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.

Travel News

This weekend we made the executive decision to take an all-inclusive holiday! We have been toying with the idea on and off for quite some time. We almost went last year but hit Disney instead, the year before we were tempted and I almost took the kids a few weeks ago in March. At the last minute they decided we should wait for dad... so we did.

Tomorrow is the big day, as Barton's two-day exam starts and in two weeks time, just after Easter Break, we will pack our bags for the sun and surf. On April 20th we're taking off for the Dominican Republic and I CAN'T WAIT! I think we deserve this, all of us; Barton for his hard work, I for mine and the kids for their understanding and (usually) their patience. It will be so wonderful for one week not to worry about ANY every day stuff. To just play, eat, have fun, eat and enjoy life. Oh, did I say "eat" twice? Oops... Shortly after we get back, Barton will be hitting the grindstone again for the last exam and so the trip will be a wonderful mid-way reprieve.

It will be quite the spring of travel actually. I have decided that I will head out to Saskatoon for my grandmother's funeral in May (the 10th), meeting my immediate family and most of my extended. Funny thing, thanks to Facebook I've been getting back in touch with long lost cousins I might not have known otherwise, and it'll be so great to put faces and names to the kids and activities I've been able to keep up with.

In June Barton will most likely head out to Vancouver for a conference and no, I don't think the rest of us will join (sorry!)

Lots of prayers for health and safety during these adventures would be really grand if you can!!!!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Exciting News!!!

I am very pleased to announce that Barton received a long awaited letter today, assigning him to a date and time for his FINAL exam taking place in Ottawa. He is doing the exam on Wednesday, May 27th at 2pm Ottawa time (11am BC and 3:30pm here in NL) for two hours. Yes, he has to study for a year, pay $3000 and fly to Ottawa for a 2 hour oral exam... oh, and "parking is not available for residents so please find alternate modes of transportation to attend the examination..." Don't get me started! Barton said he'll camp on their front lawn ;)

He is very happy with this date assignment as it is the first possible day of examinations. Most residents received the same letter today so he was quickly in contact with friends away and those here to find out who 'writes' when and who he might bump into there. He does overlap with both local friends and those from UBC so he's pretty excited about catching up, commiserating and celebrating. He will fly out that Tuesday morning and return the Thursday.

You may enjoy our 'to-the-second' countdown at the top of the page! (though... he may not!)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Spring Has Sprung!

In some parts of the world, "April showers bring May flowers," in Newfoundland, "April ice brings May icebergs." This year we get an early treat, as we awoke this week to the bay packed full of pack ice. The ice, that usually breaks off of shores around in Laborador and the North, covered every inch of water we could see from the window. This ice comes in chunks ranging from the size of a desk to a truck, and rolls on the waves. You can go down to the beach and watch it all tumble and crash. This time, it has packed in so tightly that it looks solid, like you could walk across. Of course, there is always some 'smart person' who does walk across, often dragging a clubbed seal behind him. (No lie, I've seen this).

Today, bullying his way through the pack is a massive iceberg. It's gorgeous, it looks like one of those paper, boat hats you make. I tried to take photos, but where the ice is white, the sky is white with clouds it's not easy to take photos. Hopefully, the sky clears up soon. I did my best...

This is the first one I took, it's a bit far off and the lack of contrast... the second one I cropped and played with the colours to make it contrast more... the last one I got out the long lens and got closer... (you can click them for a larger view)