24 December 2010

A canadian christmas miracle

just in time, the government sent us our renewed work permits.

the work permits we first got when we entered canada expire december 31, 2010. so in october dave got his new work contract made up so that he could submit it to immigration services and apply for a new work permit. we thought it made most sense to apply online, so he did that...on november 5.

after several weeks of having nothing come in the mail, dave went back to the website and noted that it can take 8 weeks to process the request if you apply online, or 4 weeks if you go in person! ugh. by then we had already booked our flight to florida for the holidays. we are to be gone december 25-january 1. and january 1 would put us as trying to enter canada on an expired work permit. so, we printed out all the paperwork we had proving that we had applied to renew our permits and hoped like hell that the real thing would come in the mail. otherwise we would have to travel with Xs canadian passport and give them some sob story about how our anchor baby needs to get back to her canadian home full of toys.

well, thankfully, today, the last day the postal service runs before we leave on vacation, we saw two brown government envelopes sitting in our mailbox. joy to the world, a miracle has occurred! we are now legal to move about the world. yay.

22 December 2010

Solstice ceiling surprise

happy first winter solstice to X. and a lunar eclipse to commemorate the day as well!

yup. here it is folks. the entry. i'll make it short so as not to sound pretentious, cuz thats not the message im trying to send. basically, we dont celebrate christmas. and this year is the first year we could really make our mark on that statement.

yes, we both came from households that celebrated christmas. they both were detached from the the religious meaning of the holiday though and so it was all santa and presents based. and that is fine. i realize that is how a large portion of people experience it in their families. but to us, the day is a religious holiday (a religion we arent a part of) which, over the years, has morphed in to parents attacking other parents, sometimes killing them, to get the hottest toys for their kids, people going into SERIOUS debt to show their friends and family how much they are "loved," and just a generally over-the-top, ostentatious-type circus that we tend to shy away from on a regular day to day basis.

now, i love family meals, traditions, and warm fuzzy cozy memories indoors while a winter wonderland of beauty is outside. i do. i love it. i just dont have any attachment to the religious reason that december 25 is celebrated by so many around the world. therefore, it is much easier to make the winter solstice, a day that always hovers near christmas day, our chosen day to celebrate the season. family meals, traditions, warm fuzzy cozy memories and winter wonderlands can all still be appreciated under this scheme. and should we have a house one day, i see no reason why pine scented wreaths/clippings, winter decorations, etc. cant enter our house, or yummy cookies cant be baked and decorated in our kitchen. we just wont be bringing santa, or jesus, or dreidels, or the like into the mix.

anyway, our first solstice tradition apparently chose us rather than us choosing it. and i like it that way...we had been noticing X looking up all the time. inside, outside. always gazing skyward. leaves on trees, rooftops, light fixtures, ceiling fans, "exit" signs, fire alarm bells. she is always craning her neck to see something. with christmas decorations coming out around town, she has had even more to see, and i found her often entranced by the cut-out snowflakes hanging from the ceiling at the library (it helped that they were near an air duct that made the snowflakes dance). i loved how it captured her attention and thought it would be fun to buy some good paper and cut some snowflakes of our own and decorate our drab apartment with them.

so, we recently went to the art supply store down the street from us and bought some white drawing paper to make the snowflakes. near the register i also saw a colorful strand of butterflies. had to get it. back at home, we hung the butterflies up and Xs face lit up. since then, she has "kissed" just about every butterfly in her reach...and it now looks like a butterfly graveyard...but she is still in love with them. this then inspired me to step into our local "hippie/world handicrafts/head shop" and see what they might have to offer. SO cool. their entire ceiling and walls are covered in eye catching decorations. i chose a $5 mobile of wooden vegetables (serious kitsch factor, plus X can practice her food words) and a short strand of hand painted beads with two hand painted elephants and a magical tinkling silver bell at the end of it. at the register they even threw in one silver and one pink star decoration for free. bonus!

now we have a serious and seriously diverse collection of ceiling decorations...all for under $40. we cut up some snowflakes one night while X was asleep (and we were watching Dexter, season 5) and recently bought two more colorful strands from the art store (one with hearts and one with birds). without really planning it, we basically jump started our first real solstice celebration.

so last night, after X went to sleep, dave and i hung our new treasures from the ugly tiled drop ceiling in our living room. and i think it turned out pretty great. i know it sure brightens up my mood to see all the life and color around me. instant character and instant fascination. i was very interested to see Xs reaction in the morning...something akin to a child running downstairs to look under the christmas tree to see what santa brought.

well, X slept until 9a this morning, but when she finally opened her eyes dave was there to pick her up and take her out into the living room. i thought she might be groggy (as she is every morning) and not notice at first. but right away her mouth dropped open and she was looking around. twirling her head in every direction. she wanted to see everything at once and then see it again and again. she was smiling and excited. it was great. perfect reaction.

the whole day she has been staring at the ceiling. smiling. craning. bouncing with excitement. reaching out to try and convince me to carry her over and let her touch them. and occasionally kissing the ones she gets her little mitts on.

we finished the day with a comfort meal of homemade mexican food (although, we had the idea to order a pheasant from our farmers market, we chickened out...for now at least) and more ceiling gazing. it was a nice first solstice celebration and i look forward to building on it next year. another ceiling hanging (or two), maybe a more special meal, maybe another tradition will find us. and maybe, we will find equally special ways to celebrate the other solstice/equinox days throughout the year. this could be the start of something fun.

(Xs first looks at the ceiling this morning)

19 December 2010

Serendipitous sunday

nice little sunday we had. even found a few new places.

stepped out into the sunshine this morning on our walk to the grocery store for ingredients for "soup sunday." carried X in backpack mode in our carrier, which she has recently agreed to, and she was positively giddy about being outside. bouncing and smiling the whole way. so cute.

anyway, after the grocery store and a nap we got in the car to take a look at a couple new places in dartmouth. i somehow recently found out about another cafe/bakery, so of course, we had to go. i think weve pretty much eaten all the sweets and sandwiches available in our area now.

when we walked into the edgewood cafe is was surprisingly crowded. with kids. weird. we luckily found a table though and i ordered our sandwiches and sweets (a cranberry square, gingerbread man, maple shortbread, and raisin butter tart...i had to try this many things to make a fair assessment...) and sat down. then, santa come into the store. it was obviously some pre-planned thing because he had toys with kids names on them. but he was a very convincingly dressed santa and with all the kids in the bakery it made it a fun time. X thoroughly enjoyed herself by smiling at everyone and eating her tomato slices, chicken pieces, and bakery bread. she even said hi to santa before we left. a cute place with decent treats and great prices.

next stop was to a new kids store called fiddleheads. i had heard about it from my momma group and wanted to check out what they were throwing in to the local baby store mix. they have a nice space right on a lake in dartmouth and a decent size show room. lots and lots of safe, non-toxic, colorful, fun kids toys and other baby essentials (wraps/carriers, bath stuff, eating gear, sleeping stuff, etc). we got a great local handmade rattle for $8, a cool manhattan brand wooden toy for our upcoming airplane ride to florida, and a sample of this new diaper detergent i have been hearing moms rave about. rockin green soap. i'll give it a try. the store employee was friendly and helpful, just as i had hoped, and, overall, i look forward to shopping there again in the future.

later that night, our days positive vibes were still flowing. dave was able to make a yummy soup that is basically my new favorite thing. its a weird one with zucchini, red lentils, couscous, carrots, etc. but it had a great flavor and texture and with the added chicken and crushed red pepper it was a perfectly well-rounded meal. i like when potentially average days can turn out so well.

30 November 2010

Pardon me, do you have any gr[ey]-oupon?

more new food. im on a roll. or, a baguette, to be more specific.

so, shortly after leaving the u.s. i noticed this thing called groupon taking off. after figuring out what it was, i was bummed that i missed out on the fun of checking your inbox for the daily deal for your city. a while ago i thought to look and see if groupon was offered here in halifax. it wasnt yet, but i got on the mailing list to be notified when it started up. and, recently it did actually start up.

of course most of the "deals" i dont have any use for, but the food ones...im almost always game for those. and lucky for me, the first tempting food groupon offer was for a restaurant i hadnt been to yet. indochine bahn mi. a vietnamese sandwich place. i can definitely get on board to try that. so, i bought the deal ($5 for $10 worth of food) and that was that.

anyway, dave printed the groupon coupon and i took it over there to get dinner tonight. i got the lentil pate sandwich with some veggie pho. dave went with "whatever meat they recommend as a top seller or favorite," which ended up being the pork meat ball sandwich. the sandwiches came on baguettes and were topped with pickled carrots and daikon, some citrus mayo, and cilantro. yum! also, the pho was nice and spicy and its crunchy, fresh veggies were lovely.

so it was a good meal, a decent new restaurant option, and a positive experience with groupon. yay. i love when things work out. im sure we will be back for more sandwiches, and im sure i'll make friends with groupon again soon. :)

28 November 2010

Two if by seas got a hold on me

found a new cafe with tasty treats. hooray!!!

my facebook stalking paid off! :) one of the moms in my playgroup mentioned a new cafe in dartmouth. what? i thought id seen all dartmouth had to offer. apparently i missed an entire street. and a lovely one at that. on sunday afternoon we made our way over the bridge and onto ochterloney street. we found the right block, a secondary main street-type vibe we hadnt known existed in dartmouth, and parked. then we entered two if by sea cafe.

cool. it had an urban loft feel with lots of glass, metal, exposed pipes, and simple, mod wooden furniture. the street it looked out on wasnt super busy and there were buildings with character across the way, so the place also managed to have a homey/cozy feel. we werent interested in the coffee obviously (we be tea drinkers), but i had read about the croissants and was eager to try them. nope, they were sold out for the day already. darn, i guess we will just have to come back. we then chose two gigantic cookies: a chocolate chip and oatmeal cinnamon raisin. enormous and $2 each. seriously?

while looking for a place to sit and eat the cookies dave encountered a friend from ultimate frisbee. he and his girlfriend were taking a study break from dental exams and were cool with us sitting next to them. they made friends with X and we chatted about non-baby things. it was quite exciting! they reminded me of what life was like before. :) plus, the girl expressed interest in holding X and X didnt even fuss. bonus!

it was a really nice random thing to be doing on a sunday. new cafe, new acquaintances, new treats. plus, the icing on the cake for me came when i went looking for some water. they had a tall metal barrel of self-serve ice water, complete with mason jars. i dont know why but you can serve me just about anything in a mason jar and i will think it tastes better, and i'll think you are way awesome for having thought of the idea.

anyway, the study break ended so our new friends had to leave, and we had to get moving as well. the dreaded mall was beckoning us, we wanted to see if toys-r-us or zellers had anything we wanted to get for X before the mad, mad crazy christmas rush of shoppers picked through everything. they did not however have much of interest to us, but we did come home with a new foam ABC-123 mat. so, in the end, i counted today as a great way to end a weekend.

21 November 2010

Brunch: bust. Boots: bad ass.

got out of the city for brunch today. not really worth it.

the weather was a balmy "feels like 10" degrees outside, so our desire to check out blue beach wasnt really in the cards, but we thought we could still drive up to windsor for brunch at a spot we had been interested in for a while. we made a reservation before we left (just in case. ha. its november.) and drove the hour north.

when we arrived at cocoa pesto at around 12:30p, there were just a few other people in the small restaurant. everyone was speaking in very hushed tones, so im sure they freaked a little when they saw us bringing an infant in. but, as usual, i think X impressed them with her ability to be quiet. we entertained her while we looked at the menu and ordered.

dave got the burger with sweet potato fries and i got the brunch platter of eggs, biscuit, and slow-cooked molasses baked beans. X was able to munch on the side of toast i ordered, some of daves tomato slices, a bite of eggs, and a blackberry. i think X had the most fun. daves burger was decent but the sweet potato fries (which were reasonably tasty) were not worth their $5 asking price. my food...was "meh." hadnt had eggs in a while so i enjoyed that, but the biscuit was dry and the beans were too sweet. X, however, munched her toast (and then excitedly threw it on the floor), chomped the eggs, made a mess with the tomatoes, and painted herself black with berry juice. she is a FREAK for berries. and now the jacket she wore is stained out of commission.

after brunch, we decided it was too cold to do anything but drive home. wimps, i know. but i just dont like the damp wind okay? it chills you to the bone. on the ride home, X napped so we stopped at the trail shop to check out their sale since we figured she would be in a patient mood after having some rest. the store was having a 20% off everything sale.

i was in desperate need of some new cold weather rain boots. my cheap made-in-china shitters that cost less than $30...gave me exactly what i paid for and i was tired of sore feet and wet socks. i wanted to stay warm, be comfortable, and still be able to step in a few puddles dammit. is that too much to ask? enter bogs boots. i knew they were what i wanted but i was wimpy about buying them without having thought it through fully (and done my online price comparisons, etc) and having to elbow rich, trendy, outdoorsy-types outta the way to get at a pair. but, dave finally grabbed a sales person and miraculously they had the exact color/style i wanted in my size. i guess it was meant to be. these things are warm, comfortable, and the shortie boot style means i will get the water protection i need (even for fairly deep puddles) and still have the versatility i want to use them everyday. puddles, here i come!!

20 November 2010

No santa baby

attempted the holiday parade with X tonight.

ha, i bet some of you who know me thought this title meant an entry filled with winter solstice, no-santa-for-X chatter. you were wrong. :) anyway, tonight was the holiday parade of lights. as usual, part of the parade route went right near our apartment. and even though it was chilly, windy, and rainy, we thought it was worth trying to check out. we had missed it last year and now, with X, we were interested in seeing her reaction more than anything else.

the parade was to start at 6p, so at around 6:10p we left our apartment with X bundled warmly in fleece as an under layer and an outer layer of rain suit and fleece head and hand gear (courtesy of the eatons. thanks!). we found a nice spot in the front row just a block or so from home. we then had to wait 30 minutes in the icy weather for the parade to get to us. i dont think it would have been nearly so bad if we hadnt been enveloped by a cloud of smokers.

seriously, this is a parade for kids. it involves santa coming at the end. there were children lined up in strollers all up and down the parade route. why oh why would these fools think lighting up would be a great idea? with the dampness all around us it only made the smoke hang in the air longer, and they seemed to be taking as long as possible to smoke their cancer sticks down. i guess im not surprised though, ive never seen such inconsiderate (and plentiful) smokers as i have in halifax. yes, people smoked in france, in europe in general, but they never irritated my lungs on such a daily/hourly basis as they have since moving here. i wanted to kick the legs out from under all of the smokers standing near us.

anyway, back to the parade...it was late. it was cold. X was very patient, and finally the floats started coming. the local radio station floats were first and they were super loud. X got scared and needed to be calmed down a few times. the floats were actually rather lame, at least the early ones, and after a dozen or so went by and we were cold and grumpy, we decided to turn in for the night. we didnt make it to the end of the parade to see santa. :( but X did seem to like the floats that had lots of lights...just not the ones that were blaring announcements and music. lucky for us we live so close so we could catch as much or as little of the event as we wanted without it interrupting our night too much.

16 November 2010

Stockholm-induced single parent stint

dave was stockholm-bound for a job interview, which meant i was staying behind in single parent-land.

so, as you know, dave and i left home for his post-doc appointment. it took us to france for a short while and it brought us here, to halifax. he also has two more years of secured funding to work on this current project, but he is also looking for permanent professorships. before X was born, he had applied to this job in sweden (in late march). it was a hefty application (like 40 pages) and a serious and lengthy application review process. he got an email in late may that he had made the short list (of 13 people), and then in mid-october he got an email saying he was in the top three and was being granted an interview. the interview was taking place on november 15.

he was only going to be gone for 3 days this time and i had my confidence boosted from my moms recent visit so i wasnt too worried to be on my own with X for that time period. unfortunately, the two days before dave left were super busy for him since his boss from france was in town and he was meeting with him for some intense, work-packed cram sessions, so i was alone a lot before dave left as well.

the whirlwind continued right up to the last few hours before dave left. we attended a pizza party at his halifax boss' house and came home in time for dave to pack and leave in his taxi to the airport. he had a flight to london and then a flight to stockholm, the interview on monday, and then a long day of travel back to us on tuesday (stockholm-copenhagen-toronto-halifax).

so, what did we do while dave was gone?

first, since dave normally does the cooking, i realized i had to think of something ahead of time or else i would be eating cereal for every meal. thankfully janes next door sells wonderful homemade frozen dinners in single serving sizes. i got their madras chicken and thai green curry chicken dishes. i figured i could walk down the block to one of our nearby asian restaurants and get hot rice for cheap, so didnt have to worry about that part of the meal either.

and here is how our days played out:

sunday - hung out with some babies in dartmouth at emilys house until X needed her first nap. after the nap we made it to the halifax farmers market to piece together a lunch for me. i got a veggie tamale and a few other things. then we hung out in the childrens section of our library and watched all the big kids play. and after Xs last nap of the day we ran over to st marys university library so i could check out a book for work. and then it was dark and time for dinner and bedtime routines. survived day one!

monday - went to the grocery store and on the way home i stopped at the little playground nearby and put X in the swing set. she seemed to really enjoy it. i also put her on the slide, but that didnt seem as fun as flying through the air on the swing. then, after Xs nap we walked up to my work to drop off the book and say hello to my boss and others. and that is where our ambitious day ended. haha, but at least we survived day two.

tuesday - i saw dave made it safely to copenhagen but had a major (2+ hour) delay trying to get out of there to toronto. so, to take my mind off of that, i made a play date at a new library for us. we hung out for a while chatting with a random mom who was there before Xs play buddy arrived. then, after a nap, we went to the grocery to get pre-made stuffed pork chops for dinner (just pop them in the oven!). the rest of the day went slowly as i watched daves flight status info, and i must have made X anxious because she would not go to sleep at night. she waited up 1.5 hours past her bedtime until i confirmed on halifaxs airport website that his flight had landed. i kid you not, she then promptly went to bed.

and, just like that, dave was home again. poor guy had survived 4+ weeks of work related stress, a conference in denver, a work cram session with his halifax and france bosses, weeks of prep on the (2) talks he gave at his stockholm interview, a whirlwind 3 day trip to sweden for the interview, and 24 hours of travel to get back home to us. and he basically did it all with a smile on his face. such a good guy. we appreciate all he does (and endures) for us. :) love you.

lessons learned while dave was gone:
nap time is seriously important "get work done" time, but its a balance. you cant run around like crazy, you always have to make sure there is extra energy in your tank to take care of the kiddo when s/he wakes up, but there are just certain things that need to get done on a daily basis. i was constantly thinking about what i could and needed to get done for every nap while X was awake so that as soon as she was out i could zip around efficiently and take care of it all quickly and still find time to sit down and relax/rest.

another thing, she can only sit and play by herself for so long, so if i needed to do something while she was awake that i couldnt do with her in my arms, i needed to plan out my movements to maximize efficiency before she started getting annoyed. this mostly pertained to getting food ready and trying to eat it. but, its also amazing how many things you can do with one hand.

i also didnt get too creative while i was playing with her, i guess that was related to not wanting to knock myself out being silly and crazy to entertain her and wind up exhausted before the end of the day. so, we just kinda did our regular routine and the things we needed to do, nothing fancy.

in the end, it was tiring, but i knew it was only for a few days so i stayed surprisingly upbeat about being a single parent. however, if it was a permanent situation, it would be VERY tough. i always assumed being a single parent was difficult, but i now have a new level of appreciation. im speechless. those who have to live it on a daily basis are amazing people.

**job results for those curious: neither dave nor the other person they interviewed were hired. the other guy had a poor interview and while it sounds like they loved dave in almost all aspects, the one hump they couldnt get over was his smaller than desirable publication list. since the job post was to hire someone in as tenured (not tenure track, but straight-up tenured), they had to be very selective and picky. follow-up with the decision makers was very positive for dave and they seemed to encourage him to apply again next year when they hope to repost a similar position. so thats good! and his publication "issue" is a relatively easy (ha! sorry dave, i know its not easy) fix. so, our daydreams of life in europe were put on hold...for now. darn it, because i had a great title for a new blog: "sweden, meat-ballsy americans" (or some other similar variant)**

04 November 2010

X loses daddy to denver, but gains marmee and pal as visitors

dave was off to denver for a 6 day work conference, our first separation since X was born. i was not up for being a single parent that long in a town with no family/close friends so i asked my mom if she could come help me, and im grateful she said yes.

so, dave departed saturday morning, early, and i only had to wait until the afternoon for help to arrive. my mom and her boyfriend al checked in to the westin hotel a few blocks from us and came over to see X in her humble abode. of course the week they come halifax decides to have its first real cold snap (temps in the low 40s, but "feels like" temps around freezing) so, as floridians, they were in for a shivering good time.

(photo op in a pile of leaves while waiting for marmee and pal to arrive)

after stashing the pile of new bibs (food bibs and drool bibs) my mom brought (hooray!), we headed out to the coffee shops to get them warm. i attempted to get them interested in our favorite nearby place (second cup, a canadian chain), but ultimately, they spotted the starbucks across the street and made that their homebase for the week...hey, i tried.

(visiting at the cafe)

after they were warmed up, X needed a nap. once she was ready to go again, we regrouped and headed over to the new restaurant "MIX fresh kitchen" for some local eats. mom got a lobster roll and al got a shrimp pasta dish. both said they enjoyed their food very much. i got the chicken mango nachos, but they forgot the mangoes. grrr. i didnt send it back because X has a limited amount of patience for sitting still in a public place. she was able to gum up a few tortilla chips though (unsalted).

(after dinner storytime)

day 2:
it decided to rain today. joy. after dinking around in the morning, we set out for lunch at the trellis cafe after X woke up from her first nap. a tasty meal of lobster roll sandwiches for mom and al and chicken, apple, avocado sandwich for me. the restaurant was busy and it was nice to show them a spot where local nova scotians hang out and the kind of vibe they create.

on the way home from lunch we stopped at petes grocery store for some dinner items and went home to get X her nap. mom and al came over later to eat, and then i needed a shower. mom held X while i got cleaned up, but she seems to have entered a "strangers (or, anyone who isnt mom or dad) are scary" phase because she cried almost the whole time i was in the shower. and she pretty much acted this way for most of their visit. :( hopefully she grows out of it relatively fast.

(at the grocery store)

day 3:
a grey and gloomy day. lovely. we decided to drive north to the wolfville area so mom and al could see the bay of fundy. i thought it might be nice to have lunch in port williams at the port pub because it has nice big windows overlooking a bay of fundy inlet. i knew, generally, how to get there, but as we approached i wanted to be sure of the exit because sometimes if you miss the correct exit you have to go many miles down the road before you get to the next one. we pulled out the map and i was helping to locate the proper page...and...a provincial cop pulls me over.

i wasnt staying in my lane too well (there were no other cars near us, i wasnt cutting people off or swerving into moving vehicles or anything) and he asked for my paperwork. i told him where we were trying to go and he let me off with a warning and proper directions. and believe it or not, that was the first time ive ever been pulled over in all my 29 years. holy shit im glad it didnt turn into a ticket. and better, im glad X didnt cry.

anyway, we finally made it to the pub and ordered our food. sandwiches all around. mom had a mushroom sandwich, al had a braised beef sandwich, and i had a chicken cranberry sandwich. X munched on some greens from my salad. after eating, we grabbed a quick picture outside. it was cold so we didnt stay long but at least it was low tide so they could see how high the water would normally come up in that spot.

(chilly outside the pub next to the bay of fundy inlet)

then back in the car we attempted to head back. X didnt like the car so much this time and made us pull over twice before my mom had to drive us home and i sat in back to try and keep X calm. thankfully it worked and we made it back in time to get her a proper nap. and then we ended the night down at the henry house for more pub food. at least it was a quiet night there. we sat by their fire and ordered our food. X was calm and enjoyed the tomato slices that came on my sandwich. the floor was a little messy after we left, but the waiter was nice about it.

day 4:
COLD day today. we even saw a few snow flakes. we bundled X up and met mom and al at their morning starbucks spot. after that we went down the street to shop at roots. im not actually sure i have shopped in a roots store that was actually in canada before. my mom took us to the roots in birmingham when we were younger, so i definitely know the store, but it was much better shopping in its native home. plus, with the cold temperature outside, it was nice to be surrounded by tables of sweatpants, warm jackets, and thermal clothes. we ended up buying some cute long johns for X and we got some cool free bags to boot. score!

next shopping trip for the day was to the dreaded mall in dartmouth, and the babies r us no less. mom wanted to get X a sippee cup and a bath chair. we succeeded with the sippee cup, but no bath chair. i also bought a travel dinner mat for restaurant use. on the way out, mom couldnt resist buying a canada maple leaf shirt at zellers. oh how touristy (at least she is half canadian).

later that night X got a special treat: a dip in the hotel pool. mom took her in since i didnt want to get wet. she fussed a little to be away from me but i think she had a fun time. we are on the waiting list for swim lessons so i hope we can get in soon!

(X filling out her bathing suit nicely. lol; swimming with marmee)

after rinsing the chlorine off, we headed over to henry house for dinner again and got the same waiter from the night before. very deja vu. X ate her tomatoes again and she was quiet in the restaurant and dinner was nice by the fire. back at the apartment X got a real bath and finally seemed to be calming down around mom and al. finally. now that their trip was almost over.

(last night together)

day 5:
their last day started at starbucks, where else. we met them over there briefly and planned the final hours of the day. X needed a nap and mom and al wanted to check out citadel hill. they were able to see the barracks and hear about the cannon preparation before they shot it off at noon (which they do every day).

then mom and al came over to watch X while i ran out to get us some tasty lunch items from janes next door. she actually was calm the whole time i was gone. her first time away from both mom and dad for more than a few minutes. good to know she can handle it if distracted. theres hope for the future! :)

and then it was time to say goodbye. the weather had been crap, but the time had flown by. i gained confidence that i could take care of all X needs by myself and still get a few things done for myself and the apartment. it was so nice to have the help for so many days and i am very lucky that they had the time and ability to come and be with us. and it was nice for X to get such a long, focused period of time with them. so a potentially sad and stressful separation from dave ended up being a positive experience that included quality time for X with her marmee (my mom) and pal (al). thanks a million!!

24 October 2010

Hot air 15 - Scraps of "culture" in a post-momma world

so, ive been at this mom thing for half a year now and post-X ive been making a list of the few things that have entered my realm that might possibly be construed as "culture." its a small collection of the new tastes, sights, experiences ive had of late but im hoping it will grow as i get the hang of this new life.

- a zucchini, goat cheese appetizer: after purchasing his new calphalon grill pan, dave was on the lookout for some fun things to make besides meat. these things were tasty and simple.
- a rice, fruit, chicken salad: on occasional sundays we have the time and ingredients to make a hearty salad that can last me several lunches throughout the week. this recipe was extra yum because it was prepared by naked chef dave. good story, he started the rice for the salad and got in the shower while i was putting X to sleep. he forgot to get his underwear or any other clothes out of the bedroom beforehand. after his shower, X was asleep. he didnt want to open the door and risk waking her up...thus, this recipe was made almost entirely by dave in the buff. and no, there were no pubes in my salad.
- a black bean, chicken salad: it also would have been good as burrito filling. dave had clothes on when he made this one. ;)
-oatmeal chocolate chip cookies: simple but wonderful recipe we found one night when we decided to make cookies at 10p...since X was keeping us up until 1a.

not much excitement here since we barely have 3 minutes to rub together at any one time. we mostly catch on-line episodes of the daily show (im also guilty of using it as my only/main u.s. news source), but recently we found a streaming web-channel of HGTV. that channel is almost harmfully addictive. i could probably stare at the screen watching it until my brain liquefied. thankfully i have X to drag my attention away. lol.

in other tv news, this summer the "live with regis and kelly" show came to PEI (prince edward island) to film for 4 days (july 12-15). apparently the province paid $1 million to bring the show to them, in an effort to boost tourism. so it made for some news around here.

haha. havent had much time for these either, but i do find ways to watch pieces of movies throughout the day (while nursing, while sitting in bed when X naps, while eating, etc.). unfortunately nearly every movie ive made time for has been dull and/or disappointing. i guess my standards/expectations are higher since my time is so precious?

the only thing worth mentioning is the documentary "art & copy" about the brains behind successful ad campaigns of the past. normally i dislike advertising people, but this wasnt about attacking the messages they send, this was about how their artistic minds work to create the successful campaigns that sold Nike, milk, beef, VWs, Macs, etc. i always like climbing inside creative peoples minds for a while and hearing about their process. this movie fed that desire.

while napping with X i was able to enjoy a decent amount of the short stories in "when you are engulfed in flames" by david sedaris. not his favorite book of mine, but i did chuckle at most of the stories written about life in france.

new yorker articles:
i read every issue in my year-long subscription (during X naps). and now it has ended. so you can all rest easy, you wont have to see this section anymore. probably.

-brief review of a play i would love to see. a musical called "american idiot" with music by green day. doesnt sound like the typical "mamma mia" or "we will rock you" anthology-type production.
-brief blurb about the architect who designed several of the NYC Apple stores.
-brief comic piece paralleling the recent college grad with infant care.
-brief blurb mentioning another broadway play i'd like to see ("bloody, bloody andrew jackson") and a cool sounding comedy show ("find the funny").
-brief blurb about americans financial illiteracy.
-brief commentary about immigration reform. interesting.

-short review of an art show of yves klein works with a short rundown about the artist himself. pretty interesting.
-short article about some awesome new playgrounds in NYC. one is going to be designed by frank gehry. looks like future trips will involve some momma research for kick ass playgrounds. X is a lucky kid.
-short article about the horrendous, nightmarish traffic that plagues moscow. frightening and stress inducing just to read about. also, makes me never want to visit.
-short comic piece from david sedaris about airplane travel. good stuff.
-short article about a new parking structure in miami that is groundbreaking in its architectural style. im really learning a lot from the short architecture articles in the new yorker.

-longer article chronicling the authors adoption of a haitian girl post-earthquake. very interesting. sounds like adoption is more complicated and heart-wrenching that i even imagined.
-longer article about julian assange, the man behind the website "wikileaks.org" that securely posts documents/information sent in by anonymous whistleblowers worldwide about governments, companies, etc.
-long article profiling actor/comedian steve carell
-long article about the need for doctors and terminally ill patients to have open discussions about end-of-life care. well written. brought a tear to my eye. also, if anyone cares, this topic is one small branch of what i was working on at my dalhousie job before i went on mat leave.

16 October 2010

Nocturne-al immersion

got to stroll through a unique halifax experience: outdoor art installations, at night.

the third annual nocturne: art at night project happened in halifax tonight. we missed it last year because dave was in portland, i was preggo (and thus feeling like crap), and nutmeg was having butt problems that required attention. but this year a high concentration of artsy things were occurring just down the street from us and i was determined not to miss it.

the event was going on from 6p-midnight and X had spent the last few nights keeping us up late, so i thought "perfect, if she stays up late, we can see lots of these installations. win, win." so before dave started dinner we popped out at 6p for a quick peak at the closest art stations. we saw a circus troupe doing some warm-up fire dancing, we tried to find something billed as a "giant baby mobile" but of course we had no luck. we did catch an artist who was on exhibit literally mopping up a puddle of her own tears though. but everything else we tried to see (something called "free parking," a facebook exhibit, a glimpse into the inner workings of a local postal initiative) was just not up and running yet. damn artists, not a punctual bunch.

so, after dinner, we went out again. we got to see more fire dancing but now barrington st was very crowded and almost too busy to really get up close to see the other exhibits. so we went down to the waterfront installations. my favorite one of the night was a tall white box thing that had an accordion air bladder attached to a horn that faced out onto the water (#32, The Same Boat Horn). you pulled a handle to fill it with air and then leaned on the bladder to push a somber-sounding cry out of the horn onto the dark and quiet waters. very affecting. although, at one point, dave and X went around to the horn side to check it out when i was just starting to push on it and X got spooked by the loud noise and started crying. and we were done with that one.

the facebook installation was also on the waterfront but it wasnt very impressive so we headed back up toward home. one block from us, at the jazz east location, they were having an art exhibition, live music, and free charcoal portrait sketches. X really seemed to like the acoustic drum/bass music so we stayed until they took a break, at which point it was clear she was very ready for bed. this was 9p. there were still lots of interesting live street performances to come but of course this was the one night of her recent sleepless stint that she didnt stay up late (and by late, i mean 1a). oh well, at least we got to experience a little of the energy of the night. it was the kind of thing i thought was perfect for halifax and made me happy to live here.

04 October 2010

D-not underestimate the power of a relaxing weekend with a friend

back from our MI visit in time to welcome good friend ntina to town!

i met ntina (pronounced dee-nah) in college, she was a few doors down from my (and georgettes) room in our sophomore year dorm. we later lived in a big house together (senior year) and have been visiting each other ever since she moved away from MI. we have done chicago, DC, virginia beach, boston, st louis, florida, nashville, new orleans, NYC (am i missing any?) together, and, her and ben (her partner) came to see us in france. now she adds halifax to the list (ben was off traveling for work so we missed him). i would (almost) stake my life on the fact that she would visit us in an igloo in greenland, should we ever be so unfortunate as to live there. :) we are so grateful that she is willing to come, wherever we are, and make the most of the weather, the local activities (or lack thereof), and the new lifestyle(s) we find ourselves in.

her flight brought her to us on friday (a little delayed) and dave was able to pick her up. we promptly headed over to janes next door to get some tasty sandwiches and treats to fill our bellies. once consumed, ntina brought out the baby gifts. the lady rarely ever passes on an opportunity to pick out something special for the people she loves and we are always welcome recipients. X got some new books and new clothes (a "mommys monster" onesie and a "babys first thanksgiving" onesie [because its my favorite holiday], plus a white fleece bear suit for the cold weather).

(X and ntina)

then we headed over to her hotel to get her settled. we chatted until X needed a nap and then walked back to the apartment. while X was asleep, we went out for a walk by the water to get a brief view of the city. when we got back, our minds were already turned toward dinner.

i had told ntina that the weather in late september is iffy and with X not liking the car...we might not get to give her a real visit/experience of nova scotia. she said she totally understood and was coming for the company, not the scenery. bottom line. so...i tried to relax about being a tour guide. but, one thing i knew we could do was to satisfy the foodie in all of us and expose her to some of our favorite things here and to brave some new restaurants with her.

before dinner, we headed in the direction of davids tea. my new obsession. they have half a wall of loose leaf teas that are decaf (herbals and rooibos varieties) and i am in love with their "mint chocolate rooibos." after making our drink selections we headed over to the bbq joint we wanted to try called "Q," as in bbQ. it seemed like an odd choice, being so far away from the traditional bbq region of the american south, but we had read good reviews.

thus, we entered at our own risk, but were pleasantly surprised. the atmosphere is perfect for a bbq place (order at the counter, casual dining, brick and old wood on the walls, a big basin near the trash for washing your sticky hands) and the menu has all the options id want, except perhaps greens. we all ordered (me: pulled chicken sandwich, dave: half chicken and ribs, ntina: beef brisket) and took our food up to ntinas hotel room which was right around the corner. the food was good and her room was large so we had a nice time eating, talking, relaxing until we took X home to sleep.

on saturday we woke up ready to shuffle through the crowded farmers market in search of more foodie goodies. we started with a snack of vegetable tamales and a soft pretzel, and then purchased fresh apple cider, a pumpkin muffin, some goat cheese with cayenne and garlic, spinach pies, pita bread, fresh bread loaves, strawberries, and haddock...to be consumed later that day.

after carting it all home, we busted into the stash for lunch. the cider was a highlight for me. yum. couldnt have any last year since usually the good stuff is unpasteurized. made me kinda sad though that there arent cider mills with donuts around here. :( anyway, after hanging out a bit we all retired to take some naps before the UM football game. watching the game alone on the computer has always been tolerable for us, but with another person it just didnt feel like we were getting into the football spirit without a big tv and couch lounging area. oh well. and the night kinda fizzled from there. while dave was making a tunisian fish soup for dinner ntina got a bad headache. she ended up going home to sleep it off and we ended the night alone, with warm bowls of surprisingly decent soup.

(watching the UM game. X is wearing the gift jen and james got her)

sunday was our last day with ntina and for some unknown reason X decided it would be cool to wake up at 4:30a. needless to say, we all started off the day feeling kinda crummy. but, since our list of "must dos" was blank, we took it easy and didnt push ourselves. we just hung out until we felt up for brunch.

my brunch suggestion was to try the new restaurant "MIX fresh kitchen." i had really been wanting pancakes for about...6 months, but i hadnt wanted to waste the time and dirty the kitchen with them so i was pretty amped to get out and feed the craving. the restaurant turned out to have a nice atmosphere and the food was decent (me and ntina had pancakes with local blueberries and dave had a brioche grilled cheese), but nothing mind blowing.

(sitting like a big girl at brunch)

then we walked off some of the carbs along the waterfront and everyone took a food coma nap. but, after that, we were all feeling much better and were looking forward to the end of the day. we had a nice walk in point pleasant park before enjoying daves classic mexican dinner. we were able to wind down and just relax to end the day. and then, after a night walk with X, we said goodbye and thank you to ntina.

(parting shot)

so, while we didnt give her a whirlwind tour of the city, get her out to any of the nearby beautiful towns, or do anything particularly "unique," i will say that we had a fantastically terrific time with ntina. we did try some new restaurants and i hope she did get a little glimpse of the city. but mostly it was just as she said it would be, a visit more about the company than the surroundings, even though all of us were at times sick and/or tired. thanks for a good relaxing weekend ntin. ;)

27 September 2010

MI familia, and friends :)

travel to the homeland to introduce X to the base of her family tree (and extended "family").

so, we really wanted X to meet her family and friends back in MI before she wasnt a "baby" anymore. once we figured out flight prices (outrageous! we thankfully could use daves frequent flyer miles to buy one of the tickets) and daves work schedule (we thought he might have to go to a meeting in boston) we settled on sept 22-27 for our visit!

flash forward to us the night before leaving...we didnt pack as smoothly as our last trip, nor did we leave the house quite as clean, but it turned out okay in the end and we were able to get a good amount of sleep to start our journey.

wednesday: we woke up at 6a to get ready for the day. X was confused when we got her up. it was still dark! we made it to the airport without incident and got in line at delta. ugh. they didnt have our seats together, they couldnt modify my ticket, then they found out our credit card never got charged for my ticket which was why they couldnt modify it, and then they had to edit Xs information (we had booked our tickets over the PHONE to avoid just such issues. idiots.). thankfully they didnt charge us for our luggage, but they did waste 45 minutes of our time. ick.

made it through security and customs and X took a nice nap. i boarded the plane as late as possible (though some dudes heading to vegas were later than me) and we were off to MI!

the flight was great. X played, stared at people, pooped, made us change her diaper in the bathroom where there wasnt a changing table (note to self: just change her at your seat next time), napped, and was happy when we landed. when we got off in the familiar mcnamara terminal i swear my heart skipped a beat. aaah, the comfort and familiarity of home. :)

we rounded up baggage and easily located my dad and grandpa who were at the curb to pick us up. so nice of them to come get us. they were able to meet X and get a few quick interactions in while dave installed our car seat. then we were off to grandpas house. X got a nap (after some convincing) and i was able to listen to the male chatter/banter through the wall from the bedroom: reminiscing about the ol' days, war stories (which i swear we never heard my dad talk about when we were kids), and dogs. the voices of my dad and grandpa have always been distinctive to me, and listening to them through the wall was like listening to rain on a rooftop, or the breeze rustling tree leaves. very soothing, and it transported me back in time.

then, once X woke up, joy of all joys, i was able to sink my teeth into a glorious coney dog from senate coney island. a good, old-fashioned michigan coney dog was on my very short list of absolute requirements while we were back home. and yum, i enjoyed it. this trip was off to a good start.

(my dad, X, me, my grandpa dohring. am i the only one who knows how to smile?)

then, we were back in the car on our way over to my friend georgettes house (or rather the eatons house, chuck and dave were friends back in college too). they were letting us stay at their house that night, and were making us dinner. a few other friends were coming by and we were excited to see them. georgette made zucchini, pasta with squash, bacon, and goat cheese, garlic bread, and salad for dinner. delish! we were able to catch up with phil, julie, jen, and james. plus, jen informed us that she will be adding another babe to our college group in march (and baby turkey is arriving in november!). apparently X is a trailblazer. she is also a gift collector. our friends showered her with UM gear (yes!) and a toy bin decorated as a monster (i can see this monster themed stuff is going to keep coming, which is so cool!). it was so nice to have a calm dinner with friends to chat and catch up and have them meet X in an environment that was fairly easy on her.

(the lovely eatons, and X in the dress uncle phil gave her when he came to visit)

thursday: after a morning nap at georgettes, daves parents arrived to drop a car off for us. we were supposed to all go over to ann arbor together, but daves grandma needed to be taken to the hospital (she had shingles! which they were able to diagnose right away thankfully). so, we went to ann arbor alone. which worked out fine because we were able to just wander around and see what had changed since we left back in october 2008.

as we got out of the car, i asked dave "so, any bets on how long it will take to see someone we know?" he guessed an hour, but wasnt very optimistic. then we went walking, and lo and behold, our feet took us to jerusalem garden. fancy that? and we ran into a guy dave used to work with at UM IT-computing. so...20 minutes or so was how long it took to find someone. hilarious.

anyway, i was happy as a clam that i got to dive, face first, into my most favorite bowl of lentil soup. h.e.a.v.e.n. havent been able to find anything else that will fill that void. yum. another item checked off my "to-do" list. i also enjoyed my falafel and majadra rice.

after lunch, X needed to sleep. i popped her in the carrier and she whined until she was bounced into submission. it was hot and sticky out, so i dont blame her for being grumpy about having to sleep on me for naptime. with her asleep, we were able to head over to kerrytown and check out the high-end shops. and, we did happen to stumble onto a new find. in a new location (though, completely new to us) was the most gorgeous baby store i have ever seen, elephant ears. vibrant, unique clothing was jumping from every corner. they had clothes, shoes, outerwear, accessories, high chairs, cribs, baby carriers, toys, strollers, bath time stuff, eating time stuff, sleeping time stuff. all really nice stuff. we had no trouble spending time in there while X was napping. in the end, we bought a pair of shoes and a picture frame. i found the staff to be extremely lacking (or maybe im just spoiled by the folks at nurtured) and annoying, so i didnt want to spend anymore money there than we "had" to. ha.

after shopping, X woke up and we drove to central campus. our only ann arbor MUST do was to drop off daves old ass laptop computer. the one he had used all during grad school that his department had paid for. since it was basically obsolete when we left for france, the IT guy let him take it with us, but now we both have new computers so this old thing was just in the way. we left it in the CC Little geology building for the IT guy to deal with with a little farewell love pat.

then, since we were on central campus, we were close to my old (undergrad) lab and my preggo co-worker was in town from virginia finishing up some experiments. we called her and she was free to come down from the lab and meet up with us briefly. lisa is getting ready to have a baby girl in a few weeks, and it was fun to get to see her before the arrival. another fun perk was being able to spend a few minutes with my old boss sue. a great first mentor, it was lovely to catch up with her, plus, she is always so enthusiastic about what dave is doing (her husband is a professor in anthropology at UM).

and then, X was spent. we barely made it to our ann arbor hotel intact, but thankfully we got there in time to convince X to take a nap. we werent able to meet up with my old kellogg coworkers or ARCH coworkers :( but i hope they understand. and, since X didnt stay asleep for long enough, she woke up from her nap tired, which meant that our visit with friends lily and ercan went poorly as well. they were kind enough to come to us, at the hotel, but it still couldnt save X from her grumpy state. after several failed attempts to calm down and try and get her to agree to eat, they left early so X could wind down from her overactive day. it was great to see them for a short time anyway, and we thank them for being understanding. :)

friday: X woke up early after finally getting some good rest. we decided to take advantage and check out the hotel pool. she seemed to be quite confident in the water and had a good time with dave. afterward, while X was trying to get a nap (ha!) dave went and got brueggers bagels for breakfast. its normally not my most favorite bagel place, but having been without bagels for so long, they actually tasted good.

after breakfast, we loaded up and headed to my moms homestead in dearborn. my grandma has lived in this house for more than 6 decades, and all of my aunts and mom were going to be there. such a wonderful experience to be able to have everyone in one spot. we were able to eat lunch, visit, take pictures, and catch up for a while because X took a nice long nap while we were there. must be something comforting about great-grandmas house. :)

(four generations of thomas girls at the dearborn homestead)

but, the visit had to end at some point, and we wanted to start moving before rush hour. unfortunately our route (I-94 east to I-75 north) isnt the most pleasant for traffic avoidance, and of course there was construction. it took us over an hour and a half to get to clarkston (more than twice what it should have). ugh. but, we were able to settle in and await dinner with daves cousins from louisiana who had flown up to visit daves grandma (not knowing she would get sick of course).

it was great for us because X got to meet more family, and we hadnt met daves cousins wife yet. welcome to the family liz! AND, they are adding a new family member in february (congrats!), so it was great to see them for many reasons. dinner was simple but tasty. daves dad made ziti and tomato sauce with homemade fried chicken. and dessert...my favorite dessert of his (aside from his elusive key lime pie)...totally from scratch apple pie. heaven! and i for once totally dug into it guilt-free because X has been taking so many of my calories for breastfeeding that i wasnt concerned about all the fat in the crust. yummy yum yum.

saturday: woke up to the news that daves grandma had fallen and cut her head at some point (she didnt remember when) and needed stitches. mary ann was basically with her ALL day. :( so, we had to help daves dad get the house ready for guests. we were having a gathering so that remaining family could meet X. the atmosphere felt less energetic without mary ann (though i know she was dying to be there) but the party went well and we enjoyed ourselves. daves childhood friend paul came over, several of mary anns friends came over (such nice friends, though i would expect nothing less from people who surround mary ann) to meet her grandbaby, my family came (my mom, al, and my aunt/uncle/cousin drove all the way from grand rapids), and daves louisiana cousins were there. X was showered with gifts again and we all had a nice visit and we appreciate all of you for coming!

(great aunt jean with X and my cousin linnea [shes famous, she was nominated for an ESPY])

later that evening, mary ann was able to come home knowing grandma was safely spending the night at the hospital to be watched for a concussion (just protocol). also, daves cousins from cleveland arrived. barry and joanie have liam (4) and neela (1) who are both born in april (X joins them in being april babies). and we were surrounded by kids! running around, playing, talking. fun to see where X will be soon enough. plus, joanie came with a bag full of girl clothes for X. i always loved hand-me-downs as a kid (they would come from "cool" older neighborhood girls), so i hope X appreciates them.

sunday: had breakfast at the whipps with daves cousins. after everyone was done we packed up our cars and drove over to the hospital where daves grandma was. dave and his cousin barry went for a quick visit (no way was i or X going into a hospital, let alone to visit someone with shingles) and then we headed over to northville.

my friend georgette was graciously opening her home to us again, plus friends. our college pals (the ones who had the STELLAR baby shower for us) were going to gather, along with some old childhood pals. of course, this would be a perfect time for one of my famous crippling tension headaches to show up. cringe. i tried to sit and chat with the early arrivals but i ended up having to lay down for an hour. X came up for a nap then, i fed her, she went to sleep and i summoned the will to rejoin society. i had squandered my precious time to see and chat with everyone, though i was able to touch base with everyone in some way or another. i know, since they are good friends, that they know that i love them to bits just for getting in the car and heading over, and i know they can forgive me for being a rude gimp (i hope. please?).

(my friend katie and her daughter isabel. our moms actually met in a prenatal group. katie and i are 10 weeks apart and iz and X are 6 weeks apart. pretty neat.; dave and X with carla [paul, daves childhood friend, not pictured] and daughter lily. lily is almost exactly a year older than X.)

the party petered out and we cleaned up and were able to enjoy a wonderfully simple, and delicious, dinner with just the eatons. so chill and quiet. we just loafed on the couch like the old days and ate our homemade pasta (it was frozen, they didnt whip up a batch after all that party hosting), homemade tomato sauce, and veggie meal on the coffee table in front of the tv. warm glow of happiness...

monday: woke up to our last day in MI. we hung out at the eatons until georgette went into work (she went in a little late. yay.) and then my dad and grandpa came over to get us. we made a very brief stop at my aunt and uncles house in plymouth before X had had it. we barely made it to my grandpas with our ear drums intact, but with daves help she was able to get a nap in and we munched on sandwiches before heading to the airport.

(X giving us a smile [finally] while hanging out with pappy)

at the airport, we were delayed for about an hour and a half. thankfully X was very patient. we hung out in the airport as long as possible. then, when we boarded, they came over and told us that we couldnt sit on that side of the plane with a baby, and wondered how we had been assigned those seats. i dont know, you idiots did it!! but anyway, without a big show, we made it to halifax and it was already past Xs bedtime. she found the patience to wait for the shuttle to the off-site parking and for the ride home. it was past 11p at that point and she happily went to bed. good little girl. :)

such a busy, busy trip even though we had hoped to remove lots of the running around we had done at christmas, we found ourselves still caught up in wanting to see as many people as possible. its just so hard to say no. its not easy just visiting your former home. you want to see everyone, do everything, explore the new things, and find time for yourself somewhere in there. so, yeah, we did not succeed on that front. but, we were thankful we did get to see so many people we love, thankful that X got to meet them, and we look forward to returning. :)

19 September 2010

Bridge over so-so water

more new exploring this weekend.

we chose to go back to the same general area as last weekend and do a few different things. there was a restaurant we were interested in and dave found a small provincial park we thought we'd check out.

our first stop was bridgewater. a non-tourist town on the south shore. a river divides the town into two parts, the commercial/strip mall part and the downtown/unique shops part. our restaurant choice, the wildwood cafe, was on the "downtown" side.

we parked, walked in to the uncrowded restaurant (it was about 1:30p), and chose a seat. the menu had a decent variety and was all mexican-inspired (apparently one of the owners is actually from mexico). i wanted the chicken soft tacos and dave got a panini with their fire sauce. the soup of the day was also spicy black bean soup, so i needed a bowl of that.

while waiting for the food, we noted all the local art that spiced up the walls and made their ikea furniture more exciting. X busied herself by pulling on the tablecloth and putting the silverware in her mouth. eventually our food came (though it was missing the beans i had requested with my tacos. grr.) and we were excited to dig in. my tacos involved handmade tortillas and had a much more traditional presentation than i had seen in a while. they were tasty, but my meal was gone in less than 10 bites. :( and while daves sandwich was pleasantly spicy, it too was rather small...and our soup was nowhere to be seen. when we flagged down the waitress, she blankly looked at me when i told her we would still like our soup. and, when it finally arrived it was a let down. while it was definitely spicy, it was void of any texture. there were no beans, corn, chicken or anything in the soup. it was basically spicy stock soup. boo. anyway, by then we were ready to leave, in fact, we left their extremely tempting dessert case untouched.

(my chicken tacos; X and her spoon)

then, just to see if bridgewater had anything else to offer, we wandered down the rest of king st (their "main" street). we popped in to a few shops and stopped to get daves grandma a present. she likes to make bead necklaces, and we found a bead store selling strands of semi-precious stones all indigenous to nova scotia.

(classy joint in bridgewaters downtown)

back in the car, we drove to chester...for more food. the kiwi cafe was just getting ready to close but they kindly made me an egg and bacon sandwich and we got some sweets as well...of course. their food isnt as good as i would hope, but i like the cheerful atmosphere and happy staff.

and then, with a reasonable amount of food in our bellies, we headed to the nearby graves island. its a small provincial park, and it really doesnt have much to offer, but we just wanted to do something minor, so it served our purpose. we parked on top of the islands hill and walked down through the trees to the water. i enjoyed, as always, the gradient of pine to salt scent as we got closer to the water. and, even though it was a short walk it turned out to be a great way to end the day. good idea nib. :)

(on the rocky "beach"; in the woods with the evening sun sparkling through the trees. love this picture of us)

13 September 2010

La-have, not

a new place today. finally.

it feels like a hundred years since weve gone anywhere new in nova scotia. my normal antsy limit is about a month (as i must have mentioned before). looking back, its been since june that we went anywhere around here, and technically that was in new brunswick. so i finally said "lets just pick something and drive out to it. i dont even care what!" well, i should have been a little more choosy, but i did get my wish to see/do something new.

shortly after X woke up, we hit the road heading south to the coastal area of lahave. we actually stopped in east lahave and took the cable ferry over to lahave proper. just something random to do that i thought might be interesting. there is literally a metal cable attached to both banks of the river underwater and a flat boat that can carry about 15 cars moves back and forth on the cable every 15 minutes. terribly exciting. but, it was a nice crisp morning and the view was new to us.

(on the cable ferry)

when the boat landed on the lahave bank, we drove off and took a left so that we could stop in to the lahave bakery. weve seen some of their bread being sold around halifax and i was never really impressed, but i thought it would be better to try things straight from the source before giving my final judgment.

so, we found a place to park and entered the warm bakery to see what we would find. it was definitely busy and it had that buzz of comfort and community, so it was off to a good start. we stood in line and i looked at the local-made jams, pickles, etc while some older ladies tried to get X to smile (it was a no go). when it was our turn, dave ordered a panini and i got the breakfast wrap with local bacon and unsweetened iced tea.

we found a counter seat and waited for our food. daves panini came quickly so i entertained X while he ate. it was a rather small and unimpressive sandwich (both the ingredients and the bread). we then sipped on the tolerable iced tea while we waited for my food. it took FOREVER, so X was restless by the time my oily egg and veggie wrap came. ick. the bacon was great though. probably the only thing worth stopping for, though definitely not worth the time i had to wait for it.

worst of all, X was pushed a little beyond her limit for a nap because of our long wait. back at the car she was so irritated and hungry that she couldnt calm down on her own. dave had to bounce her until she was calm enough to eat, and then she promptly went to sleep. and there we were, in the car, in the parking lot, letting her nap on me...for 1.5 hours. ah, good times.

it was enough time to see a few boat owners ride up to the bakerys boat dock, tie up among the yellow adirondack chairs, get some morning treats and drive off. not that the "treats" were very good (we bought and consumed a scone and two bars of theirs also. ack.), but the boating up to a bakery thing was pretty damn cool.

anyway, X finally woke up, and at least she was happy. after a car seat diaper change we were on our way in search of better things. we attempted to check out a few local beach areas, but they werent inspiring in the windy greyness that the day had turned into. so, we headed headed back toward home.

(fresh from a nap)

not wanting to let the day go down in flames, i decided we should stop in mahone bay. i wanted to drown my sorrows at the biscuit eater cafe. i got a sandwich, dave got a black tea, and we shared a dark chocolate coconut brownie with cranberries. and yes, it was every bit as good as it sounds. and not too sweet, just the way we like it. thank you.

(pretty gift shop in mahone bay)

after that we were back at home and another weekend had vaporized with barely a trace of excitement. at least we reminded ourselves how to get out and explore again. and hopefully we can do it more during the fall color change this year since X made me miss it due to "morning" sickness last year.

(signs of fall in mahone bay. X seems interested.)

04 September 2010

Goodbye earl

its hurricane season again.

after "surviving" two hurricanes last year, initially it didnt phase me when they started talking about earl...then i realized we had a baby. if the power was out for a long time, what the hell were we going to do? we had to be a little more thoughtful about the consequences than we were before. however, i lacked the required motivation to totally prep the apartment because, pre-earl, we were living in what felt like a the center of a sauna.

the 3-4 days preceding earls arrival we experienced some of the most brutal days on record here in halifax. what had been an unprecedentedly lovely summer had turned sadistic. every day the weather channel read something like "88 degrees, 'feels like' 106." no joke. it was horrid. and since this type of weather is rare in these parts, air conditioning is uncommon. and we, we had only ONE fan. i get severely grumpy when forced to live in hot and humid conditions, and with a hot baby sticking to me all day, i was constantly at the end of my very short and frayed rope.

two nights before earl was to arrive, i couldnt take it anymore. we pricelined a night at the snazzy marriott on the waterfront. two big beds, air conditioning, and someone else cleaning up after my mess in the morning. yes please!! worth every penny (i mean, $72 is a small price to pay for some sanity). anyway, we woke up the next morning refreshed and with a little more patience. all we had to do was deal with the last 106 degree day and then a hurricane and we would be free and clear. ha.

the evening before earl came i was sitting on our front stoop with X. in a 30 minute time period we actually felt the wind change. cool air was being brought to us via earl. yay! i actually welcomed the storm. our apartment was still rather toasty that night because it was hard to evacuate all that icky air with just one fan, but earl was definitely bringing the temperature down.

before we went to sleep, we filled up water bottles and hoped the few canned goods we had would be decent enough options to eat, should we have to get that desperate. when we woke up, things still werent really starting. we watched the early signs of earls arrival from our apartment building. of course, there were the requisite number of "locals" walking around outside without rain gear, making it look like it was shaping up to be any other day (sometimes i wonder what planet these people live on. i mean, a hooded sweatshirt in driving rain is a sight ive seen one too many times here.).

anyway, dave and X decided to get a shower in before the storm crashed us. this was around noon. X got all clean and bundled up just as the power was going out...dave had to rinse off in the dark. ha. cut to us a couple hours later, hungry, because we kept assuming they would restore power almost instantly (this was the longest we'd lost power since we have been here). we finally broke down and opened a can of black beans, rinsed them and put them in tortillas. we also decided it was worth it to open the fridge quickly to get the shredded cheese. not the worst thing ive ever eaten but im definitely glad those cavemen discovered fire.

(post hurricane shower)

we passed the time inside trying to entertain X and distract dave from remembering he was missing the first UM football game of the season. we were fairly successful, and were even pleasantly rewarded by X giving us some enormous naps. good girl! and luckily, when we had had enough, it was safe to go outside (this was at about 5p). and we discovered that there were two city blocks that still had power, and happily enough, they were the blocks with lots of restaurants on them, and many were already starting to open up.

so, we got some hot food and were fueled up to wait out the rest of the time before our power came back on. and miraculously, we were up and running in time to catch the last quarter of the game!

(wearing her UM onesie, she wasnt too excited about the game. although, it could have been that she was tired of being inside)

our total time without power was about 7 hours (the perks of living downtown: we get priority for power). and just like that, life was back to normal. i mean, there were some tree limbs down and other people dealing with some wind damage and power outages but the temperature was lovely and people we on the move.

(earls projected path from wednesday and thursday before the storm)

(path projection on friday and saturday morning. the saturday morning one notes the last minute change that put the center of the storm coming right through halifax)

02 September 2010

Red tape round-up

an update on our governmental saga.

today we had our appointment at the u.s. consulate for Xs citizenship and passport paperwork to be taken care of. we had to make the appointment a month in advance. in the meantime, we had to collect a certified copy of her birth certificate (different from her actual birth certificate), passport photos, a note from my doctor saying that X was my kid, and all of our other official documents (marriage license, our birth certificates, work permits, etc).

this morning we got up, packed our stack of items and walked down to the purdy towers on the waterfront. upon arriving at the consulate we had to leave our stroller in the hallway, be buzzed through the door, walk through a metal detector, and turn off our cell phone and stash it in my purse, both of which had to stay in a cubby hole at the entrance. only then were we able to sit down and wait for our name to be called to start our appointment.

after clarifying how to fill out a few sections on their stream of paperwork, making those updates, and waiting some more, we were signing the final documents and told that things were all set. supposedly her citizenship and passport can be taken care of in two weeks. i'll crap my pants if that actually happens. since when has the passport office ever worked so fast?

however, speaking of governmental speediness, we also recently got X her canadian passport. the canadian passport office is a block away from us, and that was nice because we ended up having to visit 3 times before we could actually get the passport paperwork filed. because we (the parents) arent canadian, they made us fill out extra paperwork. since we didnt qualify to fill out some of that required paperwork (had to have a canadian citizen with a valid passport who has known you for more than 2 years and can verify that X is ours) we had to fill out even more paperwork, and get it notarized. i swear, they just make you jump through all the hoops because a lazy criminal trying to scam the system would go insane attempting to forge all this stuff. anyway, we finally gathered it all (complete with friends amy and phil as our "references") and went to the passport office.

we were able to successfully file for her passport and were told it would come in two weeks. and, even though they had to personally call our two references to verify us, the passport really did come within that time limit. nice! and it only cost $20 (not including the $15 notary fee for some of the paperwork), and, for infants, you can update their passport photos until they are 3 years old for free!

in other canadian government news, we were also able to get a SIN (social insurance number, similar to the SSN) issued for her without any problem. and also, we successfully made it through a tax and tax refund cycle with the canadian government. unlike france...

on the france front, we are finally squared away. in the circular redundancy that is their system, they first sent us the small tax refund that was owed to us due to our small incomes. which we then had to turn around and mail to our french bank to be deposited into our account. then we had to transfer money from our canadian bank account into our french one to "top it up" to the amount needed to send back to the french government. so, we were finally able to send in the money for our late fee and non-income tax taxes that we still owed the government. BUT, it is finally done and settled (we think. ha.) and now we will be legally welcomed back into the country should we return to visit one day (and i sincerely hope that can be soon-ish).