31 December 2009

Back stuck with canucks

flying home and preparing to settle back into the long, slow, grey maritime winter.

because we were unable to predict how the new airport security scare might affect us, we planned on an early morning to ensure we arrived in sarnia with plenty of time to spare. phil was driving us which meant i was guaranteed a good start to the morning at his familys bagel place. two perfect egg bagels to remember michigan by...

anyway, of course because we were prepared and got up early everything ended up being smooth sailing. we even had a first-ever bridge crossing experience -- NO line for customs. we just pulled right up. needless to say we were the first ones to check in for our 16 person flight in sarnia. i think we waited 30+ minutes before the next passengers showed up. but the flight was very smooth again, i even slept on the noisy plane. actually i dozed on the way out too. i practically never get shut eye on planes, so i guess little planes are good for me.

got to toronto and had a couple hours to kill until our halifax flight. that flight went smoothly and we landed a little after 6p in halifax. it was freezing outside, but our car started on the first try after sitting out for a week, so that was good. and we made it home to unpack, settle in, and get excited for sleep. we were still awake at midnight to say happy new year to each other and to hear the citys fireworks go off.

(dave and quatchi [an olympic mascot] in the toronto airport. long lost twins?)

the fireworks were probably a good thing to have in my head before bed, as they were capable of drowning out my thoughts about being back in canada. ive got a long four months of wintery dullness to get through before life changes unpredictably and i can hope to welcome warmer weather. monster better be amenable to touring because i was deprived of all the beautiful fall months of 2009 due to his/her torment and i'll be darned if i am going to miss the few brief months of activity and beauty (aka mid-june to mid-oct) this year.

anyway, here we are, back in canada. the country of poutine (which, incidentally was written about in the 2009 new yorker food issue, weird.) and where dinner is called supper and "giving someone a ride" is called "giving someone a drive" (or at least in nova scotia this is true).

other nova scotian things to recalibrate to:

1. overly confident pedestrians who act like ass hats. they step out in traffic without ever looking and are incapable of sharing the sidewalk with fellow walkers. i routinely have to "pull over" on the sidewalk to let people walking two or three abreast pass me because they wouldnt move over, even at the last minute.

2. studded snow tires. while walking to work each day i hear perhaps 20-30% of the cars that pass me clacking down the street. the little metal tacks in their tires create an interesting sound as they beat the hell out of the pavement (thus why they are illegal in michigan, and perhaps all of the u.s.?).

(studded tire treads)

3. terribly designed freeway on-ramps. clearly the city was smaller in earlier days and hired the silliest civil engineer around to retro fit the available space for high speed roads. there is one spot in particular that is laughable. there are one way streets, roads crossing over and under the freeway, and on/off-ramps splitting, all in about a two block radius.

4. driver inability to use cruise control. people get on the freeways and enter la la land. they go at granny speeds until someone attempts to pass them, then they wake up and look at their speedometer and say "gee, i could be going faster, why dont i step on the gas." after jetting past us, we then find that 5 miles down the road, they are going slow again and need to be passed...

5. county gas prices. pretty nice actually. it seems that, at least in nova scotia, gas prices are held at the same price across a county. this eliminates the gas tank guessing game of driving along until you find the magic "cheapest price." although, from day-to-day or week-to-week the prices of course fluctuate so you find yourself trying to hold out for one more day, one more car ride, maybe the price will come down.

6. pronunciation of the letter "o" in words. ive found myself with a low tolerance for this one. whereas everyone i know in the u.s. approaches words like "sorry," "process," and "about" with an "ah" sound for the letter "o," everyone here tediously breaks up the words into two distinct syllables by making a real "o" sound for the letter "o." im not a linguist so i dont know if my description is at all understandable, but the next time i hear someone say "pro.cess" instead of "pra-cess" i think i will snap.

30 December 2009

Wrapping up our visit

our last two days in michigan were not less busy but we definitely felt the visit coming to a close.

tuesday we woke up a little tired from the previous long and busy (but fun!) day in ann arbor. we putzed around the house in pjs before we grabbed sandwiches at the brioni cafe, which is right near daves parents house, and hit the road for ann arbor again.

we were able to have a very brief stop at a grad school friends house to see her, her husband, and her 2.5 year old daughter. as with every visit this week, it was too short, but it was great to at least steal a little time with them.

after hitting up plum market for some pre-dinner snacks, we headed to livonia to see daves childhood friend paul, his wife, and their 8 month old daughter. we had a taco dinner with them while the baby was sleeping and then she woke up to watch the adults act like fools with the wii balance board. good fun, too bad we dont have a tv in canada and our wii is in storage. :( it was nice to hang out with them and chat about new parenthood. carla (the wife) had a natural child birth, so she was telling me about it, including the shocking mention that a friend who was pregnant at the same time actually got mad and told her she was crazy for wanting to do it naturally. what is wrong with that picture? to each his own i guess. anyway, it was great to find time to see them.

(me trying to make my character fly. i sucked. i blame it on monster. i ended up getting frustrated and quitting; dave attempting to dance; me and baby lily)

and wednesday. our last day in michigan. we headed to davison, mi to visit another childhood friend of daves. he has two little ones and we hadnt seen him in a very long time. we got to see his 5 year old daughter (who we had last seen when she was one month old!) and play with all her christmas toys. hopefully we wont be such strangers in the future.

lastly, we packed all our baby goodies and canada-bound items, loaded the car, and headed to our final locale. my friend phil was coming home from a business trip and was nice enough to let us stay at his place for the night, and would also drive us to sarnia in the morning. when we picked him up at the airport, we headed to his place for a dinner with his new girl friend and his parents. ive known his parents for something like 12 years, so its always great to see them.

we had another taco dinner (hey, i cant complain, mexican food is what i love) which was good for producing a lively table. as usual the evening went too fast, but it was almost welcome because by this point we were exhausted. i cant fairly figure out how to modify our schedule but i know that a visit like that in the future, with monster, will just not be possible. we'll just have to hope for a job for dave in the u.s. so that visits back to michigan can be more frequent and then we can see a few people every time. dare to dream...

28 December 2009

Best damn shower. Ever.

attended the baby shower to end all baby showers tonight. and monster, dave, and i were lucky enough to be the guests of honor.

shortly after i told people i was pregnant, my college friends (many of whom still live in lower michigan) asked if they could throw us a shower. being home for christmas would be the only time that was doable but monster wouldnt yet be in the "viable" category. i was a little nervous, but in the end i figured that i was lucky enough to have friends who wanted to do this for us, who would make it fun, and it was the best way to ensure i was able to see them when we were back in town.

so, newly married sarah kindly hosted the shower at her house in ann arbor and the college friends who were going to be in town (boo, no georgette or ntina) were invited, with their significant others. i was really excited about that part, boys were going to be at the shower, which meant i got to see EVERYone and dave could come.

so, we arrive and most of the party is already there mingling in the kitchen. we say hello to everyone and then the men and women separate to do their own versions of hanging out. miss julie arrives and starts making the mexican feast i was promised and jody starts mixing up the booze. very kindly, i am presented the first drink (a "mamarita") before the alcohol hits the mixing materials. and things start heating up. the cooking, the chatting, the eating, the laughing...and laughing...and laughing.

when everything was done, we sat down to a full table of friends and a mile long mexican feast. homemade taco shells, grilled marinated chicken, beans, cheese, homemade salsa, homemade guacamole. yum yum yum! now that the boys were back in the mix, the conversation wandered to different areas and everyone had a great time. but the fun continued...

(me and monster at the shower; table of friends toasting monster over yummy mexican food)

after our bellies were full, the games came out. now, normally the cheesy bridal and baby shower games bore me and decrease my enthusiasm for said event, but our games were kept to a minimum and were directly tied to themes that i am attracted to: poop, gross mystery food (and the faces that people make while eating them), celebrities, and random oddities of the creepy varietal. namely these would be: 1. the "hersey squirts" game, in which chocolate bars are melted in diapers and people have to smell and stare at them to guess which chocolate bar it started out as. 2. the "guess that baby food" game, in which baby food jars are stripped of their labels and everyone is given a spoon to taste and determine what whole food the mystery mush started out as. 3. the "link the celebrity parents with the wacky baby name(s) they chose for their child(ren)" game, which is self-explanatory. 4. the "ice baby" game, in which each person gets a special ice cube placed in their drink. frozen into this ice cube is a creepy naked plastic baby. when your ice cube melts, you yell out "my water broke!"

as you can imagine, it was seriously hilarious to watch people play these games. and the guys were beyond amusing. so cute how they really got into it...it is a competition after all. and for the girls, it was really sweet to learn that each game had been headed/organized by a different person (even those who werent there played a part. thanks!). it was such a team effort to put the shower together that i felt the love even more from each part of the evening.

(dave and i examining a dirty diaper...i see this scene in our future...; dave and i sniffing the baby food, getting up the nerve to taste it; a creepy ice cube baby)

which brings us to the presents, i was totally blown away. first came the goo-goo part of opening all the tiny baby items people had purchased (some of the males floated away to the tv at this point, i cant blame them). they did a good job in the variety department of getting onesies, sleepers, blankets, bath time stuff, safety stuff (thermometer, nail clippers, etc), a baby sling, childrens books, etc. but then...at the end of all the oohing and aahing, there was an envelope. inside, a wad of cash that looked like i hit the jackpot in vegas. and we have, in the friendship department. this was an extra boost of money from the group so that we could buy some bigger baby(s) items like a car seat, crib, stroller, etc. crazy awesome, and very very very generous.

(an actual onesie that says "Monster" is being shipped to us; daddy bib and future daddy!; the baby sleeper with duck feet that had everyone squealing. i believe there was even an utterance of "it makes my ovaries ache")

normally, an event where i am part of the center of attention makes me somewhat anxious. in larger groups i always feel that the kindness/thoughtfulness/gifts that typically accompany those events vastly outweigh my ability to show the adequate expressions of gratitude. alone, i am fully able to appreciate and comprehend the gravity of each persons gestures, but in the group i find i am totally unable to externally express my feelings. now that ive had some time to digest it all, here goes...

we had a fantastic time at the shower. in my opinion it was absolutely perfect. or perfect for us. there was swearing, drinking, laughing, friends, great food, fun and games, and men. i highly recommend the men part. without forcing them to be gushy, it was great to see them so actively involved in the chatter and games and whatnot. they surprised me with their tolerance and interest and baby knowledge (!) and it added a new fun twist to the shower atmosphere. plus, seeing dave and his reactions to both the games and the baby items was totally priceless. great way to go into parenthood united. hes right there with me every step of the way.

and as for the ladies, my friends, they were fabulous. everyone was my favorite version of themselves: jody was the captain of booze, mixing and making sure everyone was always topped up. julie was the mexican food guru who was full of sass and crazy stories. sarah was the organized hostess who cleans everything during the party. jen was the enthusiastic person whose smile and giggle can erase any negativity. and missy made sure there was never a lull in discussion, always ready with one of her million questions. :) seriously, i was in heaven with it all. as we wound down the night, the women again in the kitchen, i was seriously sad that i had to leave. leave the kitchen, the house, ann arbor, or michigan and be without that network of people. im very lucky to have you all (including georgette and ntina who couldnt make it, but were definitely a part of the shower, the experience, and the warm, fuzzy feelings) and monster will be lucky to know you. thanks a million.

(the ladies of the shower: jody, missy, me, jen, sarah. julie had already left. georgette and ntina were there in spirit.)

A flurry of family and friends

i thought we had a manageable "must visit" list for michigan, but with regular intervals of snow slowing the already torturous car driving, our energy got zapped fast.

first up, we managed to snag a few hours with good friends ntina and ben. they graciously offered to pick us up in sarnia and drive us to clarkston (where daves parents live), have lunch, and drop us off. after an early morning start to travel, it was great to have this last leg of the trip be energized with the laughter and chatter of comfortable friendship. our hour long car ride seemed to be gone in a flash and we found ourselves at "the union" in downtown clarkston. we had a nice lunch in this lively, open space. perfect for absorbing the baby chatter and inappropriate comments that inevitably exited our mouths. us girls dug into chicken pot pies (mmm, comfort food) while the boys carefully combed the beer board. we were sad when lunch came to an end, but we both had family meals and visiting to get to.

once inside the whipp house, we parked our crap in a guest room and said hello. its been a while since daves sister and her (now) husband were able to spend the holidays in the same house, on the same days as us, so it was nice to see them. while we waited for dinner and for grandma to get picked up, we located the stuff we had bought from amazon recently and had sent to the house.

i got some new shoes (slip ons...for when i can no longer tie my shoes) and dave got a bundle of wires and electronic stuff, not the least of which was a new digital camera. he was practically jumping up and down to get to michigan to be united with this thing. after hours of reading reviews and having me personally touch/hold/use dozens of cameras in local camera stores, he decided on a replacement for the digital camera weve had since 2002. its not the most idiot-proof of the point-and-shoot variety, but we wanted something to meet other needs and hopefully last for several years adequately documenting monsters every move.

okay, and...moving on from the camera...the point of us being back was to visit people. so, grandma arrived and a nice, easy dinner of soup (white chicken chili for some and oyster stew for others), salad, and bread was had.

(whipp family: me, courtney, megan, mary ann, dave, dave, jeanne, and picabo)

christmas eve faded into christmas day which was very slow and relaxed. the weather helped sustain the pace of the day with its ugly soggy rain that melted all the snow off the frozen lake. :( in the evening we had thanksgiving for dinner (yay!) and enjoyed some great desserts by daves dad. an apple tart and a pumpkin pie. yum!

but, two days of visiting in one spot was soon to be overshadowed by the rush of what was to come. saturday we woke up and prepared for the snowy drive out to grand rapids. we had lunch with daves paternal grandmother in her retirement home. the slow, multi-course "meal" allowed for a nice long catch-up visit which was welcome because it had been over a year since we had seen her. the next stop was daves paternal aunt/uncles house (also in grand rapids). we sat and chatted with them about several things, including their desire to make nova scotia their next vacation destination. cool.

the last grand rapids stop was to my paternal uncle/aunts house. these guys are always good for a mental boost. the whole family is very welcoming, they decorate their house full up for christmas (even though they have a college age kid and a senior in high school), my cousins are really fun and nice girls, and my uncle is very similar to my dad in looks, build, and mannerisms so i feel like im home in a way. anyway, we had a good visit and meal with them before we hit the snowy roads home. it had been coming down all day and grand rapids snow is nothing to laugh at. it took us an extra hour to get home, putting me in bed at about 1a. long day!

sunday we were back at it though. this time we hit the rest of my family. lunch was at my maternal grandmothers house in dearborn with my two aunts and their families. my one cousin on that side of the family was there and we had a nice non-traditional holiday meal of spinach pies, cabbage rolls, cheesy potatoes, hummus, tabbouleh, and bumpy cake for my cousins birthday. we played catchphrase (the "old" against the "young"...the young won almost every round. yeah.) and they suggested baby names (for a girl, Hali, to commemorate halifax, or for either a girl or boy, Nova, to commemorate nova scotia...i dont know, but nova kinda has a nice ring to it...).

(thomas family: dave me, patty, john, alex, rena, michael, and gayle)

we didnt feel like we had spent enough time there when the clock struck the hour for us to head to my paternal sides dinner. my grandpa and the grand rapids folks were gathered at my aunt and uncles house in plymouth. we opened presents like we have almost every year since i was born, and welcomed our first adorable gifts for monster. ah baby stuff, so cute/soft/cheery. then we had pizza and a dessert buffet (i shudder to step on the scale at the next dr appt). after catching up, watching the lions lose (shock and awe), and playing with the new puppy, "angel," we packed up and headed home in the snow again. at least it wasnt a super late night this time.

(me, monster, cousin linnea and her food baby; dohring family: belinda, kailee, me, linnea, jean, dave, john, arthur, michael, angel, and brian)

monday signaled the end of family visits and the beginning of friend visits. first up was lunch at cafe maries in ann arbor with old coworkers. good people who are kind enough to drive in from surrounding areas to continue to see me, even though we havent worked together in years. thanks! :) i however was not thankful for the snow. it had started snowing sometime before my eyes opened and when we were on our way to ann arbor from clarkston we had a fun time navigating between the idiot michigan balls-to-the-wall drivers and the fraidy-cat hazard-light drivers...ah, some things never change. we did arrive safely though, and i got to hear about all the crazy family stories those guys always bring. good stuff.

then dave and i went cruising ann arbor. he nabbed lunch at bagel fragel, which was in a new, larger space, and then we went looking for beer. the dalhousie geology department is having a "beers of the world" party in january and dave wanted to represent michigan well. figuring some would have been able to encounter Bells beer before, he opted for the more rare, yet still stellar with wide appeal brand of Jolly Pumpkin. because daves favorite beer selection locale closed (bella vinos on plymouth rd) we went to main street party store. i dont know why i enjoy beer stores when i dont like the liquid myself, but i like helping dave decide what to try next. i was proud to direct him to a limited edition batch of brews from one of his favorite places, Shorts. he bought three to try. go me...or whatever.

with time to kill after the beer store, we toured all the main strips of ann arbor to see what was new, gone, updated, and still lively. when we had had enough nostalgia, we grudgingly made our way to our storage unit in canton. joy. and there were near white outs of snow still going on in spots. driving down I-94 was typical michigan when we were in furious snow one minute and the sun was out the next. good times.

(driving east on I-94; same road, same drive, less than 5 minutes later...)

anyway, spent the record shortest time at storage and were actually able to easily locate all of the items we had come looking for. whoa! then we headed back for ann arbor, stopping at a target store for some inexpensive maternity clothes before plopping our butts down at the new jolly pumpkin brewery on main street.

(our old life in a 10 x 10 cell)

at the top of daves "to eat at when we are in aa" list, we sat upstairs in this nice space and ordered a drink and appetizer. dave got a cask-conditioned duel porter with cranberries and i got a non-alcoholic berry mojito. dave enjoyed his drink and i found myself liking mine. it was very tangy but was well-mixed with a good flavor balance of berry, lime, and carbonation. my problem was i felt a little pressed for time, so i guzzled it when really, its a drink to be sipped. our bread and dips appetizer was also really good: generous portions, nice presentation, and great flavors. we were pleased to see this often overturned or vacant spot on main street to have found a robust resident (and the recently passed michigan restaurant smoking ban [yay!] wont hurt the place either).

(dave and beer at jolly pumpkin. for more beer info, see his blog.)

all this in five short days, and there was more to come...

24 December 2009

Firsts in flight

and so we fly to michigan for the holidays.

christmas eve welcomed us as we awoke at 4a to begin the day of travel. groggily, we made to the the car with our bags and hit the road. after successfully parking at the park n fly lot near the airport, we boarded the shuttle where we heard a handful of unusual canadian accents that were weird enough to help me keep my eyes open. once inside, we grabbed some tim hortons and lined up for security.

joy to our fun airport security experience. first up was me. i put my stuff on the conveyor belt and made it through the metal detector...the last of my luck. i was then randomly chosen to be patted down. thankfully the lady checking me was friendly. when that was finished, i got over to my bags on the conveyor belt and was told that one of my bags was randomly chosen to be swiped. somehow it registered a "hit" which meant all of my bags (total of 3) had to be RE-scanned and searched. they were short on personnel so i had to wait until an extra person was available to do this. while i was waiting for my bags to be searched, the lady told me that as part of the procedure i would have to be patted down again. the first woman couldnt just "sign off" on me. great. another friendly pat down with a lady asking me about my due date. then my bags were thoroughly searched. the lady finally "determined" that the reason my bag registered a "hit" was because i didnt put my blueberry jam in a bag like all the other liquids. mmm, okay. lesson learned.

while all this activity was going on with me, dave was being tortured as well. while examining the liquids he had in the liquids bag, the lady found my face lotion and determined it was too large (4 oz) and had to be thrown away. then, while one of his bags was going through the x-ray machine the lady reading the scanner asked him if he had cell phones in his bag. he said yes (we had two cell phones that were deactivated and we wanted to bring back to the u.s. to donate to charity). she asked him if he had detached the batteries from the cell phones. he said yes (because he didnt want them to accidentally turn themselves on in flight). she said that that was not a good idea and looked suspicious. he re-stated the reason why he had done that, and that he had no problem taking them out to show her. she simply felt the need to reassert her power and tell him that that was a terrible idea and that it didnt look good. okay, fine. another lesson learned.

thankfully, we had left enough time to tolerate these interruptions reasonably well and when we arrived at our gate, finally, we still had a few minutes to get re-organized and ready to board. our flight to toronto went well and the toronto airport was decently laid out. we found our gate for the sarnia flight and waited for boarding time. about 30 minutes before take off, a tiny prop plane pulled into the area in front of our gate.

now, i have been on small commuter flights/puddle jumpers before, but this was the smallest plane i had ever had to ride in. it only had 18 seats! as you can imagine it took all of about 5 minutes to get the entire plane boarded. then the steward stepped on board and closed the plane door. he gave us some brief flight info and then took his seat...as the co-pilot. so we were alone in the cabin for the flight. dave and i comprised the last row of people (there were only 14 of us) so i got a look at the bathroom. it was a port o' potty with a curtain for a door...i think it would only be used out of desperation.

as for the flight itself, it was neat. first, the plane moves around the airport like a car and can rotate on a dime. we got de-iced in about 3 minutes and were ready for takeoff. we needed less than 5 seconds of runway to gather enough speed to liftoff and we were flying. there were no individual heat or light or air controls. there was just heated air blowing all around the plane which made it very loud...and hot.

anyway, it was a short, non-bumpy flight before we landed and then i started looking around for the sarnia airport building...when we stopped in front of a plain brick building that looked like it could have been a storage shed, i stifled a laugh. its the size of a bus station. it contains exactly one gate, one waiting area, and one luggage conveyor belt. there is no gate for the plane to pull up to, it just parks near the sidewalk for the building. the plane actually looked large next to the airport. so bizarre. i felt like i was in the movie "casablanca."

(our plane out front of the sarnia airport; inside our plane with its 14 passengers; ontario sky during our sarnia flight)

and thus we arrived at our destination with minimal trouble. id take some security flack over weather/airport delays and bumpy rides any day. and i actually enjoyed the tiny plane. who knew?

23 December 2009

I dont wanna eat what the rock bottom is cooking

our last social activity of 2009 in halifax was spent at the rock bottom brewery.

the ultimate frisbee people dave and i had hung out with before were gathering for a holiday hangout at the rock bottom brewery. there ended up being about 12 people there at a nice long table so that everyone could be seen and heard. pitchers of beer and food were passed around in the nicely decorated mans den. but, while the atmosphere was welcoming, the food was less than impressive.

i ordered the raved about (from some ratings/reviews i had read) avocado turkey burger with sweet potato fries. nothing else on the menu looked that enticing anyway, but the burger didnt get the job done either. first, it came slathered in the onions i had requested not to be included, but they willingly remade my sandwich. my second-try burger was pretty bland and the avocados werent ripe. my opinion: if you have an item featured in the name of the meal, then please, try and serve it fresh and ripe. i hate when avocados taste like grass-flavored rocks. oh, and the sweet potato fries that came with the sandwich were limp and unseasoned. and their dipping sauce was lame.

thankfully, the people we were with were friendly and there was a varied amount of conversation. i also started my quest for restaurant/food advice and found a suggestion for the "press gang" to be of only moderate use since it is way upscale and expensive for our tastes and wallet ($30 to $40 for main dishes). "the carlton" was also suggested as a good place for drinks, but a place that is only recommended for the booze doesnt get me too excited...especially right now. and one of the guys at the table works at the restaurant "gio" and wholeheartedly plugged that place. although, it too is a bit high brow for my liking ($20-30 entrees), but id be willing to try a few of their desserts (the "éh" and "half baked" look DElish).

we also managed to make them laugh by mentioning our recent brush with a place in town called "maxwells plum." we had seen it several times and i kept suggesting it to dave because it said "60 beers on tap." we stumbled in there from an icy winter walk one night recently and barely stayed for the one beer dave ordered. his drink was urine and the place reeked like beer had been soaking into the floor for a hundred years. couple that with the fact that there were mostly men in the place, and i felt like i was at a fraternity party, or at least scorekeepers in ann arbor. the frisbee people also added that the food menu there is also notoriously foul and inedible.

ah, good times. anyway, the people were nice, the atmosphere was good, and dave said the beer was decent, so it was a pretty good ending to december in halifax.

21 December 2009

Soup and snow

staying in on a sunday to eat warm soup while buckets of snow fall is the best thing i can think of about winter.

while waiting for the snowstorm that hit the u.s. east coast to arrive, we did some shopping on sunday morning. among the items purchased were the ingredients for the chicken and dumplings recipe dave was making for dinner. so exciting (ive been asking for this meal for weeks).

we got back and unloaded and dave re-read his recipe and got to work (his recipe is from the september 2009 cooks illustrated magazine, cant find the damn thing to post here without signing on from a subscription). the whole process took about 2.5-3 hours, with several breaks in between. at some point during the cook time, the snow started falling!

(view of the street in front of our apartment about an hour after the snow started)

while dave was filling the apartment with the delicious scent of soup, i was embarking on a new way to waste huge amounts of time. i just found out about it and im so glad it wasnt around when i was in college. the site is called "Stumble Upon" and the idea is to "help you discover the best of the web faster." holy crap, dont go there unless you have hours of time to lose. very addictive, and ive already found some way cool stuff, customized to my interests.

anyway, as the soup neared completion i pulled myself away from the computer to prepare for the arrival of the german phd student who had housed dave when he first came to visit halifax back in february 2008. we hadnt found a good time until now to have sophie over and she was willing to trek over in the snow. i think it was worth it to taste daves completely-from-scratch soup though. a yummy yummy yummy meal in a cozy apartment with beautiful snow falling outside while hosting a visitor. nice, very nice.

(dave prepping the chicken thighs; the browned thighs, before the actual soup liquid gets created; le soup!)

and the leftovers continued for another 24 hours. yay!

19 December 2009

Random day of discovery

we had some free time before daves afternoon ultimate game, so we headed to the nearby bedford area today.

we had not yet visited this northern halifax suburb but were glad to make the trip today. upon mapping our route, i found that the granite brewery was directly on our way. this typically means i force dave into pulling over and trying/buying beer, and thats what i did. no one was in the store and when you walk in you are standing directly at the counter. there are no taps and therefore nothing to taste. you simply have to buy a growler and booze it up at home. the brewpub once had a home on barrington st, but left for toronto. it recently came back to halifax, in this incarnation that only supplies their beer to a few bars around town. dave had only tried one or two of their beers before and wasnt in love, so he went for something new to him, the best bitter special (it turned out not to be very enjoyable...look for daves new beer blog to launch in 2010). :)

anywho, enough about beer, we continued north to drive along the bedford basin and got to admire all the sunshine and new scenery. our original destination on this road was the sister restaurant to the persian place we had recently tried...but it was closed, out-of-business. :( not to worry, there was a delightful replacement just up the street. chickenburger!!

this place has apparently been a staple in bedford since 1940. a drive-in during the warm weather months, its fast food with kitsch. but its not crap fast food, i dont think it coulda stuck around this long if that was the case. it has a niche something like in-n-out burger. they have hamburgers and hot dogs, but of course, we went with the namesake and ordered chickenburgers. i got mine with cheese and dave ordered his with cranberry sauce (this was one of the standard topping options, win!). with fries, our total bill came to $9.78 (with tax).

the burgers were compact (about the size of a slider), but dense. the meat was not pressed, congealed chicken bits, it was real, fresh chicken meat! it musta been slow roasted until it literally fell off the bones. it reminded me of the fabulous post-turkey-day sandwiches you get to make from your homemade bird. yummy yummy lunch. apparently there is one going in near our apartment (after all these years?), but i am glad we hit up the original locale.

(view from the chickenburger parking lot; daves chickenburger with cranberry sauce)

bellies full, we set off to locate the famed "guy's frenchys" used clothing store. apparently this place has been a mecca of the maritimes since the 1970s. the not-so-coherent story goes that the stores clothes come from the u.s. but that importing used clothes usually comes with a not-so-negligible import tax. however, there is a loophole, which frenchys has exploited. if you bundle the used clothes into something like the shape and size of a bale of hay, somehow it escapes the importation tax. thus...cheap. ass. clothes.

we went to the sackville store (just north of bedford) which admittedly is likely to be picked over by students and the kids/families of the halifax suburbs, but still, there was much to see and touch. the place is just an open space with large bins full of clothes. signs hang from the ceiling to tell you where to start digging. my goal was some cheap maternity clothes, but that section was a depressing lump of fat-looking 1980s wear. no go. so, i went to the regular pants and shirt bins to look for something with potential. i must say that i found at least 30% of the items i picked up were brand name stuff (gap, talbots, banana republic, etc) and most of it was in really impressive condition. i went to the dressing room with a stack of things, but ended up only finding a pair of fleece pants that would fit on my new fat ass.

i took my purchase up to the counter and was excited to see the price...$2.50 (with tax). score! the most expensive things on the list were hilarious: wedding dresses ($50-25), full suits ($14), evening gowns ($9), and then everything went downhill from there. i guess it used to be one of those "best kept secrets" (my boss and daves boss both came out of the woodwork to profess love for this place) but with local books being written and a new yorker article shedding some added fame on the place, its become a little picked-over. but i bet if we went to one of the other locations, further from the halifax epicentre, we'd find plenty of awesome stuff. and they have kids clothes too!

speaking of kids clothes...frightening. we next drove back into bedford to start the journey home and stopped at the zellers (a wanna-be Target) to attempt to locate a mukmuk onesie. and we did. and we bought it. one of the few $12 clothing items i will ever buy for a newborn to vomit on. enjoy it while it lasts monster! and thus, we have begun the baby stockpiling. weird.

(me, monster, and the mukmuk onesie...its not so tiny...im not afraid of the little person who will inhabit it)

our next goal was to find the tasty bakery that was supposed to be somewhere across the street. alas, there was a freak power outage (no wind and tons of sunshine!) that took out the tiny block where the bakery was located and the major stoplight in front was also out which made for a great clusterf#%k. boo. :( another time.

now we were really on the way home, but found time to stop into a halifax bakery id wanted to try (as my second choice). the girls working there were really nice and helped overexcite me about the prospect of holiday sweets. and so we left with a $14 box of sugar! some of the things were good and some were just "eh." im still reserving full excitement for the bedford bakery i had wanted.

phew! and that was how we spent saturday from 11a-2p.

18 December 2009

No rust for the hungry

a boring necessity turned into a delightful friday morning.

so, we took the car in to get a rust proof coating sprayed on for the winter. they salt the roads just as much here as they do in michigan, plus the year-round salty sea air is pretty damaging. while i was getting my blood drawn recently, the dude poking me somehow got on the topic and recommended we get it done. he said "have you noticed how many new cars there are in town? its not typical to see cars from the 1990s around here, because theyve basically all corroded away." sweet, our car already has rust, so we definitely wanted to protect our vehicle. when we called in november today was the earliest appointment we could get...i guess its a popular thing to have done around here. anyway, this morning we dropped it at the local krown shop.

lucky for us, the shop is right down the street from the coastal cafe. since the rustproofing only takes an hour, it was the perfect time to grab a tasty breakfast on the north end of town. i ordered the eggs lorraine which were huge and hearty and filling (if a little salty, damn canadian ham) and dave got the gorgeous and mouthwatering "apples, jack." a stacked tower of warm baked apple halves sitting on a bed of cinnamon yogurt drizzled with granola and honey. friggin awesome.

(daves fab breakfast. you can see my frittata in the background, topped with potatoes, drizzled with creamy mustard)

17 December 2009

Commiserate and conversate

three of us were free for a prenatal meet-up.

it was just starting to snow when we gathered at the cozy "local jos" cafe. for about two hours we were able to share hot drinks and illuminate the joys of pregnancy: weight gain, itchy nipples, armpit sweat, headaches, nasal congestion, etc. and discussed drug use during labor, midwife vs doctor issues, and breastfeeding. free therapy...nice. :) looking forward to more meet-ups next year.

14 December 2009

The screen debut of monster

today was the ultrasound to see how monster is doing.

so, pretty much all pregnant people in the area come to our local hospital (the IWK) for their ultrasounds. they have two different floors for ultrasound. the seventh floor is where you go if you are high-risk and typically you have multiple visits there throughout your pregnancy. the first floor is where you go, often only once, for a diagnostic ultrasound at around 20 weeks to make sure there arent any glaring problems with the baby. we went to the first floor.

had an 8a appt which required me to get up at 7a, pee, and then drink 500 mls of water so my bladder would be full for the exam. that was fun. downing a lot of water on an empty stomach that early in morning was a little tougher than i thought, but i got it all in. at the hospital, we were taken in right away and the exam lasted only 30 minutes so i was able to control my bladder for that long.

dave got to come in. the room was darkened and we got to stare at the tv monitor while the lady was probing around taking her measurements. after she collected all her data, she took a couple minutes to show us around ye old uterus, although, it wasnt like i couldnt already tell what was the head, spine, heart, arm, etc. while she was doing her measurements.

now for the interesting/unusual part (aside from the fact that the blue jelly they squirted on my stomach was warm. ee, weird). here is where i think most parents would freak. the IWK does not offer the opportunity to find out the sex, nor do they provide a picture of the baby. its their policy, these things just arent available. you could cry or threaten, but they dont do it. now, if you have to be seen on the seventh floor (high risk) typically at one of your visits they will be able to determine the sex and possibly provide a picture, but that is because you are there for longer and more frequently. the first floor sees too many patients per day with limited resources, and so, those 2-3 minutes per patient it can take to spend time finding the genitalia translates to several extra patients they could have seen that day by the end of a work period. and, there is time and money involved in providing an ultrasound picture, so they dont do that either.

so, this is obviously a big deal for some people. but, what can you do, nova scotia is one of the poorest provinces in canada due to its industry options, isolation, and high number of retirees. the one million people living in the province are also clustered in only a few spots, leaving large swathes of land between some communities who then are stuck driving long distances for services.

fear not, one company has found a way to make money off this situation. the UC baby company of halifax offers you the chance to view your baby for longer periods of time, find out the sex, and take home a CD loaded with images. you can even buy a DVD of the images set to a metallica lullaby. packages start at the bargain price of $175 and go up from there.

now, i know i will offend people by saying there is no way in hell i would be caught dead going to the UC baby place, but there you have it. every ultrasound and creepy 4D picture ive ever seen looks THE SAME. i could go on the internet and print out any 20 week fetus image and print it as the picture for monsters first scrapbook entry. i have no desire to buy the video from my first colonoscopy, and i dont have a desire to pay a company to do something my doctor has already done for me: provide proof my baby is alive, developing normally, and moving around. the memory of watching the tv screen is still in my head and it will sustain me until i push out the intruder. i was able to see a heart beating, arms flapping, and bicycle kicks being performed. i now have a grainy image to put to the little pokes coming at me from the inside. im set. plus, i have ample time to debate if it is at all meaningful that i didnt see anything that remotely resembled a phallus during the exam...see, this is much more fun.

anyway, after the exam she went off to find a radiologist to read her exam findings and see if there was anything right away that was of concern (for which we would have been sent up to the seventh floor). she came back and said that no immediate flags were raised and that the report will go to my doctor.

13 December 2009

Culinary car ride

we're on a roll! i couldnt help but use sunday for another food adventure. (weight gain...i laugh in your face...)

this time we went north and stopped in wolfville for lunch. we had been here before as well, but chose a different place to eat. we had brunch at the fancy mansion in town, the blomidon inn. done up in victorian christmas decorations, the place was definitely a grandmothers wet dream, but actually the ambiance wasnt forced and we didnt feel out of place. plus, the food was reasonably priced and delicious. i ordered the brunch feature: cranberry juice, waffle with wild blueberry sauce and maple syrup, side of crisp bacon, and hot peppermint tea ($10.95). dave ordered the fresh turkey sandwich with side of apple-cranberry compote and soup of the day, which was squash and peach soup ($9.95). i swapped my bacon for daves soup. it was weird to have peaches in soup but it was pretty good, wouldnt be able to eat more than a small cup of it in one sitting though. overall we had a nice, pleasant, tasty meal that leaves me curious to come back for dinner (the vegetable wellington or chicken marquis caught my eye).

(the blomidon inn; daves pretty lunch. he was really jazzed about the pickle and homemade bread.)

after brunch, i had a loop drive in mind. we headed west through the town of new minas. strip mall hell. the shopping district for the entire annapolis valley, eh. we couldnt drive through there fast enough. next was the town of kentville. they had some beautiful old stone buildings and several steep hills but the majority of the town looked a little sad and perhaps hit fairly recently by hard times. bummer.

from here, we headed a little bit north and then back east through farmland. our destination was the fox hill creamery. a sixth generation family farm, the current owner expanded his farm beyond simple milk production to create on-site gourmet cheeses, yogurt, and gelato. its an ambitious place and theyve got reason to be proud. they make some good stuff. we split a small scoop of peppermint gelato and purchased one of their more unusual products to take home. quark. we bought the dill variety. quark is apparently a common european spread (though we never encountered it). its something between cottage cheese and cream cheese. it is smooth and flavorful but with less salt and fat than cream cheese. tasty.

once back in the car, we took a short drive in the countryside before arriving in the tiny village of port williams. they have a local brewery i thought dave might want to try. the port pub is a newly constructed red building bordering an inlet to the bay of fundy. the inside is beautifully decorated and they have some fabulous windows for a nice view of the surrounding area. that being said, their beer was a bust. dave got a sampler of all the beers they make that were on draught. the winter warmer almost made him gag and most of the rest were mediocre. i ordered a house-brewed berry ginger ale. being nearly tasteless, it was also not impressive. thus the brewery aspect gets a "C-" but the building interior gets an "A." hardly a glowing review worthy of a revisit, but perhaps the food is good...

(dave and the subpar whistle-wetters; the view from our table, the low afternoon winter sun was making the dried grass along the meandering inlet shine. the water was moving at a pretty fast clip taking some ice chunks out to the bay of fundy.)

after the drinks, we completed the loop back through wolfville to get on the highway home. we did a lot of driving and social eating in the last few days. i think we will moderate ourselves a little better in the future, but it was nice to feel kinda busy and tired for once.

The Port Pub and Bistro on Urbanspoon

12 December 2009

Cafe cruisin

finally got out and about this weekend. to eat.

after several gloomy, dull weekends in, i hit the internet hard to find things to do in this province. there is a lack of websites, blogs, idea lists, etc for things to do around here. still, after many hours, i compiled a sizable list of good places to start. trouble is, many things are "closed for the season" around here (which leads me to wonder...what the hell do people do around here from november to april?). but, if monster is a good kid, we should be able to get out and see and do LOTS of things this summer. yay.

anyway, today we went back to a familiar area to do some new things. it was very cold and windy so a nature walk wasnt on the agenda, but eating was. i found a highly rated restaurant in lunenburg i wanted to try called "magnolia grill." so we charted a course there. upon arrival we found it was...closed for the season. thats fine, we ate at its neighbor the salt shaker deli. we ate here last time we were in town, but we ordered different things this time. we shared a delicious warm bowl of spicy black bean soup and a gourmet veggie pizza. yum.

(the pretty and tasty soup with fresh local-made baguette and a propeller porter)

afterward, there seemed to be a few shops open in the little town, so we walked the short main blocks and popped into the open shops to get out of the wind and browse.

(a fishermans hat dave found at one of the stores. a little blurry but i had to include it!; a picture of the gortons fisherman. dave is younger and more handsome, but the resemblance is freaky.)

next stop was only 15 minutes away in the town of mahone bay. weve also been here before, but we wanted to locate a good bakery and a little cafe i had read about. while cruising the main street of mahone bay, we came upon the gorgeous artisan shop owned for decades by emilys (pregnant friend) parents. they are retired now, but her parents were in the pewter business (they sold it recently). apparently they were quite successful because their shop is sharp from the outside and the website has beautiful things on it. perhaps we'll peek inside next time.

anyway, we could not locate the local bakery that so many of our restaurants and grocery stores are supplied by...we later found out the reason is that they only do wholesale, they dont have a retail store. bummer. but, not to worry, we quickly got over it upon entering the biscuit eater cafe.

this is place is only slightly off the beaten path, but just enough to be overlooked, which bodes well for locals and visitors in-the-know. the cafe is packed with charm and warm, cozy feelings, but it would be hard not to feel that way with all the leather, books, tea/coffee mugs, and comfortable chairs around. and the food...the food. it looked amazing. i want to come back for the soup and sandwiches. yum. as it was, we were there for dessert. we ordered a cranberry shortbread cookie and a pumpkin cheesecake bar. perfectly flavored, perfectly created, nothing left to be desired. i shall return.

(dave and the pumpkin cheesecake in the eating area with a shelf of books in the background)

after that snack, we drove east along the lighthouse route back in the direction of halifax. we visited the small ocean town of chester as our last stop. hadnt been here before, but i had read about the kiwi cafe. owned by a native new zealander and home to plenty homemade creations. it was colorfully painted and decored, had a mile-long counter full of fresh goodies, and had a light breakfast and lunch menu as well. it had been a couple hours since dave and i shared that lunch in lunenburg, so we were a bit hungry. we ended up getting breakfast foods. the dishes were prepared well, nothing mind-blowing, but i think id stop again if we were in town to get some baked goods, they were so tempting.

(a shot of the three churches of mahone bay. one of the most photographed scenes in nova scotia; a pretty railroad bridge on the lighthouse drive)

and thus was the end of our driving tour of the south shore cafes. glad we found some good food and used our saturday better than in the past.

Chow with chums

wednesday, thursday, and friday nights we had dinners with friends.

wednesday was sushi night. daves french colleague loves sushi, but hadnt found anyone else here who liked it. we invited him to join us. a storm came through about an hour and a half before dinner to dump tons of snow and gust massive amounts of wind at us as we trekked to the sushi place. wet and chilly we eagerly planned our food order. the boys made me jealous with their nigiri choices and spicy tuna rolls, but i was just happy to be getting some veggie rolls and miso on this cold day. the only dinner downer was that the waitress sucked and took FOREVER to come take our order and FOREVER to bring our soups. i almost ate the wooden chopsticks. in the end, the colleague really liked the restaurant and wants to meet up for japanese goodies more often. fine by us.

thursday night dave had a fellow post-doc-er come over for dinner. the guy actually lives in newfoundland with his wife, but comes down to halifax for meetings every few months. he had been away from home for almost two weeks, so we had him over for a non-restaurant meal. nice guy, good maritime province resource. easy going. we also took the opportunity to buy a few desserts we had eyed at the grocery store. a lemon square (cuz when are those ever not good?) and a butter tart. now, apparently butter tarts are one of the only recipes generally considered to be a genuine canadian creation. they were made by the pioneers and have simple ingredients, but they are really tasty!

friday night we had the pregnant couple from dartmouth over. we had told them our place was small, but that by making a build-it-yourself mexican dinner we could easily manage a meal with them. they trusted us and decided to come over. and we had a really nice time. emily is still HARDLY showing (shes due one day before me) so i felt like a total weirdo compared to her. itll be interesting to see when she finally pops out.

anyway, we talked about fun things, techie things (macs and cameras, what else?), and baby things (strollers, diapers, feeding strategies, birthing classes), and the weather. it was windy as shit today. two spots on my walk to work almost blew me down, literally. and it was cold! they were trying to reassure us that this is fairly unusual...riiiight. :) emily is lucky she works from home.

11 December 2009

Nessie news - 19 weeks

19 weeks...almost halfway done. well, kinda, except that for the first two weeks of the count you arent actually pregnant, and the next two weeks you dont know that youre pregnant. so...im actually not really halfway through the conscious part...but getting there (thatll be 22 weeks).

(le bump)

doc appt update: i gained 5-6 lbs (the suggested gain should be about 4 lbs. statistically, i havent gone off the deep end, but it made me promptly set a goal of trying to gain less than 50 lbs during this adventure). i had normal pee and blood pressure. baby heartbeat was 150 bpm. the doctor had to chase monster all around to try and get a few seconds in a row to count the beats. the blood work for my maternal serum test came back negative, so that is good. i told the doctor about my sore pelvis. she said it could get worse and be quite painful, there is nothing to do to help it but to take tylenol when painful. sweet. also got my seasonal flu shot.

symptoms update:
1. i overheat, regularly...and sweat in bucket loads. this must be what the spin doctors call that gorgeous 'pregnancy glow.' yeah, nice way to compliment the raging blob of hormones cuz you dont wanna anger or insult the sleeping giant. stop staring at my wet armpits! im SO lucky/glad that i only have the coolest months to be pregnant. summer and fall babies are cruel!

2. i had a small bump before, but then there was this period of 2-3 days where it went crazy and now BAM! theres a solid mass blocking my ability to easily get my socks on and off. my pants, even with the bella band are now getting shockingly tight. im on the move to buy a pair of real maternity pants soon as i cant live in these yoga pants alone for 4-5 more months. also, the belly button is getting pushed further...

3. i suppose i can now say i can feel monster moving around. though, its still in the highly sporadic and quizzical stage. what was that? gas, a muscle twitch, an itch? im fine waiting to declare definite kicks/headbutts until a later stage.

4. compared to other stages, i have more energy now. i have returned to at/near my previous rate of speedy walking and feel a sense of accomplishment when i pass people on the sidewalk. this phase will be short lived i realize, so im enjoying it while i can.

5. i have a constantly sore pelvis area (occasionally joined by sore hip(s) and/or sore back). it would appear that i have "symphysis pubis dysfunction." so far ive been able to figure out how to keep the pain at a low level. its always there, but unless i aggravate it, im not suffering too much. i havent taken any meds or anything.

6. falling asleep has been getting trickier. i have fidgety legs, a sore pelvis that requires attention when i am flopping back and forth from one side to the other, and while laying on my side, i am starting to need to prop something under my belly so gravity does drag me out of alignment too much.

7. my fingernails, toenails, and hair are growing like mad! and its not getting any easier to bend down and clip my toenails...this could get interesting.

8. food. no new aversions. my hungriest time is between 1p and 6p. popcorn is a nighttime ritual. i would say i have dave make it for me (stove top style...a la miss julie) about 90% of nights.

9. only one baby dream in the last month: i was pregnant in france, preparing for birth. dave was not around. i ended up having a short labor, which i spent in two different hospitals. the hospital staff were totally aloof. i had a healthy baby girl and was quickly discharged from the hospital. then i was with family and friends in europe (belgium i think). we went out with them for the day (dave was now with me in the dream) while baby stayed behind (getting babysat by someone? gooood parenting skills). at night, we were all staying in some kind of dorm/hostel. i noticed the baby (who was without a diaper) was warm and had hives. my mom picked her up and she started to pee...a LOT. the pee was full of tiny noodles. then i noticed something that looked like a tiny metal arrow poking out from the babys neck, then it went back in. a parasite infection, clearly!! at this point i became frightened and was determined to find a doctor. i found the hostels doctor was available. when i described what i had seen he knew what i was talking about and he said the infection would go away by itself. (i started to wake up from the dream at this point.) i remember i looked at the babys birth certificate in my dream, but i couldnt remember her name when i woke up. i also remember hearing that other people i knew had had their baby on the same day. so, another random and disturbing dream. parenting skills in these dreams leave MUCH to be desired...

miscellaneous notes:
1. i called the midwife coalition and got on the waitlist for a midwife. it seems like an unlikely possibility, but im on the list none the less.

2. we (or i guess it was just me) have dropped the moniker nessie vancouver and simply refer to the baby as "monster." i wonder what strangers would do/say if we slipped and used the name in public.

3. as mentioned in the baby registry entry, we havent really gotten in to the whole baby shopping thing. however, we seem to have mustered some interest in at least clothes. dave found two items on-line that are super adorable and will be worn by monster at some point:

(a vancouver 2010 onesie with mukmuk. super pissed that this was sold both in-stores and on a canadian company website...and now appears to be discontinued. its still on ebay, but now im gonna go back to the store we saw them in and GET one now!; a hoodie from phishs band gear website. plus, with the cute sushi icon, its a must in daves book.)

4. as with pretty much everything, i like to know "why" rather than just being told that something "is" or "isnt." and the "pregnancy food taboo" list was no exception. my doctor never specifically handed me a list, so i was looking around the internet (at the beginning of the pregnancy, not just recently). depending on the detail of the list you get/find you may be freaked out at first. no soft cheese, no sushi, no lunch meat, no mayonnaise, no coffee. when you dont know why, you can get nervous at every meal that you might be eating poison for your baby. but with education, you can remove/lower the fear.

most things are listed for warning purposes so you can make an educated decision. many listed items have the potential to be contaminated with harmful bacteria. things that come from packing plants, raw animal items, and even veggies have been typical items that we see get "recalled" in the news due to the possibility of food-borne illness. a regular person who eats these items might vomit and have diarrhea for 1-2 days. with a pregnant woman, you are involving the baby in the food poisoning, which can lead to issues that are sometimes serious.

when you think about it though, every part of life has a risk to a pregnancy. where you work (exposures to chemicals/asbestos/toner cartridge droplets, who knows), your commute to work (each type and length of commute comes with risk of traffic accidents), where you live (environmental pollutants), household chores (chemical exposures), medications you take, to be vaccinated or not (each choice has its own risks). its about what you want to do to your quality of life in order to bring a child into this world. hopefully you then also realize that your actions have consequences, but you will at least be making choices that are best for you. i dont think many women seal themselves up in a bubble for 9 months, although im not sure that would really guarantee you certain safety (what type of bubble? glass or plastic? if plastic, is it BPA-free? what kind of air ventilation system does it have?...).

so back to food. for soft cheeses, concern is related to pasteurization but you can find goat cheese made with pasteurized milk or other soft cheeses that arent imported and would be more likely to be made from pasteurized milk. for lunch meat, concern is due to high rates of listeria infection outbreaks because of packaging issues at meat packing plants. but if you heat the meat up and kill potential bacteria, you can still enjoy sandwiches. or get the meat sliced fresh from a meat counter selling meats that are locally made. for fish, they come in safety categories. the predatory guys with loads of mercury stores are no-nos. the other species are graded with suggestions about how frequently you should eat them. ive seen people on forums saying "japanese women eat sushi all the time and have healthy pregnancies, so i ate sushi every week." i mean, go for it if thats how you feel and you are confident your favorite restaurant is getting the freshest fish and is preparing it appropriately. anyway, sorry to ramble, its just one instance from these pregnancy forums where i find it best to be informed rather than just scared that everything you do could be hurting the baby.

celebrity corner:
1. WNBA star lisa leslie is due in may with her second child. not terribly exciting, but at least its something.

2. salma hayek and her daughter were spotted in rennes. they were in town to support the rennes soccer team. apparently her husband is part owner. wasnt aware of that before. i told dave about it and he paused to contemplate the possibility of having run into her on the streets of rennes. i had to clean up his puddle of drool afterward. its kinda cute, shes his one celebrity crush. good choice.

3. we broke down and started watching the current season of dexter. i had wanted to wait until it was finished so that when we started it, we could watch it all the way through without getting stuck waiting for new episodes in real time. alas, no. anyway, dexter had a son. his name is harrison. cute.

- "Belly Laughs" by Jenny McCarthy
hilarious. buy it when you find out youre pregnant. its a small book so you can read it many times and feel united in comedic pregnancy pain. every woman is different of course, but several of her scenarios/situations were EXACTLY what happened to me or how i felt. therapeutic. even if you are modest and dont wanna talk about bodily functions or "icky" stuff perhaps reading this and being able to blush in your own home will be of comfort to you. i was lucky enough to find this little book tucked in my mailbox one day, a delightful surprise sent by my friend sarah (thanks!). i flew through half the book in an hour.

- "Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn"
this book is total shit for the "pregnancy" sections. skip past those to chapter 6, this is where the book gets useful and presents childbirth information i hadnt gotten yet from other books or websites. it was pretty detailed and descriptive with not just words, but pictures and diagrams/graphs for different stretches, techniques, breathing patterns, etc. it felt like they were trying to take the medicalization out of the process. there was a lot of information on what to expect and also information on things to consider before and during labor. where appropriate, there were even suggestions for ways you can take charge and try and change the course of labor and/or medical interventions. instead of letting a doctor lead you to your baby, there were many things offered (that were rational and safe, not "hippy" or "bizarre" things) that you could try to do to: start or speed up labor, get the baby in a better position for birth, or protect yourself from tearing during the pushing phase. nice and empowering information to help you not feel like a useless victim having something done to you while taking some of the mystery and fear out of the hospital setting.

- new yorker article summarizing recent trends in childrens picture books. it highlighted the changing "acceptable" behaviors for children in current books compared to past favorites: the mischief makers, spoiled brats, and the parental interventions of these behaviors, etc. seems like things have changed since my time.

05 December 2009

I-ran into some new cuisine

dave and i found a new restaurant and a new cuisine.

only a couple blocks from our house is a tiny neon green cement building. it houses the "shiraz" restaurant. this place is authentic persian cuisine from the owners to the clientele. we sat down for the meal and every person through the door while we were there spoke in persian? arabic?

anyway, the woman owner was incredibly friendly and patient with us (i think she thought we were crazy for not ordering tea with our meal) and promptly brought us not only what we ordered but additional goodies. dave ordered a chicken stew and saffron rice dish. the stew was surprisingly flavorful for the solid brown color it had. it had an overall sweet taste from the pomegranate, walnut, cinnamon, clove, and other flavors. the liquid of the stew was best ladled over the rice, while the chicken in the stew provided a good balance of savory against all the sweetness.

i ordered two things: a lentil and noodle soup and a chicken rice dish. i had never had a soup that even reminded me of this one. it was thick but not creamy. it had noodles and lentils and beans and green spices and some oil and sour cream-type stuff was swirled on top. mixed all together it was fabulous. my chicken dish, however, was perhaps what a wimpy white person would order. it was mostly void of any memorable flavor except for having a generic mildly sweet taste.

dessert was baklava. while my favorite baklava comes from shatila in dearborn, mi, this was a new type of baklava experience. it wasnt loaded with pistachios (which shatila does so fabulously for me) but it had its own thing going for it. it wasnt just crammed with dry walnut paste, there was something more spicy about the filling, and it was great. and instead of being soaked with a sugary, goopy honey, there was something (rose water?, something else?) that mixed with the honey to bring out the flavors of the pastry without just making me go into honey overload and end in sugar shock.

to round out the meal, the friendly owner lady treated us to a fried pita/rice side dish that went great with daves stew. yum! and while we were licking our fingers from the baklava, she offered us some dates. they were great. not dry, not too sugary. really, really good. and to top it all off, the meal was cheap. it goes without saying we will be back to sample more of the menu and kindness. they also have a larger location we may have to try one day.

Shiraz on Urbanspoon

03 December 2009

From this land to yours...thanks for helpin out

this entry doesnt involve me, but its about halifax and a favorite place of ours...boston. ;)

so, the story actually starts on december 6, 1917. this was the day of the colossal disaster in halifax harbor that killed about 2,000 people. it was WWI and halifax was a majorly important artery in the shipping system. on this particular day, an empty (thus, riding light and high) norwegian ship, called the imo, was trying to get back out to sea while a heavily loaded french ship, called the s.s. mont-blanc, was trying to come in and deposit its highly dangerous load of explosives. you guessed it...they collided. the imo turned hard after impact and landed on the shores of dartmouth while the mont-blanc sustained damage, that then started a fire, that then spread, and finally caused every last ounce of munitions to explode.

the halifax explosion is a serious tragedy. i even rented a book about it called "Curse of the Narrows" by Laura M Macdonald from the library here. it was during that time when i couldnt find the ability to finish books that i started though. :( it did have time to leave some lasting impressions on me and it caused me to write down some of the amazing facts. while i dont want to make sport out of what happened to the victims, the facts are just so freaking jaw dropping it kinda helps to keep their memory alive knowing the craziness they went through.

1. there were 5.85 million pounds of powder on the ship that exploded.
2. the initial fireball was 9000+ degrees F, which quickly evaporated a 24 foot radius of water around the ship. this massive void sucked water inward to fill the space. this caused a huge tsunami with 20 foot waves.
3. the 6.9 million pounds of iron that comprised the ships hull was blown to bits, most of it was vaporized.
4. the force of the blast threw the ships 1,100 pound anchor 2.35 miles away and a cannon from the ship was found 3 miles away.
5. the explosion noise initially traveled at a speed of 13,320 miles per hour, but slowed to 756 mph before reaching land. at this speed, it still caused instant death to most nearby. it crushed their organs, exploded their lungs, and windows imploded to decapitate people.
6. the vacuum of the air blast caused local tornadoes that damaged 12,000 buildings in a 16 mile radius.
7. final tallies: almost 2,000 killed, 6,000 injured, 9,000 homeless (in a population of 60,000). the damage is estimated to have been $240 million, by todays dollar.

crazy! as noted above, the date was december 6. unfortunately for rescue crews, the area also received a blizzard the next day that dumped 16 inches of snow on the battered survivors, and decreased survivability of anyone who may have still been stuck in the rubble.

(the ship [the imo] that crashed into the mont-blanc. here it is washed ashore in dartmouth after the collision and explosion; numerous pictures of the blast damage from a government website about the explosion)

the shining light of the story though...is boston. they were the first major city to respond. due to the fishing industry, they had always had a relationship with halifax. when they heard of the devastation, they assembled supplies and medical personnel and put them on the first train out of town (10p on the same day of the blast). it arrived in the early hours of december 8.

(the boston relief team; pine coffins set up in an undamaged part of town to deal with all the dead)

now, to officially give thanks, nova scotia (the land of christmas trees) chooses one prize tree each year (since 1971), cuts it down, and ships it to boston. the tree arrives in late november, by train, and is set up and decorated. the tree lighting was in boston common this year. today.

i know it starts out sad and morbid, but i really like the end result and the wonderful and thoughtful tradition these two cities have carried on to make happy memories from a tragic time.