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.