Thursday, August 27, 2009

Noodle Making!

I remember a friend of my mom's making spaghetti noodles from scratch when I was young. She had a huge table top spaghetti maker and the noodles were drying all hung over the dowels of a clothes rack. I've been wanting for so long to try this but had no idea how to get ahold of one of those makers. Lo and behold, a friend offered one to me, a smaller version that clamped onto the table and I've been waiting for the opportunity to try it out.

A windy day morning graced us today and I thought "enough with these bored cranky kids! Let's make noodles!" I found some recipes online of course, as well as videos on YouTube and we ploughed right in.

The dough is just flour and eggs and it's super hard to work with. Once we kneaded it awhile it sat for 30mins. We cut it in half and rolled one piece out a bit, just to get it a bit thinner.

The pasta cutter has two parts to it. The first part is simply a roller. It has a dial so you set the rollers at their furthest setting and run the dough through. You run it through over and over setting the rollers closer each time until you get to the last one and the dough is super thin. It's gotten really long by this point so you lay it out, flour it a bit and cut it in half so it's easier to work with.

The second part of the machine has two cutters, one for spaghetti and one for Tagliatelle. (I thought it was a lot like linguine). You run the super thin dough through the cutter and lay the new pasta somewhere to dry. I used parchment paper on different surfaces for drying.

I discovered that once they've dried for awhile, they get crispy so if you do this you need to put them somewhere where you won't want to move them until they're dry.

I made them for dinner, they only boil for a few minutes and we did two sauces; tomato with meat and roasted veggies (zucchini from the garden!) as well as an Alfredo sauce. We were very proud of eating our own hard work. They were good and softer than store bought noodles.

I put the rest of the dried noodles in a container in the fridge. I read that you can keep the noodles in the cupboard for a long time but I just thought with the raw eggs I'd put 'em in the fridge. All in all it was fun! The kids really enjoyed making them. You can use the same dough to cut lasagna noodles, or roll cannelloni or wrap ravioli or tortellini.

This recipe for dough made enough for our whole family for dinner and probably one more meal, so that's quite a bit of pasta.

Dough: 2.5-3 cups flour, 4 eggs + 1 egg yolk and 1.5 tsp of oil. I had to add a bit of water to make the dough workable. I found a million recipes online and they were all just slight variations of one another so I just picked one and went with it.

It seems to take forever to upload photos to Blogger, so click here for an album of all the photos!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Fresh Hurricane Damage Reported in Newfoundland

Following days of devastation along the coast of Nova Scotia and the Eastern United States, more damage by Hurricane Bill has been reported in the small coastal community of Torbay, Newfoundland.

Carman Thiessen, resident of Motion Dr, awoke this morning to find her sunflower patch completely flattened by Bill, now lessened to a tropical storm. "We have intense storms here all the time," says Thiessen, "we've lost many personal belongings left in the yard as well as siding from our house, but this new devastation is the worst of it all."

Thiessen grew these sunflowers from seed in her house, and lovingly transplanted them to a patch in the backyard when they were a mere few inches tall. "It's not the most protected spot in the yard," she admits, "but they'd done so well so far. I just can't believe this is what broke them."

The sunflowers - many of whose stalks exceed 1 inch in diameter - are all about 4ft tall but had yet to flower. "I've been watching every day because they were so close to opening up. I knew that patch of bright flowers would make me smile every time I saw it"

Now, it will only be sadness she feels when she looks out her window into her garden. She is very thankful though, that the pumpkins and zucchini survived the storm. "The veggies are still in tact and the tomatoes. I believe that is because they lie much closer to the ground, not because they were stronger or more resilient in any way."

The sunflowers were unfortunately pulled out at the roots, so while Thiessen may attempt to pack them back in the ground, she fears the worst. "I think this is the end for them. I may try to stake them up and cover their roots, but I'm not holding my breath that anything will help."

Through the hard times, Thiessen still keeps a positive outlook on the future. "I won't let this ruin me forever, the pain will still be as fresh as the churned earth, but I will try again next year."

The T6 news, Torbay.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Tragically Awesome Hip Story

This is going to be a long story but it’s such a good one that I have to share and you have to promise to finish it all!

I have to give a little background though to start. I’ll begin by saying that I bought my first Tragically Hip album when I was in grade 7, either 12 or 13 years old. I got sucked into one of those Columbia House Club Memberships, remember those? You got 12 CDs for 99 cents but then of course you had to buy a bunch more at ridiculous prices over the next few years. Then the second you didn’t pay you got a collections letter? I wonder if I still owe them money…

I remember that two of those first 12 CDs (which were, by the way, my first CDs ever - not tapes) were En Vogue and The Tragically Hip’s “Up to Here”. It was only their second album, their first hitting mainstream recognition. They released it in 1989 but I guess it was about a year or two old when I got it. At the time, I’m assuming “New Orleans Is Sinking” was on the radio and that’s how I knew who they were; my parents didn’t listen and I think Clay was in a Van Halen phase…

I was instantly a fan. I loved the entire CD. I remember sitting at the dining room table and looking through the CD jacket memorizing words (for which I’ve always had an uncanny knack) and mom looked at the song list and said “Over Opiated”? Is THAT what they’re like?” I was like “NO! Of course not…” I had no idea what over-opiated meant but had a feeling by mom’s response that it wasn’t good. ;)

So 19 years, 10 more albums and countless concerts later – I am still a fan. I would go so far as to say that much has changed in my life since I was 12 – go figure. My tastes, style, life, family, interests and dreams have changed so much and many times. I am not at all sure why I have never stopped loving their music, they have certainly changed their style many times, their music now sounds nothing like their first albums. But it always seems to fit for me. The only things I have known and/or loved as long as or longer than the Tragically Hip are my own family, my best friend Kathryn and her family, Tolkien and Volkswagen

I know not everyone likes the band specifically, but I’m sure you can understand at least to a point, having an interest like it.

The last time I saw The Hip was only a few summers ago, here in Newfoundland when they played an outdoor show in Grand Falls Windsor. My friend Sonia, whom at the time I barely knew, and I made the 4 hour trek out with the sixth Harry Potter book (released at midnight that night before we left) to rock out in the pouring rain on a muddy field where tents sold fresh mussels and the Budweiser bus sold disgusting beer. (Sorry but Bud sucks). Good times.

So, that’s the back story… now to the present. The Tragically Hip released an album this year and therefore is touring this summer/fall. Barton was in Vancouver for a conference last week when they played the awesome Orpheum Theatre and was lucky enough to go with friends of ours to the show. The concert here in St John’s would be the day after he got back and so, assuming he’d be jet lagged and having just saw them, I bought myself a lone floor seat to go by myself. After the Vancouver show Barton called and said it was so awesome and was he really not able to go with me?! The only places you could get two seats together were pretty lousy so I didn’t really do anything about it. The stadium is small, so really, no seat is bad. But I was determined this time to get some good photos so I wanted good seats.

At the conference, Barton ran into a friend who we knew from here but who is currently living in Vernon BC. He expressed disappointment that he didn’t know Barton was going to the concert because he could have given him great tickets… someone he knew who knew someone’s brother’s cousin’s wife… you know the drill. Anyway, Barton told him that I was going in St John’s the next week, so see what he could do.

Fast forward a few days and Barton is sitting in the Calgary airport, waiting for a connection to come home and he gets an email from said friend who writes, “My brother-in-law is the head sound guy on the tour, can get you tickets and possibly, backstage passes. Scalp Carman’s tickets and you can go together.”

See? Now you know where the story is going… but it’s still a good one…

You know with stuff like this you kind of shrug and go “yeah, whatever.” It happens so often that someone says something and nothing happens because someone forgets, or the wrong name is given, etc. Not that I don’t trust our friend, but I wasn’t about to go and sell my ticket that very second.

The funny part is that, as I’ve previously posted, the sporting season of the summer has begun. As it stood, I assumed Barton was home the night of the concert and didn’t really worry about all the games the kids had to get to. Now he wants to go and we have to find someone to play with Mattea and do a town-wide-sport-pick-up of three kids. I have a wonderful friend who understood the importance of the situation and actually cancelled hair appointments (only my womanly friends will understand the importance of THAT) to have Mattea over and then take our van out and about to pick everyone else up.

As we’re getting ready to go Barton got another email “tickets are at the gate, need photo ID to pick up.” Okay, we’re getting closer, but I still wasn’t ready to advertise my ticket on Facebook. Plus, I figured, if we had two great tickets plus backstage passes, it might be worth the loss of the cost of my ticket.

At the window, the lady tells us she’s still waiting for the list of names for requested tickets, could we wait aside? Great… here’s where she tells us there is no one by that name on her list.
Then she calls out Barton’s name and passes him an envelope with two tickets and backstage passes. I won’t lie and say a few explicative words were not expressed.

So now to sell my ticket. Rule number one for scalping tickets… don’t have just one. Rule number two: try not to scalp tickets to a show that is not sold out. Most of the people walking by were in groups of two and four and everyone already had tickets. No one wanted my ticket and I was about to give up. Would our MasterCard purchase protection cover the cost of a ticket to a concert I couldn’t attend due to illness? I’d need a doctor’s note… but where oh where would I get one of those?! ;)

Then this guy starts coming up the stadium steps, unassuming, looking a little lost. “Do you have a ticket?” “No.” “Do you want one?” “Who’s playing?” “The Tragically Hip” “They’re pretty good.” “Only the best Canadian band ever.” “How much?” “Well, they were 79, but how about $65?” “Hmmm, okay.”

Buddy gives me $70 and walks away. What the…?

So, off we run into Mile One. This time I was smart, I had my good camera and a jiffy marker. Just in case… actually, I was really prepared. I figured I’d get a pretty good picture, so I actually brought a matte from a frame, thinking I could get the matte signed and then get a photo for my office (more about my office later). The seats, of course, were deadly. We were 7 rows up, just off the stage. The show was, of course, awesome, they always are worth it. This tour is called “An Evening with the Tragically Hip.” It’s only them, no opening band, with two full sets. Tons of old stuff and even a few songs I hadn’t heard live before. The singing ran about 2.5 hours and I’m so glad I have married someone who shares the appreciation!

We noticed part way through the show “my guy”. The guy that bought my ticket was just down from us and he was just standing there watching. At one point, he pulled out his cell and took a picture. He didn’t move much, wasn’t smiling or grooving, just watching.

The show ends and we’re like, “What do we do now?” We sit there and wait and the entire stadium empties out. Then we notice a couple of people hanging around with the same passes (actually stickers) as we had. All in all there were about 20 of us. Someone yelled out that if we had a backstage pass we should line up against the wall. In the hockey box actually. It felt a little weird, a few people cracked jokes about being thankful we lived in a safe country then we laughed at the joke being on us and that we’d be asked to start stacking chairs or picking up garbage!

They led us to a room under the stadium with a bar and we all just stood around; a few people chatted, they obviously knew each other. Then I noticed “my guy”. What the heck was he doing back here?! Why on earth, if he could get backstage or have any connections whatsoever, would he pay $70 for MY ticket?! He seemingly didn’t even know who was playing, so if he didn’t have connections how did he end up backstage? Was he sitting beside Gord Downie’s brother? Would I have ended up backstage anyway? He was chatting around with people and seemed to all of a sudden belong. It was the weirdest thing!!!

I suddenly started to think that maybe I didn’t want to meet them you know? What if they’re jerks?

Then Paul Langlois, guitarist, walked in with his two daughters. He walked over, said hi, asked about the show and introduced the girls. Half the group seemed to not notice the entrance. I’m assuming a good group of those people were family and friends but expected, even if that were the case, a little whoop or cheer for a good show. Nothing. No one even seemed to look over. I didn’t want to take a photo as no one else was and he had his kids and that didn’t seem right. So we just watched. Someone came over and introduced themselves, they had made necklaces and gave some to the girls. Barton elbowed me and said “Why didn’t you bring purses?!” Truthfully, I had considered it, but it just seemed too weird. Gord Sinclair came in next with his son, did the same thing, met some people with a hug, shook some hands and said hi.

It was the weirdest most anti-climactic thing! All of a sudden they were just so normal. I’m not sure if it’s a Canadian thing, a Newfoundland thing or what, but it always seems a little calmer here. Russell Crowe can show up in a bar for Open Mic and sing with the Great Big Sea for fun, Kevin Spacey can be told to take off his disguise so people don’t stare and Elvis Costello and Diana Krall can own a home in Flatrock. I knew I wouldn’t been screaming and hyperventilating, but I did expect some excitement, especially within the group in general.

It suddenly didn’t seem to be the “Can you sign my frame matte”? or “Can I have a photo?” type situation. So we just watched. Gord Sinclair and Rob Baker also came in, along with the keyboardist they have on tour, but Gord Downie never did. It was pretty AWESOME.

Then I noticed a couple introduce themselves to Rob and she pulled out her cell to take a photo. The photo etiquette was officially broken… now was my chance. Most of the band members and their families had already left and I was waiting for this lady to quit her conversation.

The big guy at the door starting telling us to finish our drinks and head out - time was limited… we actually started to leave and then Barton told me I had to either do it now or never again. I went back in…

I walked over to Rob and waited for a break in the conversation. All of a sudden the lady pointed out that I was waiting so I introduced myself. I thanked him for the quote he gave me for Smudge Magazine on an article I wrote about local NL guitar maker Chris Griffiths of Garrison Guitars and we chatted about the guitars, which he still uses but were bought out by Gibson. Then I asked if I could have a picture. I snagged a young guy waiting for a word and got the photo. Then the guys were lamenting that all they had were their cells and so I took a photo of them to email later. We said good bye and off we went. I had no autograph, but an awesome photo and just a super cool memory of how the whole night unfolded. Strange but amazing.

I still don’t understand what happened with the guy who bought my ticket, but it’s not a big town and if I ever see him again I’ll have to ask.

See? I told you it would be long, but so good.

PS - with the money from my ticket we bought concert shirts and a poster. I haven't bought a concert shirt in ages but they're really nice. They're using American Apparel so they actually fit nicely and are soft (and ethical). I got a pink one with swirly sketching on it. If you look closely enough (and please don't, it's right on my boob) you can read "The Tragically Hip" in script, Barton got the tour shirt. The poster is for my office... more about that later.

There's a link to the right of my album of photos. Kind of a lot of the same, but fun and they're bigger than these. You can click the photos in this post for larger views...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Rollkuchen fun

We decided today that since it's not only half-way to Christmas, but also the last official day of school we'd have Rollkuchen and Watermelon, a traditional Mennonite treat. (it's deep fried dough... some like it with salt (me) some like it with syrup (the rest of the family). I do it in the garage/outside because the deep frying is so stinky. I get out my Value Village electric pan and fry away.

Here's the outcome...

Close encounters of the Moose Kind

June 24, 2009

We had just left the house and I needed to get gas so we were heading to the gas station. All of a sudden Nikolai was screaming "a moose!! a moose!!" I totally thought he was joking and then there it was, playing in the ditch. I pulled into the gas station and the entire time I filled up it was running around on that side of the road, then it would eat a little and then run around some more. Then it trotted across the road and through the gas station and into the gully behind the station. I didn't have my camera, but Riley did!!!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

What happens in Vegas...

Barton and I have been debating for quite some time on where we wanted to get away to this summer. Barton's parents are coming to visit and while we usually don't wanna leave when company is only here for 10 days or so, they're coming for a month, so we decided it was finally time to take off together, which has only happened once since we moved away.

We weighed so many different options; overseas, national, down south - it was all very hard and very tempting! We came to the decision that for just a week, it would be easier to keep the travel and time change fairly minimal (which from Newfoundland is still always very long anyway!) and that with the dollar being so good maybe we'd look to the States. I of course would be in New York in a heart beat or Chicago where I've never been. I love the idea of walking and looking at buildings and eating good food! Barton strays more towards the whitewater-rafting-in-the-Yukon type holiday. Now, I am not at all opposed to doing that sort of thing, but for some reason, that was not in my mind as the holiday I wanted for our 10th anni/graduation trip. I vito-ed the Yukon trip very quickly which I think made Barton reconsider all the reasons he married me in the first place!

Then we heavily leaned on New Orleans which we thought would be really fun. The flights were very cheap, time change reasonable and they have cute B&Bs and obviously an abundance of excellent food. It was also one of those places you don't think to take kids, which was our other problem, every time I thought of a great place, it was also somewhere I wanted to take the kids.

So, we finally came to a conclusion. One day Barton called and said he wanted to go to Utah! I was like, "Utah?!" I know that Salt Lake City is supposed to be really nice, and I knew that he would like to go biking around in Moab but when you think holiday, does Utah spring to mind?! Anyway, I started looking into it and feeling the guilt that I was ixnaying all his exciting ideas (after forcing him into an all inclusive! :. I discovered that Utah is quite close to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon. So... I emailed our travel agent, the wonderful Lois Barbour, and she gave us a ridiculous package deal. For all the wonders of the Internet, there still isn't anything that replaces a travel agent. Sure, it's quick and easy to book your flights online and it's great for that, but when you want more, they KNOW stuff - they have insider tricks.

Our package includes the flights on West Jet with surprisingly only one stop, three nights at the MGM Grand, a car rental and 2 Cirque Du Soleil tickets. When she offered me this, I looked up the MGM Grand and discovered that that is, of course, where they hold some pretty major events. Thinking I might find some Holyfield fight or something (not that I'm a fan, but hey, just to say you did it?) I found... drum roll please... Aerosmith. Playing, in our hotel, right when we want to go. Is that fate? Yes it is. For those of you who have not known me long, I'll tell you that this is now my fourth attempt (but fourth is a charm right?) at seeing Aerosmith. They have a tendency to cancel Canadian shows or playing in Moncton when I'm too pregnant to fly. So, I figure they'll never cancel Vegas and as long as I don't get knocked up (insert nervous laugh here) it'll be fine! Any-who... this is our trip:

We leave on Friday July 24th and that night we see the Cirque show "Ka". On Saturday is the Concert and Sunday I made reservations at Emeril's restaurant which was recommended to me by a friend. We're not gamblers, so while in Vegas we will walk and look at all the hotels, shop a lot at the outlets and go hiking if it's not 41 degrees. On Monday morning we will drive out to the Grand Canyon via the Hoover Dam. We'll spend the day there and then move on to Moab either that night or Tuesday morning. We'll spend some time there and then be back in Vegas by Wednesday evening. We head out Thursday afternoon but unfortunately we have an overnight in Toronto so hopefully we'll be able to see some friends. We arrive back Friday morning. I'm hoping it all goes well, the older kids will be fine but I'm not sure about Mattea! The Thiessens will have been here a week by the time we go so hopefully she feels like she knows them by then.

So, how's that for a super long post about nothing? No, I don't give refunds on those 5 minutes of your life...

Monday, June 15, 2009

Iceberg - dead ahead!

This is probably our final iceberg visit of the year, but this one came in the other day. We saw it from the house like this (left) so we went out to hike down to it for a closer view.

The first view:

After it spun a bit:

Friday, June 12, 2009

Recent pics

They are digging up a lot in front of us and of course, it's an excuse for everyone (read "the boys") to get dirty!

Mattea at the park.

Blossoms around the yard:

Mattea playing with Bridger's drums.

Update Quicky

Last night we attended the year-end celebration for the local homeschooling group. It was a great night of awards, talent shows, slide shows and food. Good times! A full year come to an end, crazy how fast it goes. I have decided I will keep the boys home again next year, for sure until we know what we're doing or it doesn't work for us anymore or something better comes along... I'm reading a great book called "The Charlotte Mason Companion." It's a layman's overview of a homeschooling approach 'invented' by - you guessed it - Charlotte Mason. It's inspiring me for next year; new things to try, new hopes for us. I have enjoyed it but now I am looking forward to summer, without the constant "am I doing this right?" fear on my shoulders... I'll sweep that one under the rug until late September.

Riley's exams start on Monday and she's been studying up a storm, she's on track to do very well!
Mattea had a major crash this week. After bruising her right cheek last week, she fell head-first off of Bridger's bed into their open toy drawer, cutting and bruising the bridge of her nose and then the other cheek. She has a nice big swollen shiner and I'm very glad I had witnesses to the event as it looks rather awful. Does it stop her though? No, of course not. Seconds later she's at it again.
I think we've started the road to getting the kids all into bunk beds...

We're looking forward to a visit in one month from both Barton's parents and his two sisters. It'll be SO GOOD to have family around! Let's hope it's not still 6 degrees.
Speaking of 6 degrees, I've been meaning to post photos, but I planted a lot of veggies and herbs and fruit this spring. I did most of the transplants to the outdoors on the May long weekend and we had a good 2 weeks of heat after that. They were doing really well, though I am now worried with this chill. Hopefully we don't get snow... *wince*... I planted:
Broccoli, Cauliflower, Brussel Sprouts, Lettuce, Spinach, Beets, Radishes, Carrots, Peas, Tomatoes, Hot Peppers, Green Peppers, Zucchini, Cucumbers, Pickling Cucumbers, Pumpkins, Strawberries and Rhubarb.
I also did Cilantro, Basil, Oregano and Dill.

I don't have high hopes for the root veggies/carrots and my tomato plants look like they might be giving up. I'm tempted to replace them with a sprout from a local farm/nursery.

I know I've planted too many of the other veggies close together, but I grew most from seed so I wanted to see how they did after transplant and I couldn't bear to throw any out. I'll go Darwin on them soon and pluck some out, giving those that look the fittest the best chance at survival. I mean, how many brussel sprout plants do you really need? Actually, those are the ones I'm most excited about. We did a field trip last year to an organic farm and they told us they can trudge through 3 feet of snow in February and STILL pick brussel sprouts. We'll see about that...

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Christmas in May

Whenever the kids finish a year of school, we plant a tree in the yard - so it seemed fitting that we get Barton a tree. It's a Dwarf Burning Bush (dwarfs not included).

Then we placed his little, fun presents under the tree. When he sent in his Medical School application we wrapped the envelope in Christmas paper, so again, it seemed fitting to wrap his gifts in Christmas wrap!
The tree will go in the backyard and should grow to be 5feet and grows bright red flowers.
And now to find some dwarfs...

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Official Letter

May 28, 2009
Doctor Barton Paul Thiessen,

On behalf of the Royal College, it gives us great pleasure to inform you that you have been successful at the recent examination in your specialty.

We will confirm the result of your examination, by mail, in the near future.


Barton heard the word this morning that he passed and is on his way into the real world (are we ready?!)

Congratulations Barton - Dr Barton Thiessen BSc MD FRCPC

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Exam Day

Well, it's all over and done with. Our fate now lies in the hands of the kind examiners... Barton feels very good about the exam and will get the official report card sometime tomorrow (around the same time a cable guy would stop by). The results will show both the written results from April and the oral results from today. If he passes, we have a job here in St John's... if not - well, we'll head out to the boonies I guess!!! As if anyone has any hesitation on how he'll do, still, it'll sure be something to see it in writing, officially and irretractably. (That should totally be a real word). So, more on that tomorrow I guess!!!!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Tuesday update!

Barton left early this morning for Ottawa - leaving behind a snow storm. Yuk!!! I am 'patiently' waiting for this nonsense to turn to good, old-fashioned spring rain, but it doesn't look like it's turning anytime soon! We have had hot for two weeks, I planted my garden and thought the winter was behind me... I am hoping I don't lose my lovely little plants today.

But, there are more important things to worry about... Barton's exam is tomorrow. He sits the exam at 2pm Ottawa time, so it'll be 3:30 here and 11am in BC. It's an oral exam, so it's all about sounding like he knows what he's talking about! He's usually pretty good at that ;) He will be meeting up with friends from his UBC med class there and they'll celebrate before he comes back home Thursday night. So, this is it! It seems like it's all over, though he has to work a bit before the residency is officially finished. It's been 9 years since he started med school and this day didn't seem like it would ever come. To encourage anyone who is just starting, sometimes it doesn't feel like it, but it goes amazingly fast!

In other news:

Bridger and Nikolai finished yet another session of swimming lessons last week, both graduating into the next level! Bridger will move on to Silver next time and Nikolai to Aqua. Way to go boys!

The year is winding to a close, with activities wrapping up and lessons coming to an end. We have had an interesting year, this first of homeschooling. It's been fun, I've learned a lot and have lots to learn! I wasn't sure if we would carry on again in fall but I was very affirmed this past week to continue on for the next school year. We had our last monthly home school meeting of the year last night and again I realized how much more the seasoned HS'ers know than I. There are a few things I'd like to try differently and maybe by the end of next year I'll feel like I know what I'm doing!! Also at the meeting last night I was voted to join the board as the Director of Physical Education, which means I'll be organizing the differently weekly PE activities we do as a group; swimming, skating etc. I'm excited about the opportunity and hope we can find some fun things to do.

So, that's it for now, I guess I have to go shovel the driveway... no, I'm kidding, it's not that bad. It took me awhile to figure out why the snow looked so weird (aside from the fact that it's May 26) and it's because it's falling onto bright green snow and crab-apple and cherry blossoms. *sigh*

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

My Weekend in Saskatchewan

After 5 years of almost no family contact I got to spend 4 days with nothing but! How awesome!

I was so thankful to be able to make the trip out to Saskatchewan this past weekend for the funeral of my grandmother, my mom's mom, in Borden and the surrounding areas. After checking the forecast I flew out early on Friday morning looking forward to a warm and sunny weekend. As we descended the pilot lovingly informed us that it was 1 degree and snowing and there I sat in flip flops.

My dad and mom (and grandma!) arrived at exactly the same time as I, so we met there (mom was also in sandals...) and picked up our car. We headed out for lunch and then drove into Warman where we were going to stay with my Aunt and Uncle, mom's brother.

We had a quick nap and went for a long walk to clear our heads. Mom and Dad were only an hour behind, but my body was 3.5 hours ahead and with only a few days there I wanted to make sure I adjusted as best I could. It ended up going really well, normally I'm hit harder by time changes but I tried a few adjusting tricks and it seemed to work. We walked into town where some shops were and strolled a bit there. We ate a fantastic dinner at my aunt and uncle's and I actually stayed up pretty late. We slept well, though I woke up at 3am (right around the time Mattea would get me up... 6:30) but forced myself back to sleep. Then when I finally woke up, I lay in bed reading for awhile! How often do I get to do that?! Another of mom's sisters and my uncle with my cousin Jackie arrived for a visit and we ate lunch with them. It was fun to catch up, most of my family I hadn't seen in 15 years so obviously things have changed since then! Jackie and I have kids pretty close in age and she was visiting alone from South Carolina so we definitely have a few things in common. After lunch and another attempt at a rest Dad, Mom and I headed into Saskatoon for a little look around downtown.

It wasn't hot and we were wondering if we should do a quick shop for the funeral for which we were inappropriately prepared. The sun came out and it ended up being gorgeous so we took our chances. I did make a 'little' trip into Lululemon (which on a Saturday afternoon was a gong show!) and we got some stuff for the kids in shops I won't see for a long time, (Roots and The Children's Place). Then we met up with more family at the Knotty Monk, a great little pub in Warman, for supper.

Sunday was the funeral service, so after a brunch out on the deck I headed into Borden with Mom and Dad.

I have, very unfortunately, not known this side of my family very well. My mom moved to BC as a young adult (to go to CBC in Abbotsford) and so we only went back for special occasions and the occasional summer trip. Because I saw a few families on my dad's side more often, I grew up seeing the similarities I have to members of those families. It was fun this weekend to spend time with my mom's family and all my cousins to see that I have such roots there too! I'm pretty sure my blood knows that it was half brewed in Saskatchewan because anytime I enter the prairies, by flying in or driving like last summer, I can feel that it is part of who I am. I love it there; the open space, the clean air, the quiet lifestyle. I'm sure it's part of what draws me to life here in St John's. In fact, over the weekend I noticed many similarities between the two places and my mom has often said when visiting us here that it feels much more like home to her too.

I was excited to find that I have one other cousin horribly vomit-phobic like me. I thought I was alone! I also discovered a cousin who was working on exactly the same odd craft project that I was... and made me excited to finish my own. I also have cousins and an aunt who despise wearing socks the way I do... who knew?! I see the sense of humour and love of life that my late-aunt had, in many of my family members and discovered also that the thick hair my grandpa possessed until the very end has been passed on to many of us. Silly things, I know, but having known so little of my family these things meant a lot.

The funeral started in the cemetery, where grandma, who was cremated, was buried into my grandfather's grave. After the burial we headed into the church (where dad and mom were married!) for a short service and then downstairs for lunch. It was really well done and the man who led the service (my mom's cousin) did a really nice job. There were at least 120 people there so grandma obviously left an impression in her time! My family has also had many heart aches over the past few years and so the weekend a mix of devastating pain and joyful laughter. It was wonderful to celebrate someone who had lived so long, had loved life and left many fond memories behind and yet it was terribly sad to miss those who left us early and should have been there with us.

We ended up staying and visiting very late, leaving at about 7:30pm. We stopped for a drink and snack along the way and made our way back to my aunt and uncle's. I had to leave in the morning so we visited a bit and then I packed to go.

It was short and sweet and I'm so thankful I could go. It was a nice break for me, though I thought the kids would have had lots of fun playing there. I'll take them back soon, because I don't want it to be another 15 years before I see my extended family again!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Thursday's Alright

So, my bags are packed and I'm ready to go. I leave atrociously early in the morning tomorrow, though I did opt out on the 5am departing flight... I'm no good at 3:30am! I take off at 6:20 with a very short (like, bags-don't-make-it short) layover in Toronto. Thanks to the time change and the one short stop I arrive in Saskatoon just after 10am! Nice. I've rented a car that I'll share with my parents as their flight arrives about 2 minutes after mine.

I'm starting to wonder if travelling without kids is almost more work than taking them along; making sure they make it to this and that and this is arranged for that etc... phew! Anyway, the funeral service is Sunday and I leave Monday morning so it'll be a quick weekend but I'm really looking forward to it. So many of my extended family that I never get to see will be there, as well as my parents and I haven't had time away on my own since... hmmm... since the fall of 2005? Maybe...

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Update Quicky

Riley plays trumpet with the junior band at school and last week they won a silver medal in the local Rotary Festival. We made it back from DR just in time for the performances and they are excited about their jump up from their bronze placement last year. Also winning silver was her volleyball team, The Tigers, at the Grade 7 Provincial Volleyball Championships. This championship was cancelled last month and unfortunately rescheduled for while we were away. She was missed by her team but had a fabulous year playing with them.

The boys have restarted swimming lessons; Bridger is in bronze (certainly further than I ever got!) and Nikolai is in green. Swimming has been our Friday fixture with the homeschooling group since Sept and just this week the boys said they might be looking forward to the break from lessons over summer! They will also wind up their music lessons in the next few weeks; Bridger has been doing drums and Nikolai guitar since Sept. They are doing very well!

I registered yesterday for the Tele-10, an annual 10 mile race here in St John's on July 26th. It's my pre-half-marathon-in-January training. I'm terrified. I'm trying to follow the 12 week training program they printed in the paper but quickly discovered that a week on holidays (read: "eating and lying around") followed by a lazy week actually causes quite a de-conditioning... who knew?

Also, I will be leaving this Friday morning for Saskatoon for a family gathering to honour the passing of my grandmother last month. I am quite looking forward to seeing all my extended family, my parents and also to having 4 full days without anyone needing me... sorry, was that mean? ;)

Barton leaves in 3 weeks for his final exam and after our holidays has started studying again. These exams are oral so they practise and study a little differently. He treated himself to an I-Touch which basically hasn't left his ear since, as he listens to past exams being asked and answered.

Mattea is Mattea. Busy as a bee, saying a million words and being quite a funny piece of work.

That's it for now!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Our Dominican Getaway

On April 20th we Thiessen Six jetted off to the Dominican Republic for a week of much needed R&R. I can't believe that I'm writing this a week after getting back home but we hit the ground running and I've barely sat down. Not only did we have to immediately get back into the swing of things but add onto that the mounds of laundry and sand removal and it makes for a fairly busy post-vacation week. (I think Riley is still getting sand out of her hair!) That's always the downfall of travel though, and no matter how much you prep for it, it doesn't seem to help. Oh yeah, and you're feeling cold and slightly depressed to have come back to reality (okay, I speak only for myself but you know what I mean...)

So, we went to a resort called the Holiday Village Golden Beach Resort (yes, it does have the world's longest resort name...) in Puerto Plata, DR. We did the all-inclusive thing and I'm pretty sure it was worth it just to not cook for the week. We have no complaints; we swam, ate, played, ate, drank, ate, read, tanned and did I mention we ate?... and repeat. The resort was fantastic, clean and convenient and the beach gorgeous. Because of 'the sheer number' of people in our family we were required to get two rooms and on the way down I was slightly worried because, although they request adjoined or side by side rooms, there is no guarantee until you get there. But we were very fortunate and it all worked out.

We took a direct flight, which from St John's is rare. It was quite long, 5.5 hours there and just under 5 coming back but he kids did really well, they are seasoned travellers by now though I'm pretty sure that's the longest direct flight they've been on (other than my trip to Aus and NZ with Riley), so they did hit an 'are we there yet?' point. It was getting late, we don't own handheld devices, the portable DVD player had lost it's juice (it didn't even make one movie!) and "7 Pounds" just wasn't interesting enough! But, as soon as there's less than an hour, everyone gains some extra steam and then the city lights come into view. Mattea did pretty well. She hit a point where she should have been sleeping and couldn't that wasn't so fun, but then she knocked off and awoke there bright eyed and bushy tailed, back to her neighbour-charming self.

Because it was a direct flight, all of our luggage made it (yay!) and as soon as we grabbed our bags, we found our transport bus as all the St John's passengers fanned out to different resorts. We went with Signature Vacations (my second time with them - highly recommended) and when we arrived at the bus they already had our room keys and registrations ready. We didn't even check in and I could see from the room numbers that we were side by side! (As an aside, I, in a stroke of brilliance, had packed the baby monitor just in case we were a few rooms apart and it ended up being so handy anyway!)

Our rooms were family rooms, which not all resorts have. Both rooms had a king sized bed and then a little alcove with bunk beds. So cute! The alcove was painted with animals, had it's own little TV and had the entrance to the bathroom. We put the older three kids in one room, and us in the other room with Mattea, for whom they had already placed a crib in the alcove. The rooms had fridges - that were well stocked with pop and beer and huge bottles of fresh water - as well as a safe, closet, desk and TV. Both rooms were ground level with sliding doors and patio furniture which worked out so well because when Mattea napped (which she totally needed after playing so hard!) one of us could just lie out in the grass in the sun. We were also really close to the pool so, I will admit, we may have run to cool off for a second while she slept... shhh, don't tell.

So that was the start of our week and from there on we just played and played. The beach was fantastic and very quiet as far as numbers of people. The kids loved the big waves and spent time on the boogie boards every day. They loved the pool too, so our biggest decision every day was to decide where to start - pool or beach? Yes, it was rough.

We even made some friends! Our rooms were in a little entrance that we shared with another family of 6 in two rooms. They ended up being similar in age to our older kids and they played a ton over the week. They are also from St John's so we could see them again! It was really nice that there were so many other families, big ones too and no one is a stranger when Mattea's around; we met lots of people simply because she has to meet everyone!

The food was fantastic and we ate a lot of it. On top of the regular buffet restaurant there were four themed restaurants that we enjoyed; two on our own and two with the kids. On two occasions we walked into a little mall close by and one day we went on a tour that took most of the day. We went to a coffee 'factory' and a soap carving 'factory' and went on a hike through waterfalls and even stopped by a school. It was a little weird for us to just walk into a classroom, but it seemed totally normal to them! We were fed lunch at a little restaurant in a tiny town and got to see lots of fruit plants and even a demonstrative cock-fight. Yes, you read that right...

It was a wonderful get away. After working so hard all year, Barton was able to just play and relax with the kids which hasn't happened in a long time and we got a little sun that will hopefully carry us over to our regularly scheduled summer.


Album 1
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Album 4

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Island Hopping

We have arrived!! From the glorious island of Newfoundland, to the stunning and wonderfully HOT island of the Dominican Republic/Haiti. We left yesterday at supper time on a fairly uneventful flight. Mattea of course, being the busy bee that she is, didn't really want to sit still, but she did good until she got over-tired. Then finally she crashed off to sleep. The flight was 5 hours in total and we arrived in DR at about 9:30pm local time (they're 1.5 hours behind since the most recent time change. Before that they're only 30 minutes behind.) The transfers and check in was swift and organized. We are enjoying ourselves so far and will update more when I can. Just to let y'all know we're safe and sound and having a wonderful time!!!!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Prizes Awarded!

For prettiest items and quality-not-quantity: First Place to Riley for a Hannah Montana Soundtrack

For most variation of items (shirts, shoes and shorts) : First Place to Nikolai for a Kinderegg and 1/2 shares in an underwater digital camera.

For most creative item (Sister for Sale shirt) as well as most items per dollar spent (he had the most items but gave Nikolai an item upon getting back home): First Prize to Bridger for a Kinderegg and 1/2 shares in an underwater digital camera.

Overall, Nikolai was the winner for sure. He found all his pieces himself, chose items that matched and got the best variety. I will be better prepared next time and do it all in one day with prizes ready. Maybe I'll preplan catagories...

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The First Annual Thiessen VV Frenzy

Seeing as we are heading out of the snow and into the sun , our abundance of fleece and mittens will do us no good. In light of this, it seemed as if a shopping trip would be in order. However, shopping for 5 people (Barton never seems to 'need' anything) can be a) tiring b) annoying c) expensive and d) futile. Not only would we need stuff now, but seeing as the kids are growing like weeds, they would barely fit anymore by the time summer comes here to Newfoundland (if it does...). THEN, since we are going away next January (Disney Half Marathon) another shopping trip, mid-off-season would be necessary. Sounds expensive?

So, I had a thought (they come every now and again). On top of wanting to save money etc, I am also trying really hard to not buy those cheap, crappy clothes that fall apart after three washes and are only available to us thanks to the hard work of a small, underpaid child. They may be cheap, by you can almost guarantee that when something is cheap - someone else pays (yes, I stole that quote). And in the long run, you end up spending more money because you have to replace items that don't last. But, I won't get into that now...

I invented the (First Annual) Thiessen VV Frenzy. If the initials V-V mean nothing to you, you missed out in your teen years on the shopping excursions and long digging sessions in your local Value Village, the joys of which I am rediscovering in my (oh-so-wise) adulthood. The (First Annual) Thiessen VV Frenzy was quite fun and very successful, however, considering the events in the year to come I may have to change the name to Bi-Annual (does that mean twice a year or every two years?? Bi-half-yearly?). Again, I digress.

Riley, Bridger and Nikolai were each given $20.00 and one hour (well, okay, not really but that's what it ended up being) to scour VV for summer clothing that would benefit them on this trip. They already had swim suits so top of the list of necessities were shorts, sandals and beach appropriate shirts and I promised prizes for the winner! The loot collected included top brands like Gap, Children's Place, Please Mum and Old Navy. I even found an unrelated but exciting find in an LL Bean fleece suit for Mattea that was just what she needed. Fits now, but a bit big so perfect in fall.

Here are photos of the summer loot, click to enlarge (prizes are yet to be awarded... hopefully tomorrow if I can get my act in gear...)

For $18: Riley

For $18: Bridger

For $20: Nikolai

And for $19: Mattea

Winners announced tomorrow! (and don't worry, this won't be one of those contests where there IS actually a loser...)
I did also 'play' the game, though I spent a bit more than $20... :)

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Lenten Commitments

We are not Catholic, not even close. But for some reason we have observed Lent as a family ever since the first year we were married. This year was no exception and as the end of Lent draws near (this Friday), I thought I’d share with you my Lenten commitments.

In the past, we have done the usual, typical Lenten sufferings; TV, Coffee/tea, no eating out, etc. But the boy’s religion course this spring included a chapter on Lent and it opened up a new realm of possibilities for me. This book explained that Lent is not only about giving stuff up, it is also about doing things for others. Some of the traditions it mentioned were giving to the poor, making hot cross buns for neighbours (representing Jesus’ cross) or pretzels, of which apparently the typical pretzel shape represented the crossed arms of one praying. We did make hot cross buns and I’ve definitely cleaned out our closets and shelves. I still want to try to squeeze in a pretzel making though...

As a family we gave up listening to the radio. At the risk of aging myself rapidly, songs “on the radio these days” are insanely inappropriate. If the Lenten period is for reflecting on your faith, and other people, it seemed inappropriate to fill our time and thoughts with songs, that if were on regular CDs I would never buy for my kids or allow them to listen to in general. Plus, when you listen to the radio, the songs just come on at random and there’s no deliberateness about choosing what you’re listening to, it's very non-committal - like flicking through the channels on TV instead of sitting down to watch a specific show or movie. Radio ads are just as inappropriate as the songs themselves, as are the show hosts. It’s not like the radio was on all the time either, it just seemed a good thing to do. Instead, we put in the deliberate effort to chose CDs or listen to books on tape/CD... or it’s just quiet.

So that is our ‘giving up’ this year.

That being said, I also chose to do something else for myself during Lent. I had, already before Lent, been trying very hard to be more deliberate about my purchasing decisions, as well as food choices. I also decided at New Year’s that for this entire year (and hopefully beyond) I would not buy any gifts; that all gifts had to be hand/home made. (This is super easy for girls, boys/men are a different story. If you have any ideas, please let me know!) So I was already on the path that led me to my Lenten choices.

I decided that for the period of Lent I was not going to buy anything that, within reason, I could make myself. The ‘within reason’ clause is there because, obviously there are many things I COULD make if I went out and bought machinery or factories or a wheat farm... or a cow... but realistically this was not going to happen. My purpose in this decision was many-fold. I believed that in forcing myself to consider when shopping if I could make an item myself I would: consume less, waste less money, not buy anything for the sake of convenience, I would consider the origins of items (their production values and ethics), go without something if I’m not willing to make it and understand my abilities as a human to make and create instead of just buying and buying. The process itself over the past month has been very interesting.

For one, I have bought (almost) no clothes. I love to sew and if I had all the time in the world I could make almost anything. Unfortunately and fortunately, this means that I cannot shop during Lent. There was a time I had to cave and buy some pants for Nikolai because the ‘within reason’ clause came in. Mattea was sick, I was not feeling well, there was way too much needing to be done and Nikolai was in his last pair of threadbare pants. Other than that, I have had only one or two slip ups, including a larger purchase this week. This has been very difficult for me, I will admit. I am a sucker for fun clothes, especially for the kids. I had already placed a shopping freeze on myself, but I know better than anyone how easy it is to cheat on your own rules and I think that all things considered, I did really well!

Grocery shopping has been another interesting experience. Just the other day Bridger looked in the fridge and said “when is Lent over so you can do a proper grocery shop again?” I really don’t think it’s that bad... but you know kids.

It’s true, when I look at foods on the shelves and think, even if I NEVER will do it, that I can make it, I just can’t buy it. Like crackers. It’s baked or deep fried dough... why would I pay for that? Plus it comes with so much packaging! Everything has SO MUCH packaging!!! Every bread bag and yogurt container sure adds up, so making our own cuts back on that stuff considerably. I skip the bakery section completely but produce is good because I cannot grow carrots THAT quickly! Some dairy is fine. I cannot make milk (and making it from powder doesn’t really seem any different. It’s not the need to PHYSICALLY make stuff that I’m trying to nurture.) I have been making my own yogurt which I have now down to a fine art. I was never a yogurt eater and this stuff is good! I figured since I could eat this now, I tried some of the store bought stuff Barton had and it tasted very chalky. So, I still don’t like it.

Ever since reading Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” I’ve been wanting to make cheese. We can’t buy the necessary enzymes here in St John’s though so my mom is sending me some. It will be a post-Lent cheese making excursion and I will be sure to share the details!

I make bread, bagels and buns, granola bars and obviously desserts. I also saw a recipe for English Muffins which I thought would be fun so I think I’ll try it. I was also already making my own baby wipes so I’ve continued to do that. I didn’t run out of laundry detergent, but want to make my own of that too, when the time comes. I am trying to find a recipe that does not include Borax and that is not as easy.

Encompassed in this is, of course, the issue of eating out. There isn’t really anything in a restaurant that I could honestly say I can’t make, so eating out is tough. We don’t do it a lot anyway, but grabbing a quick meal when I don’t feel like cooking is out, like say, Costco pizza?! I had to cheat on this once, as there was a going away party and I really felt like I needed to be there. I wasn’t sure how to get around it so I bought something I wouldn’t make at home. I know, it’s not the same...

I did go for coffee with friends and brought my own tea bag thinking I’d just ask for hot water... then I had the brainwave that I can’t make milk, so I had a steamed milk... and hot water. I decided at the get go, that the loophole of letting other people buy things for me was not acceptable, much like giving up TV but taping your favourite shows for after Easter... I will admit that on occasion it has happened out of either accident (it’s really easy to forget when some things are just a complete habit!) or desperation, but on a whole I am proud of myself! It’s very difficult; I will often have my hand on something and then think... “Oh wait, I can’t buy that.”

I would like to carry on with the bread and yogurt because they’re just so good and it is really rewarding to make bread! We are not really packaged food eaters, but I am hoping that the awareness of what we eat and buy for the sake of ‘quick and easy’ will carry on after this and we will consider a little more what could be made at home (which is a million times healthier anyway) by our own hands.

I want to always keep the thought in the back of my mind when I shop “do I really need to buy this?” to avoid over-consuming and being wasteful. You should probably randomly call me on this...

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

2 Down 1 To Go!!!!!!!!!

Well, today Barton wrote the second part to the written exam and came away feeling really good. (Yesterday was multiple choice and today was short answer.) He says he feels so much lighter he might need to go buy skinny jeans... hmmm, let's hope not... Anyway, this evening he is off again at another med meeting but at least he's DONE for now! Back to regular work and life - well, at least for a week! I think they will be able to go light until we get back from our holiday. So, that's that, and probably a little anti-climatic after all that hard work!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Ice Photos

A few posts back I commented on the pack ice (slop ice, slob ice... pick one) that had come into our bay. Barton had gone down that night to take some photos and I am only now getting around to sharing them... but they're pretty cool. You may NOT want to know how he achieved some of the angles, but I'll leave you to guess.