Wednesday, 21 December 2011

How will you sparkle today?

Yesterday before I headed out I looked at myself in the mirror and thought well you look a bit bland despite feeling quite festive on the inside. Wondering what might perk up my look I remembered my Trudy Gallagher jewelry and put on a sparkly, bright coloured necklace and dangling earrings. Not only did it bring colour to my face, it warmed my heart as Trudy Gallagher is a Fredericton NB- based designer.

Her fun, funky jewelry was a go to gift for my husband when we lived in NB. I see on her website you can buy her jewelry across Canada, but for me it will always remind me of New Brunswick. I must tell him her treasures can be purchased in Calgary as well.

What helps you sparkle inside and out this season?

Monday, 19 December 2011

Tweets to keep warm in Calgary

You have to love the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra- they have a sense of humour as well.

Sliding takes you back to the delight of childhood

As a grown up there are many days I dislike winter and having to pile on layers of clothing to keep warm. But some moments when the air has just that slight bite which wakes me up and reminds me that I have nose hair and the snow is sparkling, I can embrace winter.

Growing up in a small town I recall many great afternoons and evenings sliding. It was a true sign of independence when I could go back to the big hill after dark without parents. These are experiences I did not expect my children to have in the city. But I was wrong.

In our new city we live across the street from a lake. In the winter it is transformed into a great skating area and a sliding hill. Currently every tree is decorated with lights for the holidays and the sliding hill is lit. My daughter went with friends the other night, proudly using her access card for the first time and commented how independent that made her feel. I did walk and get them so that they could come for dinner but as I approached I heard the giggles and shrieks of delight that the speed and lack of control bring. It took me back in my mind to many similar pink cheek nights of fun.

How wonderful to have a small town experience in the big city.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Loving the multiculturalism of our new city

 I know some people have the impression that Calgary is not a very multicultural place, but that impression would be out of date. Returning almost a decade later I have noticed a marked increase in the diversity in the city. What a wonderful experience for our children to be exposed to and develop tolerance for other cultures.

Today my son's school gym was transformed with bright posters, some children in their traditional costumes and long tables laden with foods from the grade five students' homelands. In our case it was croissants as my son claimed our French heritage ( a bit far back but still valid ). What a fascinating variety of foods. Delightful to see the children sharing in such a way with their friends. Some of his friends said to me- have you tried my food yet with obvious pride.

The connection with the food seemed to break down barriers and open up dialogue between parents as we were there celebrating our cultures, making it OK to ask questions that might seem awkward in other situations.

Monday, 12 December 2011

What are you hoping for in your stocking this year?

Every year a close friend generously hosts what she calls a "giving party". Children are invited to her home and they bring a stocking and items to fill the stocking for children who will not be so blessed at Christmas. At the party children decorate wrapping paper and wrap their items for the stockings. Then my friend delivers the filled stocking to the Food Bank.

When I went on the Calgary Food Bank's website to see what they would like in the stockings I was saddened by how little they asked for: socks, mini mittens, candy canes and some wrapped candy. Once again I was reminded how fortunate my family is.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Fun Food Friday- Marvelous Mulligatawny Soup

Made this soup last week and it was fantastic. Just another success from the Spilling the Beans cookbook that has been may favourite purchase in ages.

Mulligatawny Soup
from Spilling the Beans!
1 small roasted chicken (a deli rotisserie chicken works well)
1 onion
canola or olive oil, for cooking
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 fresh jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed or chopped
1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 Tbsp curry paste or powder
1 tsp cumin
1-2 cups cooked chickpeas (half to a full 19 oz can, rinsed and drained)
1 tsp salt
1 14 oz (398 mL) can coconut milk (optional)
1 tart apple (such as granny Smith), finely chopped
steamed rice, for serving with
chopped cilantro and/or chopped salted peanuts, for garnish (optional)
Pull the meat off the roasted chicken, eat the crispy skin and put the carcass and bones into a saucepan. Set the meat aside and just barely cover the carcass with water. Peel the onion and add the outer layers of skin to the pan. Bring to a simmer and cook for about half an hour. Strain into a bowl or pot and set aside. You should have 4-6 cups of stock.
Meanwhile, chop the onion and sauté it in a drizzle of oil in a large soup pot set over medium-high heat. Add the carrots, celery, jalapeño, garlic and ginger and cook for a few minutes, until soft. Add the curry paste, cumin and chickpeas and cook for another minute or two.
Add the chicken stock, salt and chopped chicken and bring to a simmer. Cook for about ten minutes, then add the coconut milk and apple and heat through.
Put a scoop of rice into each bowl and ladle the soup overtop. If you like, sprinkle with cilantro and/or chopped peanuts. Serves 6-8.
Check out the author's blog for lots of great recipes.

Customer service in the medical field- lab services

Yesterday I had an appointment for bloodwork and ten minutes before I had to leave I thought- where is my requisition? Of course the more hurried I felt, the more frazzled my brain became. I hate to be late. Then I remembered technology and called my doctor's office and they faxed the requisition to the lab. Within twenty minutes I arrived and was promptly served without a glitch.

I hear many complaints about our health care system but my experience yesterday reminded me how much I appreciated Calgary Laboratory Services. They have sites in multiple areas throughout the city, extended hours, online booking. My son who has diabetes does not have to miss school for bloodwork as they are open on the weekends. He might disagree that this is a benefit. But having lived in smaller places where you have two options for bloodwork and usually have to wait ages for appointments I think CLS provides great service.

To add to that, there was an error on the labels for my blood work as I am one of those silly people who go by their middle name and this causes great confusion for certain systems. The woman helping me very graciously sorted out the error and apologised for the delay (the whole experience was maybe 10 minutes from arriving to departing).  I left feeling happy for such a positive encounter which set the tone for my interactions all day.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Ethics and customer service issues

One aspect of relocating is finding service providers. Asking friends for recommendations is a great way to feel confident about the service you are contracting. If that is not an option as you have not yet made friends, or the issue is urgent, you turn to sources like the yellow pages or Internet.

That was our approach a few weeks ago when we needed a plumber to fix a clogged kitchen sink.The scope of the problem was beyond my hubby's tools (because he is a super handy guy) so we called the first plumber listed in the yellow pages. When said plumber did not arrive in the promised time frame we called back to be assured he was on his way. Several hours and calls later he had still not arrived so we cancelled. Then we immediately booked plumber number two in the yellow pages for the following day.

The waiting once again exceeded the time frame we were given. But finally a young man arrived. He told us this was the same company we had originally booked with- get this- the first seven plumbers listed in the yellow pages are actually the same company and you need to read the really fine print in the ads to see this. This smacked of unethical advertising to us. I can imagine the chuckle the dispatch person gets seeing the same name cancel and reschedule a few minutes later. We felt foolish.

Some $350 later he left with the problem misdiagnosed and not fixed. My hubby had tried to direct him to what he thought was the trouble, instead the fellow had us crank the heat as he suspected the line was frozen. After he left my hubby fixed the problem. We called the company back so the plumber could return and finish snaking the entire line to complete the job we had paid for. Two days and many calls later he returned but wanted to be paid again. So we said thanks but no thanks and we'll be surveying friends for reputable plumbers in case we need services again.

Do you have any customer service practises or advertising you have found unethical?

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Technology great-if it works

Do you get frustrated when your computer doesn't work? I certainly do. Recently, both computers in our house were not working. It interfered with blogging, emailing, homework, recipe finding and game playing; the order of importance changing depending upon which family member you might ask.

Thankfully I have a talented computer friend who has already fixed the old one since our move. Ironically the new laptop is toast, a known problem that only became apparent to us a week after the warranty expired. GRRR! My friend has the old one up and running, so I am happy to be back blogging.

What would you miss most if you had no access to computers?

Great medical service in new city

My daughter is ten years post chemo, a fact for which we are grateful every day. Yet we are not naive enough to think this journey may be without its longer term effects. On Monday we went for her annual, long -term survivor clinic visit- our first in Calgary. I was feeling a bit alone as usually my mother or my husband came along and somehow I felt that if I heard bad news it might be better if shared. But this time, it was just the two of us.

Although she underwent her treatment in Calgary, we were meeting new staff at a new location. Prior to the visit the clinic had mailed us a detailed questionnaire.That was impressive as we have never done that before and the questions probed health areas I had had questions about in the past.

Her heart tests went quickly and efficiently with staff who were kind and very conscious of a preteen girl's privacy. Somehow they seem to get it right at a children's hospital.

We met an engaging oncologist who breezed into the room and sat down to chat so she could get to know us. I had the distinct impression that this was heartfelt. She had that same compassionate manner the oncologists we had dealt with during our time living in hospital, so I was not surprised to hear she was personal friends with the doctors we adored who had gotten us over some terrifying times.

When she glanced at the questionnaire she said oh I see that you have checked off that side effect. I stared blankly at her, saying is that a chemo side effect? She said oh yes, we see that all the time. I immediately felt my eyes start to burn with unshed tears as we had invested much time and energy in the past years trying to determine a cause of this problem for my daughter. Unfortunately, we had been told it was only a short term effect. The oncologist said, "Oh I have a great book for you that we give all our families," and jumped up to get us a copy.

Right in the preface I read that our concern is a long term side effect of chemo. YesI felt relief, knowledge is always power. And I will try to let the regret go as we move forward knowing we are in excellent hands.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

A different kind of snow angel in Calgary

My envy about the snow day on the east coast must have caught the attention of the snow gods as I woke to a light dusting of snow this morning. Not enough to make a snow angel or cancel school; just enough to shovel the sidewalk and drive. With the snow comes one of those glorious vast, blue Alberta sky days. It was refreshing to shovel as the kids waited for the bus.

Reminded me of signs I have seen for Calgary's Snow Angel program which encourages neighbours to shovel for elderly neighbours or those unable to do so. What a great idea. Apparently Calgary was the first city in North America to promote such a program and many others are following suit.

I have elderly neighbours on one side and noticed today their drive was not shovelled so I did it. Usually the man is up cleaning before we are out. I hope he will not be offended by my efforts.

If it snows where you live think about becoming a snow angel. If it doesn't snow where you live, after you give thanks, think about what other action could you take to help your neighbour.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Missing snow days in my new city

Every time I relocate to a new city or town there are things I miss about my former home. But as a Canadian I was not prepared to miss the "snow day", at least not in a winter city like Calgary. Alas, I am reminded they never cancel school here.

So yesterday when I read on Facebook that children of my eastern friends were wearing inside out PJs to bed in an attempt to woo the snow gods, I was a bit nostalgic for snow days. Last winter in NB we had one snow day per week from the Christmas holidays until mid February. My children thought we had switched to a four day week.

I have many fond memories of snow days, as a mom as well as a child. Kids wake happily and are outdoors cavorting in it: the same children who can barely be dragged out of bed on a normal school day. There are the forts, the snowball fights, a street filled with kids playing until their snowsuits are wet through. It is topped off by hot chocolate while the snowsuits are dried and then repeated.

I am so happy my children got to experience this Canadian rite of passage.  Reminded me of Rick Mercer's rant about snow days- check it out.

If you have recently moved, what do you miss about your former home?

Monday, 21 November 2011

Repeat relocators meet again

 On Friday night I attended the birthday party for the child of a friend who recently relocated from New Brunswick. It feels slightly odd seeing friends in what I feel are my new surroundings as they are part of my other life. A bit like when you were a child and saw a teacher out in the community and were shocked to learn they were people with lives outside of school. Don't get me wrong, the reconnecting it is wonderful. In  fact at that party I had two friends who have relocated to Calgary.

I quickly realized that most of the remaining people at the party knew the hosting couple from yet another relocation. Interesting to watch the closeness of that bond. When you are parachuted into a strange place as a trailing spouse the people you often connect with are others in the same situation. A domestic variation of the expat experience.

Often I have felt like a bit of a people collector, adding to my Christmas card list as I move from place to place. One friend teased me that if it were not for me she could live her life with only one address book.  Obviously only some of the people you meet will stay in your life as you move around because maintaining friendships is challenging. But as a trailing spouse it makes me happy to know that paths may cross again and again.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Food Friday- Pho great on a freezing day, or any day

On this frigid Friday my husband and I went out for a great bowl of Vietnamese soup- pho- at the Shawnessy Vietnamese Restaurant. As always it was great. It is a busy local spot and we keep going back. I suppose we could be trying other Vietnamese restaurants as there are plenty but we consistently love the pho.

Now when I eat or slurp my pho I think of The Beauty of Humanity Movement, a book by Camilla Gibb we read in my NB book club. It moves back and forth from present day to past Vietnam but the portrayal of pho shows how the soup mirrors the history of Vietnam. It has deepened my appreciation of pho.

What great food are you enjoying this Friday?

Check out Laurel's blog about German wine

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Reading local communication as a newcomer

These type of signs are common in Calgary neighbourhoods. Yes, they are an eyesore but they do grab your attention and as a new resident in the city I have learned about sport sign ups and other events that I was very interested in. But as a former communications person, the sign that was displayed for the past few weeks had me thinking about how people communicate. The recent sign informed us that our garbage collection day was changing- obviously important. But it did not tell us the new collection day, for that we were directed to a website. Hmm, stating the new day would have taken fewer letters than the website address and the communication would have been complete. Just saying.

It started me thinking of how cities and people communicate generally. I think we tend to communicate from our perspective often and forget that the audience is not necessarily like us. When I moved to Calgary the first time, some 13 years ago I was often frustrated to see ads for events without a street address, as the communicators assumed everyone knew where that sky scraper was as they must have lived here during the long construction process. Communication had not quite kept pace with the fact that Calgary was growing quickly and had many new residents who had no idea where building XYZ was located.

I was happy to see an event advertised in the local paper this week that listed the street address of the centre where it is held, so I do not have to search that as a second step. Times have changed.

I am not picking on Calgary. I experienced the same thing in my smaller NB town.  People were always talking about the brown Irving- Irving being the gas station. My local gym said, oh yes a good 5km run is to the brown Irving and back. So out I headed, never did see the brown Irving, but did my run. It was a landmark that kept cropping up when people gave directions. I finally had to admit my stupidity and say I cannot find the brown Irving, having even looked with my car. Turns out the brown Irving had been closed for years and is now an empty brown building! But of course locals knew exactly where it had been.

On the phone one night I was giving directions and my husband noted when I hung up that I told the other person to turn at the "old Sobeys" which of course was no longer there. A sign I was feeling like a local.

Are there any quirky directions or communications that you use or have encountered that make you feel either like an outsider or a local?

Monday, 14 November 2011

Marking World Diabetes Day

Today is World Diabetes Day. Ninety years ago Canada gave the world the gift of insulin. As happy as we are to have treatment, those of us living with this disease keep working and hoping for a cure.

Until I knew a family living with diabetes I did not appreciate the pervasiveness of the disease. It is truly 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Since my son was diagnosed just over two years ago I have learned how cagey an enemy diabetes is. Eating the same foods, doing the same activity two days does not necessarily give you the same results.

We do our best to educate people interacting with our son how serious this disease is and how quickly the blood sugars can go to dangerously high or low levels. But it is hard to understand this until you witness the changeability of it. People often asked if it will be "better managed" one day. Our son's numbers are fantastic because both he and our family are very vigilant.His medical team would consider him well managed, but that still means erratic days and unpredictability now matter how hard we work.

Today, if you are blessed to be able to eat anything without having to calculate how many grams of carbohydrate it contains and give yourself some sort of an injection- rejoice at the health of your body.

The video below was made a while ago when we were raising money for a cure for diabetes.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

November is Diabetes Awareness Month

November marks Diabetes awareness month.  More than 9 million Canadians live with diabetes or prediabetes and those numbers are expected to grow. Of those affected about 900,000 are living with Type 1 diabetes, many of them children, like my son.

Last year I gave this Breakthrough book to several family members as gifts knowing money from the sale was supporting the cause. You might think that a story whose ending is known would not be that great of a read. But this is an engaging story that has you holding your breath to see if insulin will be developed in time to save the profiled child in the story. It is also is a fascinating look into the myriad of factors and forces that needed to come together to make this miracle possible. So a good read even if you do not know someone affected by Diabetes.

But with numbers that high for the incidence of the disease there cannot be many people who do not know someone affected by the disease.

Tomorrow is World Diabetes Day, marking 90 years since the discovery of insulin- a substance for which I give thanks every day.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Food Friday- Black Bean Soup- Easy & Delicious

I am still exploring my newest cookbook, Spilling the Beans. Success rate so far is 100%!

One day this week my children enjoyed buttermilk pancakes with pureed beans hidden in the ingredients.  Today I finally made the ginger chews I had hoped to make last week until I realized I did not have molasses. They are a bit fussy with respect to timing, but results were great. Four children today enjoyed them- again hidden beans!

This soup I made as a last minute thought yesterday. It is so good I may make a batch to share with friends coming tonight. Think fresh salsa in a bowl. Again, even my daughter approved.

Ingredients: Canola or olive oil for cooking: 1 onion peeled and chopped; 1 carrot, peeled and chopped; 2 celery stalks chopped (including the leafy parts); 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded & minced; or 1 tsp chopped canned chipotle chilies; 4 garlic cloves crushed; 1 small red or yellow bell pepper shopped; 2 tsp ground cumin; 2 cups cooked black beans or a 19oz can, rinsed and drained; 12 oz can kernel corn, drained; 14 oz or 28oz can diced stewed tomatoes, undrained (I used the larger can), 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock. Toppings: sour cream, chopped cilantro, chopped green onions and/or crumbled feta.

Directions: Heat oil in saucepan and saute onion, carrot and celery for about 5 minutes until they begin to soften. Add the jalapeno, garlic, red pepper and cumin, cooking for a minute longer. Add the beans and corn, tomatoes and stock. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, cover and cook for 15-20 minutes, until the carrots are tender. Season with salt and pepper.

You can serve the soup chunky (as I did) or puree some or all of it as desired.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Litter apprears to be a national problem

My children tell me I have many pet peeves as I often start a rant with "pet peeve"- including family members leaving a trail of their things behind them as they roam through the house. Hopefully my nagging will help them learn to pick up after themselves in the house. But what about the people who feel entitled to leave a trail of their coffee cups, food wrappers, slushy containers, cigarette packs on the grounds? Litter bugs.

I had a walking route in New Brunswick that I calculated had a one Tim Horton's coffee cup per kilometre. On my walks I would pick up as many as possible, surely every little bit helps. On today's walk in Calgary I again noticed the prevalence of Tim Horton's cups. Obviously not the company's fault- but who discards garbage onto their neighbourhood streets? I am sure that is not how their mother raised them.

Who do they think is coming behind them to pick up (me?). My daughter suggested me picking up garbage doesn't teach them a lesson. If it does not teach the litter bugs, it may inspire others to take a pause and pick up just a few pieces to keep their neighbourhoods clean. There is no litter fairy people!

Came across this 2009 reverse psychology campaign in Nova Scotia. Would like to see this go national.

Is litter a problem where you live?

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Joining groups helps reduce loneliness after relocating

Most of us know that joining groups will help us meet people and help us reduce loneliness in our lives- whether you have recently relocated or not. Perhaps one of the gifts of moving across the country or around the globe is it makes that loneliness more acute, sometimes forcing us to be more creative in our search for ways to connect in our new communities.

In my neighbourhood I saw an ad for a group of women who come together to share fitness. They walk, run, bike and hold boot camps. It took me ages to contact them as I am currently out of shape and my experience is that loneliness affects your self confidence. However, I figured I could keep pace with walkers. After several failed attempts to meet a fellow walker- the runners were friendly and welcoming but I am currently a walker I was going to abandon the group.  After reading Laurel's blog about tips to connect in a foreign culture,  I figured if she can go to a yoga class in German, I would  keep trying to connect with this group. So Monday night I enjoyed a chilly, power walk and chat with a local woman. Thankfully she could navigate all the short cuts in the neighbourhood in the dark.

During our walk and chat I mentioned that I would like to walk during the day. So today we met and enjoyed an exhilarating walk on a cold, sunny day and I have found a new walking buddy. And I know myself, I will need to have a partner waiting to entice me out the door once the thermometers plummets.

In addition I have joined a gym, a yoga studio and a book club but am always looking for creative ideas- what new activity or group have you tried in your quest to connect with others?

Monday, 7 November 2011

Finding your special place in your new city

A friend emailed me one day saying she had just spent the morning in "her favourite place on earth." The joy of that sentiment caught my attention and I started thinking about my favourite place(s) on earth. Some obvious geographical ones sprang to mind, many involving water as I grew up on the coast. That was obviously not going to bring me regular bliss living in Calgary. But then I dug a bit deeper and tried on places in a more general sense- where do I go that brings me that sense of cosiness, of belonging and sheer delight to be in that space?

For me the common factor is any place that houses books and welcomes people who love books- local book stores and libraries. I am thrilled with the Calgary Public Library which is so much more than a place that stores books. The programming here is varied and I have only just begun to explore its depths. Even the volunteer opportunities are fascinating and diverse. Yesterday I spent a few hours on the opposite side of the city at a library branch, which felt immediately like "my" branch, listening to two writers talk about how to read like a writer- all part of the One Book, One Calgary program.

The MC for the event mentioned that the Calgary Public Library has had a writer in residence program for over 20 years. More free events that I can access. It truly has me going yippee inside. Speaking of free, I was a bit taken aback when I first went to the library and learned there was a fee for a library card- but it is a small fee for such a wealth of experiences and a sense of connection to a like minded community.

The library may not be your thing- but I challenge you to look at your life- whether you are starting out in a new city after relocating, or finding yourself feeling that you could be experiencing more joy and connectedness in your existing community. What gives you that special feeling-how can you find the essence of it no matter where you are geographically.

I am out the door to volunteer at school- helping kids read. Yes, I see the theme.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Food Friday-ginger chews

Today's plan was to join a visiting relative downtown for breakfast today and I thought I could review that restaurant. But the snowy, slippery roads made us abandon that plan after sliding around with commuters who actually had to be on the roads. Apparently the all season tires on the new car are not for all the seasons in Calgary!

The snow- first of the season for Calgary -has me feeling like I need something wintry, so this afternoon my daughter & I are going to bake Ginger Chews, from the cookbook, Spilling the Beans. I also have the pizza dough rising for dinner (last Friday's post).

I just purchased the cookbook yesterday and it looks amazing. Plenty of ways to add more beans and grains to recipes. My picky son will be the real critic- we shall see if the beans sneak by his taste buds!

Check out how far reaching Spam is

Thursday, 3 November 2011

National Broadcaster makes domestic moves easier

I love my CBC- both  radio and television. Growing up on the east coast I regularly watched The Beachcombers, filmed on the beautiful west coast. It was a real thrill when I actually visited the site where the series was filmed and saw Molly's Reach. Somehow this strange part of the country felt like home to me.

Several moves back and forth across the country later as a trailing spouse, I am comforted by the familiarity a national broadcaster offers. I recall standing in the kitchen of my new home in Calgary, amidst a sea of boxes feeling disoriented and a bit lonesome. Once I unpacked the radio and found CBC, I immediately felt more at home in my new surroundings. Here in this kitchen that did not feel like mine, were familiar voices from the national shows and some new voices that were introducing me to my new city. Somehow the effect is more profound for me with radio as it seems more intimate than television, plus I can take that familiarity with me in the car. And on days where I recognize a reporter from the east coast, or a story that connects me with my eastern roots, I feel settled and secure.

With satellite radio and the various technologies people can access their national broadcaster from far afield. Has anyone else found their national broadcaster a real tie to their home? I'd love to hear what works for you.

Monday, 31 October 2011

More candy per hour makes new city a hit

Happy Halloween! In our house this holiday is loved by one child, loathed by the other. While one is dressing as Jason, the serial killer and hopes to see as many ghouls and as much gore as he can; the other is forcing herself to trick or treat simply for the candy.

Our neighbour, who also relocated from New Brunswick said her children noticed how much more candy they received trick or treating in this neighbourhood. Ah yes, the benefit of higher density living- shorter drives, more houses per street equals more loot for the walking investment. Such news has my two extra excited about the night's venture. And the reluctant one hoping she can fill that bag quickly enough to avoid the really scary creatures in costume!

Another "first" in our new city continues the process of making this home.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Group activity hits the mark

After relocating to a new city we consciously search for opportunities to meet people both as individuals and as a family. One common bond we unfortunately share with a specific group is that we have a child with Type 1 Diabetes. Having a child with any condition can be isolating, even if you are living in the town you grew up in. People who do not live with a disease, whatever that condition may be, can never fully grasp what it is like for those on a particular journey.

So we were thrilled to be able to attend a fun event for families of children with diabetes on Friday night at a local archery place. As children and some grown ups, me included, tried their Robin Hood prowess, parents could chat with others who understand the sleepless nights and the 24 hour vigilance that this disease requires.

I was both cheered and saddened to hear my son chatting with two other boys his age about his diagnosis story. Then they talked about what their targets are- their blood sugar targets. I so wish the only targets they had to discuss was how close they had come to that bulls eye!

We all shot with a vengeance when the targets were covered with a sign that read Diabetes.

For a fun evening out with a group I would recommend Jim Bows Archery. He guides you through the process so that is both fun and safe. Worth checking out if you live in Calgary.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Food Friday- Fun Food for Kids, Fibre for Mom

Friday nights the kids often ask for fun food, which often means homemade pizza. The crust varies from homemade to using store bought Naan bread. Always looking for a way to up the nutritional component of our meals I was thrilled to find this recipe for pizza dough in yesterday's Calgary Herald, from the new cookbook by authors Julie Van Rosendaal and Sue Duncan. I intend to buy the cookbook.

Yes, there's another book helping me feel more at home in my new city after relocating.

Pizza Dough
1 cup (250 mL) rinsed and drained canned white beans (half a 19-oz/540-mL can)
1 cup (250 mL) water, divided
2 tsp (10 mL) active dry yeast (1 package)
1 tsp (5 mL) sugar
2 cups (625 mL) flour, either all-purpose or half whole wheat
1 tsp (5 mL)
2 tbsp (25 mL) olive or canola oil

Puree the beans with about cup (50 mL) of the water until completely smooth.
In a large bowl, stir together the remaining warm water, yeast and sugar. The mixture should get foamy after a few minutes (if it doesn’t it means the water was too hot and killed the yeast, or you need fresh yeast. Try again, or buy fresh yeast).
Add the pureed beans to the yeast mixture, along with 1 cup (250 mL) of flour. Mix thoroughly, then add another cup of flour, the salt and the oil. Again, mix thoroughly. Continue to add four by half-cups, and as soon as the batter is thick enough to make a kneadable dough, turn it out onto a floured counter. Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, adding spoonsful of flour if needed, until the dough has lost most of its stickiness.
Wash out the bowl, dry it and add a small splash of oil. Return the dough to the bowl, turning it to coat with oil; cover with plastic wrap or a clean, damp tea towel.
Let the dough rise in a warm spot (the oven, turned off but with the light on is ideal), until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. Or, make the dough in the morning and let it rise, covered, in the refrigerator during the day.
When you’re ready to proceed, divide the dough into 2 to 3 sections. Preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C).
Roll the dough out into a rough circle, oval or rectangle as this as you like (it will rise again in the oven). Transfer to a baking sheet or pizza pan sprinkled with flour or cornmeal. Top with your favourite toppings and bake about 20 minutes, until golden. Makes 2 to 3 10-inch (25-cm) pizzas.

If you are enjoying your fun food Friday and looking for some Halloween carving inspiration, check out the amazing photos from the world's largest pumpkin festival.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Shared literature in your city

Back in NB the local community offered a program, Rothesay Reads, where the local high school read a book and encouraged community members to read the same book. During the event there were sessions where readers could meet and connect through the book. It was a great way to spark conversations with strangers at the local coffee shop or anywhere you saw people reading the selection.

Not a unique idea, but a great one for community bonding and dialogue. I was thrilled to learn there is a similar program in Calgary, called One Book, One Calgary.

This year's pick is the Cellist of Sarajevo which I am reading in time for the official launch Friday, November 4th. Throughout the month there are a number of free workshops, talks and special events and I plan to attend several. I am excited to be part of a literary movement like this.

As I read, I am reflecting on what makes a city feel like your city. After a recent relocation, I don't yet have that bond to Calgary.  In the book one character reflects that the trams were his sign of continuity and security in the city; if the trams were running then things must be ok. In my last home the river was my umbilical cord to the sense of place as it was so prominent in all seasons, even frozen solid when it became a spectacular winter recreational meeting place.

What is the one thing in your town or city that signifies the essence of that place to you?

If you are a reader see if you can find a similar program in your city.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Building new health care relationships in a new city

After moving to a new city there are many new relationships you must cultivate; from a dentist to a new hairdresser. Some of these are easier to develop than others. I do miss my hairstylist!

If you or your children have medical conditions, as mine do, health care providers are key. We were lucky to find a family doctor soon after we arrived, thanks in large part to my former family doctor. She had promised to take me back upon return, but then we had both expected me to be gone for three, not nine years! Her practice was full to overflowing so she gave me a tip on a new practice opening and we have secured a fine family doctor.

Other health care relationships seem more "arranged"; as our case with the diabetes team who will help care for my son. Today was our second visit to Alberta Children's Hospital. It feels a bit like a dating relationship as it takes time for both parties to get to know each other. For the diabetes team they need to get to know the family as well as my son, as diabetes affects and is affected by the whole family.

The team here seems knowledgeable and supportive and the facility is amazing. When we lived here previously, the new hospital was only in the discussion phase. For me it is a true blessing to never have to enter the doors of the old Children's Hospital where we lived when our daughter was undergoing cancer treatment. A fresh start in so many ways.

Having a team to support us is a huge relief after living here for several months feeling stranded without medical back. Now I have experts who I can call when things get wonky- as they unfortunately do at times with diabetes.  It is another important step in settling back into this city.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Celebrating milestones helps settling in process

Today we are celebrating my husband's birthday. Now each of us has celebrated a birthday in the new city and new house. Wow, that is shocking to me, just another indicator of how quickly times passes; yet some days it feels that we have just relocated. I suppose still having boxes to unpack adds to that!

Every special occasion helps us establish new traditions and feel grounded into our new life. The bittersweet part is it reminds us of what we have left behind; but there is something rejuvenating about examining our lives and asking- what traditions do we want to start? We don't "need" to keep any that no longer suit us.

We are already thinking ahead to Christmas. I'd love to hear if anyone has created any new family traditions they want to share.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Food Friday- looking for comfort food

The frosty, foggy morning has me seeking comfort food. I do not think I can convince my family to eat Shepard's pie again this week, although it is a new favourite recipe.

Found this in my October issue of Eating Well magazine. Even my carnivore husband enjoys it.

  • 1 pound Yukon Gold or white potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk (I have used regular on occasion it was fine)
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 3/4 tsp salt, divided
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper, divided
  • 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 c finely chopped carrot
  • 1 Tbsp. water
  • 3/4 cup frozen cor kernels, thawed
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp dried
  • 3 Tbsp all purpose flour
  • 14 oz vegetable broth
  • 1 1/2 cup cooked or canned (rinsed) lentils
Directions: (1) Place potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with 2 inches of water. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium, partially cover and cook until tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain and return the potatoes to the pot. Add buttermilk, butter and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Mash until mostly smooth. (2) While potatoes are cooking, position rack in upper third of oven; preheat broiler. Coat four 10-12 ounce broiler-safe ramekins (or an 8 inch broiler safe baking dish) with cooking spray. Place ramekins on a broiler safe tray. (3) Heat oil in skillet over medium high heat. Add onion, carrot, and water. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3-5 minutes. Stir in corn, thyme and the remaining1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper, cook stirring occasionally for 2 minutes. Sprinkle with flour and stir to coat. Stir in broth. Bring to a simmer; cook, stirring one minute. Stir in lentils and cook, stirring constantly for 2 minutes. (4) Divide the lentil mixture among the prepared ramekins (or spread in baking dish). Top with mashed potatoes. Broil, rotating halfway through, until potato lightly browned in spots, 6-10 minutes.

Speaking of comfort food, check out Laurel's bread (or lack thereof) post from Germany.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Literature can help you prepare for a relocation

The other day I wrote about reading as a way to connect to your old home after a relocation.  I am an avid reader and like to research whatever topic is currently captivating me. My husband jokes I will only follow an interest that has a library to support it. Makes sense to me.  If you are not actively participating in your passion you can be reading about it!

Coincidentally, as I was packing up my house in NB and getting ready to relocate to Calgary, CBC Reads announced the picks for 2011, one of which was The Bone Cage, set in Calgary. Not only was it a great story about the physical, emotional and spiritual costs of high level sports (in this case wrestling and swimming), but it helped me feel connected to the city where I would soon be unpacking.

So if you are preparing to move across the country or across the world, perhaps reading some fiction set in your new home might help get a feel for the new locale, in a more intimate way than simply researching the facts.

To check out The Bone Cage, below is a link to Angie Abdou's homepage. You will feel like you are in the wrestling matches and the pool.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Magazines and books help you reconnect with home after moving

Ok as an avid reader I loved this photo and felt true envy at the thought of being surrounded by so many books. As the trailing spouse recently starting a new life in a new city, it reminded me how books have kept me company on the moves throughout my life.

As Laurel commented on my post about magazines, subscriptions from your home town or country are a great way to stay connected. One woman I knew received the local, weekly newspaper for years, then when she visited she did not feel like such a stranger.

Although I have stayed domestic (and oh yes, there's a double meaning as this time I am a stay at home spouse!) with my relocation, subscriptions to the same magazines as my mom, in some small way have made me feel closer to her.

So if you have a loved one moving away, perhaps think of a book or a magazine subscription that may let them take a bit of home with them.

Any other ideas?

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Coping with loneliness after a relocation

Certainly most people I have spoken with about the impact of relocating have felt lonely until they connect with their new community. Some commonalities are self soothing by comfort eating and comfort wine drinking. Even when we know these things are not good for us long term, it is hard to resist the pull of an immediate fix when you are in the midst of a situation where you fell you have little control.

For several months after we relocated to Calgary I volunteered to foster dogs. When I told a friend via phone that I was fostering, I hear a quick intake of breath on the other end and I quickly piped up to reassure her I was fostering dogs, not children, while I was in a vulnerable emotional state!

Below is one of the foster dogs we had for about four months. Because she had some health issues she was not quickly adopted. Poor little thing arrived in Calgary from Mexico when it was freezing cold, what an adjustment. Think she felt as lost as the rest of us.

We called her GG (for good girl). She came with the name Princess but had no affinity for it and it was not at all suited to this little dog who proved to be a spunky survivor. Despite us falling in love with her, we could see she was not lively enough for a family with small children. I am happy to report she was adopted by the perfect lady who travels with GG in her motor home and took her to live on Vancouver Island- not Mexico weather, but warmer winters than here.

Fostering the dogs helped me feel useful and of course provided great companionship. What other things have you done to help you adjust to a new city after relocating? I'd love to hear.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Cranberry Salsa Post Script

Enjoyed the salsa last evening. By a happy accident I only added 1/3 a cup of sugar & we thought that was enough.

It went so quickly I would suggest making a double batch.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Food Friday- Keep the cranberries going past Thanksgiving

This is a slight variation on the cranberry salsa recipe I received from a friend. It is a no cook option, which may make it a bit more tart. I am going to try it today. I make cranberry salsa in the fall and over the Christmas holidays, great with tortilla chips and I even serve it with turkey dinner. Recipe below from

Ingredients: 1 (12 oz) bag of cranberries, 1 bunch cilantro chopped (vary this according to your tastes), 1 bunch green onions, cut into 3 inch lengths, 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced, 2 limes juiced, 3/4 cup sugar (I used less), 1 pinch salt.

Directions: Combine ingredients in the bowl of a food processor fitted with medium blade. Chop to medium consistency. Refrigerate if not using immediately. Serve at room temperature.

Although this is not a food blog, food is a way to connect with both your new home and your old home. In this case a recipe reminds me of a dear friend who is also a trailing spouse. For food farther afield check out:

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Shades of home in new city

After relocating to a new city, I find I am acutely conscious of those things that are different from my former home. Not better or worse, just different.

People speak of fall colours, but it seems to me in Calgary that means mostly shades of yellow and I was missing the vibrant red and orange hues from the east coast. On my walk yesterday I was pleased to see this lovely red tree. So today I took my camera so I could capture it in all its glory.

Go out and enjoy fall wherever you are!

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

A Famous Trailing Spouse

Several friends had suggested I would enjoy the movie Julie & Julia, but it was not until the long Thanksgiving weekend that I happened across the movie on TV. I am so not a cook I could not imagine the draw of a  movie about Julia Child.

I confess I loved the movie.When I saw Meryl Streep playing Julia Child and learned about her experience in France as a trailing spouse and the resulting need to find something to "do", my husband and I laughed out loud. That is me relocating to Calgary as a stay at home trailing spouse. I am looking, like Julia, to find something for me. In the movie she explores Bridge, which I confess has crossed my mind even though I am just slightly above Go-Fish in card playing ability. So guess I am looking for my version of Cordon Bleu.

The other character is a blog writer, a new thing for me which is a fun learning experience. So the movie resonated on many levels.

Seeking my inner Julia! Seeking my next passion.

Julie & Julia

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Ten Years Later Paths Cross again

I am always appreciative when synchronicity enters my life. When I am open and paying attention it does so more frequently. This past weekend marked our first Thanksgiving back in Calgary after our recent relocation. In addition to the usual occasion to express our sense of gratitude, Thanksgiving heralds many family memories. Our daughter was born on Thanksgiving, here in Calgary, twelve years ago. Now that is a day of gratitude! Although I did miss my turkey dinner that year.

Eleven years ago our Calgary thanksgiving was a very sombre event as our daughter battled a rare form of leukemia and was in ICU that weekend. We were fearful but grateful that year that she was still fighting for life as the docs had not been optimistic when we started down the treatment several weeks earlier.

This year we are back in Calgary, trying to form new family traditions, yet all of us keenly missing our most recent Thanksgiving tradition we shared with family and cousins at a NB family cottage. We were blessed to be invited to Canmore, the beautiful mountain town where my husband has extended family.

As we were driving to the dinner we passed a couple walking. My brain thought hmm, that woman looks familiar and as soon as that thought formed, my husband turned to me and said, I think that is Dr. B (the oncologist who orchestrated our daughter's leukemia treatment). So we turned the van around and pulled alongside her. It was a powerful meeting for us as this woman was vital to the most intense year of our lives and we are eternally grateful to her and the many amazing people we met on the cancer journey. We gave thanks for crossing paths again with Dr. B, but happily in a beautiful mountain setting.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Small connections in a new city

After speaking with several trailing spouses who moved from New Brunswick to varied locations it seems they all found leaving that small city particularly difficult. Although for me it meant leaving extended family once again to return to Calgary, I wonder if the commonality that made it so difficult is that sense of community that arises more quickly in a smaller setting. I recall arriving in NB and my husband asked if I knew people there as I had grown up about three hours north. What he was commenting on was the eastern wave that neighbours who haven't met you yet give as they drive by.

That quickly translated to the repeated encounters I had with people. It seemed as soon as I met a person I would see them in many local places. Even strangers started to feel familiar and I'd find myself asking, where do I know that person from? Swimming lesson? Church? The grocery store?

Relocating to Calgary has me looking for that sense of familiarity. I have joined the gym and in a short time the instructors and some participants now look familiar. I do have all the gym equipment I need in the basement, but it is the connection with others I am seeking as well as the endorphins. After my class today I went to the drug store and as always happens, found myself in the magazine section, browsing and promising not to buy. I love magazines. As I was having that internal struggle- can I really justify buying another cooking magazine- a lady tapped me on the shoulder and said oh this is my favourite place- I have a magazine addiction you know. This led to a lovely chat, one of those oddly intimate moments you sometimes have with strangers that made me feel connected.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Lonely after relocating

As I walked the kids to the bus this morning I noticed the bite in the air and the scattering of yellow leaves on the ground. The naked branches reminded me that the barren, sorrowful time of year is fast approaching. That time between the vibrancy of fall heralding a sense of  change and the sunny, sparkly cold of winter. I expect to feel the sense of loneliness this time brings more acutely this year as I make my way in my new city of Calgary.
Since I moved to Calgary in the deep freeze of late February, I have had ample time to think about loneliness. So far this has been the most difficult relocation for me and I am not sure why. I know intellectually that these transitions take at least a year, and as I am almost a decade older since the last move, like the rest of me, the transition may move more slowly as well!
An east coast friend who had moved from the UK to Canada recommended a fabulous book on loneliness which has helped me accept the situational loneliness I am experiencing. Lonely: Learning to Live with Solitude by Emily White is a fascinating look at the emotional and cognitive effects of loneliness. She understood my unpacking ADD as I called it. It certainly helped me feel I was not imagining the effects I was seeing.
Her website might be helpful for anyone experiencing loneliness, not just after a job relocation but those who feel that as a chronic state.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Can I call Calgary home?

Just arrived back in Calgary after a great family week in California. As we exited the plane in Calgary, I confess I had mixed emotions - about more than leaving that great weather! Technically we live here now, but it felt strange to see it as coming home. Is it simply that we have only been here about seven months?
Perhaps it is more than that. After relocating several times, which place is home? The place where I grew up? The place I lived the longest as an adult? The most recent place? This place I am returning to? My sense of place and context feels wobbly.
I am hopeful that now my DH has started work here, we will begin to feel that the whole family has moved to Calgary and we can start truly settling in.

Saturday, 24 September 2011


Tomorrow my grandmother turns 96. I pray I inherited some of her longevity genes! Last year, we were fortunate to share her day as we lived about three hours away. This year, we are across the country and I am acutely aware how far from home that is and I wonder if I will ever see her again. Just another reminder that I need to treasure where I am today, this moment.
 I spoke with Nannie on the telephone today as we are travelling tomorrow and it brightens your day when the person on the other end is THAT happy to hear your voice. If we had not chosen to relocate for the job assignment on the east coast, my children would never have had the opportunity to know more deeply their great grandmother, grandparents and other family back east. For that, I am grateful.
Speaking of gratitude, tomorrow also marks my daughter's 10 years off chemo anniversary! And yes, if you read my profile- that is an accomplishment for a not quite 12 year old! Fantastic milestone. She underwent her treatment in Calgary, so perhaps it is fitting we are back in the city for this special anniversary. You are where you are meant to be.

Here We Go Again

Here I am back in Calgary after nine years away on a job assignment for my husband. Odd to be calling this city "home" again as we were only here for four years the first time. As serial relocators, how does one put down roots, or are we destined to simply have shallow roots? I plan to blog about the joys and trials of being a spouse who trails her husband for his job. Hoping to connect with others who are on similar paths.