Remembering How to Chillax

Remembering How to Chillax

In which I discuss the family vacation, progress on The Sphinx’s Heart, and introduce our trip mascots, Hagrid and Dumbledore.

Work Afraid

Work Afraid

Here’s a secret: We’re all afraid. Every person who succeeds at something has had to confront fear at some point to get to where they are. The trick is to start anyway.

Whirlwind Road Trip

Whirlwind Road Trip

Photo recap of a whirlwind weekend road trip to Seattle, Washington, with a ton of natural beauty along the way.

Misadventures in Mumbai

Misadventures in Mumbai

This might look like greasy, fried Western food, but tonight, it was what relief tasted like. It was the flavour of a small victory after a long and frustrating day. It was safety after about as much adventure as we could handle at once.

What San Francisco Taught Me About Love

What San Francisco Taught Me About Love

So often we think that it is words as sharp and cold as icicles that will sink the deepest. But really, it is love sown through kindness and respect that opens hearts.

One Day at a Time

One Day at a Time

Love. Faith. Family. These values will be forever intertwined in my mind. And each one, while grand in theme, can really only be made tangible through individual choices, small acts carried out in small ways each and every day. They are built or destroyed one day at a time.

Five is the Oddest Number

Five is the Oddest Number

One of the ways our loved ones chose to bless us in our grieving was to give us money to take a family holiday. We were already planning to take a quick weekend trip so that Jason and the boys could run in the Spartan Race in Westlock this past Saturday. Normally, we would combine that with a weekend stay at relative's, since they are only another two hours away.

But, in light of recent events, we decided to take advantage of our "time away" option and stayed at West Edmonton Mall for three nights in the Fantasyland Hotel following the race.

Goodbye, Washington

Only two days before we needed to head home, we finally started to get our energy back and feel a little more human. We took advantage of that by hitting yarn stores (as mentioned before), but also driving around the area to take in the sights.

One such sight was Snoqualmie Falls. At only a short walk away from the parking area, and very near the highway, it was a low-energy-commitment way to see an amazing natural wonder. The sun did not shine on the falls themselves, but we did find a nice location near the falls to get a few group shots of us (which we had been waiting to take until our noses weren't all chapped from blowing them). Well, we got shots of the adults, anyway--Levi had WAY too much energy to sit still for a photo. Yep, he was pretty much back to normal. :-)

Snoqualmie Falls, Washington. I was having fun with a slow shutter speed on my camera to get a smooth, silky look. This was the slowest I could go before the whole thing went blurry, since I was just hand-holding the camera.

This gorgeous shot had all the effects provided by nature--no post-editing required! This was looking toward the tourist walkway by the river, with all the mist rising from the falls.

Here are a few other shots from the trip that I absolutely love. Apparently, I was quite fascinated with the greenery. I really loved all the interesting textures and the way the light played with the moss and ferns on the trees.

This tree looked so interesting to me, like it was going to start waving its branches around like arms.

I just loved all this lush texture!

Most of the tree shots were taken on a walk we took. Levi pushed his own stroller for almost the entire 2-mile jaunt!

On our way home, we stopped over at the Burdicks' once again, but unfortunately with very little time to visit. However, we were comfy and cozy in their little guest cabin, and got an early start home the next day for the long, final stretch of our journey. (Since the snow had melted, no sand required to exit the driveway this time!)

Besides The Cold (which still lingers), and the yarn we gathered, and the photos, we have memories that are so precious, and will last a lifetime. And even though I still have a great deal on my plate, this break was just what I needed to do a mental "reset" and come home ready to tackle my responsibilities with new zest.

How has your February been so far, friends?

Home, Sweet Bachelor's Home

My brother purchased his first home last year, and since I hadn't been to visit him in Washington since 2009, this was the first time I got to see it.

It is so, so adorable. (Sorry, Logan, it just is.) The yard completely surrounds the squarish two-story house with green and grass and loveliness. The house has a partial wrap-around deck/patio. It was built with large windows on all sides that let in the light and take advantage of the beautiful landscaping, but said landscaping makes the property almost completely private.

I'm sure constant rain would get old fast if you lived here, but for us, it was a nice break from snow and cold.

A bench and some dormant flowers on one edge of the patio on a grey, rainy day.

Sometimes the sun would break through, and the results were spectacular!

One of the few places one can see the access road from the house.

View through a kitchen window.

This "stump chair" sits by the driveway.

There is a little play set in the yard, which Levi made good use of once he was feeling better!

Some of the neighbourhood dogs--they were pretty cute!!

By the time we left, spring had arrived in Logan's yard, and some of the flower bushes were blooming.

At night, the frogs would sing a loud neighbourhood chorus. Levi thought they were a little scary at first, but I think he got over it eventually.

Also, his newly-redone kitchen made me seriously green. (All the mess on the counters in the photos was brought by us. The kitchen was beautiful and clean when we arrived.)

Cooking lesson: instructing my brother on the art of soup, perfect for treating The Cold.

It felt like we had gone on vacation to a cabin in the woods, and it was so peaceful and relaxing, it was hard to want to leave. I don't think he is planning to start a B&B anytime soon, though! Sorry to disappoint. ;-)

Yarn Everywhere!

There is probably some irony in the fact that I spent nearly two weeks around the greater Seattle area, and the only time I actually entered the city proper was on our way home from Vancouver Island, when our GPS stopped working and we ended up taking the freeway right by downtown before we figured out what was happening. It was a really pretty view at night--so glad we drove by that way. :-)

However, we did get to visit a fair number of communities around Seattle, not least of which being Redmond, where the Microsoft campus is--of course Logan took us there! We even got to eat lunch at a couple of their on-campus ethnic cafeterias. I opted for Indian food, and was pretty sad that my cold prevented me from fully enjoying the flavours I knew were present. (Side note: I gained respect for Microsoft as a company when we went to throw out our plates and found that nearly everything on my tray was compostable plastic or paper, and MS has two bins for compost and only one for the landfill. Honestly, I don't know what ever gets put in the latter. Maybe if someone brought their own plastic cutlery, just to be a jerk?)

My mother and I both being knitters, we also wanted to visit a couple of Local Yarn Stores (LYS) to bask in glorious yarny options. Living in the North, most of our yarn shopping is done online, so we often take it on faith, or just take the risk, that the yarn we are ordering will be the softness, colour, or look that we want when we buy it. To actually touch the yarns and see all the options available before buying them was a huge treat, especially as many of these stores carry yarns that are quite specialized and luxurious. When a quick internet search turned up scads of yarn stores in the area, the idea of visiting a yarn store or two morphed into doing a "yarn store crawl."

My social media usage was seriously curtailed during my trip, but I did manage to post about the stores we visited on my My Secret Wish by Talena Facebook page as we went, so I am simply going to repost those posts here for posterity. (Posty posted posting... :-D)

February 13:

I have been doing a yarn store crawl in the Seattle area while visiting my brother here, although it has been hampered by all four of us (my mom, brother, 2-year-old son, and I) having one of the top 3 Worst Colds Ever.

We started at Serial Knitters in Kirkland, which was a lovely store with friendly service. The ladies knitting together in the back looked like they held that position often, and the customer I mistakenly took for staff laughingly explained she only lived there, not worked there.

Great place. Check it out next time you are in this neck of the woods.

Project-in-progress: Revolution Mitten for Levi, first of the pair.

The next store we went hunting for was no longer in business--that's what we get for trusting a GPS that hadn't been updated in 5 years! It was a combination tea/yarn store, but we weren't out of luck yet--there was another one of these awesome combination stores in Ballard, and we headed straight over there instead (after calling to make sure they still WERE in business!) Jean and Patricia at The Tea Cozy were wonderful to deal with, and we got some luscious yarny treats from here.

I picked up my first ever skeins of Madelinetosh yarn, something long-coveted on my wish list.

Project-in-progress: my mom's first cable project. (Oh, yes, she did choose a travelling cable stole.)

February 15:

Yesterday, we were feeling a little healthier, so we headed out and about again. We had three yarn stores south of here on the roster. As it turns out, Tolt Yarn and Wool was the only one of the three still in business--but it made the whole trip worthwhile on its own.

Found in the little town of Carnation, Washington, it is bursting with charm, character, and comfort. The spacious interior is reminiscent of an old-fashioned hardware store, with yarn tucked into wooden crates and boxes and acid-etched cement floors. The selection was stunning and a feast for the eyes. In the back, the Saturday knitting crowd happily shared their projects-in-progress with us as they clicked away by a roaring fire in the wood stove.

As I checked out with my Donegal Tweed yarn in a yummy shade of Kelly green (really from Donegal, Ireland!), one of the two ladies on staff that day gave me an amazing tip about how the yarn washes from her own personal experience with it... and lovingly wrapped my skeins in tissue and sealed the package with a sticker before popping it into a lovely paper shopping bag. (I'm a sucker for great presentation.)

If I ever open a yarn store, this is going to be high on the list of stores I try to emulate. Another store I highly recommend!

Yes, this is a gauge swatch. Eep--I was between mittens, and tradition dictates that a project-in-progress photo needs to be something ON THE NEEDLES. Mom was swatching to start the new Snow for Lorelai Boot Cuffs. :-)

February 17:

One of the knitters we met at Tolt Yarn and Wool recommended that we stop at Mount Vernon's WildFibers on our way home the next day, so we did. And we are SOOO glad. What a lovely little shop! The yarn selection is stunning, and arranged around the walls by weight, so it is easy to find what you are looking for. The samples on display around the shop were beautiful, and the lady working that day said they were mostly knit by the owner and her mother. With yarns from Rowan, Madelinetosh, and more, this is one yarn store you won't want to miss.

...Not to mention the rest of the town, which was oozing with vintage charm. We have now put Mount Vernon on our "places to come and explore" list for our next visit to Washington.

Project-in-Progress: Pink Hawaii socks--a pattern I will likely make available when I finally finish the pair!

And so ended our yarny adventures. I had planned to do much more knitting on the trip than I did, but The Cold sapped all my energy, including my will to knit (!). However, I did finally finish the mittens I started for Levi on the way down the day after we got home:

3-Colour  Revolution Mittens ! Fun project for my little man!

3-Colour Revolution Mittens! Fun project for my little man!

Logan was a really great sport about chauffeuring us around to the various stores, and also helped with entertaining the whiny, sick toddler so we could actually look. What a great brother/uncle! Thanks, Logan! This was definitely a fun part of our trip!

On an Island by the Sea

We didn't have any definite plans of things we wanted to "do" while visiting Washington, except one: leave. :-) My friends, the Gregory family that we lived with for a month in 2009 after returning to Peace River from Arkansas, had moved to Comox, BC, later that same summer, and we had rarely seen them since. When I discovered how "close" we would be to the Island while visiting Logan (which, at nearly a 7-hour-one-way journey, was still not as close as my imagination originally thought when looking at a map), I convinced my mother and brother that a trip to the Island would be a great idea, contacted the Gregorys, and arranged an overnight stay. The best time for all the schedules involved seemed to be the first Sunday night of our visit.

Great! we thought. That will allow us to get a little sight-seeing in before we leave!

Poor Levi's cold had been leaving him pretty tired, and he had a dry cough that seemed almost perpetual at times. I didn't want to tire him out too much, and I didn't want to spread germs more than necessary, so our plans for the moment were constrained to driving around, walking around, or hiking. (On the plus side: Levi got pretty good at covering his mouth with his elbow with this cold!)

After a little bit of shopping for rain gear at Target (yes, SO touristy) and the health food store, Logan took us to the amazing Coho Cafe for supper. My mother's 60th birthday was the next day, and this ended up being our celebration for it, so I am glad it was memorable. WOW! I am salivating just thinking about the Thai Coconut Ginger Curry dish I had.

Unfortunately, we had had to wait for our table for an hour, and by the time we were seated it was already past the time Levi had been putting himself to bed (yes, you read that right) out of sheer exhaustion, so he spent the entire meal laying against me on my lap and whining that he wanted bed. I ate as quickly as I could and opted to have my companions bring dessert and my leftovers out with them and took the munchkin out to the van so he could rest...

I didn't actually eat my Caramel Apple Crisp for another week, as that night, my throat started getting scratchy, and I could feel the exhaustion of a body fighting an invasion coming over me. Logan started showing symptoms that night, too, despite having only been exposed the day before.

By the next morning, there was no mystery--I was sick. I wasn't up for walking, let alone hiking or leaving the house. Logan must have been feeling a little better than me, because he and Mom still went out to the grocery store (which we hadn't managed to hit the previous day) and did a few errands. I napped. Then napped again.

Levi was super-clingy the entire trip, only getting nominally better by the end when he was healthier and more comfortable with the surroundings. At this point, he pretty much had to be glued to my side, so although he was starting to feel a little better at this point, he just cuddled with me during my naps (and benefited from the rest, too.)

The next morning, we got up bright and super-early so we could assess the situation and see if we were well enough to go to the Island. Logan decided he was not. After all that sleep, I was feeling pretty good, and Levi was starting to have some good energy and be a little more back to his normal self. Mom and I decided to go and let Logan rest (and let his cats have a reprieve from Levi's attentions). We would contact the Gregorys on the way to warn them about the germ invasion, and if they would rather not risk it, we could just go do touristy things and head back. (We had hopes of seeing Craigdarroch Castle before heading back, either way.)

Turns out, it takes more than a few little germs to scare these folks. We had a wonderful time with them, and I am SO glad we made the effort to go. I was sad that my older boys couldn't be there to reconnect with their boys, since they were all pretty good friends once upon a time. Their youngest, Zeke, who is the same age as Jabin, reminded me of the latter so much--they were both only 2 when the Gregorys left, but I bet they would be best buddies if they got to hang out now.

After visiting Goose Spit (not exactly a white sandy beach, but it was still an ocean beach!) and the Marina, we had an awesome supper and introduced Mom to Settlers of Catan, stayed up way later than my sick body would have preferred, got to see Erin's new clinic (from the outside) and Jacob's new studio (from the inside), and just generally had fun.

Erin found a crab on the beach. Levi thought looking was close enough.

Looking at the boats at the marina.

The ocean view from Goose Spit in February.

We had thought of trying to get a tour of Craigdarroch Castle on the way home, but it turns out we didn't allow enough time before we left the Gregorys on Monday. So we drove straight through Victoria to the ferry, and put the Castle on our list of things to see next time we go.

Other than the near-perpetual rain on the drive back to Logan's, we had a great time. Thanks, Jake and Erin! So great to see you all again!

Destination: Washington

Wow, it is hard to believe that it has been nearly two weeks since my mom, Levi, and I left home. The reason I have not blogged about it before now should become obvious.

On Tuesday, the 3rd, we left PR in conditions that were cold (-26C), but clear. We had to get to Edmonton to pick up Levi's passport (which was supposed to be ready after 3 p.m.) before the passport office closed. It looked like we were on track for most of the day, but after a couple of potty breaks, we started wondering if we would actually make it on time. Thankfully, we stopped in front of Canada Place with 15 minutes to spare, and there was hardly any line up so I was able to pick it up quickly. After that, we only had to endure another hour of rush hour traffic before we were able to leave Edmonton.

Levi was feeling a little under the weather that day. And by "under the weather", I mean he didn't want to eat, and barely even woke up. As the day progressed, I became more and more concerned, and by the time we got to my uncle and aunt's that night had determined that if he had not perked up at all by morning, I would be taking him to Emergency to make sure he was okay, possibly delaying our trip by a day--or however long was necessary.

However, on Wednesday morning the Little Man was actually a little more lively and decided to eat, and since this looked a lot like the cold Noah had had the previous week, I figured he was fine to keep travelling.

Day 2: Awake, but mellow

We got started bright and early that day, since it was our longest leg--Google Maps said it was 9 1/2 hours without traffic (or weather) between Lacombe and Summerland, BC, where we would be staying with our friends, the Burdicks. When I realized that we could organize our route to see our dear friends Wes and Serena, who had moved from PR in 2013, I was ecstatic, and thrilled that their schedule allowed for it. The weather was not bad for most of the day, a little light snow here and there being the worst of it--until we actually got to the Okanagan Valley. Then, the forces of nature were unleashed and wet, slippery, fluffy snow obliterated any light trying to penetrate the gloom. So the worst weather we experienced that day was in the "nicest" climate zone.

"Welcome to Winterland!" Serena joked after we pulled into their driveway that night.

Since the last leg of our journey was only about six hours long, and Logan had alerted us to an appointment that meant he would not be home until after 4 p.m., so we had a leisurely breakfast with our hosts--as leisurely as possible with kids rushing around to get to school on time, and Wes having to get to a meeting. However, we sure enjoyed the extended visit with Serena. ("Girl time" is always great.)

We had an adventure as we were leaving. Their driveway is at a very steep slope down from the road to their parking pad. With all that new-fallen, wet snow, our first four (yes, FOUR) attempts only got us up about 2/3 of the way, Serena cheering us on the whole way. Finally, when it became obvious that the maximum distance potential had been reached and we could be there a while, she came and grabbed a shovel of sand from a pile by the shop. When I jumped out to help her, she said that they had just gotten the pile for circumstances such as this.

"Fifteen years in Peace River, and I never had to get spikes on my tires until we moved here," she said, laughing.

Jake wants to play with the shovels, too. Or whatever. :-)

Mission accomplished!

The weather was fine for driving that day. We opted for a route that took us through Stevens Pass over the last ridge of the Rockies into the little town where my brother's new house is, just east of Seattle. The sides of the road were covered in small piles of snow--evidence of a recent dump--and we even had snow floating down on us throughout our trip down Highway 2 over the mountains. That is, until we started descending the western side. Suddenly, gone was the snow. Rain fell in its stead. The trees were green and covered in lush blankets and strings of moss. It was almost as though, in cresting that ridge, we had jumped through a time portal from winter to a sub-tropical spring.

Leaving Canada that morning, I had wanted to stop for coffee at Tim Hortons, but since Summerland is so close to the border, we were crossing into the United States before we seemed to find one. That didn't seem to be a big deal, as a fairly decent night's sleep (and a morning nap in the van) sustained my energy. But now, on the western side of the mountains, we passed a little roadside coffee stand business billing itself as "World Famous Espresso". Well, whether it was or not, I decided I wanted to stop.

As it turned out, the site has a bit of "claim to fame" - it was the site of the filming of the 1986 movie "Harry and the Hendersons" (which I loved as a kid). The proprietor showed me a picture of what it looked like at the time (which reminded me of the movie even more), and said, "That's what we looked like at our worst."

I got permission from the lady to take a few photos of the little museum they had there. It was raining, so I didn't get great shots (I don't have protective gear for my camera and didn't want to get it too wet), but here are a few fun ones:

Ordering coffee from the "World Famous Espresso" Stand.

A coffee stand with personality...

Bigfoot Crossing

Poor Harry, all alone...

We reached Logan's without further ado late Thursday afternoon, and were very grateful to get our butts out of car seats and to have reached our destination.

But with another 10 days to go, the adventures were just beginning.

To be continued...


No Place Like Home

No Place Like Home

As much as I enjoy travelling, and visiting, and adventuring, by the time we pulled into our yard at 11 p.m. last Friday, I was VERY ready to be home, and so were the boys.

However, we all enjoyed our week at Tony and Candace's. Jabin actually refers to their place as "Naomi's house"--you can tell who he sticks like glue to while we visit there. Something about them both being five--they get along like two peas in a pod.

Amarillo By Morning

It's official--we are on the road. We left this morning this afternoon, when we finally got all of the last-minute stuff packed, I got my "Thank-You" gift together for Jude's karate teachers (okay, a little late since his last day was last week, but better than me having to mail it back later!), and we crammed a truly improbable amount of stuff into the van.

You shoulda seen how big this pile was before it got stuffed in here!

Our last few days in Mena were so bittersweet. I had lunch with Alicia, zipped around doing last-minute errands, said goodbyes to other friends, and the whole time it felt surreal--like we were just going on a holiday instead of moving away, most likely to not be back for years. After all, the house we were leaving was still full of stuff, wasn't it? Even if it wasn't our stuff?

Today was a great travel day--not too sunny for the most part. The kids were all so excited that we were finally "going back to Canada" that they were pretty good in the van. We stopped for an hour and a half at supper time near Weatherford, OK at a truck stop with a little rest area. I pulled out the camp stove, and we heated up potato soup and had apples and boiled eggs, plus the kids ran off energy kicking the soccer ball around as I was getting stuff ready.

Mom has decided to come with me, and it is so nice to have the extra adult along. It did make things a little more hectic as we prepared to leave, since both of us had to be preparing for the long trip, but that's okay. Having the extra hands to help with the kids, the extra person to drive, and the conversation along the way s all worth it.

So, I know what you're all thinking... Okay, not really, but it made a nice intro, didn't it? Anyway, you might be wondering what the food preparations look like for a trip like this in a family that cooks from scratch and tries to avoid restaurants when possible? Here are some of the things we brought along:

  • 2 dozen boiled eggs
  • 1 dozen fresh eggs
  • 2 8-cup containers of frozen potato soup--some for us, and some to share with our hosts in California
  • 6 cups of frozen Roasted Garlic, Squash and Apple Soup
  • 1 frozen leg of lamb for our hosts
  • 8 cups of frozen rice pasta and ground lamb meat sauce
  • 1 loaf sourdough bread
  • Condiments such as homemade mayo, butter, homemade ketchup, peanut butter and honey
  • The healthiest all-beef hot dogs we could find (okay, we fudged a little by getting hot dogs)--and soft tortillas to eat them with! It is nearly impossible to find hot dogs without high fructose corn syrup in them, but apparently, it is impossible to find hot dog buns without it! (At least at Wal-Mart.)
  • Various healthy snacks, such as Mom's home-made travel cookie favourites, "Bible Bread" (which looks a lot like matzah), organic animal crackers and pretzels, apples, date bars, home-made granola, kefir, home-made yogurt, bananas, organic dark semi-sweet chocolate bars, home-made trail mix, organic nuts and dried fruit, baby carrots
  • Home-made pancake mix, plus the "wet stuff" to complete it (we'll have to forgo soaking on this batch)
  • Rolled oats for breakfasts
  • Applesauce--I could have brought frozen home-made stuff, but decided to go with organic cups from Wal-Mart, 'cause I was running out of cooler space! Plus, it's a little easier to eat when it's not frozen!
  • Leftover lamb steaks, frozen
  • Frozen pinto beans (for the vegetarian in the group--that would be my mother)
  • Block of white cheddar cheese
  • Instead of juicing on the trip (because one has to have limits somewhere!), I bought high-quality instant juice powder from AIM Barleylife, so I can still have my carrot, beet, and barleygrass juice in the morning. No, it is not quite as beneficial as fresh, but better than nothing at all!

To prepare all this food with, I brought our camp stove and camp cooking gear (including a 10" cast iron pan), camping plastic plates and cutlery to eat it with, etc. We froze a lot of it so it would stay good until we get to California on Saturday night--we can slowly be heating the items up and using them as we need them, but this way we don't need to keep buying ice to cool everything off--there is enough frozen stuff in there to keep everything cool for now.

Chances are, we will be eating in restaurants a few times on the trip. I just didn't want to be doing it three times a day for three weeks--not only is this very expensive, but after only a few days of this, I feel really gross, and usually we all end up sick if we do it for long enough. Not to mention constipated.

Tonight, we were blessed to find a great deal in a motel, right off the pool (the kids are pretty stoked about trying that out first thing in the morning!), with Wi-Fi, full breakfast included, and not too spendy. And, you guessed it--we'll be hitting the "famed" Amarillo, TX not long after we leave here tomorrow morning.

However, unlike in the song, we brought a lot more than we've got on!!

Cook From Scratch--Fast! Part One

Cook From Scratch--Fast! Part Two