information they purchased from someone else. For example, the business section largely comes from the Financial Post - which is free. That means you have other options for reading that news.
  • There are easy ways around their limit, like changing browsers or computers (or, I assume, clearing your cookies).  Frankly, I can't be bothered to use these methods - I'll just go elsewhere - but it can be done.
I read once (note the vague, uncited source) that newspapers exist is to sell advertising, which is why it's cheaper to buy them than it costs to print and deliver them. That's not just traditional advertising, but also things like classifieds and obituaries.

(When was the last time you read the classifieds?)

Obviously, the business model has changed.  Classifieds have been largely replaced with online equivalents, and ads on the site clearly aren't doing the job.

The thing is, paid access is unlikely to solve the problem.

In fact, it will likely reduce the ad revenue, because people like me will just stop going to the page to start with.

Perhaps when they go back to being free, I'll check out the site again.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

More Random Thoughts

Remember how I resolved to do some exercises every day in August? And then I went to Europe?

I didn't make it through the month.  Once I got on the ship, I kept forgetting, and eventually I just gave up.

* * * 

A conversation with my niece:
B: I want to take tae kwon do.
Me: That sounds like fun.
B: Yeah. Then I can hit and kick, and you can just hit.

* * * 

I usually go to the gym at lunch, but I didn't go today because they were giving away free frozen yogurt there was an employee meeting.

When my instructor asked yesterday whether I'd be there today, I said, "I don't know, there's a rumour we're getting ice cream tomorrow."

She said, "I'm competing with ice cream?"

Yes. And losing.

* * * 
Wanda often buys the Glee soundtracks, and we keep them in the car. Right now, we're listening to Glee #9583023, which contains the most randomly-shoehorned song in the show's history, "Last Friday Night".

I'm not sure whether there's a doll on the BBQ, an Australian BBQ on the BBQ, or whether they killed someone named Barbie.

Any way you look at it, it's weird.

But catchy.

Sunday, September 16, 2012


As I've mentioned before, I get organic vegetables delivered every 2 weeks.  I really enjoy it, and it's required me to learn more about cooking vegetables than I've done before.

Some are easy - patty pan squash, corn, beans, broccoli (which I still can't spell) - but others require more preparation.

Swiss chard, for example - it's not ... good. I mean, I guess some people must like it*, but I really don't get it.  Naturally, I get it every single time.

Here's what I do to make it edible.

  1. Melt a little butter in a frying pan - you don't need much.
  2. Press a clove of garlic into the pan.
  3. Add a bunch of fresh mushrooms - I usually get mushrooms delivered as well, so I just use whatever I have.
  4. Wash the swiss chard. Cut up the stems. When the mushrooms are about half cooked, add the diced stems to the pan.
  5. Cut up the leaves. When the mushrooms are mostly cooked, add the leaves. Cook until the leaves are wilted.
On the other hand, the recipe I tried yesterday for tomato sauce was awesome, not just edible.
  1. Preheat the oven to 300F.
  2. Take a baking dish - I used an 8x8 pan. Wash fresh tomatoes. Cut off any bits you don't want to end up in the sauce and put on the bottom of the baking dish.
  3. Bake for 3 hours.
  4. Add several cloves of garlic - I used 7 - and some onion - I used about 1/4 of a medium-sized onion, cut in chunks.
  5. Bake for another 1.5 hours.
  6. Blend.
  7. Add a little salt, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar - I added a tsp of salt and about a tablespoon each of the oil and vinegar. Blend again. The sauce is quite thick due to the skins and seeds.

* Hi, mom!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Random Thoughts

I believe I forgot to mention in my last post how ... historic Europe is. Our tour guides in Denmark and Norway both mentioned how Denmark lost Norway because they sided with Napolean. That was 200 years ago. In North America, we barely remember World War II (which, BTW, we also heard about in Denmark, Sweden, and Norway).

* * * 
I wasn't feeling well yesterday - not totally sick, but not totally well, either. I didn't go to the gym at lunch (we had a wellness fair, so my class was cancelled), and I debated whether I should go to boxing.  (I'm lucky we had the wellness fair, because they were giving away water bottles and I had forgotten mine.)

I went to boxing, albeit with the thought that I might leave early.  

It wasn't bad - until I hit myself in the face with the skipping rope. (I'm such a graceful skipper.) I almost cried.

(I didn't. There's no crying in boxing.)

After the class, I felt better, and today I'm fine.

* * * 

My garden is producing tomatoes, and yesterday I got 3 containers of tomatoes in my CSA box. Good thing I like tomatoes.

* * * 

Blogger is doing this thing where it turns on bolding when I hit enter. It's very annoying.

* * * 

My neighbour works at the same place as me. She worked from home today, and e-mailed me at lunch to ask me to pick up a parcel someone had sent to her.

It was a beautiful basket of flowers. All afternoon people were stopping by and asking what the occasion was. I, of course, did not know.

I managed to resist the temptation to read the card. (When I dropped off the flowers, her daughter read the card, so I know who they're from now. As always, the reality was less interesting than the speculation.)

* * * 
I need to buy a new suitcase. Mine got munched on the way back from Europe. It was pretty old, and I was pretty tired, so I didn't report it.

But I need a new one, because I might be traveling again soon.  I want one of those fancy ones that has four wheels and can be moved without tilting it, but I think I'm too cheap to pay for one.

* * * 

I bought Season 1 of Downton Abbey back in January. I've watched one episode, and the summer is over. I may need to get a cold and spend a weekend watching TV.  

* * * 

My dishwasher is broken.

Well, actually, the dishwasher itself is fine, it's just no longer screwed into the cabinet - which effectively means it can't be used. I need to figure out how to get the screws back in through the tiny slot above the dishwasher. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Europe Wrap Up

Friday was a day at sea, and Saturday we made the trek back home.

Final thoughts:

  • Britain has sorted out automatic toilets. The toilets at Heathrow & in Hyde Park have a motion sensor - simply wave your hand over it to flush. Yes, I took a picture.
  •   This trip was to five countries, with 5 different currencies. I hadn't realized that there were that many countries in Europe that hadn't adopted the Euro. (Belgium was the only one where the Euro was the official currency.)
  • My manager suggested we bring rain ponchos. That was, without a doubt, the best thing we brought with us.
  • I read a lot more books than I usually do on vacation - I think because I had them on the Kobo and thus I didn't have to limit myself.
  •  I did a much better job than usual at limiting the amount of stuff I brought with me. I did not have to buy anything I forgot.
  • Favourite stop: Bruges, Belgium, followed by Copenhagen. I would have preferred to do the cruise in the opposite order so that we ended in Bruges.

Thoughts on the boat:
This is the third cruise I've done. The first one was with Costa, the second was Royal Caribbean, and this one was Princess. They all have pros and cons. These comments are specific to three ships - the Costa Magica, the Legend of the Seas, and the Grand Princess. 

  • This was the most "foreign" cruise line - prices were in Euros, and every announcement was in 4 or 5 languages. (Also - topless sunbathing, which didn't really happen on the other two ships.)
  • The food was excellent (and Italian-style - a pasta course instead of a salad course, for example). 
  • The organization (especially with respect to embarking and disembarking) was lacking.
  • Using the Euro as the currency on board made it more expensive that the others to buy a drink, etc.
  • Swimming pools were opened limited hours, and I think there were only a couple of them.
  • If you wanted ice cream, you had a couple of hours in the afternoon when you could get ice cream, otherwise you were out of luck.  
  • The ship was quite nice, and public areas were clustered around the center of the ship.
  • Lots of lounges.
  • More smoking on board than other cruise lines.
  • People joined the cruise at almost every port, so it wasn't the same kind of everyone gets on at once / everyone gets off at once atmosphere. 
  • There was a specific English-speaking ambassador who was there to answer questions from the Canadian/America/British passengers.
  • Frequent "shows" or special events in the dining room.
  • Frequent, hard to get out of picture taking.
Royal Caribbean:
  • Prices were in US Dollars. Far more American-feeling.
  • The ship was quite nice, and public areas were clustered around the center of the ship.
  • There was a rock-climbing wall, ping pong and min-golf.
  • Embarking and disembarking was well-organized.
  • The food in the dining room was good, and the lunch buffet was quite good. There was also an area where you could get pizza late at night.
  • Trivia happened daily, with prizes like highlighters and other Royal Caribbean-branded stuff.
  •  Prices were in US Dollars. Far more American-feeling.
  • The ship was not even close to my favourite. Some areas (like the excursions desk) were hidden away down back hallways, and the main area of the ship was only 2 floors high. The promenade deck - where you could walk around the ship - had areas that required you to walk up and down steps. Also, there were no stairs in the middle of the ship. Of course, there were emergency stairs, but we were on the 12th deck, and many of the food options were on 14. Our options were to either walk down to the end of the ship or wait for the very, very slow elevators.
  • Embarking and disembarking was well-organized.
  • I didn't enjoy the lunch buffet - not enough salad bar options (I can make a salad with lettuce, tomato, and cucumber at home), and the dining room food was my least favourite. Some days were quite good, but there were also days where I couldn't really see anything I wanted to order. 
  • There were multiple food options on board - the International Cafe (paninis, salads, desserts), a couple of pizza places, a grill for hamburgers/hot dogs/sausages.
  • Also, the ice cream bar had popcorn at night.
  • Lots of pools - I think there were far more than the other ships.
  • "Movies under the stars" - a giant movie screen on deck 14, where they played recent movies, sporting events, etc. We didn't go - it was too cold, and there was nothing we wanted to see badly enough - but it was a nice idea. 
  • Far and away the best shows in the evenings. 
  • Trivia happened multiple times a day, and the prize was a bottle of champagne.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Days 7 & 8 - Helsingborg and Oslo

Helsingborg, Sweden – August 29, 2012

We left Copenhagen at 4 AM for a quick trip across the straight to Helsingborg, Sweden. Helsingborg is very close to Denmark, and ferries run between the two countries every 20 minutes. Among other things, Helsingborg is the home of IKEA headquarters (which are not, for the record, blue and yellow).
Fishing village, Sweden
We weren't able to dock, so we had to tender ashore. We'd chosen a tour again, so we got on the coach and started out on our journey. Our guide told us about the town as we made our way to our first stop, the fishing village of Raa. After about 20 minutes there, we boarded the bus again and went to Sofiero Castle, the summer residence of the late Swedish King Gustav. For the first time this trip, it was a beautiful, sunny day, and we spent an hour there, admiring the gardens and the castle. From one point in the grounds, you can clearly see Denmark, including the castle that Shakespeare used as his setting for Hamlet.
Sofiero castle

Gardens at Sofiero Castle
Gardens at Sofiero Castle
Gardens at Sofiero Castle

After the castle, we went to the keep, the only remaining portion of Helsingborg Castle, which was built in the 1300s. We took some pictures and then went back to the dock – but instead of immediately getting a tender, we walked down the pier and through some pedestrian shopping areas before traveling back to the ship.
The Keep
We were back on board by 1, and spent a relaxing afternoon on board.

Oslo, Norway – August 30, 2012

Our day started with a city tour of Oslo. We went by the opera house (which was designed to look like a glacier), the old fortress, the palace, and city hall. Our guide told us the history of the places we were seeing. Interestingly, when we were in Denmark, our guide told us they used to own Norway. In Norway, our guide said they used to be partners with Denmark.

After that, we stopped at Vigeland Sculpture Garden. This garden is the work of one man, who designed dozens of sculptures. We walked through the garden – as it rained on and off – and admired his work. After that, it was off to the ski jump that overlooks the town. The ski jump was impressive, but I was hoping to have a view of the city from there, and that wasn't possible.

Our next stop was the open air museum. This museum contains old buildings from around Norway – including an old stave church and houses with sod roofs. Apparently, to create a sod roof, you put down a layer of birch bark, then a layer of sod (grass side down), then another layer of sod (grass side up).

We were only there for an hour, but I could have easily stayed longer.

Stave church

Sod roofs

 We came back to the ship and had lunch, then spent some time in the conservatory (which I just discovered today). When it was time for the ship to leave, we went up on deck to watch as we sailed through Oslofjord.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Days 5 & 6 - At Sea and Copenhagen

After Belgium, we had a day at sea. We started the day with a late breakfast, then went to a lecture on our next two stops – Denmark and Sweden. We had lunch, then discovered a pool (the terrace pool) at the end of our floor. The day was cool, but it was quite pleasant in the sun, so we found some lounge chairs and read in the sun for a while.

After that, we went to a second lecture – on Norway – then went to trivia. We were terrible (6 out of 20).

It was formal night, so we got dressed up and went for dinner, then went to the night's show – Siobhan Phillips. She was fantastic – far and away the best performance I've seen on a cruise ship.

Copenhagen – August 28, 2012

We were supposed to dock by 9, so at 8 I went up on deck. I watched us approach the port and dock and looked around for the Little Mermaid. She was nowhere to be seen, so I went back to the cabin and we went for breakfast.

After breakfast, we went out to look at the shops along the dock. After that, we got back on the ship and spent a few hours lounging around and eating a small snack before our tour at 12:20.

We choose the city tour. Unfortunately, it was raining, but we still got to see the Little Mermaid, the Gefion statue, and the royal palace. Next, we went to Tivoli Gardens, where we had 90 minutes on our own.

Little Mermaid
Gefion Fountain

At the palace
At the palace (with bonus umbrella)
Tivoli Gardens is a permanent amusement park. It has rides, gardens, shops, and cafes. We didn't do any rides (although some of them looked fun), but walked around and took lots of pictures.

Tivoli Gardens
Wanda at Tivoli Gardens
Tivoli Gardens
Tivoli Gardens
Tivoli Gardens
Tivoli Gardens
Tivoli Gardens
The rain cleared up, so we decided to walk back to the hotel. It was a long walk – it took about 2 hours – and it started to rain again en route.
The other issue was that I didn't have any local currency, and the toilets along the way were pay toilets.

It was a sad, sad day, but eventually we ended up by the palace again, and so I stopped at the toilets I knew were there. That made the rest of the walk a little better. We passed the fountain again, and the Little Mermaid.

By the time we got back to the ship, my legs were extremely tired. We got changed and immediately went for dinner, since I knew that if I sat down, I wasn't going to want to get up again. After dinner, we went to trivia (Tri-Bond trivia, specifically). This time, we got 20 out of 20 and won a bottle of champagne.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Day 3 & 4 - Southhampton, UK; Bruges, BE

I mentioned that we took the tube to our hotel. The station we ended at was Victoria station, and it was about 2 blocks to the hotel. Behind Victoria underground station is Victoria train station. I assumed Victoria Coach Station wouldn't be far.

It wasn't – about blocks further – but when you're pulling a suitcase and carting a carry-on, it's farther than it seems.

This morning, we got up and made our way to the coach station for our transfer to Southampton. (Yes, we decided to take a ship out of Southampton. What could possibly go wrong?)

We got on the ship around 2:30. By the time we got ourselves organized, it was almost time for the life boat drill. That seemed to take forever. (I get that it's important, but I would have been less antsy if I had had time for lunch first.)

We registered for our excursions, then it was finally time for a snack – it was too late for lunch by that point.

After that, we explored the ship, then had a relaxing dinner two other groups of travelers, all from the UK. It was a nice meal (with vegetables!). Next stop: Belgium.


We took an all-day tour of Bruges, Belgium. Bruges has an inner city surrounded by canals, surrounded by an outer city, also surrounded by canals.

There are a lot of canals, in other words.

I started the day by leaving my camera on the boat. Camera-less, we took the 30 minute drive from Zeebrugge to Bruges. (Why does one have two g's and the other one? It is a mystery.)

Our tour guide gave us a little background on the area, then we did a walking tour of Bruges in the rain. We walked on the city wall, crossed bridges over the canals, and learned that the step-gabled houses are newer than the houses with the straight gables. After about an hour and a half, we stopped our tour at the belfry – a landmark in the center of town. At that point, the group split up for time on our own.
Step-gabled houses
We went for lunch – including French fries, which our guide explained were traditionally Belgian. (We did not have mussels and fries, which is a local dish.) Lunch was good, but after lunch, I managed to miss a step leaving the restaurant and landed on my bad ankle.

We walked through the market area, looking at (and eventually purchasing) lace and chocolates. At 2:30, we met up with our group again for a canal cruise. By this time, the rain had stopped. The canal cruise gave us an alternate look at the city – I was very glad the weather had improved.

Bruges has a traditional parade and ceremony (held every 5 years) celebrating the marriage of Catherine of York to Charles (?). Today was the day. I would have liked to see the parade, but our guide was concerned we'd get caught up in the traffic, so he led us through streets lined with people to a different part of the city, where we had more time on our own.

Since I couldn't watch the parade, I went with the next best option – a Belgain waffle. We have chip trucks, they have a similar type of way of serving waffles.

My ankle was pretty sore by that point, so I was glad to get back on the coach for the 30 minute drive to the boat. When we got to the boat, I got up – and spectacularly realized I was still belted in.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Days 1 & 2 - London, UK

Our flight left at 11:25 at night. (Apparently, there's an 11:25 at night now). We got to the airport super early – not long after 9 – and had a nice long wait there.

The flight was uneventful – you don't get much time to sleep on the direct flight between Ottawa and London. It's a 7 hour flight, and it takes them about 2 hours to serve dinner and 2 hours to serve breakfast. Since Air Canada thinks a bland carrot muffin is “breakfast”, I'm not really sure how it can take so long, but such is life.

We took the tube from Heathrow to the station closest to our hotel. It was pretty easy – one transfer, which was the easiest subway transfer ever – and walked 5 minutes to the hotel. Naturally, our room wasn't ready, so we stored our bags and walked down the road. Our first stop was lunch – awesome fish and chips for me – and then we kept walking. We passed the headquarters for the British Girl Guide Association, then continued on to Buckingham Palace, which was just down the road. (Actually, the front of the palace is down the road - the back of the grounds is across the street).

By that time, it was late enough that we could check in, so we went back to the hotel, where I gratefully washed my face and changed my shirt. (Sorry, London, the shower had to wait.) It was about 3 by then, so we started a hop-on, hop-off tour, which is good until the end of the next day. We thought it would be 2 hours.

It took 3 and a half. We were tired and cold, so we went back to the hotel, dropped off our cameras, and went for supper. (Italian-style pizza, for anyone who was wondering.)

By then, it was almost 8, and we'd been up for … a long time, so we called it a day.

Day 2 started with a shower. (Yay for running water!)

We ate, then got back on the hop-on, hop-off tour and went to Hyde Park. We walked through the park to the Serpentine, saw Rotten Row, then walked back to the bus stop.  I was surprised how many paths in the park are still gravel/sand for horses.
The Serpentine, Hyde Park

We got back on the bus and went to Picadilly Circus. We walked around there for a while - it's very touristy, kind of like Times Square in New York - then, that's right, got back on the bus.

This time, we went all the way to the Tower of London. We grabbed some lunch, then went inside. We were lucky enough to get there just as a tour was starting, so we joined the tour. Our guide was really good, and pointed out Traitor's gate, the White Tour, the Bloody tour, the ... spot on the lawn where they executed the people lucky (?) enough to have been executed in the tower, and the chapel, telling us stories all the while. I'd share some of the stories, but I don't remember many of them well enough to share them. (I remember generalities when it comes to history, but for things like that, you need details.)
The White Tower

After the tour, we went through White Tower, an exhibit on prisoners in the tower, and an exhibit on instruments of torture. We walked on the inner wall, then decided that was enough.

We took a boat cruise (included in our hop-on, hop-off tour) back to the Parliament buildings, then walked over to Westminster Abbey. By that time, we were tired, so we took the bus back home, grabbed some food, and called it a night.

London by the numbers:

Number of slots in a post-office box - 2 (for stamped mail and franked mail - not all mailboxes, but some)
Number of times I've needed an umbrella - 1 (to run across the street for supper tonight)
Number of times I've inadvertently eaten peppers - 2 (I need to be more careful)
Number of bags of McCoys crisps I've purchased - 3
Number of bags of McCoys crisps I've eaten -1
Number of vegetable dishes I've eaten - 0 
Number of times I've been to the Tower of London (lifetime) - 3
Number of times I've been to the Tower of London (this trip) -1
Number of pictures I can upload using this dreadfully slow internet access - 0
Cost of dreadfully slow internet access - 6 pounds for 90 minutes

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

I just got a call from an unknown number.  Usually, I let those go to voicemail, but today I actually answered.

I was just about to hang up when an automated voice told me that a credit card company wanted me to answer a 3 minute survey about my recent call to them.

The thing is, I didn't call them.  I don't even have a credit card with them.  They were calling about Wanda's recent call.

Since it was automated, my choices were:
- yell at Wanda and hope she picked up before it asked me a question, or
- hang up.

I chose the second option.

I guess most people have cell phones these days, so they're the only one who answers the phone?

Either that, or they don't actually want feedback.

And now, since someone asked, here are pictures of my new hair cut / colour. It was crazier in person - it has calmed down a bit. But it still looks purple in the work bathroom.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

I'll be the one limping

My foot hurts.

It started hurting yesterday on the way to the gym for this month's class of torture (30 seconds squats with shoulder presses, 30 seconds alternating row, 30 seconds alternating chest press in the bridge position, 30 seconds lunges, 30 seconds lunges on the other foot, 30 seconds renegade row, 30 seconds pullover in the bridge position with alternating crunch-like things with your knees - then repeat the whole sequence another 5 times).

Naturally, I went to the gym anyway - it didn't hurt that badly, and I hadn't really done anything, so I figured it would be fine.  It didn't hurt at all during class.  (Um, that may have been because everything else hurt - see above).

This morning, it started hurting again. Naturally, I went to the gym for cardio class.

Yes, I am a slow learner.

(As an aside, I've never done the cardio class before.  It was basically low-impact aerobics, and it was ... fine.  Not my favourite thing, but fine.)

Now? My foot hurts.

I'm starting to think signing up for the work Olympics (which seems to involve bouncy-castle-like-things for adults) might not have been the best idea.

But I'm going to be there tomorrow anyway.

Like I said, I'm a slow learner.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

More about vegetables

Well, it's been quite a few weeks and I'm still getting my CSA box.

I have to say I love it. I've even found a way to cook swiss chard that I don't hate (fry onions, garlic and mushrooms; add cut-up swiss chard when the other vegetables are mostly cooked). I've tried several vegetables I've never tried before, and I'm eating a lot more vegetables overall.

The only downside? The lettuce. I simply can't eat that much lettuce (nor do I want to, because I'm not a huge fan of lettuce). I've taken to pawning lettuce off on people - if you invite me to your house, I will show up with a bag of lettuce. If you don't invite me, I might show up with a bag of lettuce anyway. Soon I'll be putting a bag of lettuce on a stranger's front step, ringing the doorbell, and running away.

This week's box included:
  • mushrooms
  • potatoes
  • tomatoes
  • lettuce
  • more lettuce
  • an onion
  • beans
  • patty pan squash
  • beets
  • corn on the cob 
  • cucumbers
  • zucchini
  • swiss chard
  • carrots
Some of the lettuce and the swiss chard immediately went to a neighbour, who thought I was being nice. Some of the tomatoes got cooked with some onion, garlic, zucchini, and beet tops and frozen as spaghetti sauce. We've eaten more of the tomatoes, the carrots, one of the cucumbers, and the the corn on the cob.
I guess that means that for supper, we'll have squash, beets,beans, mushrooms, potatoes, and a salad with the remaining cucumber and lettuce.

Well, maybe that should be more than one meal.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Yes, I'm still alive

Well, after the initial misstep, I've remembered to do the exercises every day. (I've even done the exercises every day, which is a whole different thing).

I worked the stat holiday last Monday.  I didn't have to work it, but since I was covering for one of my coworkers, I wanted to work it so the rest of the week wouldn't be too busy.

(That coworker returns tomorrow.  I'm thinking of throwing her a "Never Leave Again" party.)

I also have a new manager at work - I'm still doing the same job, just in a different group - so that has taken up some time.

It's been rainy in Ottawa lately - not all the time, but enough that I wore a jacket to work one day last week.  (Not Tuesday, when I got soaked going home from boxing. Some other day when the farthest I had to walk outside was from the car to the house.)

In other sad news, summer is almost over.  That means Sparks will start up soon.  I'm not sure I want to continue with Sparks, so I probably should get on that and figure it out.

Oh, and I got my hair cut & coloured yesterday - dark, with a slightly crazy red that I love.

In other words, not much is new.

Friday, August 3, 2012


Guess what I totally forgot to do yesterday?

If you guessed the exercises I resolved to do 24 hours earlier, you're right.

(I did them this morning, then again tonight.)

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

In which I take ages to get to the point

Back in June, my right knee started to hurt.

I had injured it years ago (back when I still was working at the big telecom company and doing Irish dance once a week), had physio, and, although it has never fully recovered, it pretty much didn't hurt unless I tried to keep it bent. (I am fun to sit beside on airplanes and at movies.)

But in June, it started to hurt again - mostly manifesting itself as stiffness after I'd been sitting for a while - and I thought "oh well, haven't been to physio in months", ... and then did nothing about it.

In July, my Monday class at the gym started doing a really painful workout. Six rounds, with one round being:
  • 30 seconds shoulder presses
  • 30 seconds front squats
  • 30 seconds dead lifts
  • 30 seconds bent over rows
  • 30 seconds split squats (leg #1)
  • 30 seconds split squats (leg #2)
  • 30 seconds push up/mountain climbers (so as you lower yourself into the push up, you also bring one leg up towards your elbow.)
Everybody (including me) was sore the day after we did this the first time. And the day after that. And a little the day after that.

The thing is, while I was doing the dead lifts, I noticed that my right hamstring hurt, but the left one didn't. My whole  knee issue wasn't my knee at all - it was actually the hamstring.

And after I started doing this workout (3 times in July so far), my knee stopped hurting.

So, after the longest intro ever, I'll get to the point.

In order to hopefully fix this more permanently, I'm going to do hamstring exercises every day in August.

I'm also going to do some shoulder/flexibility exercises, because ... well, it just seems like a good idea.  I have no natural flexibility.

Day 1 is done. 30 days to go.

Sunday, July 29, 2012


This house was built in 1959.  I believe, I'm the third owner. 

Right now, there are three steps in the kitchen, then a little landing, then you walk into the porch, which is where the rest of the stairs to the basement are.

The porch was added by the second owners. From what I've heard, the stairs to the basement originally started in the kitchen, basically attached to the three stairs that are there now.  Moving the steps allowed for a bigger dining room.

That's great. But, when the porch was added on, they didn't allow any space for stuff - jackets, boots, shoes, gardening supplies, etc  All the porch is is two doors and a set of stairs. 

Looking from the kitchen into the porch
Not long after I moved in, I added 4 hooks on the wall to the left of the outside door,and a picture with 4 hooks on the wall to the right of the door. Back at the beginning of July, I took down the picture and replaced it with 7 hooks:

This weekend, I put up some IKEA kitchen rods and organizers:
Note the optimistic cycling supplies, in case I want to go for a bike ride on a moment's notice
It's still not great, but it's a little better than it used to be.