Thursday, November 24, 2011

Attempts at grab-bag blogging

Has it really been nearly two months since my last post?

Each day something at least semi-eventful takes place, and I strategically place it in my mental reserves under the must-blog-about-that-later section...... but, alas, the rest of my life seems to envelope every spare ounce of energy I have, thus allowing little time for writing.

So here I am, stealing one from de facto redhead and just offering a mish-mash of grab-bag blogging with the hopes that I can at least touch on some of the random thoughts that circled in my mind throughout the day:


  • I've been lucky enough to work from home a couple days a week for the last few weeks, and this has allowed me to catch up on the only two talk shows I care to watch: Live with Regis and Kelly and The Talk. Sadly, Regis's last air date was a week ago, but I'm grateful he left on his own terms and still has his health. Too bad the same can't be said for TheTalk's former co-hosts, Leah Remini and Holly Robinson Peete. I'm sure they have their health, but it sounds like neither of them left the show on their own terms. Really a shame, because Leah Remini was the best part of that panel of hosts! She always made me laugh, and the show just isn't the same without her. Boo.

  • Another of my guilty pleasures is The Real Housewives of New Jersey. Oh dear Lawd, these ladies are total disfunction, which naturally makes for some great TV. Given that I never hear anyone else speak of them, I'm beginning to wonder if I'm the only person who watches this show (and then goes online to read the episode recaps by Jay Mohr). I may have just outed my inner-geek, but I maintain that the Jersey girls + a glass of wine = pure entertainment.

  • Moving away from TV and back to work..... my husband surprised me in the office the other day by showing up with a fresh red rose in a vase and a Christmas ornament for my office door that reads "Take a Hike". I love both the rose and the ornament, but it's the former that really struck a chord with my co-workers. One even took a photo and emailed it to her other half with the headline: SOME husbands still bring flowers to their wife. Ha -- too funny. (And, yes, I am really spoiled.)

  • Last month my husband also showed up unannounced and hand-delivered some freshly baked Pumpkin Chocolate Chunk Scones that were a huge hit. He didn't bake them -- my mother-in-law did while she stayed with us for a few weeks -- but the fact that he came in bearing baked goods certainly earned him a few bonus points. (Did I mention I'm spoiled?) By the way, de facto redhead, these scones look suspiciously similar to your mouth-watering pumpkin cookies -- could be similar recipes, perhaps? We'll have to compare.

  • Still on the topic of work, the other day some staff members pulled a Christmas tree out of storage and decided to decorate it, which is terrific given that I don't remember anyone there ever setting it up in previous years. What's even more interesting is that also in storage was a box of Christmas ornaments bearing individual staff members' names in glitter. (Think Days of Our Lives and check out my Christmas post from last year.) Very cool. Speaking of which, I'm hoping someone else will soon be blogging about their eclectic collection of ornaments as well. (*Cough*de facto redhead*Cough*)

  • The bad thing about Christmas being near is that it also means we're having to endure an onslaught of miserable weather. Seriously, it's not even officially winter yet, and already I just want to get the hell out of dodge. (My 17-year-old nephew has been living with us since September after having moved up here from Florida and, frankly, I think he's a little nuts for choosing the Frozen North over the Sunshine State.) If I could escape for the next four months, I would.

  • I know that feeling envy toward another person is considered one of the Seven Deadly Sins, but I'm feeling it big time these days as I recently discovered a blog written by someone with whom I attended high school. We weren't friends, but we did have some classes together and had mutual acquaintances. These days, she's escaped the tundra and is living in Mexico while still travelling to exotic locales every few months (most recently Sri Lanka) to surf full time and write freelance articles for sports magazines. Oh, to be living that life. 

Speaking of which, she recently interviewed a fellow surfer (Kyle Thiermann) who said something I've often thought but have never been able to articulate so eloquently:

The world is a book, and those who don’t travel read only one page.”

Yes, that travelling itch is especially strong for me this time of year. 

Please wake me once it's spring!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

More 9/11 reading

Like many others, I can’t believe it’s been 10 years since the events of 9/11 took place. We’ve all been bombarded by the tons of articles floating around on this subject in the last few weeks, and it’s easy to become emotionally overwhelmed by it all.

Some pieces, however, are definitely worth the read.

Former U.S. Army Specialist Colby Buzzell wrote a terrific book titled My War: Killing Time in Iraq, and has been writing articles for Esquire magazine ever since. This is an excerpt from an article he wrote, reflecting on how 9/11 has changed him:
--


At some point, I stopped telling people that I was in the Army and that I had gone to Iraq. I found that if you start to tell people that you served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, they say:

"Thank you for serving!" followed by either a) some flag-waving bullshit, or b) equally bad, "I just want to let you know that I'm strongly against the war, but I support the troops!" (This always confuses the hell out of me.)

Sometimes, with a smile, they ask you if you killed anybody.

And then there are people who think they know everything about everything and want to talk to you about the politics of the war, right or wrong. And most of them base all their political opinions on shit they hear on the Jon Stewart show, and they want to talk to me about what it's like over there.

Then some people don't say anything at all when you tell them that you were over there — all they say back to you is "Oh," with their pursed lips.

So that's why I like to drink alone.

---
This shouldn’t be funny, but it is – because it’s so true! My husband often gets asked if he killed anyone during his time overseas, and his response is always the same: “I just did my job.”

That’s all anyone really needs to know, I guess.

Another written piece that I’m partial to -- for entirely different reasons -- comes from actor Gary Sinise’s September 9th blog entry, which can be found in its entirety here.  

But, to summarize, he asks himself a number of questions that are certainly worthy of reflection from us all:

“I can most certainly say that what happened to our country on September 11, 2001 changed me forever. It forced me to rethink everything. What do I really believe? How do I want to raise my kids? What kind of example do I want to set for them? What can I do to give back to this great country I love? How can I use my good fortune to help?”

Monday, July 25, 2011

Reign in the kitchen

Much to everyone’s shock and surprise, my husband has held the bragging rights in our home for being a two-time CFCW Recipe of the Morning contest winner. But, alas, he now has to share that claim to fame with me, as I had yet another recipe featured on CFCW's morning show today.

We first sampled this gem at my sister's house in Florida earlier this year, and I've been salivating over it ever since. Enjoy!

July 25 - Salsa Chicken

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts (as many as you need)
Salsa (whatever kind you like)
1/2 cup brown sugar
Parmesan cheese


Place the chicken breasts in a baking pan and cover completely with salsa and brown sugar. Sprinkle the top with parmesan cheese and cover with tin foil. Bake at 350 covered for about 30 to 40 minutes until the chicken is done.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Winehouse silenced



It finally happened.

I remember reading a newspaper article back in the fall of 2007 about Amy Winehouse and the fact that someone had started accepting predictions as to when the troubled singer would die. Their unfortunately-named website -- www.whenwillamywinehousedie.com -- was offering a free iPod to the person who correctly predicted the day of Winehouse’s death. It seemed like only a matter of time back then, simply because her lifestyle consisted mainly of drugs, alcohol, eating disorders, and domestic abuse.

Nearly four years after first reading about that site, it looks like someone has now won that coveted iPod.

Yes, Amy Winehouse was found dead in her London home today, and the saddest part of all is that we all saw it coming, though many of us figured it would have happened long ago.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The days are long, but the year is short

Living in Canada, I feel blessed to have Maternity and Parental Leave benefits that have allowed me to stay home from work for an entire year following the birth of my daughter. And I admit that, while I was pregnant, I planned for this time off from work by mentally tallying up the multitude of tasks I would accomplish during this year.

(Read: I thought I'd finally find the time to organize my recipe binders, scrapbook my wedding photos from four years ago, and make it to the gym every day.)

Clearly, I had no realistic notion of how exhausting it would be to care for a baby.

But fast-forward to today, the day I've been dreading most for the last year, and I just don't know where the time has gone.

Yes, today is the day that my leave from work officially ends, and I was supposed to go back to work full time.

That's right, supposed to
 
I've elected to take an unpaid three-week extended leave from work so that I can continue to stay home with my daughter until my husband concludes teaching at the end of June. He'll then be home with her over the summer, and I'll be back at work as of July 4th.
 
Am I looking forward to this? Negatory.

In fact, I can't imagine how hard it will be to only see her for two hours a day, given that she'll be asleep when I leave in the morning and in bed again by 7:30pm each night.

While I'm grateful for my employment, I'm also resentful of the fact that I can't still have my daughter with me 24/7.

(I may have my own office, but I'm pretty sure it would be frowned upon if I suggested setting up a playpen next to my desk.)

How exactly do other working moms do it?? Or, for that matter, single parents??
 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The history of aprons

Every now and then, a really great forwarded email shows up in my inbox. This one was sent to me by my friend Andrew in Australia. Enjoy!

----

The History of 'APRONS'

I don't think our kids know what an apron is.

The principle use of Grandma's apron was to protect the dress underneath because she only had a few. It was also because it was easier to wash aprons than dresses, and aprons used less material.

But along with that, it served as a potholder for removing hot pans from the oven.

It was wonderful for drying children's tears, and on occasion was even used for cleaning out dirty ears.

From the chicken coop, the apron was used for carrying eggs, fussy chicks, and sometimes half-hatched eggs to be finished in the warming oven.

When company came, those aprons were ideal hiding places for shy kids. And when the weather was cold, Grandma wrapped it around her arms.

Those big old aprons wiped many a perspiring brow, bent over the hot wood stove. Chips and kindling wood were brought into the kitchen in that apron.

From the garden, it carried all sorts of vegetables. After the peas had been shelled, it carried out the hulls. In the fall, the apron was used to bring in apples that had fallen from the trees..

When unexpected company drove up the road, it was surprising how much furniture that old apron could dust in a matter of seconds.

When dinner was ready, Grandma walked out onto the porch, waved her apron, and the menfolk knew it was time to come in from the fields to dinner.

It will be a long time before someone invents something that will replace that 'old-time apron' that served so many purposes.

REMEMBER: Grandma used to set her hot baked apple pies on the window sill to cool. Her granddaughters set theirs on the window sill to thaw.

They would go crazy now trying to figure out how many germs were on that apron. I don't think I ever caught anything from an apron - but love...

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Changin' times

I remember back when I started university (circa 1995... yes, it really was 16 years ago....) and I was given my first major writing assignment. I was instructed to find at least four supporting documents (read: BOOKS) for the term paper I was writing. Sounds straight-forward enough, right?

The other stipulation was that I was NOT to use the Internet for research, and I most certainly was not to reference any websites in my paper.

But, oh, how the times have changed!

My husband is taking some classes at the university right now, hoping to work his way up to a Masters degree some time in the next few years. Given that he works full time during the day, he attends one class in the evening and is taking the other one online.

And it's for the online course that he is required to submit a paper in which the subject matter is to be supported by no less than five websites.

WEBSITES!

Once upon a time, he would have spent hours in the campus libraries, voraciously searching for something, ANYTHING, that could remotely support his writing..... but not anymore! Now he can just sit in the comfort of our living room, laptop on lap, coffee in hand, and complete all his research.

(If I was a lesser person, I'd be a little bitter toward today's students who, I'm sure, are not lugging home 30lbs worth of library books every night...... you know, like I was.......)

Friday, May 6, 2011

Welcoming baby aboard: Adventures in cruising with a 10-month-old

It's 8 p.m. aboard the Carnival Valor, one of Carnival's many luxury cruise ships sailing the Caribbean Sea tonight.

Sports fanatics are enjoying their drinks and scanning the multiple screens in the Bronx Sports Bar. Just around the corner on the Promenade deck, high rollers are tempting fate and hoping to pay for their vacations at the Shogun Club Casino. Further down the hall, a group of teens are interacting and having fun at Club O2, while others get their game on at the Caboose Video Arcade.

And where are we? Nestled in beach chairs atop the Panorama deck, eating popcorn and enjoying another family-approved movie on the outdoor screen of Carnival's Seaside Theatre.

This heavenly snapshot is just one reason why I've always believed that cruising is truly the perfect vacation. And now that I've done it with my 10-month-old daughter in tote, I can go a step further and declare it the perfect family vacation, too.

Detailing what it took to pull off a successful cruising experience with a baby on board, here is our experience.

---

What to Pack

After spending some time with my sister and her family in Weston, Florida, we were finally ready for our cruise! Departing out of Miami on the Carnival Valor, my mom, husband, daughter, and I chose to share one single stateroom with a balcony.

And the one thing we looked forward to more than anything once arriving in our room?? Unpacking our luggage!

Even though my daughter, Marina, weighs only 18 lbs, she had the most (and heaviest) luggage of our entourage. Luckily, given that the bulk of her items consisted of food, diapers, and baby wipes, the good news was that she used most of it up so that we didn't have to lug it back home. Total sweetness.


Feeding Essentials:


- canned, ready-to-feed formula
- jarred baby food
- unsweetened fruit cups
- baby-friendly snackies
- spoons
- bottles / nipples
- dish soap
- bottle / nipple brushes
- a plethora of bibs / cloths / wipes

Notes about our feeding essentials:

- With no stove in our stateroom, we had no way of sterilizing water for Marina. Because of this, and because I'm not breastfeeding, she was only able to drink ready-to-feed formula on the ship.

- There was a fridge in our room but no microwave. Therefore, at best, the warmest meal Marina ate at any given time was at room temperature. (I'm sure we could have asked our waiter in the dining room to warm up some of her food, but she was content nonetheless, so it seemed unnecessary.)

- At 10 months of age, there were some food items provided on the ship that Marina was able to eat (soup, oatmeal, bananas and other mashed fruit), but I wasn't sure if it would be enough to sustain her... hence all the pre-packaged jarred food that we normally don't feed at home.

 - A small bottle of dish soap and washing brushes definitely came in handy when washing Marina's items in our bathroom sink.




Marina's wet bar of goodies.

(Not pictured: the baby-friendly snackies that my sister bought for her and that TOTALLY SAVED US on numerous occasions during the cruise and our flights home.)


When it came time to eat in the fancy Washington dining room, we either allowed Marina to remain in her car seat with the hope that she would just nap instead (which is what she did on the first night).......
.....or we allowed her to sit in the highchair that was already provided.
Our decision on any given night was really dependent on her temperament. And, lucky for us, our table was located right next to the dining room entrance, which allowed us to make quick exits and walk around with her for a few minutes if she started acting up.

This wasn't something we had to worry about when eating on the Lido deck, however, since there was always so much chatter and music that could be heard in that area that no one noticed if a baby was being fussy anyway. (Jackpot!)

Sleep Time:

The one item that we absolutely should have left behind was the travel crib. I'd heard that Carnival supplies metal cribs for the staterooms, but I just didn't know what to expect. So, rather than bringing our travel crib from Canada, my sister borrowed one for us from a friend in Florida.

Marina slept in it at my sister's house, but it turned out that was all we needed it for since the metal crib on the ship was more than adequate. (As long as you bring blankets from home, then you're all set in terms of making it through the night.)

Note: I was frustrated in that I couldn't find a picture of Carnival's metal cribs prior to going on the cruise, which is why I insisted on bringing the travel crib just in case. So, once on board, I made a mental note to myself that I'd take a photo of said metal crib so that future cruisers would know exactly what to expect.... but, guess what? Yeah, I forgot. Sorry peeps. Just take my word for it when I tell you to leave the travel crib at home.

In terms of sleep, we keep Marina on a schedule at home and were really worried about this trip messing things up for her. More to the point, we were worried about her waking up and crying, thus disturbing our neighbours.

Turns out all this worry was for nothing, because Marina was so exhausted by the end of each busy day that she had no problem falling asleep and continuing to sleep through the night. (Not even the incredibly loud flushing sound of the toilet in our room woke her up. Again, total sweetness.)

When it came time for her naps, we admittedly did something we said we'd never do: we allowed Marina to sleep in our bed. It worked for us because, more often than not, she started out by simply playing on the bed with her toys, and then she started rubbing her eyes and nestling up next to us. We napped along side her, and it was heavenly.
 Marina on our bed, passed out due to shear exhaustion.

Note: The fluorescent green bracelet was something that all children under 18 were required to wear while on board. It was labelled with Marina's "Muster Station" location, which is where she was to be taken in the event of an emergency. (Read: If our ship hit an ice berg or was ambushed by pirates, yo.)



On-board Transportation:

The only other item I was unsure about bringing was Marina's SUV-sized jogging stroller. I'd heard that Carnival will rent you a small umbrella stroller for the week for $25, but herein lied my concerns:

1. We needed a stroller for convenience sake while maneuvering through airports, etc. en route to the ship.

2. Marina can't recline in an umbrella stroller, so I wasn't sure if she would nap in it while visiting our ports of call.

3. Because of Marina's small size, she still requires a car seat with her stroller and while in vehicles, and the car seat we have is meant for the jogging stroller.... so why wouldn't we just bring the stroller along anyway?

I was afraid that our jogging stroller would be too big and cumbersome for the ship, but based on my reasoning above, we had no choice but to bring it.

Notes about our transportation essentials:

- For the most part, the jogging stroller was great. There were certain locations on the ship (read: the shops and photo areas) where it was just too crowded for us to venture into with the stroller, but that would've been the case even if we'd been using a smaller umbrella stroller instead.

- Although our stroller is quite large, even when folded up, we managed to store it in our stateroom's closet when not in use. (I've heard of others storing it in their stateroom's shower as well, which would have been another option.)

 - There was no room in the Washington dining room to park the stroller during meals, so we left it in our stateroom and just carried Marina to dinner instead. When eating on the Lido deck, however, we always managed to find an open area where we could just pull up to the table and have Marina eat while still sitting in her stroller.

- Although it meant sometimes having to wait for several elevators to come and go, we were very respectful of other guests and didn't want to crowd others in the elevators. (We realized that our stroller was large, so we were happy to let others go ahead of us.)

- We absolutely could not have pulled off a successful vacation without the use of our Evenflo Fresh Air Gear baby carrier, which I purchased used off of Kijiji.ca. Marina was so comfy and enjoyed being held close while walking around, that she fell asleep every time we put her in it, even if we were just walking around the ship.

Note: It quickly became obvious that the heat helped her fall asleep relatively quickly on our daily outings so, in retrospect, I'm sure she would have slept in an upright umbrella stroller as well.

- In terms of mobility issues while visiting our ports of call, the stroller was ideal in both Cozumel, Mexico, and Roatan, Honduras. Because we were taxied into Belize and Grand Cayman by a smaller boat, however, it would have been hugely inconvenient to use the stroller in those locales. Again, this is while the baby carrier was a much-needed item on this cruise. 



Keeping Baby Occupied:

Okay, so now that we've gotten all the basic necessities out of the way, it's play time. But what exactly is there for a baby to do on a cruise ship? Well, like with everything else, preparation is key.

We knew in advance that this cruise would be very different from our previous travels where we did such things as whale watching, snorkeling, and kayaking through the rain forest. This time, with a baby in tote, our outings were far tamer. So much so, that our time spent in ports of call consisted mainly of sightseeing on foot and shopping for souvenirs.

On the ship, however, there were several more options:

 
I purchased this water-resistant blanket from Amazon.com and had it delivered to my sister's Florida address (free US-shipping, baby!) for us to pick up before the cruise. We found some quiet locales on the Lobby deck that allowed Marina to spread out and play with her toys or just enjoy a beverage or two. (Had we chosen to visit some of the beaches at our ports of call, this certainly would have come in handy as well.)


Each of the Carnival ships offer a service for children called Camp Carnival -- sort of a day camp for your kids to keep busy during the cruise. However, if your child is under the age of two, then there is only one occasion when you can take advantage of this site: between 8 and 10 in the morning on at-sea days, and there must be a parent present with the child at all times. (Read: this isn't a baby-sitting service, yo.)*

Nonetheless, Marina still enjoyed it very much. It was quiet (only two or three other infants were present on the occasions that we stopped in), and it allowed her to play with some new toys.

(We brought a carry-on suitcase from home full of her favourite toys and books, which kept her occupied 90% of the time, but it was still nice for her to test out some of Carnival's collections in these new surroundings.)

*As an aside, there are baby-sitting services on board, for $6 an hour, and I'm sure this is something we'll take advantage of on future cruises.


For moments when we retreated back to our air-conditioned stateroom, we could always rely on the Spanish Cartoon Network to keep Marina entertained for a bit while she played with her toys on our bed. Muy bien, amigos!



"That. Is. Fabulous. FABULOUS!"
- random guy walking by Marina in her tub.


Carnival has a policy in that only potty-trained children are allowed in the kiddie pool, simply because it's not chlorinated. So what did we do? We brought our own pool, of course!

Purchasing this inflatable tub online for $19.99+tax+shipping from Babies'R'Us was the greatest investment we could have made, hands down.

On days when we were in port, there was often a rush of guests lining up to debark and explore our new surroundings, so we elected to stay on board a few extra hours and avoid the crowds. And because the majority of guests were exiting the ship, this meant there was a lot more space available around the pools for us to get a prime location for Marina to splash around.

Just as a comparison, this is the poolside view on a day when we were in port and most of the other guests left the ship:

(Notice the empty beach chairs....)

And this is an overhead view of the same area on a day that we were at sea with everyone on board:



(Notice the extreme lack of poolside space......)
So, the lessons here are this:

1. If you're not in any hurry to debark the ship when in port, just sit back and relax poolside to avoid the crowds before exiting yourself. (Marina was able to tire herself out by splashing around in her tub, so that when we did leave the ship later that day, she quietly napped while we were sightseeing.)

2. On days when you're at sea, unless you get out there super early, you're going to miss out on that prime beach chair location.

But don't fret! As always, we had a back-up plan for the at-sea days..............

When it was crowded and noisy around the pool, we simply set up Marina's inflatable tub on our balcony. Absolute heaven.

Some helpful pointers:

- It could get very, very noisy around the pool because of the constant music and entertainment provided. The problem with this was that Marina experienced total sensory overload and could only tolerate it for a short while. (But it was blissfully quiet on our balcony!!)

- The other problem with the poolside locations is that it could be difficult to find a shaded area to set up Marina's tub. We plastered her with sunscreen and did our best to keep her from pulling off her hat, but still. The heat from the direct sunshine could only be tolerated for a short while as well. (But, as you can see, there was plenty of shade on our balcony!!)

- When setting up poolside, we went to one of the bars and borrowed a Corona beer bucket to collect water from the pool and hot tub in order to fill the inflatable tub.

- When setting up on our balcony, we used our ice bucket and just got some warm water from our bathroom sink.

- At the poolside location, when it came time to drain the water from the inflatable tub, we emptied it into one of the many drains around the pool. When on our balcony, though, we just drained it into the gutter.

- When not in use, we simply stored the inflatable tub in our shower, where it fit perfectly and was totally out of the way.


In retrospect, even if Marina had been allowed in the kiddie pool, there's no way it would have been as enjoyable anyway. The reasons are twofold:

1. It was too deep for her, and I would have had to get in as well.

2. Frankly, she's a little timid and would have clung to me because there were so many other kids splashing around.

So, the inflatable tub was absolutely the way to go with our little one.



Marina in her 'jammies, watching Tangled on the outdoor screen. 

I've been on four cruise ships (via Royal Caribbean and Carnival), and the Carnival Valor was by far my favourite, simply for the giant Seaside Theatre and nightly movies. Because, after a long day of playing, sightseeing, swimming, and hanging out at various eateries on the ship, we were all ready to relax on some beach chairs and watch a movie in the great Caribbean outdoors.

(Movies featured during our cruise included: Despicable Me, Megamind, Secretariat, Tron: Legacy, Tangled, Little Fockers, and one of the Harry Potter flicks.)

Sure, Marina's got an attention span of about 5 minutes before she gets bored, but this was still a great outing for all of us. My mom, husband, and I found some comfy beach chairs and enjoyed the films while Marina played with her toys and ate some snackies on the water-resistant blanket. Plus, even when she started fussing, the movie was loud enough that no one noticed.

The only warning I have is that, the higher up you go in terms of what deck you watch the movie from, the windier it gets. (We were on a moving vessel, after all, and that wind was freakishly strong up there. So much so, that my hair still hasn't forgiven me. Ahem.)



After Action Review:

Obviously I can't regale everything that went on during our cruise, but this is the gist of it in terms of cruising with a baby. 

Were there times that Marina acted up and wanted nothing to do with what we were doing? Of course. But, overall, we were really impressed with just how well she did.

The new surroundings were just as interesting to her as they were to us, and she enjoyed people-watching at it's finest. Moreover, we definitely noticed that this trip helped her to overcome some of her shyness, and we were pleasantly surprised with the fact that we were still able to eat in the fancy dining room at least once daily (despite our paranoia about her being too disruptive).

So will we attempt this again in the near future? Absolutely! 

But, of course, she'll be toddling around by then..... which means we're going to strap her into a harness / leash to keep both her and our sanity in check, haha. Seriously. 

Yes, we're going to be THOSE parents. Either that, or we'll just end up bringing more family members along to help keep her entertained. 

That's definitely the best option!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Obama reigns; it's Osama who's dead

Where were you shortly before midnight E.S.T. on Sunday, May 1, 2011? My husband and I were up watching the NY Mets' marathon baseball game with the Phillies when the sports announcers interrupted their play-by-play with some ground-breaking news: Osama bin Laden had been killed by US Special Forces in Pakistan.



Shortly thereafter, US President Barack Obama took to the airwaves and confirmed the news in his address to world. Social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook were already abuzz with random facts [May 1, 1945: Germany announces Hitler is dead vs. May 1, 2011: the US announces bin Laden is dead]. And there was mass elation as joyous crowds gathered outside the White House.

 
My husband casually wondered aloud about how long it would take for someone to inadvertently comment that Obama (not Osama) was the one who'd been killed instead. It seemed likely since their names are so similar and a slip of the tongue in this case would be inevitable.

The first time I heard it happen today came courtesy of Regis Philbin during his dialogue with Kelly Ripa on their talk show, Live with Regis and Kelly. It happened so quickly and was easily forgivable. After all, we all knew what he meant.

Fast forward to earlier this afternoon, however, when I was reading the coverage from a local newspaper. Not once but TWICE did the scribe interchange bin Laden's name with Obama's.


Error #1: "...U.S. officials believe, however, that an adult son of Obama was killed in the raid."   

(Really? President Obama had an adult son? Who is now dead at the hands of US forces? Obviously it was meant to read "an adult son of bin Laden.")


Error #2: "Obama is likely to be succeeded by ...al Qaida's current second-in-command."

(Apparently the scribe is foreseeing long into the future and predicting American voters will select an Islamic extremist to be their next president. Either that, or he meant to say, "bin Laden is likely....". Ahem.)
 
 
As a former employee of this newspaper, I can understand how these errors occurred: the news broke shortly after 8pm local time on a Sunday, which is when copy editors would have been finalizing their work to go to print. Naturally there was then a mad scramble to publish ANYTHING coming over the wire, and it obviously wouldn't have been proofread for content overnight.

I suppose I can forgive these errors as well.
 
BUT WAIT! THERE'S MORE!
 
Several pages later, in an unrelated subject, one of the letters to the editor made reference to "Jack Mulroney" and "Brian Layton".
 
WHO?!?
 
Again, by having worked in this newsroom, I'm familiar with their system and know that this particular page would have been prepped late last week. Furthermore, it would have passed through at least four sets of eyes! SOMEONE should have identified the error and made the correction to read "Brian Mulroney" and "Jack Layton" instead.
 
Phew. So much for Monday being considered a slow news day.

Anyway, for a lighter look at bin Laden's final hours, check out this report courtesy of The Onion
 

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Florida: We're number one! Wait! Recount!

Back in March of this year, the folks behind VisitOrlando.com held a contest in which the grand prize was a free and fully-planned trip to Florida in April 2011. The catch? In 300 words or less, entrants were asked to describe their previous travel-planning nightmares and why they deserved to be selected for this dream vacation.

I submitted a ditty describing the spring of 2006 when my husband and I visited two provinces and seven states in six days. We did it via five flights and countless hours of driving and, though hilarity ensued, it was extraordinarily stressful in terms of keeping to our itinerary.

Sadly, our experience probably wasn't harrowing enough to illicit any tear-jerk reactions from the judging panel and, as such, I wasn't selected as the grand prize winner. Doh.

But did that stop us from visiting Florida this month anyway? Of course not! We were prepared to do anything to escape this miserable winter, even if it meant paying for our vacation ourselves. (Unheard of, I know.)

So off we flew to Houston and then Miami to spend a couple of days with my sister and her family, who live just outside of Ft. Lauderdale. (Yes, in utter paradise.)

Following that brief stop, we then boarded a luxury cruise ship and toured the western Caribbean once again, although this time we did it with -- wait for it -- a baby on board.

I consulted several websites and message boards before our departure, seeking advice from previous travelers who had ventured into the unknown before us, and this is a mere sampling of the comments posted:


"Leave the baby with a family member while you go on the cruise."

"Do yourself and everyone else a favour, and don't take the baby." 

"If you do bring a baby, don't breastfeed in public without expecting some dirty looks."
 
 
Great. Just great.
 
Luckily, the vast majority of comments were actually quite positive and helpful, and we wouldn't have had a successful trip without the wisdom imparted by those trail blazers before us.
 
Which is why I'll attempt to return the favour by paying it forward and blogging about our experiences here, in an attempt to further prepare future travelers of young children on cruise ships.

Stay tuned..........! 


 

Monday, March 28, 2011

White wasteland




"Hey, Jo -- Spring called. It's waiting for you to take down your Christmas tree."
- My friend, Tracy (February 2011)
 

Embarrassing as it is to admit, it's true: My husband and I spent Valentine's Day taking down the Christmas tree and all associated festive decorations.

(In my defense, our Christmas display was in the family room in our basement, and I sometimes go days without venturing down there. Out of sight, out of mind. So there.)

Now that six weeks have passed since we packed away our decorations, you'd think that spring would be in full bloom and I'd be back to wearing sandals again. After all, one year ago today the temperature here was a (relatively) balmy +16C.
 
Sadly, though, our high today was only a mere +0.5C, and I'm still walking around in winter boots. That is, if I venture out at all on our icy sidewalks.

Given the multitude of earthquakes, tsunamis, and floods that are occurring in other parts of the world, I know I shouldn't be complaining.... and yet here I am, cursing our miserable and never-ending winter. 
 
Cabin fever set in for me months ago, and I've felt like a shut-in since November.
 
All I ask is that the sun makes an appearance so that the several feet of snow still engulfing our city will soon disappear.
 
All I ask is for the ability to take our dog for a walk without the risk of slipping and dislocating a joint. 
 
All I ask is that winter not last for seven months of the year!
 
*Sigh*
 
If we ever get to see summer again, I think I'll leave our lawn furniture out until December with the hope that it won't snow again until at least January of next year.
 
Couldn't hurt, right?
 
 
 
 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

I upped my bid, now UP YOURS!


As a member of the Knights of Columbus, my husband has been involved in some tireless fundraising over the last four or five years. Anyone who has ever had to organize a dinner, dance and silent auction, secure volunteers and donors, and then try to sell tickets to the event will understand how exhausting and humbling such an undertaking really is -- which is why we've spent many a sleepless night worrying about how to pull it off.

I'm pleased to report that this past weekend's fundraiser appears to have been a success. (I say "appears", simply because I'm not yet sure of our profit margin, but here's hoping we at least made back a little more than what we spent. Fingers crossed!!)
 



 

As for the silent auction portion of the night, we took home some terrific items: 

* memory cards for our many cameras, video recorder, and digital frame

* some sweet dress shirts that my husband can use for work
 
* a couple of gift certificates for a salon not far from where we live (so that I can finally get my hair cut without feeling guilty for having spent some money)

* not one, not two, but THREE family passes to the Royal Alberta Museum

* a beautifully framed original painting of some chickadees and a bird box (you know, because I'm a bird nerd and just had to have it)

Plus, we also came close to winning the 50/50 draw and some door prizes. (Okay, no we didn't, but at least we tried. Because, after all, you can't win if you don't enter... and at least we can take solace in knowing our money all went to charity.)

So there you have it. We've invested a lot of our own time and money into these events, not to mention those sleepless nights we talked about, so hopefully this will all pay off and help make a difference for those who benefit from our fundraising.

Now, to get a headstart on next year's event...... 
 

Monday, February 14, 2011

Men doing housework = more sex. Maybe.

On this Valentine's Day, I'm reflecting back on a recent episode of The Talk in which the ladies were discussing this study conducted at the University of Washington. In it, Dr. John Gottman found that "...wives are more likely to get in the mood when men help out with the housework."

One component of the study found that women viewed men who helped out as being "...caring [because they] contribute to the chores," thus increasing the liklihood of sex taking place later in the day. I suppose this is true on some levels, but I tend to agree more with sociologist Scott Coltrane's theory that women are more likely to be in the mood simply because some of their daily responsibilities are alleviated.

Both The Talk's Leah Remini and Holly Robinson-Peete agreed with this latter point as well, and they expressed exactly what I tend to feel most of the time. As in, when I lay down at night, this is what runs through my mind:

Am I ever going to find the time to put away the three baskets of laundry in the livingroom?
I need to sweep the diningroom floor before my daughter chokes on a dust bunny.
I hope it's not too cold out tomorrow because Mickey deserves to go for a long walk.
The fridge is empty; what am I going to pack for my husband's lunch?
It's been more than 48 hours since the last snowfall -- I hope the neighbours don't complain that we haven't shovelled yet.
Could my thighs get any bigger?? When am I going to make it to the gym again?
Did I pay the heating bill yet? Mental note: must review our finances.
Will I ever get to colour my hair again, or am I stuck wearing ball caps forever?

Ahem. So as you see, sex and romance aren't even on the radar these days simply because there are a million other random tasks that eat away at my brain during my waking hours.

But if some of those tasks are taken care of for me, thus allowing me to relax a little.... well, that changes everything.

Sharing is caring, so tell me your thoughts on this study. Do you agree with Gottman or Coltrane... or neither??

Monday, January 31, 2011

Can your man predict weather like a frontiersman? Take this quiz!

Okay, so there's no quiz. But I do ask the question: What constitutes a "real man"?

In the book The Art of Manliness: Classic Skills and Manners for the Modern Man, Kate McKay explores the issue by illustrating certain traits that us women find desirable in our menfolk. Among the skills that a real man must have are:

- the ability to start a fire without matches

- the ability to break down a door

- the ability to give a best-man speech that won't make people cringe

- the ability to treat a snake bite

- the ability to perform the Fireman's Carry

- the ability to predict weather like a frontiersman

- the ability to fire a handgun safely and correctly


So, can your man predict weather like a frontiersman? For that matter, can anyone you know predict weather like a frontiersman?? Odds are the answers are no and no. And, personally speaking, I'm okay with this given that there really isn't the need for this skill in our daily lives (anymore!). But some of the other qualities are very much an asset for any man.

For example, if my husband and I are on one of our canoeing excursions and the boat capsizes in the frigid North Saskatchewan River, I want to know that we'll be able to create heat via fire.

(As an aside, this ability is also very much a necessity when appearing on the reality show Survivor. Because as host Jeff Probst often exclaims, why would anyone go on Survivor without ever having built and maintained a fire from scratch?? Sigh. I digress.)

Another must-have skill for me is the Fireman's Carry. And I'm happy to report that my husband is able to successfully pull this one off.... Wait -- it's actually been a while since he's done this... as in, it was pre-pregnancy and pre-expanding circumference on my part. Doh.

Well one thing I know for fact that he can still do is fire a handgun safely and correctly. Rugged and man-tastic indeed.

The above is a product of his extensive military training, in which he was also trained as a journalist. So not only has he jumped out of an airplane on a night-time mission, but he can also school me on the importance of a well-placed semicolon.

Yeah, baby; I love it when he talks nerdy to me.  

While not everyone's definition of a real man includes all of the above points, I think all women still want their men to at least be chivalrous. Am I right??

So c'mon peeps, man up!