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 I know some people have the impression that Calgary is not a very multicultural place, but that impression would be out of date.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.