Winter Walk

It’s days like this when I love winter and living in Canada.  The air is crisp, the sun is warm and the scenery is beautiful.  I took a little walk around some of the trails in my neighbourhood last weekend.  The week prior, we go a dump of snow, and now temperatures are above zero (Celsius).  It was a beautiful and peaceful day.

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Ann

 

2016 Resolution Round-Up

Last year around this time (ok, maybe it was late January), I shared my resolutions for 2016.  So now that’s it January 2017, let’s see how I did:

Blog more. Once again this resolution was a bit of a disappointment. Oh… the grand intentions I had… I’m not even sure I’ll put this on the list for this year, since 2016 was quite the failure.

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Ann’s quasi-successful 2016 Reading Challenge!

Read 11 Books. Yipee! I actually polished off 14 books this year. I had this handy 2016 Reading Challenge that I printed out and taped to my closet door as inspiration. The year started off great and I was adhering to the Challenge fully, but then partway through the year I started to deviate from the list. The “abandoned”, “intimidates” and “owned but never read” were really hard to do, especially when friends and colleagues were recommending some really great reads. So in the end I “abandoned” the rest of the list and then just concentrated on making it to at least 11 books. So 14 is quite the achievement. And if you can’t read my chicken-scratching in the picture above, here’s the list in no particular order:

  1. Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon
  2. The Widow by Fiona Barton
  3. The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
  4. Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
  5. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
  6. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank/Otto Frank
  7. Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  8. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
  9. I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh
  10. The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan
  11. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
  12. Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
  13. In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick
  14. The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

The stand-out, by far, in the above list is I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh. I recommend this book to everyone.  It is probably one of the best books I’ve ever read.  As I’ve said to friends, you often expect there to be a plot twist in a book, but in this case the way the book is written is the twist.  Say whaaat?  I know, now you’re curious right?  Just read the book.

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Check off at least one thing from my Bucket List. Done! I blogged about my super-quick trip to Stonehenge here. But I’m also happy to say that we visited PEI this summer too, which is a province I have never been too. So that means I’ve done at least two items from my Bucket List. However, I still need to actually post my Bucket List, because really, I could just be making all this stuff up, but I’m not, I really do have a list.

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The beautiful red sand beaches of Prince Edward Island, Canada. Oh and our beautiful feet too.

Write a Blog Post for every book I read in 2016. Fail. I did two (see the list above and note the two sad, little links) and that’s all I’m going to say about that.

Curate a Friendship. I think I put a little more effort into connecting with my few close friends this year, but naturally I could have done better. I did have a girls weekend in Quebec City back in May, which we all agreed was a much needed get-away and something we hope to do more regularly. As for curating a new friendship, that proved to be a bit more challenging. Well, there’s always 2017, right?

How did you do on your resolutions?  (Better, I hope.)

Ann

 

 

Autumn is in the air

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With the exception of Saturday morning, this weekend was an absolutely picture-perfect fall weekend in Canada.  And it was Thanksgiving weekend too, which meant I could each as much pumpkin pie as I wanted (yeah!)

It was a busy family weekend, but I did manage to sneak out late on holiday Monday for a quick walk by the river.  The fall foliage was in all it’s glory.  This is definitely my most favourite season.

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Happy Canadian Thanksgiving – may there be lots of left-over pumpkin pie.

Ann

 

 

 

 

Losing lactose

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As part of my (undocumented) new year’s resolution to improve my health and just feel better, I’ve made a few simple changes in my diet to see if there were any improvements. The first thing I decided to do was to eliminate caffeine from my diet.  I would normally have anywhere between one to three cups of coffee a day.  I still have my morning coffee while driving to work, but I’ve now switched to decaf.  Everything I’ve read said that I would have caffeine withdrawal jitters for the first day or two, but I really didn’t experience that.  It was actually quite easy to make the switch.  It’s been a few months now, and I feel better for eliminating caffeine from my diet, but I wouldn’t say anything has really ‘changed’ for me.

I also decided to try to eliminate lactose from my diet. Actually, to be totally honest, I started the year trying to have a probiotic yogurt once a day – you know, the “Activia Challenge”.  I didn’t really notice anything after about two weeks.  I still had some mild digestive issues, but nothing I could really contribute to anything specific.  By sheer chance I was reading up on some benefits of eliminating lactose (one Australian website said eliminating lactose would improve the appearance of under-eye circles) so I thought I would give it a try for a week or two.

So the next day I purchased lactose free milk, and lactose free cheese, and lactose-free yogurt (we actually already had lactose-free margarine). I don’t drink tons of milk, I have it with a bowl of cereal in the morning, and maybe a glass with my dinner in the evening.  I also have it in my (now decaffeinated) coffee.  I do like cheese though.  And ice cream.  Mmmm.

I was hard-core lactose-free the first week. To my surprise the biggest change I noticed immediately was that my eczema cleared right up, within two days!  I’ve long suffered from eczema, and had it particularly bad as a kid – behind my knees, and on my arms.  In my teen years it seemed to moved to the back of my fore-arms and I had a bit on my face.  In my twenties, it seemed to retreat a bit, but around 10+ years ago it really came back in full force on my hands.  I haven’t worn rings since 2008 because of it.  But two days after going lactose-free, my hands were virtually eczema free!  It’s really quite remarkable.  Sadly, the under-eye circles are still there – oh well.

I initially bought a different brand of lactose-free milk, but it tasted a bit weird. My husband has been drinking almond milk for about two years, but that tastes even weirder, in my opinion.  Now I purchase Natrel 1% lactose free-milk.  For me, it so closely tastes like regular milk, that I hardly notice.

It’s been a few months now, and I’m definitely not as hard-core as I was that first week. My mild digestive issues seem to have cleared up along with the eczema, but I do have regular dairy products here and there – left over pizza from meetings at work and the occasional double-double. But I’m most happy that I can start wearing my rings again!

Resolutions for 2016 (which is also a little late…)

Since I didn’t bother to write down my resolutions for 2015, I thought it best to capture my resolutions for 2016 here, immediately, now. Before life catches up with me and I forget.  Plus I said in my previous post that I would do it. (Crap!  Is it January 25th already?)

  1. Blog more.  I am purposely keeping this one quantifiably vague, that way,  it’s truly achievable right?  I know, who am kidding.
  2. Read 11 books.  This one has a good track record, so I’m pretty sure I can do this one.  Hmmm… perhaps I should say 10 books, then when I read 11, it will be over-achieved (and perhaps make me feel better about vague resolution #1).  I actually spotted an interesting Reading Challenge online and I think I might give it a try.  If I succeed, it will mean 12 books. Yeah!
  3. Check off at least one thing from my Bucket List.  I must say, I have actually been doing quite well on this over the last year or two.  In 2014, I took the family to see the icebergs in Newfoundland.  I shared some great pics here and here.  I also visited four US states that were on my list, leaving me with only five US states left to visit.  Perhaps I should be more specific with this resolution and it should be: visit at least one of the remaining 5 states on my list.  But I think I’ll just see how this plays out.  Maybe a resolution should be to blog about what is actually on my Bucket List.
  4. Write a blog post about every book I read in 2016.   Oh… resolution #1 just got a lot less vague.  Hmmm…
  5. Curate a friendship.  We all have friends, but I think most of us who are in our 30’s and (now) 40’s would agree that life catches up with you and it’s harder to stay in touch with friends and even harder to make new friends.  I resolve to connect more with the few close friends I have.  I honestly think about calling particular friends all the time and going for a coffee or a drink or dinner, but my day always seems to get away from me and then I procrastinate too long and then I start thinking it’s too late to call.  It’s a vicious cycle in my head.  I need to stop this cycle and just reach out.  I would also like to try and make a new friend.  I know, it sounds like I’m a kid.  But it’s true, making new friends requires some effort.  I’ll give it a go.  We’re in a new neighbourhood, so I’m hopeful that when the spring comes and everyone emerges from hibernation, it will be a little more promising.  It’s hard to chat up the neighbours in -19c weather.

There are some other ‘resolutions’ on my 2016 list, but I think I will solidly commit the these five and let the others play themselves out.

We’re almost at the end of January, how are you doing on your 2016 resolutions?

Ann

2015 Round Up (a little late…)

Phew!  So far this year is not off to a good blogging start.  Sharing my 2015 round-up on day five of 2016 – yikes!  Oh well, life goes on.  So how well did you do on your resolutions from 2015?  Unlike 2014, I didn’t write down my resolutions for 2015, and guess what? I didn’t really achieve any of them. So I am definitely writing down my resolutions for 2016.

And since I didn’t write them down, I don’t really know what they are. This is more-or-less what I think in my head were my 2015 resolutions:

Read 20 books

Yes, that was a 2014 resolution too, but I still think it’s a good one to have. I didn’t do too bad this year, but clearly my annual book reading resolution should be 11, because that’s how many books I read again this year. Here’s my 2015 list in no particular order:

  1. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
  2. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  3. Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
  4. Still Life by Louise Penny
  5. Dead Cold by Louise Penny
  6. House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout & Sara Corbett
  7. Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
  8. The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
  9. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
  10. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
  11. Wild by Cheryl Strayed
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#4 and #5 are missing from the stack above as they were loaned to me by a friend.

No super stand-outs from the list above for me, but I would recommend #10, #1 and #6. And if you like a good mystery, I really enjoyed #4 & #5, both of which are set in the fictional Quebec town of Three Pines with a unique cast of re-occurring characters.

Blog at lest once a month

Fail. In fact, I think my original resolution was to blog at least 2-3 times a month. Super fail. If I think about it, I believe I even intended to spruce up my blog. Epic fail. I don’t know about others, but finding time to blog is challenging. My day job has me in front of a computer all day so the last thing I want to do when I came home is spend more time in front of a computer. I have kids, a husband, a house, friends, other interests; honestly I don’t know where to find the time. I do enjoy blogging though. I find myself thinking about things in terms of whether they are blog-worthy, but then putting those thoughts on paper (in a computer?) seems to be the difficult part. Perhaps if I only commit to reading five books, I can use that time to blog? LOL. Alas, I have come to terms with the fact that this is my blog and I can choose to blog as much or as a little as I like. This makes me feel better.

Take more walks

I have done this. Perhaps not as consistently as I would like, but I have really tried to get out, clear my head, take in the view and just generally spend some time to myself. I have occasionally had my daughters come along with me and it’s nice to chat and discuss things with them, even if it’s about whether or not people walk their cats.

If only all my walks could be along the beach.
If only all my walks could be along the beach.

Buy a new house

Confession time. Yup, we bought a new house. It’s taken me quite some time (read: years) to convince my husband that we needed a larger home, but he finally got on board and in the summer we finally found the right house in the right neighbourhood. We decided to keep our first home and rent it out. So now we are officially landlords. All of this happened in the span of 2 months – from buying the home, to getting our house ready for renting to moving into our new home – it was a whirlwind. But I’m really glad we did it and I think it’s a great long-term strategy for us. So far things have been smooth, but this blog might be a good spot to share the journey – the ups and downs of being a landlord and owning an investment property. Stay tuned.

And now I will begin writing down my resolutions for 2016 and then writing a post about it so that I can at least  attempt to ‘blog more in 2016.’

Ann

 

8 Signs You’re Truly Canadian

In honour of Canada Day, I’ve put together a little list of signs that you are truly a Canadian:

1. Hockey sticks –  At this very moment you can locate one or more hockey sticks in your car/trunk/garage/shed/basement/closet/garden and you’ve used said hockey stick to play hockey (whether ice or street), but also to: shoo racoons from your garbage, retrieve hat/ball or whatever your kid accidentally threw in a tree, to stake your tomato plants or start your car.  And yes, that last one actually happened to me.  A couple of years ago while I was at Play It  Again Sports buying my kid skates (I know, so Canadian.  Did I mention it was August?) my car wouldn’t start so I called a mechanic-friend who swung by to help (he was out running errands with his family).  A jammed starter was the culprit.  He asked if I had anything in the car that he could use to hit the starter. Enter said hockey stick.  Or maybe it was snow brush… either way, this was a ridiculously Canadian story.  And FYI – he got my car started!

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Our current collection in the garage. I count 7 sticks, including 1 goalie stick. There are more in our basement and hall closet, trust me.

2. Timbits – you know what they are, you’ve enjoyed them on coffee breaks and road trips, you love that they only cost 10 cents and you would never, ever call them doughnut holes.  I recently had to explain to some American colleagues what they were when I was describing a clever campaign Tim Horton’s had put on.  I’d used the word timbit so naturally that I was surprised when they all interrupted to ask me to explain what it was.

Mmmmm...
Mmmmm…

3. Regina – you know it’s the capital of Saskatchewan.  You might even be from here.  You know it can be -35c for a week straight in the winter and +35c for a week straight in the summer.  And you stopped giggling about what it rhymes with in the fourth grade.

4. Newfie jokes – you know at least one.  And if you find yourself short on Newfie jokes, you can always ask a Newfie.  I have yet to meet a Newfie who couldn’t offer up a good one.  (And you know what a Newfie is and I don’t have to explain it here.)

5. Bagged milk – now I realize this may not be ‘truly’ Canadian, and a bit more of an Ontario/Quebec thing, but it is rather unique.  Some years ago a colleague of mine moved to Canada and we had a ‘bagged milk discussion’.  She finally said “I’ve never bought bagged milk, just the small 1 litre carton because I’m single and don’t need that much milk.  But I don’t get it? The bag of milk is HUGE!’  My Canadian colleagues and I scratched our heads a bit and then I said, “You know there are three bags in the one bag, right?”  She had no idea.  I’m still chuckling over that one to this day.

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Two bags of milk with the holder. Oh so practical.

6. Snow – you know everything about it.  How to remove it, how to hire someone to remove it, where to park when it’s being removed.  Everything.  Back in February I was on a business trip in the UK.  When my driver found out I was from Canada, he naturally asked about the weather.  I said it was snowing when I left.  He said, it must be fun to make snowmen and throw snowballs all the time.  I said, it wasn’t that kind of snow.  He was confused.  You’re not.  You know exactly what I mean.

7. Free shipping – maybe there’s free shipping, but most likely not.  You don’t normally read fine-print, but when it comes to shipping you ALWAYS read the fine print.   No true Canadian would ever assume that shipping is free.  Especially when ordering/buying something from the US.  And when it’s not free?  Yup… you  have it shipped to your Aunt in Kentucky or your hotel in Orlando just so you can get the free shipping.

8. Canadian Tire money – like the hockey stick, can similarly be found in your wallet or glovebox or junk drawer or bottom of purse or desk or really, let’s be honest, all of those locations.  You have an usual compulsion to collect it but not use it.  And when in another country, the thought has crossed your mind to actually try and pass it off as real Canadian currency.  But you didn’t.  Cuz that wouldn’t be very Canadian.

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And you’ve always wondered who the old guy is on the money, and where you can get yourself a cool hat like his…

Happy Canada Day!!

Ann