Monday, December 24, 2012

A Very Kijiji Christmas


Brahm and I have had a couple of old computer monitors sitting around our apartment for a while.  We haven't used them in years and we didn't plan to use them ever again.  They are in perfectly good condition, and modern flat-screens but not being students anymore, we really only use our home computers for surfing the internet and stuff.  I think eventually, someday, maybe, I want to learn about photo editing a bit, but I still have yet another monitor I can hang onto for that purpose - basically, we do not need 3 monitors.

I had tried with no luck a few months ago to get rid of one of them on Kijiji.  I posted it for 40 bucks OBO, figuring I'd let someone talk me down to 20 bucks, but the only reply I got was from a guy who barely spoke English and kept asking me to call him, but I couldn't pronounce his name so I didn't want to call him (and I had put in my add that I only wanted to email).  Eventually I got fed up and gave him my phone number and told him to call me, and I never heard from him again.

So, desperate to get rid of the monitors ASAP this time, I listed them for 10 bucks each OR both for 10 bucks.  I guess it was the best deal to ever hit Kijiji because in less than 24 hours I had well over 20 replies.

I have posted before about proper Kijiji etiquette for sellers but now I am going to complain about buyers.

So basically my ad said that I was selling 2 flat screen (NOT the tube style) monitors, and described the brand and size.  Then I said the neighbourhood in which I was located and that I was not going to communicate over the phone.

Then, I got a bunch of replies like "Are they tube style, if so I don't want them" and "Please call me at ___".

GUYS!  I already said NOT tube style and that I am NOT going to call you!  The best was "are they flat screen?"  UMMM YES they are flat screen, that was the TITLE OF MY AD.

I did not take pictures because I was selling them for so cheap, I am doing you a favour by giving you a perfectly good flat-screen monitor for 10 dollars.  I am not going to waste time taking pictures because I clearly got over 20 replies in like 10 hours.  Of course, someone requested a picture.

PERSON WHO REQUESTED A PICTURE:  if someone is selling something awesome for super cheap, please understand that a LOT of people are going to jump on the ad and the seller is not going to waste her time taking photos for you to leisurely peruse.

So anyway, I gave dibs to the first person who replied.  I told him he needed to come on Sunday between 10-11 and if that didn't work to let me know.  He said okay, he will let me know when he's on his way.

The next morning, I got up and made sure I was showered by 9:30 in case the guy showed up right at 10.  10:55 came and went and I emailed the buyer asking if he was planning to show up or if I should sell them to someone else.  He said "I am coming, but between 12-12:30 if that's cool" and I was like WTF no that is not okay, I will be selling to someone else.  Immediately he replied that he was on his way and would be here in 10 minutes.

Half an hour passed, with me receiving a message every 5-10 minutes or so saying "almost there, 5 minutes away".  At 11:40 I texted back and said "I want 20 bucks for both.  I've been waiting around for you all morning."

Eventually he showed up at the door, apologized for taking so long, gave me 20 bucks, and complained that I should only be charging him 15 since originally I was going to give them both to him for 10.  Ummm excuse me?  I definitely wasted more than 5 bucks of my time waiting for you for almost 2 hours.

Next time I sell something on Kijiji I have a new rule for the buyer.  You come pick it up within 10 minutes of when you say you're going to pick it up, or I don't answer the door.  This is going right in my ad, and possibly as the signature of all subsequent email communications I have with them.

Anyway, Merry Christmas!  Posting will be sporadic for a while.  My Christmas wish for all of you is to not be bad Kijiji users.

Friday, December 21, 2012

If it was loud on Monday it's also loud on Tuesday


I lived in the same rental house (split into 4 apartments) from 2004-2012.  During most of those years, I had a very noisy neighbour either next to me or above me.  She would blast her music most days, and I cannot count the number of times I had to phone and tell her to turn her music down.  I even tried to invite her to come into my apartment to hear what it sounded like on several occasions but she would refuse and always seem incredibly surprised that I could hear it.  DUDE PLEASE I don't just phone random people for kicks and tell them to turn their music down.  Have I ever phoned you when your music wasn't on?  No?  Then I'm obviously hearing your music!

It has always boggled my mind, the music blasting neighbours thing.  If someone calls you on Monday and says "your music is too loud" and you're like "OMG I'm so sorry, I will turn that down immediately", what is a logical volume to set your speakers at on Tuesday?  Hint:  Probably not the volume you had them set at on Monday before your neighbour told you to turn it down.

And yet, this is what noisy neighbours always do.  Brahm and I have a noisy neighbour in our current apartment too, and yesterday his music got so loud that Brahm went and told him to turn the bass down.  He was very apologetic and didn't seem to realize his music was so loud and turned it down to a respectful volume... and then promptly at 6:45 this morning (we don't need an alarm clock) started blasting it again at full volume.

WHY?  This is one of the mysteries of life I just don't understand.  I'm sure it's always a bit embarrassing to be asked to turn your music down... why invite that again, or worse, complaints to the landlord?  You MUST know it's still too loud, because it was too loud yesterday!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Cards


Brahm and I are both on holidays for 3 weeks for Christmas!  This is excellent however it marks the first time in several years (yes) that we've actually seen each other every day for 3 weeks in a row.  And definitely the first time ever that we've spent this much time together.

Needless to say within a few days we realized we needed something else to do besides watching TV and walking to Broadway/the Farmers' Market to accidentally spend a bunch of money.  We decided to start playing card games.

We started off with Dutch Blitz, which was the only card game we own besides a deck of cards (but we weren't sure what to do with the deck).  Eventually my mom informed us that UNO was basically Crazy Eights, so we looked up the rules and started playing that too.

Here's the thing we realized:  playing simple card games like Dutch Blitz and Crazy Eights is totally underrated.  It is SO FUN.  Even after losing about 6 straight Crazy Eights games in a row yesterday I still wanted to keep playing (and later redeemed myself by winning 6 straight games).  We might have to learn a few more games over the next couple weeks because playing cards really is a free way to get hours of fun!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Something Nice by Kate Beaton


This comic (if it shows up tiny just click on it to enlarge) by the amazing Kate Beaton, one of my favourite people on the internet, made me cry this morning.  Isn't it the truth, when you grow up you realize how much your parents gave you over your life and you just wish you could do the same for them somehow.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Our First Tree!


Brahm and I bought our first Christmas tree a couple weeks ago.  We got a real tree, which I haven't had since I lived at my parents' house, and it is awesome.  It makes our apartment smell great and I just like it so much more than an artificial tree.

Buying and setting up the tree sort of just felt like something to do for fun, but eventually I realized that it was actually kind of a special thing - we were starting a tradition together, that we'll eventually pass down to our future kids.  A big deal!

Buying the tree, buying some lights from Costco, and borrowing an old tree skirt and some garland from my parents wasn't the big deal.  But when we sat down with Brahm's mom to pick out all of the ornaments from their Christmas box that belonged to him, we realized how we want to decorate our tree every year.

Nothing against beautiful stylish trees with matching decorations - they are awesome and I bet really fun to decorate, especially if you do a new theme every year.  But we decided that other than lights and garland, everything that goes on our tree forever has to mean something.  It needs to be a gift, something we bought somewhere special, etc. 


It doesn't have a topper yet - it's still a bit of a work in progress.


Moose I got from Norway, guitar was a gift to Brahm's mom from a friend but she gave it to us, and that white puff in the top left corner is an ugly little cotton ball lamb Brahm made in Sunday School when he was 4... so of course I LOVE IT.


The ball in the top corner was given to me by my grandma last Christmas - all of the grandchildren received one of these balls, which were the ornaments my mom and her sisters decorated their tree with every year growing up.

We don't have many ornaments yet which is okay because our tree is small this year.  It will be fun to build our collection together and remember where each ornament came from every year when we decorate our tree.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Google Plus Thinks I am a Teen Girl


I got a Google Plus account around the time it first came out.  It hasn't seemed to really take off, as I only have two Google Plus contacts who actually post anything.  The rest is random posts that Google thinks I am probably interested in.  The problem is that most of these posts lately have led me to believe that Google thinks I am an angsty teenage girl.

I was telling my friend Jess about this one night, describing the various teen girl posts that were showing up in my feed.  Generally cute Instagrammy pictures of hearts (with the old timey filters OF COURSE) with some quote about "love" on them, like "one day you'll wake up and realize that the perfect person for you was in front of your face the whole time" or my personal favourite lame quote to hate on, "life is not measured by the number of breaths that we take but by the moments that take our breath away" blah blah blah and then all the teen girls would comment and be like "OMG this is soooo true, I realized I love my next door neighbour but he doesn't like me back :(" "This is exactly what love is all about, I should know, I have the perfect bf" etc.

The next morning I checked Google Plus to see if there were any new developments in teen girl culture.  Sure enough:


SEE WHAT I MEAN?

Okay, Google Plus actual users, I know.  I haven't subscribed to actual feeds I'd be interested in seeing so this is half my fault.  HOWEVER, I got a Gmail knowing full well this meant Google now had permission to basically read my emails so they could target advertising to me.  So what are they reading my emails for if they aren't going to give me some interesting suggested Google Plus feeds? 

Come on, Google.  Get with it.  Start reading my emails and Google Reader subscriptions and give me some actual relevant Google Plus suggested posts!  Show me some cool things to buy!  Otherwise, what was the point of gaining that permission if you're not actually using it?

Friday, December 7, 2012

More about massage therapy


Recently I blogged about how awesome massage therapy was.  Let me elaborate a bit more.

I had started going this year because of a stiff neck which eventually led to tension headaches.  The massages I had were extremely helpful but focused mainly on my neck and shoulders because that area was obviously causing me problems.  I started feeling little twingy tension headaches coming back, so went back for another massage.

My previous two massages were only half-hour massages because when booking them, I figured I only needed a half hour because it was just a small area (neck).  However it seemed at the end of both of them that the RMT started finding other tight areas but had to quit, so I booked in for an hour this time, and told the therapist to basically do whatever needed to be done.

My old RMT recently switched to a different location and I don't know how to find her :( so I had to go to a new girl.  At first I missed my old therapist but the new one seemed to do a good job overall... and waking up the next day, she definitely did something right.

For a REALLY long time now, I've only been able to comfortably sleep on my left side.  I'll try to sleep on my back or right side but my head would always start leaning over to the left and I'd eventually just switch to my left side.  But the night after my massage, I slept very soundly, almost the entire night on my back.  At one point I rolled over onto my right side and was able to sleep that way for quite a while too.

I didn't realize how badly stiff my muscles had gotten until a massage fixed them.  I'm so grateful to be able to sleep on my back again.  This is why I am now a massage convert - it is totally a good idea to go get a massage every few months or so to loosen up your muscles.  I'm lucky my health plan covers quite a bit of massage but even if you don't have such a plan, I think it would definitely be money well-spent.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Thanks Jian! (The Casual Vacancy Review)


I'm sure most CBC Radio listeners think about how much they love Jian Ghomeshi on a pretty regular basis.  To be quite honest when Brahm started swooning over him a couple years ago I thought it was kind of silly and made fun of him a bit but now I TOTALLY GET IT.  One of my friends, who is in an 8-year very happy relationship, expressed to me recently how she was so sad to find out Jian was 45, because she really wanted to marry him, but not really... but kind of actually.  There's a reason that if you type "jian ghomeshi" into Google it sometimes auto-completes to "jian ghomeshi girlfriend" followed by "jian ghomeshi gay."  It's official - men and women alike are in love with Jian Ghomeshi.

Anyway, so Jian Ghomeshi is pretty awesome, but we all know that.  (If you don't know that, please start downloading some Q podcasts ASAP.)  I'm actually trying to get to my point, which is a bit of a review of J.K. Rowling's new book, The Casual Vacancy.

I am a giant Harry Potter fan.  I LOVED the books and every time a new one came out, I'd wake up early and go buy it first thing in the morning (I never went to the midnight parties - I'm not that into parties but also I wanted to be well-rested to take on a full-day reading marathon).  I didn't do the same with The Casual Vacancy though.  I was cautiously skeptical (I know that is super redundant) because... what if it wasn't very good?  What if it soured my love of J.K. Rowling?  I should have known to trust in one of my favourite authors but hey - all she had written was the Harry Potter series.  It's hard to call someone your favourite author based on one series of books, and know what else they can do.  I'd also heard some negative reviews through the grapevine so I figured I'd eventually read it but not right away.

Then as fate would have it, I was driving in my car and caught part of Jian Ghomeshi's interview with J.K. Rowling.  Now if we want to do some more Jian-loving, or if you're on the fence about how good of a broadcaster he is (yeah right) the fact that he scored an interview with J.K. Rowling is HUGE.  And it's an awesome interview as well - if you have 25 minutes, and especially if you aren't sure if you want to read The Casual Vacancy or have any interest in J.K. Rowling, please listen to it!  She discusses the book, the negative reactions to the book, and puts to rest those media accusations that she is reclusive (she just wants to write, and hang out with her kids!  Not give interviews every waking second).  The interview will make you love J.K. Rowling and want to read her book, and also make you love Jian for being the best interviewer ever.

Anyway so after I heard the interview, my interest was finally piqued enough that I decided to read the book.  I wasn't sure what I was expecting.  The plot, which is actually a bit slow-moving, is still page turning.  The characters, who I basically either hated or felt really sorry for, were still fascinating.  If you read a quick summary or get someone to tell you what the book is about, it sounds boring.  But it's not.  It's amazing, you won't be able to put it down, and you will finish reading it and won't be able to stop thinking about it for a long time.  And you'll want to discuss it with people so why do I not know anyone who has read this book arghh someone please read it so we can talk about it!

I absolutely hate that the most common description of this book is that it's nothing like Harry Potter.  Umm, no one said it was going to be anything like Harry Potter?  The only similarities are that a) it's a book and b) it's by J.K. Rowling.  So FORGET Harry Potter, stop waiting for Voldemort to pop out, and pick up this book with an open mind.  Because if you read it expecting Harry Potter you will be let down, as were most of the people who posted Amazon reviews of this book (I don't understand the one where someone said their ENTIRE book club either couldn't finish the book because it was so boring or passionately hated it.  That just baffles me).

The Casual Vacancy is not G-rated, as you may have heard.  If you are uncomfortable reading about adult situations, you probably shouldn't read this book.  But like J.K. Rowling tells Jian in the interview, nothing is gratuitous.  Every sentence in the book is important to the story or to the character development.  The characters are so realistic and so honest, it kind of gives you goosebumps.  You want to yell at them, you want to rescue them.  You will wonder as the characters get into deeper and deeper trouble how the book is going to end without being majorly depressing.

Without spoiling anything, some readers might think the ending is majorly depressing.  Some might think it is incredibly hopeful.  That's the beauty of this book - there's so much to think about and debate about in your head.  It's not cut-and-dry good vs. evil.  It's a book that's really about the characters, and the consequences of their actions.  J.K. Rowling said that the working title of the book was Responsible, which makes sense.  Responsibility is the major theme throughout the book and something you'll be trying to process long after you put it down.  Did everyone get what they deserved?  Who ended up taking responsibility for their own actions?  Did anyone?

If you've been on the fence about whether to read this book because of the mixed reviews and boring-sounding plot, I strongly encourage you to give it a try.  If you're an old J.K. Rowling fan or have never touched Harry Potter, I think you'll enjoy it.  Maybe enjoy is the wrong word because it's not necessarily a happy book to read, but it will move you.  Even if you hate it, it's the kind of book that will still make an impact.  J.K. Rowling is an amazing writer and I can't wait to read everything else she publishes in the future.  And she's definitely secured a spot among my favourite authors.



Monday, December 3, 2012

Breaking News


I recently found out that my grandma, who has stated before that she only likes "reality TV" like American Idol, The Amazing Race, Dr. Phil, Oprah, and the news, has a new favourite show.

The Big Bang Theory.

My grandma, who refused to watch CORNER GAS because it was apparently too vulgar, watches The Big Bang Theory and enjoys it.

I am so confused.  And sad.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

must have ketchup


My mom and I were having a texting conversation about how the weather was really nice in the morning, then got really cold.  But it wasn't as cold in Humboldt.  Then I told her I bought some Toe Warmers boots at Sears and then found a bunch of good reviews of them online.

Mom:  Ok but check the age the ppl reviewing too

Me:  I can show you them next time and if you think they look ugly I'll take them back but I think they're fine

Mom:  Ok Haha I dont know that brand were walking to Iga [grocery store] for bologna Its not too bad

Me:  Why are you buying bologna  [I did not realize my parents ate bologna]

Mom:  Luuuv bologna sandwiches Haha with ketchup Haha must have ketchup

Monday, November 26, 2012

Kickstarter Documentaries


I backed a couple of important-looking documentaries on Kickstarter the other day.  I want to write a bit about them, why I backed them, and hopefully encourage you to back them too if you have the means to do so.

But first, if you don't know what Kickstarter is, it's kind of like online Dragon's Den.  People pitch projects that they don't have enough funding to get off the ground, and if you want to help them out you make a donation.  The cool part is that if they don't reach their funding goal, they don't get any of the money.

I saw the link to Project Wild Thing on one of my favourite blogs, Free Range Kids.  Remember hearing about the New York mom who let her 10 year old son ride the subway alone a few years ago?  That's the Free Range Kids lady and she's awesome.  Her whole mission with the Free Range Kids movement is to empower parents to stop being so overprotective and raise independent, well-rounded kids.  It's basically the parenting philosophy that existed up until very recently, before shows like Law and Order: SVU struck the fear of abduction into the hearts of parents everywhere on a weekly basis.

The goal of Project Wild Thing appears to be getting people, especially kids, to enjoy nature again, and starting conversations about how to do this.  The way they go about trying to "market" nature like it was a consumer product is really neat, and I really hope this documentary can get finished and start its outreach.  It looks super interesting and very important.

She's Beautiful When She's Angry is one I found while just randomly browsing, but it's another one I'm really hoping will reach its funding goal.  The interviews they've done and the footage they've shot and collected all sounds so rich and fascinating that it would be such a shame to not be able to finish this important film.

It's billing itself as "the first feature documentary about the birth of women's liberation in the 1960's."  I think, as women in this day and age, we take for granted so many of the rights we have.  In fact, we are often encouraged to take these rights for granted as so many out there insist that there is no longer a need for feminism; we have reached equality.  "Feminist" has become a word that is twisted to the point that many women shy away from it because they're worried identifying as such means they hate men and burn bras.

More women, and especially young girls, need to understand how hard the suffragists and feminists before us fought to gain us the rights we have today, and to recognize that total equality has NOT yet been achieved.  Male politicians are still making decisions on what women can do with their bodies and what medications they are allowed to take, courts are still ruling that women are "asking for" rape because they were dressed like "sluts".  And in so many countries around the world, baby girls are given up or aborted because families want boys, women are beaten to death in front of their communities for "shameful" acts like sex outside of marriage, women are arrested for simple things driving or being out in public without a male escort, and young girls are shot by the Taliban for simply wanting to get an education.  Recognizing that feminists were not just a bunch of whiny women in the 60's who wanted to wear pants is vital to ensuring that complacency does not set in, so we don't start to move backwards and lose some of the rights we had, like what is happening in many US states.

Anyway, I encourage you to check out the Kickstarter pages for both documentaries and make a donation if you can!  Be a part of something important.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Traps


Shortly after Brahm and I got married and I moved into his apartment, we realized that I had a previously-undiscovered annoying behaviour:  I set traps.

I unwittingly arrange things in the cupboards so that when people open them, things fall on them.  I leave things on the floor that are tripping hazards.  And worst of all, two days in a row I didn't flush the toilet after pooping.

Some of these traps may come in handy if we ever get robbed, Home Alone style.  But right now, every time Brahm falls prey to one of my traps, I just feel bad about it.  Sometimes I am worried that I might set a dangerous trap, like leave a sharp knife somewhere that it will fall on his foot (I did something similar at my old house; put a knife in a drawer sharp side up and Brahm reached in and cut his hand.  I am the worst).  I realize I need to be more mindful about my organization and what I am leaving lying around, because while most of these traps are relatively comical in nature (AFTER the fact, obviously), I DON'T want to hurt myself or my partner.

This past week Brahm had been mentioning that he thought the milk in our fridge was going bad.  It tasted fine to me so we decided to keep drinking it anyway.  One morning after he had left for work I got a text:

"So unless you were boiling vinegar in the kettle the milk is definitely turning.  Had a glass for breakfast that seemed ok but it curdled and soured my coffee.  So gross!"

The previous day's actions came rushing back to me.  I'd poured a bit of vinegar into the kettle to scale it, left it sit for a couple minutes and... completely forgot about it.

I think I have a problem.




Wednesday, November 21, 2012

DIY: Salad Dressing


One thing I am never doing again in my life is buying salad dressing from a store.  What is the point?  It basically takes the same amount of time to create your own salad dressing from scratch as it does to take the Kraft out of the fridge, shake it up, and pour it on your salad.

Have a gander at Kraft's current lineup - over 50 varieties of salad dressing?  Have you tried them all?  NO, you haven't, and you never will be able to because then you would have to buy a fridge for salad dressing only and eat nothing but salad so you could use them all up before they expire.

Here's what you can do if you make your own salad dressings:  make a brand new flavour every day for the rest of your life and never have to throw out a 1/2 used bottle of Bacon Ranch because you already had Rancher's Choice, Calorie-Wise Rancher's Choice, Three Cheese Ranch, and Bacon Italian in the fridge that you liked better.  Oh and you also had to throw most of those ones out too.

As long as you have oil, vinegar, and a few random things to add in (if you want) you've got salad dressing.  A couple of my favourite standbys are oil+balsamic vinegar+a crushed garlic clove (amazing) and oil+apple cider vinegar+maple syrup (also amazing).  But really, the possibilities are endless, as long as you have oil and vinegar (which in itself is a delicious salad dressing).  If you're into creamy dressings, which are kind of gross in my opinion but whatevs, here's a recipe for homemade ranch that you could play off to create your own version of Creamy Cucumber.  Being able to control the ingredient ratios is awesome.  Is your favourite store bought dressing too salty, oily, or acidic?  Make a copycat version but adjust the ratios to your preference.

How many times have you found yourself accidentally thinking a new kind of salad dressing on the shelf at the store looks good, bought it, didn't really like it, and ended up throwing it out after it expired a few months later?  Never again!  Making your own salad dressing will save you money, fridge space, and calories.  And you can create the flavour that you thought the disappointing store bought dressing was going to have.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The power of a "happy birthday"


It was my birthday last week.  I have always secretly (or, maybe not-so-secretly) wished that someday, someone would make a big deal out of my birthday.  Like throw me a surprise party or something.  Since I can remember, anytime I've had school or work on my birthday I've gone around announcing to everyone that it was my birthday, which maybe is obnoxious but I just think it's funny.

It may sound weird for a shy, sensitive introvert like me to want anyone to even know it is my birthday, but that's how it is.  And this year, 28 years into my life, it finally happened.

I was at work.  In the days leading up to my birthday, I was telling my co-workers at breakfast that my birthday was coming up.  As I got into work on my actual birthday, a co-worker from another office on site (who I had not had breakfast with) sent me an instant message wishing me a happy birthday.  I asked her how she had known and she cryptically replied "I know everything."  A couple birthday emails arrived in my inbox.  A minute later, a co-worker from down the hall walked into my office to say happy birthday and I got him to spill the beans on how everyone seemed to know.

Long story short, after I'd left breakfast that morning someone had jokingly suggested that someone should send an email to the entire site announcing that it was my birthday.  And someone did.

I think people thought that they were embarrassing me all day by emailing and stopping by, because like I said I am a shy, sensitive introvert who shouldn't like that stuff.  But I loved it.  It was honestly the best birthday I could have had at work.

Because a birthday at work, away from your loved ones, isn't going to be a great birthday.  No one is going to make you a special dinner or give you flowers or something.  And I KNOW hipsters, birthdays are technically dumb because unless you're like 100, why are you celebrating still being alive?  But I am still of the opinion that we all deserve one day a year to be celebrated, to be made to feel a little bit special, to remember that we have people in our lives who are happy that we're still alive.  Right?  We all need that.  And it's hard to get when you're at work, away from those people.

All day long, people stopped into my office and sent me emails.  Some more awesome than others, like the gruff old mechanic who said "The email said to come say happy birthday, so happy birthday."  The fact that all of these people took a few minutes out of their day to pop by or send an email, when they absolutely didn't have to do anything of the sort because they're just my co-workers, totally made my day.


So never underestimate the power of a "happy birthday" - more often than not, the fact that you thought of someone will make their birthday so much better.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Pomegranates


All I really want to say is that pomegranate is maybe the best thing to put in a salad, ever.  Especially a spinach salad with things like chicken and nuts and avocado.  But the taste and texture of pomegranate is just perfect for salad.  It is a shame pomegranates are only available for a short time every year and are so annoying to get open, because they are delicious and I love them.  Especially in salads.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Sandwich Place


My sisters and I have always gotten along really well with a group of our cousins who live in Calgary.  We only see each other once or twice a year (sometimes even less, especially as we get older and have separate adult lives) but these trips to Calgary or Disneyland or BC or wherever we met up were always a highlight of our year.

We had many, many cousin "traditions" that evolved and petered out over the years.  To name a few:  making a "parade" of every single toy (including several hundred small army men/McDonald's toys/etc.) in my cousins' basement and then making our parents clean it up, mixing up a terrifying cocktail of as many disgusting kitchen ingredients as we could find and making our dads taste it, walking to 7-11 to buy Slurpees and treats to have while watching Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen's latest lame movie, and playing a game where we pretended to murder each other while jumping on their trampoline.  Some still live on today, like having lunch at Peters Drive-In and wearing our Team Cousin t-shirts at family events.



One of my favourite traditions, which I'm proud to have invented, was The Sandwich Place.  The Sandwich Place was a soup and sandwich (and veggies and dip) restaurant that we opened once a visit for our parents.  We decided on a few different sandwich combinations and canned soups that were available in the house, wrote up menus, and prepped the kitchen. 

We made our parents go outside and ring the doorbell when they "arrived" and I feel like at one point they even called to make a reservation (haha).  The two cousins delegated to be the servers seated the parents, and when the orders came in we scurried into action in the kitchen, slapping together sandwiches, ladling Ichiban into bowls, and pouring Ranch or Creamy Cucumber into small pools onto plates next to celery sticks that our moms had pre-prepped for us.  Our youngest cousin Kristin was always the "caller" - Fuddruckers-style, she sat at the "pickup" table with a toy megaphone and let each customer know that their order was ready.

My dad mentioned The Sandwich Place during his speech at the wedding, and noted that often the sandwiches were less than appetizing, but they politely ate everything on their plates and gave us rave reviews.  I'm glad, because putting on The Sandwich Place was a total blast.  It went through several iterations, sometimes even having PRINTED (on a computer!) menus, and lived on as a cousin tradition for 5 or 6 years.

I hope someday when my cousins and I all have children of our own, they're as close as we were and start some new cousin traditions.  I know for sure we'll be encouraging them to open their own version of The Sandwich Place.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Real Bread


One product that just grosses me out is any sort of super-processed shelf-stable bread.  I'm talking about Dempster's and other similar brands - just gross.  Bread that is shipped from a factory across the country/continent and then sits on grocery store shelves for days that is still soft when you take it out of the bag is NOT bread.

Here's what bread is supposed to be:  baked fresh the morning you buy it in a bakery, and starts to go stale within 24 hours.  Real bakeries, if they don't sell out of all their bread in a day, sell day-old bread at a reduced price for cheapskates and people who want to make stuffing or croutons.

Grocery stores let the same brand-name bread sit on their shelves for days.  What sort of preservatives are in this weird bread product that keeps it "fresh" for such a long time?  Fake bread doesn't even toast, it just chars a bit on the outside but stays soft and doughy on the inside.  Real bread is in danger of drying out if you toast it too long.  Fake bread is in danger of starting on fire.

I refuse to buy fake bread because it tastes weird, has a doughy, sticky texture, and on top of being full of chemicals and preservatives that don't belong in bread, it's generally more expensive than buying real bread.  I don't understand why anyone buys fake bread.  Convenience?  I guarantee there's a real bakery that's as close or closer to you than the grocery stores you frequent.  Real bread goes stale too fast?  Use your freezer; a slice of real bread takes 2 minutes to thaw at room temperature or 15 seconds in the microwave.  Start saying no to fake bread because it's a super disgusting product and there's no point to it existing.


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The best Text from My Mom


Maybe the best Text from My Mom of all time:

Mom:  I'm sad i cant find the tv turner for a few days Haha

Hahaha

Monday, November 5, 2012

Awesome Brunch: Sweet Potato Hash with Sausage and Eggs


Brahm recently switched from working a 12-hour day 5 days a week schedule to a 10 days on, 4 days off schedule.  This is pretty great because now when I'm home we have 4 days off together, instead of trying to cram doing a bunch of fun things together into a short weekend where we also want to do other things like see our friends and families.

One especially fun thing about this is getting to make fancy breakfasts together.  Our standard is bacon and eggs (with slices cut off a slab of locally smoked bacon, very lean and not salty or slimy like most grocery store bacon) with hashbrowns and toast, but we definitely enjoy experimenting with really intense breakfast recipes and I had one bookmarked that I had wanted to try for a while:  sweet potato hash with sausage and eggs.

We got a cast iron pan for a wedding gift and it has definitely, besides our dishes, become our most-used wedding gift.  Mostly Brahm has been reading up on it and experimenting, so this dish was my intro to using the pan.  I didn't totally follow the recipe but basically all I did was:
  • Fry up an onion and two cloves of (local aka really strong) garlic in the cast iron pan
  • Add a diced sweet potato and a few seasonings (salt, pepper, chili powder, paprika)
  • Bake in the oven (in the pan) for 15 minutes at 425
  • Add some crumbled (pre-cooked) farmers' sausage and cracked on 4 eggs
  • Baked for another 10 minutes or so
THAT'S ALL.  The cast iron pan ROCKED this recipe because it retains so much heat, roasting sweet potatoes took a fraction of the time I was expecting them to take.  The taste verdict?  Super delicious.  If you read the full recipe link, it says to do the roasting part the night before so all you have to do is add the eggs in the morning.  But if you've got cast iron cookware, why even bother?


A good tip I got from the comments of the original article, if you choose to make this recipe - baked eggs look deceptively uncooked, so poke them to see if they are done instead of relying on their appearance.  Another tip from me:  use farmer sausage instead of something like Italian sausage since it's got that smoked, bacony taste to it that balances the sweetness of the sweet potatoes well.  I suppose you could also sub in bacon...

A++ will make again!  Would be an awesome recipe to make for brunch if you were having company over!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Chateau du Mal Voisin


Saskatoon got a lot of snow overnight.  It was the inevitable day we have every November, the first really big snowfall where everyone gets stuck and is late for work the next day.  I was supposed to go get winter tires this morning but after about 10-15 minutes of brushing my car off and watching everyone getting stuck on the street, I decided not to chance it.  Even if Brahm and I could both get out of our neighbourhood without getting stuck (he following in another vehicle so I could get a ride home after - apparently at this time of year Kal-Tire prefers you to just drop your car off at 7:30 am and they'll get to it when they get to it), I'd rather not be out driving today if I don't have to.

While we were scraping and then trying to figure out the best way to get out of our neighbourhood without getting stuck, a couple of across the street neighbours came out and started shoveling their walks.  They called friendly hellos to each other, and I smiled, thinking about what a nice, neighbourly neighbourhood we live in.

Then, friendly hellos over with, they started yelling up the street about how stupid everyone is because they are trying to drive uphill to get out of the neighbourhood.  No matter what way you go from where we live, you've got to confront an upward hill at some point, so the general thought process seems to be if you can get onto a side street that isn't quite so steep you can get out.  According to these neighbours, if you go all the way to the bottom of the hill and then go up the side street, it's easier.

Okay, fair enough.  But I felt like it was kind of jerkish while people were probably having stressful moments trying to get unstuck, being worried about missing an important meeting, etc. for these neighbours to literally yell up the street to each other "HAHA these idiots never learn, year after year it's always the same!  It's our yearly tradition to sit in our living room with our coffee and just laugh at how stupid everyone is!"

Come on.  There are a lot of apartment buildings and rental units on our street - not everyone has lived here forever and knows the trick about driving to the bottom of the hill.  So neighbours, when people are frustrated and stressed, especially those who don't know the neighbourhood (like the poor lost taxi driver who barely spoke English and basically drove up and down the street for half an hour trying to get out the same way he came in) or just having a bad morning because their car is stuck, either stay inside and laugh at them if you must, or go outside and give them some neighbourly advice.  Don't stand outside and loudly mock them because that is just plain RUDE.

EDIT, later in the day:  My mom came over to pick me up and go downtown, and we took our rude neighbours' advice from this morning about going to the bottom of the hill and going from there.  GUESS WHAT, we got stuck.  So we came back to our street and went up the hill partway and then did what the neighbours were laughing at this morning and got out.  So... SHUT UP smug neighbours, but also thank you for shoveling your sidewalks because they were easy to walk on.


Monday, October 22, 2012

Not another post about lime yogurt


I basically need a tag for posts about lime yogurt since I write about it so much.  But I thought an update might be in order.

In one of those posts I mentioned that there was a lime yogurt I could buy only in the US.  It is one of those Yoplait non-fat ones with a million flavours, but since Oikos started making key lime Greek yogurt my life has been complete. 

While in the US on our honeymoon I decided to buy one of my old Yoplait friends and see how it measured up against my new favourite (Oikos).  I was happy to say that it was pretty disgusting in comparison, so GOOD JOB OIKOS, you make the best key lime yogurt on the market and I hope you never stop.

Best post ever amiright??

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Cold Feet


Our wedding day started off maybe a tiny bit stressful.  We started pictures a few minutes late and they went longer than we meant them to.  About 15 minutes before we wanted to be at the venue (about a half hour drive out of town), Brahm and I found ourselves sitting in the lobby of my parents' hotel, waiting for them to finish packing up all the decorations at my house.  When they finally pulled up, my dad got out of the van wearing a t-shirt and shorts. 

I definitely had a 13 year old girl OMG DAAAAAAAD moment.  He threw on his suit in record time but we still made it out to The Berry Barn 30-40 minutes later than we wanted to be there to do some pictures.  We rushed through a bunch of family pictures and about 5-10 minutes before the ceremony was scheduled to start the girls went and took some pictures standing in the river, as per my mom's request.

I was kind of stressed because I really hate making people wait for me, even though Brahm kept reminding me "this is one day people can wait for us".  We took off our shoes and stepped into the river.



A man standing on the shore watching called out "be careful that she doesn't get cold feet!"

It was a totally lame joke but it was absolutely the tension breaker for the day.  We laughed harder at it than we needed to and then just waded around in the water for a few minutes, finally feeling relaxed, doing something fun like wading around in the river.


I think I'll be forever thankful to that random onlooker for breaking the tension on my wedding day.

Last photo by Organic Photography

Monday, October 15, 2012

Directions


When we first started putting together our wedding website, I realized that there was going to be a detour along the route to the wedding venue.  I put in a little note saying something like "Turn left onto X Ave. right after the Y building - it's the huge glass building along 11th St."  Brahm argued that this direction was not going to make sense to anyone, but I argued it would be much easier for me to follow that direction instead of just saying "Turn left onto Y Ave."  Both of us thought the other was crazy I think but we kept the landmark description on the website (the detour disappeared a few weeks before the wedding so we were able to take it out anyway).

Shortly after I was describing the conversation to my sisters and Megan said that there's a ton of evidence that men and women look at directions totally different - men rely on maps while women rely on landmarks.  Interesting!  And TOTALLY true.

I never really noticed this difference before until our disagreement about how to word the detour on the website, but now it's completely apparent.  I told Brahm I would place an order at a takeout restaurant for supper one evening so he could pick it up on his way home from work and he asked where it was.  "It's by the second Tim Horton's on 8th St" I texted.  Moments later, most likely after looking it up on a map, he replied back "Oh yeah, on the corner of 8th and Acadia."  Or, if we're going somewhere together and he's driving and I tell him I know where it is ("it's right across the street from that big brown house"), he still needs to look it up on a map to be sure.  Not that he doesn't trust my sense of direction but he has a fundamental need to see it in map form.

After living in Saskatoon for almost 10 years now, I know the city.  From house hunting pretty hardcore for a couple months in the spring, I know all the neighbourhoods and how to get to them.  I could give you map directions from memory if I thought about it really hard, but it's just so much easier to say "It's across from Superstore on 8th St." or "a block to the left of Bulk Cheese Warehouse".  Sometimes I still get disoriented when I'm driving downtown though and am not sure how to get out, so I just head towards the river.

I think this whole thing is kind of fascinating.  If you've never noticed it before, pay attention to it and you'll probably realize it's true with the people in your life too.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Massage Therapy


Massage therapy, where have you been all my life?

Several years ago when I was in university I started getting persistent headaches every day.  I figured I probably had a brain tumour or something so I went to the doctor and she said it sounded like tension headaches.  She told me to go get a massage.  I went and got one, my back hurt like crazy for several days after, but then my headaches were gone.  After that I didn't get another massage for a long time because I knew what tension headaches were and as soon as I felt them coming back, I just worked hard to relax my shoulders and stuff and they'd go away.

A few weeks ago I got a super stiff neck from I'm not sure what, so I sucked it up and booked a massage.  My neck got better, but a couple weeks later the tension headaches came back on the same side as my sore neck.  So, I went for another massage and I'm hoping this one worked.

The night before I went I told Brahm to rub my shoulders because I was pretty sure they were stiff.  When I went for the massage, the therapist was like "WOW your shoulders are tight" and she had to do all these weird things like pushing really hard into my armpit to fix everything.  She said my shoulder blades basically were not moving with my arms anymore which is bad, haha.

After the massage my shoulders were sore from being prodded around so I got Brahm to rub them and he said the difference between that day and the night before was extremely noticeable.  Who knew?  I have an excellent benefits plan through work so I might as well go every once in a while just to keep things loose.

The first time I went for a massage I expected it to be like, a relaxation massage.  I did not realize real massage therapy often has to be pretty painful for them to actually work out all the kinks.  But, it's pain that's worth it.

The only weird thing about massages that I don't really like is that it's basically a medical procedure because it's covered by health plans, but you're supposed to tip.  Do any other medical professionals get tipped?  No, so why do I have to tip my massage therapist like they just served me a meal?  Oh well.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Goyo Kumba Eggplant Part 2


I wrote a post a while ago about a neat thing I had discovered:  goyo kumba eggplant.  They are small, ornamental eggplants that look just like tiny pumpkins.  I decided to try and grow them this summer and it worked out well - most of the plants were ripening just in time to make a cool Thanksgiving centrepiece:



If I'd had more time I would have actually added some other greenery and stuff so it didn't look so bare but I think they still look cool!  They were pretty easy to grow too so next year I might grow them again, although it does take up a fair amount of growing space for something merely ornamental that takes all summer to mature.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Space Week


There are some memories I have of elementary school that sometimes make me hope that someday, my future will work out that I'll decide the right path to take is become an elementary school teacher.  Space Week is one of them.

I'm not sure which teacher came up with the idea for Space Week, but I hope they know how many awesome memories it made for so many little kids.  It all started when the whole school was called to the gymnasium for a routine assembly on Monday morning.  This was not unusual, we had assemblies from time to time and certain classes would perform a song with sign language, etc.  However, a couple minutes into this assembly, the lights started flashing and fog started pouring onto the stage.  Coloured lights blinked on and off, and a couple of creatures in tin foil suits stepped onto the stage from the wings.  When the smoke cleared, they announced that they were aliens from another planet and they had kidnapped our principal.

The crowd.  Went.  Wild.

The grade four teacher tried to confront the aliens.  "Wait just a minute!  You can't just barge in here and kidnap our principal!"  He was cut off as one of the aliens shot him with a ray gun.  He collapsed to the floor.

The aliens continued.  They had kidnapped our principal and replaced her with an alien lookalike, who they brought on stage.  This lookalike did look a LOT like our principal, but she wore a tin foil suit and had other various alien features.  She was going to do the job of our principal for a week, and on Friday night, at the wrap-up of Space Week, our principal would be returned to us IF we could find all of the pieces of a secret alien document they had hidden all over the school.  (To sweeten the deal, anyone finding one of the clues would receive a large chocolate bar if they returned it to the alien principal.)  Then, the aliens left, again in a cloud of smoke and blinking lights.

The grade four teacher groggily awoke and everyone filled him in on what had happened.  We kids spent the rest of the week at recess and lunch hour scouring the school for pieces of the alien puzzle, and I remember leading a search party one recess but one of my friends found the clue and not me :(  The alien principal, who looked just like our principal, continued to wear her alien getup ALL WEEK.  Now that is a teacher dedicated to doing something awesome.

One of the best parts of Space Week was the ending.  On Friday night, we all gathered again in the gymnasium with our parents, anxiously awaiting the return of the aliens and our principal.  A couple of teachers and the alien principal waited onstage.  With the same flourish as before, the aliens reappeared.  The teachers presented them with all of the clues that had been found by students over the week, and the aliens pronounced they were satisfied.  We were getting our principal back.

AND THEN OMG

OUR PRINCIPAL CAME ONSTAGE.  She was onstage WITH the alien principal.  All the junior skeptics who all week had insisted that the alien principal was just our principal dressed up, and that the aliens were really grade eight boys dressed up, and that it was just a giant teacher conspiracy were shocked.

Eventually of course, a kid whose parent was a teacher at the school explained how it had been done and we learned the truth.  But the planning and effort that all of our teachers put in planning Space Week is still something I remember so fondly and makes me sad that such a thing probably wouldn't fly in a school today (I can just imagine all the calls from parents, livid that they have to explain to their terrified children that aliens aren't real and the principal wasn't actually kidnapped and the aliens aren't coming to get them too blah blah blah) because it might just be my favourite memory of elementary school.

So thank you, Humboldt Public School teachers of the mid-nineties.  I hope Space Week was as much fun for you as it was for us.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Demise of Quality Programming on Network TV


I saw this new show title on the CTV website:  Emily Owens, M.D.  "Oh brother," I thought, "another dumb show about a cute, white, female doctor looking for love."

Then I read the show description:

The Internship Begins...
Emily Owens is as a sweet medical school graduate who can’t escape her high school woes. As a first-year intern at Denver Memorial Hospital, Emily has the chance to work with world-famous cardiologist Dr. Gina Beckett and not-so-coincidentally alongside her med school crush and fellow intern Will Rider.

So why does everyone keep warning her that the hospital is just like high school? Emily soon finds out the hard way - her high school nemesis, the gorgeous, popular Cassandra Kopelson, is also just starting out at Denver Memorial, and it seems like they're rivals all over again - not only as surgical interns, but for Will's attention.


Emily's the new kid again, and it's just as awkward as high school. Only this time around, Emily has to balance the personal and emotional turmoil of social politics with the high-stakes world of life-and-death medical decisions. At least she has fellow intern Tyra and nerdy-but-cute resident Micah to count on as friends.


Emily is going to realize that although she may be a geek, she may also grow to be a great doctor. 


If I'd spent the time, I think I probably could have come up with a similar show description out of my imagination... because TV IS SO BAD AND PREDICTABLE these days.  I know how this show is going to go.  Eventually Emily and Will will get together BUT THEN she will realize he's not all that great after all and then will realize she actually likes nerdy-but-cute Micah who has been carrying a torch for this clumsy but adorable geek all along (it doesn't say she's clumsy but YOU KNOW IT WILL BE TRUE).  Whaaaat yup that's what will happen.

I read an article a while ago about how NBC is planning to only make "broad comedy" sitcoms from now on (i.e. shows with 95% sexual humour with a stupid laugh track).  Which means, a couple of my not-cancelled-yet favourites, Community and Parks and Recreation, are pretty much doomed, and with 30 Rock and The Office (not that good anymore anyway, last I saw) in their last seasons, the decent comedies on network TV are getting fewer and fewer.

If any good comes out of this, it's that 30 Rock has decided to create a storyline around how NBC is now committed to only putting garbage on TV, which is going to make for a hilarious final season.

Is this the last year there will be quality programming on network TV?  It looks that way.  Let's just hope NBC lets these amazing shows end properly and doesn't cancel them midseason to be replaced with Emily Owens: The Sitcom.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Basically it's Sneakernight


Hello everyone.  You may be sorry you read this post, because I'm about to introduce you to one of the worst songs in recent years.  It didn't get very big so you probably haven't heard it before, and it really isn't that catchy so don't worry about it being stuck in your head.  If you have 3 minutes, please take a look at this video for "Sneakernight" by Vanessa Hudgens (of High School Musical fame):



I have a few issues with this song.  First of all, the lyrics are super lame.  Now I am the last person to judge what is lame and what is cool because I honestly consider staying up until 10 to be really late (I work at 6 though okay), and part of me wants to be like "I am very happy to hear a song that asks if people had a snack before going out so they would have energy, and also ensures that everyone brought comfortable footwear" but SERIOUSLY THAT IS SO LAME.  Like, I would totally do that myself, but I am not cool.  I would never try to make a music video about it and pretend to be cool about it.  Because say what you like about cool and lame, and to each his own, but I think the consensus out there is that being practical is generally not a very popular subject to make dance videos about, unless they are parodies.

And also, the chorus "Basically what we're gonna do is dance"... I don't get it.  The word "basically" doesn't really fit in as a "cool" word either, thus upping the lameness of the song/video.  I suppose the word makes sense there but in the context of how it's used in normal conversation, it's more of a "here's basically how addition works, you have two things and two more things, then you have four things" not so much "are we going to PARTY???" "Basically!  Woooooooooo"  even though I suppose the very basis of Sneakernight IS dancing. 

Another thing that annoys me about this video, besides the lame lyrics, is the lame dancing.  If you're going to make a video about dancing you better at least have some good dancing in it, amiright?  I guess there is one guy who does the splits at some point.  But when the girls are dancing they are not synched well and the choreography is super boring.

AND then this "nerd" (guy dressed in cool clothes but has glasses) comes and wants to dance with the girls but they're all "EW YOU HAVE GLASSES, NERD" and laugh at him while he tries to dance with them, and then they see this "hot" guy in a red shirt, who honestly looks exactly like the "nerd" but doesn't have glasses, and so Vanessa goes and dances with him because he doesn't have glasses, but he is a way worse dancer than the nerd.  At least the nerd was trying.  This guy just sways back and forth a bit, grade 7 style.  COME ON Vanessa why are you so mean to the nerd, all he needed to do was take his glasses off and he would have been cool, just give him a chance and let him dance.

I also feel like the nerd scene goes against the very principles of Sneakernight.  "Basically what we're gonna do is dance."  So at the very basis of the night, the whole point is dancing.  So then shouldn't that mean that if a nerd wants to dance, you shouldn't try to suppress him?  You're not saying "We're only going to dance with cool people" you're saying "we had some snacks and got comfortable footwear on and now basically we are going to spend the whole night dancing NO MATTER WHAT".  So congratulations Vanessa, your stupid video totally went against your stupid song, and I am just confused about the whole situation here and how this song ever got recorded and made a single in the first place.

Monday, October 1, 2012

What happens im vegas


My sisters went to Las Vegas recently with some friends, and went to see Thunder From Down Under.  (That link isn't necessarily unsafe to click but just be warned you will see some shirtless men and your speakers will start blasting music if they're on.)

While my sisters were away my mom was texting me, asking me if I'd heard any stories about Vegas or Thunder From Down Under.  I told her I had not heard from them.

Mom:  Well perhaps they didnt think you would be that interested im how fun thunder down under was Haha they have pictures Haha

Mom:  As you know what happens im vegas stays im vegas Haha i just know they went to thunder and were im the front row Haha too close for me Haha

(If you're wondering though, apparently it is actually a pretty tame show that you wouldn't necessarily be too embarrassed to be at with your mom or grandma.)



Friday, September 28, 2012

Garlic continued


Garlic growing:  what happened?  Here's the final product:



They are... tiny.  They didn't do much more than double in size from when I tried to pull them up in March, actually, so I am not sure what happened to make them not fully mature.  You can see above how big they are (and how oddly round) compared to the other local garlic we have in our kitchen.

I think I won't try to grow garlic in pots anymore - they need heat to mature and I wonder if there just wasn't enough heat retention in those little pots during cooler nights.  What I will definitely try though, when I have a garden, is try the fall-planting method, cover them with mulch over the winter, and then see what happens the following summer.  Because I am super opposed to the whole garlic import market when it's obviously easy to grow here from the amount of Farmers' Market merchants who sell it, and if you've ever tried local garlic it's easily 3-5 times more potent than China garlic so you can use less to achieve the same flavour.

We'll see how mine tastes anyway - it sure was potent when I pulled it up, and I had to leave it outside to dry for a week so it wouldn't stink up the house.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Stevia Extract


I tried to grow some stevia last year because I found a plant on sale at Canadian Tire for super cheap but accidentally killed it (I think it may have been too far gone when I bought it).  I bought another one this year and it thrived, but I wasn't really sure what to do with it.  Sometimes I buy plants because they are cool but don't know how to use them...

Stevia, if you don't know, is a plant with super sweet leaves (generally about 30-40 times sweeter than sugar).  But like, what am I going to do with a bunch of sweet leaves?  Use them in cookies?  No.  So I Googled what to do and came up with stevia extract.

Basically, all you do to make stevia extract (and almost any type of "extract" you want, really) is steep the leaves in flavourless alcohol, aka vodka.  With stevia extract though you're not supposed to steep longer than two days or it will turn bitter, whereas with others, like vanilla extract, you leave the beans in the vodka indefinitely and should wait at least a couple months before using it (on that note, I'm also making vanilla extract using this method).

So the other day, I harvested a bunch of leaves off my stevia plant (it was pretty big so I didn't come close to using all the leaves - I may try to keep it alive over the winter and plant it in my future yard next summer), chopped them up, put them in a jar, and covered the leaves with vodka:

 Sorry for the not-great photos - and yes that's a jar that was used as a rehearsal dinner vase...


I let them sit in a dark room for a couple days, then strained everything out:


 The leaves were yellowish at the end.


Since this was just a trial, and I didn't want to waste a ton of vodka by making a ton of it in case it didn't turn out, I just made this little jar full.  Apparently you can simmer off the alcohol and reduce it to increase the sweetness but then it will only keep in the fridge for a few months, and I don't see myself powering through this whole jar in a couple months so I left it in its full alcoholic, shelf-stable version.  It definitely doesn't taste "boozy" and has an interesting, very sweet herby flavour.  I wouldn't recommend using it as a sweetener in tea or coffee in place of honey or sugar but I think it will lend itself nicely to green tea and peppermint lattes, or mojitos!  It actually might even make an interesting soda-type drink if you added it to sparkling water - I don't think there'd be a need to add enough to make it a fully alcoholic drink because it is very sweet.

Speaking of mint, I'm currently in the process of drying all my leftover mint from the summer to create a mixed-mint tea which I hope works out too - I've got orange, ginger, and lime mint all mixed together and I'm drying a few stevia leaves with the bunch to see if it adds a hint of sweetness (to get the full effect of stevia apparently you need to make an extract as just adding a few leaves to a drink will not create much noticeable sweetness).  I figured this year should be the year I actually do something with my herbs at the end of the summer instead of just let them die off, and I'm hoping to keep a few cuttings alive over the winter so I don't have to buy new ones next year either.  I think if this tea thing works out I'll definitely do it again next year and also try to make some mint extracts too - I think some mint and stevia extracts added to warm milk would make a really delicious winter drink.

Of course these are all ideas - I will need to do some experimenting over the next while!


Monday, September 24, 2012

How to have the best rehearsal


Before we started planning our wedding (possibly before we were engaged), I read some posts on A Practical Wedding about people who invited all of their guests to their rehearsal dinner and/or brought their photographer to their rehearsal.  The people who had done this couldn't say enough good things about these decisions, and I knew I wanted to do them as well.

Let me also highly highly recommend this for anyone reading this who might plan a wedding someday!  While these things might take a bit more work and a bit more money, they were TOTALLY worth it.

We got our photos yesterday and I am especially in love with the rehearsal photos.  Our photographer said it was hard to get the type of candids we wanted of the guests mingling during the day of our wedding because people kept tensing up when they saw the camera, but at the rehearsal and dinner people had other things to focus on so they didn't notice they were being photographed as much.  And for the rehearsal part, the colours were brighter and I think we were just all more relaxed which made for some really cool and fun photos:

 (Brother and sister, not dating)






We had our dinner in Brahm's parents' yard.  The weather was perfect for an outdoor supper and the yard looked amazing!  Brahm's mom and her friend Mary Jane really went all out with the decor and food (catered by some of the merchants at the Saskatoon Farmers' Market and neighbours of Brahm's cousins) and it was such an awesome event.  It was really great to get to see a lot of our out-of-town friends and relatives that evening as well since the wedding day really flew by and we didn't have much time to visit with all the guests as much as we would have liked.




So once again, two things about the rehearsal to make it the best rehearsal:  bring your photographer and invite EVERYONE if you can.  Originally we were going to just do like a wiener roast or a chili potluck to keep it affordable, so it's doable even if you don't have extra money to spend on another big dinner.  I'm sure all rehearsal dinners are fun and happy events, but I think this one was especially awesome because it was so relaxed and informal and exciting to get to see all our friends and relatives who had traveled for the wedding before the receiving line.

All photos by Organic Photography

Friday, September 21, 2012

Cepacol


So, I basically have not been sick in over two years, but then I got married and Brahm got sick and since we live in the same house now I got a bit sick too.  Not sick enough to stay home from work though so I don't really count it as being sick, since it was really only one day of being slightly achy, then a couple days of being slightly stuffy, and that's about it.

One day though my throat was scratchy.  Before I had left for work I'd left a bag of Ricolas I bought a while ago with Brahm, thinking my immune system was invincible and I would never need them.  So, having no Ricolas to soothe my scratchy throat, I went looking in the first aid cupboard at work.

I found something called Cepacol:

It said "throat lozenge" so I figured it was similar to Ricola or Halls.

But then I put it in my mouth and everything went numb!  I am not kidding, it numbed my entire mouth and felt like I was at the dentist.  I spit it out after about 15 seconds because it was so uncomfortable.  If you are a frequent user of Cepacol you are probably laughing at me now, as a co-worker did as I immediately relayed my discomfort to him over our office instant messenger.

Here's what happened, according to the Cepacol website:

"The action of benzocaine in Cepacol® Lozenges and in Cepacol® Sore Throat Spray works on the nerve receptors in your throat so they are temporarily unable to register sensations of pain, which is why your throat feels numb. Numbing action is a fast and effective way to relieve sore throat pain."

Okay so that's great but I didn't have throat pain, just scratchiness.  Note to self to not use Cepacol anymore unless I have a legit sore throat.

Monday, September 17, 2012

A Trip to an American Walmart


While in the US on our honeymoon, one of Brahm's missions was to buy a ton of Cherry Coke to bring back to Canada.  Cherry Coke is not bottled in Canada so it's a rare treat from down south.  To purchase this haul we decided to venture to an American Walmart.

As we parked the car, we wondered what we might find.  We'd always heard horror stories about the trashiest of trashy people being the main clientele at American Walmarts, so we braced ourselves for the worst.

However, I have to say that this particular American Walmart was maybe the most pleasant Walmart I'd ever visited!  Even the posh Stonebridge Walmart in Saskatoon is a good several degrees trashier than this one.

What was so great about this Walmart?  First of all, it was near-empty.  It was a weekend afternoon and there was surprisingly not the giant weekend Walmart rush we have at Canadian Walmarts.  It was impeccably clean and tidy, even though it was a giant store.  And best of all?  Several times I rounded a corner and almost cut off a stranger with a cart - and THEY all apologized!  As well, the clerk gave us a discount on our 8 cases of pop because she was "pretty sure they were supposed to be on sale."  Would that EVER happen at one of our Saskatoon Walmarts?  I can't picture it.

The myth of the disgusting, trashy American Walmart is BUSTED.  Granted, this was only one Walmart of hundreds, but still much nicer than any Canadian Walmart I've ever visited. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Flower Picking


You might remember this post, where I excitedly planned to grow all my own wedding flowers.

Unfortunately, this summer was a weird one for ripening and maturing.  The majority of my tomato plants have STILL not produced a single ripe fruit (although they have been hanging there for months now) and all the flowers I planted, with the exception of a few sunflowers, didn't start blooming until after the wedding.  The sunflowers I planted in other peoples' gardens didn't bloom in time either so other than a couple of my own cuttings, I needed to come up with a plan B.

A friend of Brahm's mom just happened to stumble on Tierra del Sol one day while out for a drive.  Long story short, two days before the wedding my sister, two friends, and I headed out there to pick flowers for the reception tables.

I think it was one of the most fun things I got to do during wedding planning!  How awesome to go out and tour a small family-run farm and then be set loose in a giant row of zinnias.  The people who own the farm are so nice and we had the best time looking through hundreds of assorted flowers for the most perfect ones.  AND they had the cutest nicest dogs who loved me.

I'm hoping there are pictures of our finished tables with the flowers and their "vases" kicking around somewhere (other than from my blurry BlackBerry).  The combo of less than 30 bucks worth of flowers and free glassware looked amazing, and I was so happy that all the major wedding flowers (tables and bouquets) were from local farms instead of imported from halfway across the world.  If I couldn't grow them myself this was totally the next best thing.





Our bouquets came from Mistik Acres - if you click that link for their "Harvesting" blog post, the wedding bouquets they posted a picture of were ours!  I actually had no idea what my own bouquet would look like until the day of the wedding because my mom went and ordered it for me as a "backup", knowing I wouldn't have time to make my own bouquet the day before the wedding but it was beautiful - you can see it in the corner of the picture in my last post (with the sunflowers).

Buying local flowers - a super fun, easy, and affordable wedding idea!  The flower total for the wedding was easily under $150 bucks.  Mistik Acres and Tierra del Sol are both vendors at the Saskatoon Farmers' Market. 


Monday, September 10, 2012

The Wedding


The wedding was pretty amazing.  I don't know what I really expected but it was such a great day.  I don't know if I would classify it as being a mind-blowingly fun party or anything but it was still an incredibly happy event.

The night before I couldn't really sleep, which I wasn't expecting to happen.  I wasn't really nervous but we had invited all of our wedding guests to our rehearsal dinner, which was held in Brahm's parents' yard, and at least 3/4 of the guests showed up for that.  It was like having two receptions.  That night I went to bed thinking about how much I love everyone, and it was hard to sleep.

Because everything was outdoors, we had taken a big risk counting on the weather to be good.  The risk paid off big time though - it was 25 degrees out with no wind and not much of a humidex, so we literally could not have had better weather.

The speeches were hands-down the best speeches I've ever heard at a wedding.  Sorry to your wedding, but these ones were the best.  Everyone took a lot of time to prepare (there was no "I just remembered I had to do this 10 minutes ago! So here goes LOL!" happening) and I still cry thinking about the nice things everyone said.

I think one of the biggest things I got out of the whole event, which was not really surprising but not something I was totally anticipating to feel as strongly either, was being reminded of how great our family and friends are and how much love there is in that community.  We didn't really plan our wedding with a "theme" but in the end, cheesy as it sounds, if you ask anyone, they'd probably agree that the overwhelming theme of the day was indeed "love."


We don't have any professional pictures back yet, and there are many little details I want to eventually write about - so think of this as an introduction to several post-wedding posts.

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Backwards Driver


After an extremely delicious and filling meal at the North Bay Grille in Kalispell, MT one evening on our honeymoon, Brahm and I decided it would be in our best interest to go for a bit of a walk to aid in digesting our huge supper.

After a couple blocks, we came to a crosswalk and looked both ways before stepping onto the street.  We saw a bizarre sight coming towards us - a car driving backwards?

I blinked.  "Is that car coming towards us backwards?" I asked.  "I think it is" replied Brahm.  We decided to stand on the corner and wait to make sure this strange backwards car, driving at a normal speed, would yield to us.

As the car approached the corner, we caught a look of pride and delight on the driver's face.  Lucky we didn't try to cross because he came to a quick rolling stop and continued through the intersection.  A car full of teenagers followed immediately behind and also rolled through but turned the corner.  A police car, hot on their tail, rolled through as well and pulled over the backwards driver half a block away.

I'm not exactly sure what was happening but it made our night.  Was the guy trying to see how far he could drive backwards without getting pulled over?  And who rolls through a stop sign when there is clearly a cop behind you?  Apparently that guy and his teenage friends.


Sorry about the long hiatus here - slowly but surely I will try to get back into my regular posting schedule!

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Amazing Stagette


My stagette was this past weekend.  It was AWESOME.  One of the most fun days ever.  You might recall from an earlier post about stagettes that I'm not really that into them, or at least not really that into "typical" stagettes which basically consist of going out to the bar and often wearing some sort of embarrassing article of clothing that marks you as a soon-to-be bride.

So I was a little nervous when my maid of honour Sherri started telling me she was brainstorming ideas for my stagette soon after we got engaged.  "I don't really want one" I said.  Which she very maid of honourly scoffed at and said something like "This is a once-in-a-lifetime party.  I want to plan you a stagette so you need to have one.  But it's a party for YOU, so it'll be a party that you would enjoy.  I would never throw you a bar star party because that would just make you uncomfortable, so why would I do that?"

THAT, people, is exactly the kind of person you want to have as your maid of honour.

A few months later she ran an idea by me.  "What would you think about doing an Amazing Race?"

The way she described this Amazing Race party sounded pretty awesome so I told her to definitely go ahead and book it, but I had no idea how elaborate and amazing of a race it would actually be (I'd been imagining shuttle races and stuff at various parks around the city or something).  She knew a guy who plans these as a side business for birthday parties, stagettes, etc. and he did an incredible job.  So now, here are the highlights:



The first challenge (of 8) was to have a member of our team run around a (man made) lake in Stonebridge to retrieve our car keys.  It was a really long run so I was glad I didn't have to do it...  During this time, another team member performed a relatively easy-seeming challenge of memorizing some pizza ingredients.  Was that all there was to it?  After this we had to solve a riddle that led us to our next location...



The fire hall!  Where we each had to put on firefighter gear and take a photo.  That's me above - I had to hang onto the helmet because it was way too big for my head :(

Our next challenge took us to Alexander's Restaurant.  We walked in and the server said "Are you girls here for the drink-a-thon?"  It says something funny about my friends that our reactions were all "oh no" rather than "WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO".  It was definitely not your typical stagette.


Luckily the "drink-a-thon" just turned out to be a beer identification challenge - we had to identify 6 different beers.  Awesomely I was on the only team with anyone who regularly drinks beer, so my team got 3/6 right - the other teams ate some extra penalty time for getting them all wrong.

We solved another riddle that took us to Mr. Sicily's pizza, where that seemingly easy challenge from the beginning of the race showed up again.  The team member that had memorized the ingredients had to make a pizza with the ingredients she memorized and bake it.  After baking, any wrong or forgotten ingredients would incur penalty time.


Dani makes a pizza - sadly not for my team, as she was the only one who correctly memorized all the ingredients!  At this point we were getting pretty hungry so having a fresh pizza was perfect timing!

The next place we ended up was kind of funny - the go-kart track at Wilson's Greenhouse, where Brahm's stag was about to get under way!  The organizer of our race had no idea that they'd also be there, so it was a really crazy coincidence.  The two parties got to visit while my sisters and I suited up for some extreme go-karting:



Strategizing, no doubt.

My entire body is still quite sore from go-karting - it was fun for the first couple minutes, but unfortunately I hadn't realized that my seat could actually be pushed forward so I basically had to drive for the entire ten minutes shoving my back up against the seat, trying to put as much weight on my foot as possible so I could keep driving.  It wasn't a very pleasant experience and it ended up with me going pretty slow.  I'd go-kart again but definitely am moving my seat forward next time!  Luckily my sisters were equally as slow as me so we all ended up with equal penalty time before heading to the next challenge.



Which turned out to be a nacho-eating contest at Montana's!  Maybe one of the funniest scenes from the day, unfortunately not captured on film, was seeing another team run into the restaurant and start shoveling nachos into their mouths while getting seated.  At this point too one team member had to pee extremely bad, so not wanting to let her team down, she grabbed a handful of nachos which she ate on the way to the bathroom.

Our final couple of challenges took place at the Saskatoon Exhibition: having a team member ride the Super Shot and then searching for the race organizer somewhere in the Midway.  Having to do this after a nacho-eating contest worried the Super Shot riders:


We were told at the beginning of the race to make sure we saved the last challenge for our "bravest" team member!

My team won the race by around one minute and thirty seconds!  Sadly we didn't get a million dollars but it was an absolutely incredible day, and such a good idea for a stagette.  It was something that is fun for everyone, not just people who enjoy dancing at the bar or whatever.

After the race we went back to Sherri's house and had appetizers and punch, and hilariously did not even collectively get through an entire bottle of wine (between 11 of us).  We talked about really stagette-y things like banking and politics and how none of us knows how to apply makeup, and also complained about how crowded and gross the Ex was and how LOUD the music was near the ride, because we are 80 apparently.

The whole day was pretty much perfect.  Like the shower, it reminded me of what a great circle of women I belong to.  I'll definitely be talking about this day for a long time.  Thanks to all my friends who came out and made it one of the best days ever!