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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

ALAMO SUCKS, consider yourself warned.

To start off, I would encourage anyone who reads this blog (all 3 of you!) not to rent a car through Alamo, at least in the UK. I’m about to explain why, but suffice it to say, we are getting harassed & threatened by them for NO REASON except their incompetence. Here’s a brief description of what’s been happening since we rented the car in the UK in May of this year.

- Picked up the car from Heathrow on May 28. We had originally booked (and PAID FOR) a basic car while still in Canada. Since we were going to drop the car at Gatwick, we paid a little extra for this privilege. When we picked up the car we upgraded to the next level up & also requested & paid for a GPS (and also paid for the upgrade).
- Returned the car to Gatwick on June 2 & settled the account. We thought this would be the end of it. How wrong we were.
- During the next 6 months our credit card was credited & debited 6 times for various reasons (insurance, damage waiver, theft waiver, some other mysterious charges). They also sent us an invoice for GBP 372.51, for a car rental we had already paid for. We were confused but not too worried at that point. Andrew called & email Alamo to try to sort it out. He got a confusing, nonsensical response.
- On Dec 23 we received another invoice for GBP 372.51, this one stating it was the FINAL NOTICE!!!!, and failure to pay this account within 7 days (mind you, the invoice was dated Dec 7) would result in legal action & damage to our credit rating. FOR AN ACCOUNT THAT WE HAD PAID FOR 7 months earlier. It also stated that we had been blacklisted & would no longer be able to rent from Alamo anywhere in the world. No problems there, we won’t ever rent from them ever, ever, ever again. Seriously.

So, let’s review – we rented a car, we paid for the rental car, we were debited (4 times) & credited (twice), and now we apparently owe GBP 372.51 for a rental we’ve ALREADY PAID FOR, all because of the incompetence of Alamo. And we’re being threatened with LEGAL ACTION for an account we settled in good faith 7 MONTHS AGO. We’ve copied our travel agent on the correspondence & recommended that they not use Alamo for their other clients. Alamo are treating us as if we rented the car & deliberately did not pay for this privilege, when the error is entirely their own. If this is how they treat their customers, I wonder how they are still in business. In this day & age, this kind of customer service is DISGUSTING. In this recession, you’d think businesses would be striving to keep customers happy, to encourage repeat business. Alamo clearly thinks they are above this way of thinking. Shame on you Alamo, shame on you.

Please pass this story on to anyone you think might benefit from it, I wouldn't want anyone else to get screwed by these people. I want to get the word out there - DO NOT RENT FROM ALAMO!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Back on track!

Well, it's been a busy week for the agency this week. Since my last post they've had their license renewed by the Ministry (of Magic.....just kidding), something renewed on the Ethiopian side too (not sure what, but it was good), and they've started issuing REFERRALS! Obviously we've got quite a wait in front of us, but to hear that some families are already getting referrals makes me insanely happy. Four families just got the BEST. CHRISTMAS. PRESENT. EVER!

Speaking of best Christmas present ever, I cannot wait to give Andrew his present. I bought it about 3 months ago & wrapped it & had him put it in the basement, and I've been dying to give it to him ever since. It's something that he's been looking at, but he has no idea what the gift is. Only 3 more days! We got the Christmas dinner groceries on Saturday, we wrapped all the presents on Sunday so all that's left to do now to prepare for Christmas is to give our house a clean. Because Christmas is at our place again this year we get to chose the dinner, so we're making Andrew's mum's signature roasted leg of pork, with crackling. I LOVE crackling. And we're making spiced peaches (peaches done in a spiced vinegar) too, which is my FAVOURITE part of the pork dinner. Can't wait, but not looking forward to the cleanup. No sir.

I'm not sure if I'll be back on line this week, but if not, Merry Christmas everyone (all 2 or 3 of you)! May 2010 bring you everything you wish for & more.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

It came from beyond the breadbox...

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100th post! Weeee!

Wow, this is my hundredth post! Who knew I had it in me? Not me, that's fer sure.

On a less self-congratulatory note, I'm constantly thinking of how to decorate Wren's room, and yet afraid to start anything unless the adoption goes south again. I've decided on a bird theme for obvious reasons, and have found some awesome wall decals, courtesy of one of the blogs I read (www.theblessing.ca). A division of her brother's company is producing these decals & I've fallen in love with one of them. The website is www.peelmonkey.com, and the decal is of birds flying out of a bird cage. Here's a photo. I'm thinking of the white & purple decal against a soft apple green background. I always wanted to do that colour scheme anyway.


Now I just need to decide if I want to paint the crib. It'll be a big job but I've got nothing but time.

Monday, November 30, 2009

99 red balloons

99 posts, actually. That's pretty cool, who knew I had it in me. Good thing it's been an eventful year, otherwise you'd likely be reading the web equivalent of crickets (cheep cheep cheep).

Speaking of this eventful year, I just got the email from Imagine saying that they've re-signed 246 families to the agency (with a couple more pending). I believe they said they needed 200 families in order to be able to continue operating, so that is GOOD NEWS indeed. Of course they have not come out & said without a shadow of a doubt that happy days are here again, but they have said that, "today is a big day for the new Imagine Adoption!" (punctuation theirs). The next step is that, "the board will be conducting an analysis to provide to (the bankruptcy trustee) to compare to the initial proposal", which they expect to occur by Friday so they can provide us with a more detailed communication next week. I'm hoping this email is just cautiously worded, and that we're in the clear now. What do my readers think (all 3 of you)? Does that sound positive to you? Will I ever be able to stop obsessively analysing everything from the agency? Please tell me this will all work out, I need this to work out. My nerves are SHOT.

And while I'm talking about adoption, can I just say that I hope that document that Rana & Yvan are waiting for is translated immediately so they can go get their beautiful boy? Just wanted to put those vibes out there. And while I'm talking about babies, I'd like to congratulate my BFF Vicki, she's officially 13 weeks along with her surprise first pregnancy. Oh how I wish I was able to spend the next 27 weeks with her. And away from the snow, not that we have any yet. I'd be happy if we didn't get any. Too messy.

Love to all!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Evie meets Santa

Wow, is she starting to look like a little girl or what?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Hey, did you happen to see the most cutest baby in the world?

My sister-in-law decided to see how Evie looked in her glasses. The answer - cute as a button!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Tenterhooks

So, it's come to this. November 30. That's the day we'll find out if enough people have paid their $2000.00 to allow the agency to re-start for reals. It would be a real shame for the agency to not be able to move forward with the remaining Ethiopian adoptions after all the hard work that everyone, but especially the steering committee, did. I go back & forth being optimistic & pessimistic and it's doing a number on my nerves. With all the enthusiasm I saw after Imagine came out of bankruptcy, I thought we'd see the money come in a lot quicker, that we'd be able to move forward before the Nov 30 deadline. I know we still have a week to go, but the wait is excruciating! Fingers crossed that this all works out.

In less life changing news, we went to see New Moon this weekend. It wasn't the best movie I've ever seen, but it wasn't the worst movie either. It really dragged in places, but I thought the acting was pretty darn good, even if some of it was annoying. I really enjoyed the books, so it's kind of neat to see it visually, instead of just in my head. Pretty cool. I think it will get better with repeated watchings (the first movie did, for me at least), though I won't go to see it at the theatre again. After we saw the movie we went to go to the BBQ store near my work to scope out Christmas gifts for my dad but alas they were closed (at 3pm - who closes at 3pm near Christmas? I mean, I know not a lot of people BBQ in the winter, but still). So we went to Ikea instead! We got some stocking stuffers and finally got drawer inserts for the Expedit bookcase in the baby's room. I can't wait to start working on the baby's room. Come on, good news!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Lest we forget

Not much to say today, except thank you to those who have fought & given their lives to preserve our freedom & way of life, in the most recent wars and all the wars that have been fought in the last century or so. I can't imagine how it must have felt, going off to war, fighting in the trenches of World War 1, amongst horrying conditions, more likely to die from disease than from shrapnel or an enemy bullet. Or going off to war in World War 2, technologically more advanced but just as deadly, with the possibility of ending up in a prison camp, especially if you fought in the Pacific. I feel so blessed and thankful that in my lifetime, I have a choice to join the fight if I wish, and that my husband has the same choice. I cannot fathom having to say goodbye to him, knowing that he may never come home. My extended family has already lost someone to the Afghanistan conflict, just before Thanksgiving 2006. I'd rather we didn't lose any more.

Monday, November 9, 2009

It's been a while

Sorry about that, not much to say really. Had a great anniversary trip in Niagara Falls - stayed at the Hilton, walked around the casino the first afternoon, had a nice dinner, the next day we did a little shopping at the Canadian outlets, then went & toured some of the nearby wineries (bought some great wines), then had Brazilian churrasco at the restaurant in the Hilton (we ate ourselves stupid), then on the Monday we went shopping in NY. We went to Walden Galleria & some of the outlets, got some Christmas gifts & gifts for ourselves (mostly clothes). All in all, a nice long weekend. Then this past Friday we headed to my hometown to see the dentist (he's been my dentist for over 30 years, hopefully he doesn't retire any time soon!) and hang out at my parents' place (unfortunately they weren't there - they were doing their own cross-border shopping in Michigan). We rented Monsters vs Aliens (very cute) and ate the local pizza (awesome - has shredded ham instead of just chunks of ham like the pizza chains do - soooooo yummy). Then it was back home for 5 pin bowling with the adoption crew & Mexican food afterwards. Then yesterday my brother & his wife came to our place to go through some books & stuff they had stored at our place. Unfortunately they did not bring my niece - she spent the night with her grandma (Jenn's mom) so they were going to go there after our place. I'll probably see her next weekend as my parents will be at our place.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Happy Anniversary

Today is Andrew's & my 15th wedding anniversary! We've been through a lot together, a whole lot, and even though he doesn't read this blog (that I am aware of), I want to thank him for putting up with me for 15 years (well, 17 really, but 15 married years). We've been able to weather all of the storms together, as a team, and I think it helps that we are best friends and soul mates. I have always believed we were destined to be together - how else could a Canadian girl end up married to an Australian guy after meeting & spending 2 days together in London (UK)? It has to be fate. Anyhow, I thank God for him every day, and I hope we have many, many more years together. Thank you, my friend, for everything you do for me, for your support (emotional & otherwise). I hope with all my heart that we will be a family soon so we can share our love with our daughter.

Monday, October 26, 2009

It should be me

Our niece's christening was yesterday. It was a beautiful day, bright & sunny after a dreadfully gloomy day on Saturday. She was one of 5 babies being baptised that day, and she was the only one that didn't cry at all. She was just a little angel, which is fitting, I suppose! Sitting in the pew, though, for those 2 hours, all I could think was, this should be me, or more accurately, us. I'm almost 4 years older than my brother, it should be my child being baptised, everyone should be happy for me, for Andrew, for Wren, for us. Selfish. I know it. Most of the time I'm on top of the mourning for what hasn't happened yet, but yesterday it was front & centre. There were several times during the (long) service where I was almost in tears. I don't begrudge my brother his family (especially our sweet angel Evie) but I can't help but be insanely jealous. All this uncertainty with the adoption doesn't help either. At this rate I'll be an auntie again before I get Wren home. I know it's my own fault that we don't have any kids, but that doesn't make it hurt any less. Sigh.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Achoo!

So, my work laptop got a virus last night, just before I left for the day. Awesome! Now it's convalescing in the IT department. I felt just awful, like I'd been looking at nasty internet things, but I really wasn't! Honest! I was just surfing the same sites I've been surfing every day for years, but this time "gofugyourself" gave me a bit more than laughs about celebrities who can't dress themselves. I have to tell you, my guilt factor here is ENORMOUS! I feel like this is going to go on my permanent record. I can't wait to get my own laptop back, this loaner is slow & I don't have my personal files so I can't archive any of my emails. Boo! This sucks!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

I'm still here

It's been an up & down week this week. I've been struggling a little, emotionally, after the death of my friend. That feels a little fraudulent to say that, because I lost touch with her about 20 years ago, but I can't help think how devastated her husband and daughter & family are, how awful her passing must have been for them. Her mom was a teacher in my elementary school, so it was good to be able to see her at the wake & be able to give her my condolences in person. Once I told her my (maiden) name she remembered who I was, and I think she couldn't believe that I had actually come to the wake after so much time. It was so nice to see her again, but I can' help wishing that she didn't have to endure the devastation of losing a child, especially after she had beat the cancer the first time. I kind of wondered if I should go to the wake after so much time had passed, but I'm glad I did. She was a part of my life, even if that part was a long time ago.
Along with the wake, the weekend was pretty busy. We got one of the cars serviced, spoke with the lady at the bank to make sure we had the money available for the additional payments for the adoption (that was Saturday), then on Sunday we cleaned up the gardens to get them ready for winter. We harvested heaps of onions, carrots & a huge head of garlic. We also have some brussels sprouts that might still be harvestable (right now they are the size of large peas). It was a lot of work & pain (I ended up with a rose thorn in my toe & a cut on my finger from a nasty blade of grass - I can just picture the Discovery channel special - WHEN GRASS ATTACKS!) but it was worth it, the garden looks much better. This coming weekend is Evie's christening.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Losing touch

Moving around as much as I have since high school (and being an exchange student during grade 12), I've lost touch with most of my friends from childhood. I found out today that one of my dear friends from childhood, from as far back as kindergarten times, has passed away from cancer. At 37 years old. To say that this is sad is a given. What a loss - I can't even begin to process it yet. Whatever happens in my life, I can never forget that I have it good, great even. At least I have a chance to live my life.

I'll be attending her memorial tomorrow.

Rest in peace, Tracy.

ETA: It was cancer. It started as breast cancer 5 years ago, which was agressively treated & beaten into submission. Then it returned, in different parts of her body, but she was only able to have one round of chemo before it took her from her husband & 7-year old daughter. How indescribably horrible, to have to leave your child behind. I cannot even begon to fathom how that must feel, my heart goes out to anyone in that situation. It's certainly one I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Peaceful easy feeling

It was a quiet, peaceful Thanksgiving. We arrived at my parents' house around noon on Saturday, and my brother & his family arrive around 3.30pm. We had a big spaghetti dinner that night, with one of my mom's best friends in attendance. This lady has done so many wonderful things for my family, including taking my mom to therapy when she had her knee replaced last year, and sitting with my mom for the countless hours that my dad was in surgery to remove part of his kidney. She is such a special lady, peace & love just radiate off her. Her & my dad also have a good relationship - she's always giving him a hard time about something, but in a joking way. She's becoming a very special part of our family.

My niece is a little over 6 months old now, and she is such an angel! She is such a happy baby, especially in the morning when she wakes up. It was so great to be able to spend the whole weekend with her, from the time she woke up - with a smile for everyone - to the time she went to bed. She just charms everyone she meets. She had a huge smile for me every time I saw her. It makes me want this adoption to go much, much quicker! I imagine Evie will be about 2 when Wren comes home. I can just picture her asking for her cousin, "where's Wen?", because of course she's have trouble with her "r"s. Man, I'm getting ahead of myself, there's a long way to go to get to that point!

Anyhoo, it was a great long weekend, very restorative to my soul.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

My Secret

I must confess something. I understand that I may be mocked for this confession, but I feel this is worth the relief of getting it off my chest. I love the Jonas Brothers. There – I said it. I know that I’m 15 years older than the oldest Jonas (Kevin), but I don’t care. It’s not a romantic kind of love, though, that would be illegal, and also not all that realistic. No, I just think they are really cool, and I love their TV show (named, of course, Jonas). When I was growing up (like 8 years old or so), I was totally in love with Davy Jones of the Monkees. That was my absolute favourite TV show at the time (it still is one of my favourites) and I would tell anyone who would ask that I loved Davy Jones & that I was going to marry him. Never mind that it was the late 70’s – early 80’s and that it was at least the second “wave” of the Monkees (the series originally aired in the 60’s).

But anyway, back to Jonas. Jonas (the TV show) is a lot like the Monkees – it’s got cute young men, slap-stick, visual comedy, music, what’s not to like? It’s one of my favourite shows now (guess I’m a sucker for a pretty face that’s also funny). And these are just genuinely nice guys – two of them (Joe & Nick) are in the GTA filming Camp Rock 2 (no, I haven’t seen Camp Rock 1, well, I haven’t see ALL of it) and they ran the Run for a Cure last weekend. How cool is that? With all the questionable role models out there right now, I would have absolutely no problem with my daughter “crushing” on these guys.

So there we go, my secret is out. But seriously, watch Jonas – it’s good for a laugh, and there ain’t nothing wrong with that.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A fairly boring weekend

Not sure why I waited til Tuesday to blog about this, it's not like it's going to get any more interesting with time. Anyhoo, this weekend featured painting, napping & a deep-fried mars bar, but not necessarily in that order. Saturday started bright & early at 6am, thanks to Pippin & her insatiable hunger (darn cat). We started the day with the breakfast of champions - toasted english muffins with sliced green olives & old cheddar melted over the top. Mmmmmm. Then the flooring was delivered (it has to aclimitise to our house before it's installed). Then we went to the dump to get rid of the old carpet, to Cobs in Oakville for chocolate croissants & a jalapeno cheese twist (I won't put my system through that again). Then we went for fish & chips (well, since I don't eat fish it was chicken nuggets & chips), and a deep fried mars bar, which we shared. They are just too rich to eat a whole one by yourself. Then we went to Home Depot for trim paint for the quarter-round. Sunday mostly consisted of painting the quarter-round & a 3 hour nap in front of the Nascar race. And we watched the Battle of the Blades, which was pretty cool.
See, I told you it was boring!

More cute!

Yeah, I look like this every day, what of it?

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Friday, October 2, 2009

Cute overload

Here are some new pics of my niece, who is up there with the cutest babies in the history of the world. She turned 6 months old yesterday.





Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Awesome

I had the BEST news from Downunder last night - my best friend is pregnant! After years of trying, many doctor's appointments, specialist's appointments, tests, signing on to be foster parents & completing foster parent training just recently, she's fallen pregnant! Just like that! Funny how that happens, you resign yourself to believing it won't happen for you and you make your peace with that, then BOOM! Pregnant! I cannot express how happy I am for her & her husband, it could not happen to two nicer people. I cannot wait to see what this baby looks like! It's still early days, though, so think good thoughts, if you will, and send good vibes all the way to Australia.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sounds like heaven

Why did no one tell me that Daniel Craig AND Hugh Jackman are in a play together. I don't care what it's about, I'd go see it for the eye candy. Sweet, sweet eye candy. Mmmmmmmmm. (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/33060147/ns/entertainment-arts_books_more/)

Monday, September 28, 2009

The carpet, she is gone

I think I did more manual labour this weekend than I have in a long while. Friday night, 11pm, I fixed the inventory errors for work for an hour (it's the end of our financial year, we needed to make sure we could ship everthing possible). Saturday morning, bright & early, we started pulling up the carpet & padding in the front room, to prepare it for the laminate which will be installed next week. Who knew the contractors would use that many frakkin staples? And the dust under the padding was gross. Blech. Then we moved everything back into that room & started filling it up with furniture from the living room. Then my parents arrived on their way back home from the cottage, to stay with us for the night so they could visit Evie (first grandchild) before they went home. We told them in no uncertain terms that we had no intention of cooking dinner, so we went out instead. They left the next morning. Then we picked all the basil from our garden & made 6 cups worth of pesto - believe me that is a lot of pesto! Then we finished moving the furniture out of the living room (the couch is currently taking up residence in our eat-in kitchen - it just fits). Then we tore out the carpet & padding there (the cat puke stains from the gummi bear incident went right through to the wood underneath - who knew?). At last we are done with this stage of the renovations. The living room now contains a quarter of the furniture it did yesterday morning. Can't wait until we have to move the entertainment unit that weighs a ton (we don't have a flatscreen TV. Yet). So I am sore & feeling a sense of accomplishment. Hopefully tomorrow I will be able to walk properly, and not like I have a stick up my bum.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

I think I'm geeking out

No, I know I'm geeking out. Not many people know that I've wanted to be an archaeologist for as long as I can remember, but lots of people know that I'm a huge history geek, mostly Dark Ages to the Industrial Revolution. Anyhoo, it was announced today that a huge hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold & silver has been discovered in England by an amateur metal-detector person (not sure of the terminology there). Check out this story - http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/staffordshire/8272058.stm, it's pretty darn cool (ah, if I could only figure out how to add links in my posts). Now, if I could just find something that cool in my backyard.....

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

WE DID IT!

Andrew & I weren't able to attend the creditor's meeting yesterday but we had voted previously so that didn't matter. The vote was a resounding YES! to resurrect the agency! It still needs to go before court to be approved, that will happen next Tuesday, but hopefully we're back on the road to Wren! The vote was something like 248 to 20, with all of the non-family creditors voting in favour of the proposal. This was just the icing on a great weekend, and a great way to start the week. Baby girl, we're on our way!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Eastbound & down

Loaded up & truckin', we're gonna do the things that can't be done. We've got a long way to go & a short time to get there.... Sorry about that, got lost in a Smokey & the Bandit fog (at least, I think that song is from that movie, I probably have half the lyrics wrong). Anyhoo, we're heading off to parts eastward, to visit with my dad's side of the family for the weekend. On the way there we may stop for buttermilk pancakes in Coburg (at the Buttermilk Cafe - TO DIE FOR), and we will definitely stock up on garlic cheese curds (food of the gods - I kid you not) in Plainfield. There's a BBQ at my aunt's place on Saturday (my mom's birthday) and we're going out for dinner on Sunday to celebrate my mom's birthday. It'll be nice to get away. The meeting with the bankruptcy trustee (re: the proposal & whether it got enough votes to proceed) is on Monday, but we won't make it back in time to go. A couple of our friends are going & will report back to us with the (hopefully) good news. Fingers crossed! This wait is EXCRUCIATING (is that how you spell that. it looks wrong)(oh well, I'm too lazy to look it up)!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

What a hoser

My boy, Andrew, is now a fully-fledged Canuck! We went to the ceremony this morning, it was quite touching, and I felt rather patriotic (Canada rocks!). Then we went straight to the passport office, where applying for his passport took Andrew all of 10 minutes, including the wait. It helped that he was so organized. In the same plaza there was a photo studio named Mehboob. I can assure you that many laughs were had at the expense of that name. You know what they say, don't touch mehboob.

On a stinkier note, Mr. Skunk traipsed through our yard again last night. Willow spotted him & started going nuts, so we went to look to see what she was reacting to. It Mr. Skunk, trundling through, looking like a black Y white pekinese type dog. Heh, so cute but so stinky.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Wild kingdom

NEWS FLASH.....The latest addition to the menagerie of beasts to roam our backyard is the skunk. That's right - the skunk. This morning marked our first sighting of a skunk in our natural habitat. I was eating my breakfast when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw something moving in the backyard. It was lighter in colour than the usual raccoons, so I though maybe it was a cat, which we also sometimes see in our yard (not our cats, though, but neighbourhood cats). But no, as I looked more closely I saw it was a skunk. This is closest I've been to a skunk in the "wild". So, to tally up, this year we've had mice, raccoons, other people's cats, a squirrel or 2, and a skunk. I imagine the next animal we see might just be a deer, though I'm not sure how he'll get over the fence.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Too cute!

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I propose

So the proposal is done, and we've read it - it's a pretty dry read. Anyway, the long & the short of it is, if the proposal gets 2/3 of the votes from creditors it will go before the courts for approval. I don't see why it wouldn't get enough votes, but there's more than just adoptive families affected by this. So, if it passes the court approval stage the agency will be resurrected. The thing is, though, we'd need to put in a total of $4000 (each family) to cover operating costs, one lot in October or November, and another in February. Considering we'd only get back about $2000 or so if the bankruptcy proceeded that doesn't seem like a bad deal. Now we just need to find that $4000. We voted yes, by the way. I can't relax, though, until the proposal makes it through court.

In other news, Andrew's citizenship ceremony is next Tuesday, which is a lot quicker than we had thought it would be. How cool is that? This year continues to be a roller coaster of ups & downs.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

I'm floored (or, I will be)

Let’s see, what’s been happening since the last time I posted? Well, early last week I was pretty bummed (okay, really bummed) to find out that I was not chosen to be one of the godparents of my niece, Evie. While it doesn’t bother me that my sister-in-law chose her sister instead, part of me still says, “hey! Why not me?”. I know my brother is just being who he is, which is someone who doesn’t necessarily always put his family first, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hurt when he doesn’t even think to put me (and Andrew, frankly) for that kind of honour. He never sends me photos of my niece, I have to download them from Facebook (from my sister-in-law’s page). You’d think that he’d be stoked to send me pictures of his sweet daughter, but he doesn’t think like that. This coming weekend my parents are coming to visit us. They’re going straight to my brother’s place, then we’re going to meet up with them for a family dinner. Then we’re (my parents, Andrew & I) are bringing Evie home with us for the night (I think at my parent’s request – well, let’s face it, it was my mom’s request). Anyhoo, she’ll be sleeping with my folks in their room (it’s easier that way, cat-wise). So when my brother called to give me a heads up that this was happening (and to break my heart on the godparent front) he says, “we’ll see how it goes, if it goes well maybe she can stay with you again sometime”. What does he mean, IF it goes well? What does he think is going to happen? Does he think we’re going to feed her pizza, or go to a rave or something? Honestly, he just doesn’t think about what he’s saying sometimes. He is so condescending to me about the whole baby thing, like because I don’t have kids yet that I don’t know how to care for them. Dude, I was babysitting 1 year old twins before he was 10 years old. Twins! I know that was quite a while ago, but I think I can handle one baby (5 months old yesterday). Feh. I think you can tell he’s not in my good books right now. Inconsiderate tool.

Later in the week we formalized the quote to have laminate flooring installed on our main floor. We’ve changed the colour to Ancient Cypress (a warm, reddish colour) and decided that we will move all the furniture & pull up & dispose of the old carpet & laminate packaging to save money. That’s going to be a fun week. Chaos!!!! We hope to have it all done by the end of this month. We figure we’ll book one room for a Monday install (so we have the weekend to prepare that room), then book the other room for a Friday (to give us the rest of the week to ready that room), so Andrew doesn’t have to take 2 days off in a row. I’m looking forward to having everything done & back to normal.

This weekend we went to my parent’s place for a visit. It was pretty quiet, but nice. Mom & I went shopping & ended up with some real bargains (I scored a purple tank top with a very cool beaded neckline – I have the khaki version as well – for $10.00), and I fell in love with a long black “boyfriend” style cardigan. It’s knee-length & I love it & I went back & got it on Monday. You can’t say I didn’t think on it for a couple of days. At the grocery store where we did our weekly shop I saw a Dungeness crab with barnacles on its shell. As I watched the barnacle popped up to say hello. I almose barfed right there in front of the tank, then I hightailed it over to the meat section. I don’t know what it is about barnacles but they gross me out BIG TIME. It’s one of the few things that grosses me out. Weird, huh? Good thing I don’t run into them too often, living near freshwater waterways & all.

I guess that pretty much brings us up to date. We should hear about the proposal this week, or early next, and should be able to vote on it soon. Andrew got a reply from the ministry of child & youth services stating that if all goes well they hope the agency will be back up & running by October. It’s good to see that the ministry is optimistic, I think that is hugely important. Fingers crossed we’re still in this crazy adoption “race”!

That damned rabbit (tm)

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Just kidding, that's not the rabbit what ate our garden. He's brown.

Not much to blog about lately, I'll try to write more this afternoon.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Twista

I can't remember if I mentioned the wicked storm that happened last Thursday night. If I did - sorry to bore you with it again. If I didn't - wow, it was a doozy! It was Sydney-level lightning & thunder, and it must have gone on for over an hour (that's how long the power was out). I was sitting there, by myself (of course Andrew was golfing on the other side of Toronto that day), looking outside & thinking, "should I grab the cats & go downstairs? This looks really bad". And it did - I thought the wind was going to snap our tree - thankfully it's still staked (it's only 5 years old), and possible whip the table umbrella around so much that it would shatter the glass table. Thankfully we didn't have a lot of damage, as it turns out there was a tornado just a few blocks away! Eek!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Hope

It's been yet another fairly uneventful weekend, quiet but not bad on the fun front. I am feeling a little more hopeful today about the resurrection of the agency. According to the steering committee, the proposal is about a week away from completion. We'll be able to look at it & vote on it soon, then it goes to the Ministry for review & to the court for approval. To know there's finally some movement with the proposal makes me feel a bit better. I'm sure it's been worked on ever since the meeting on July 30, but to actually here some news about it is a good thing. It feels like we're finally getting somewhere. Maybe this might happen overall. One of the bloggers I read, who is adopting from China, finally received her referral after almost 3.5 years of waiting (she's now mom to a 5.5 month old baby girl). I can't imagine signing on with a program thinking you'll have a referral within a year or so, then having referrals slow down to the point that it's 3.5 years from the log-in date before you get your referral. The amount of patience required in this "game" is astounding. Well, here's hoping it's a good week. Amazing to believe it's only been 1.5 months since the agency went bankrupt.

Here's hoping that everyone in the Ethiopia program is able to get a court date, if they don't already have one, and the court dates are successful so their children can come home soon.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Nothing

I haven't been inspired to blog much lately, all this waiting for the proposal to be done & approved by the court is sapping away my optimism. Every day I feel exhausted by the end of the day. Today I am exhausted at the beginning of the day - darn Pippin & her hairballs. I swear she coughs one up every week, usually at some wee hour of the morning when it's her turn to sleep with us. This morning's offering was presented around the time I was going to get up anyway, but it's still jarring to leap out of bed for that reason. Good thing it was Andrew's turn to clean it up.

Speaking of Andrew, he wrote his Canadian citizenship test yesterday, and thinks he did rather well. Now we wait to hear when the ceremony will be. Yay Andrew! When I got my Aussie citizenship I didn't have to write a test but I think they brought that in afterwards. Soon we will be a dual dual-citizenship household.

Well, that's about all from here.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Heh

- on a related note, I once knew a Siamese named Ralph, he was cross-eyed, and just about the cutest kitteh I've ever seen.

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Nothing, really

I'm looking forward to this weekend, let me tell you. Not that this week was that bad, but it had more than it's share of bad days (adoption-wise). Not that anything new has happened on the adoption front, it's just that since the proposal's being put together there's no real news to speak of. Some days it's harder than others to believe that this is going happen. If this adoption does happen the referral wait will be a piece of cake, stress-wise, after all this waiting.

This weekend we're going to go for a bike ride, in the morning when it's cool, then we'll measure the front room & the living room & head out to Home Depot & Lowe's to price out laminate & installation prices. We also have to get quotes on getting some outlets installed in the basement so my folks can get us a small chest freezer for Christmas. We're having friend over for dinner & drinks on Saturday and Andrew's going golfing on Sunday morning with Rob. By the way, if I haven't mentioned it, our friends Rob & Kate own this great Indian restaurant in Streetsville - Hill Station Curry Co. Best chicken tikka EVER. He also makes a great garlic naan, but man is it spicy!

Anyhoo, that's all from here. Enjoy your weekend!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

New Evie pics


She's 4 months, 1.5 weeks old now. Sigh, they grow up so fast.



She looks so stern in this picture.



In this picture she looks JUST LIKE MY BROTHER when he was a baby. IDENTICAL. Freaky.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Happy Duran Duran Appreciation Day everyone!

They're my favouritest band ever, don't ya know?!? I'd post a concert pic my friend took a couple of years ago but it's on my other 'puter. Oh well. Enjoy the day, it only comes but once a year!

I believe

In my heart, I still believe this adoption will happen. My pesimistic side sometimes gets the better of me, though. The proposal to resurrect the agency should be complete in 2-4 weeks (so, by the end of August), but then it goes before the court. Is that a simple, quick process? Who knows? Do we need to wait (and wait & wait) for a court date or will we get one right away? Will the court approve the proposal? If so, how much more money will we need to give to complete this adoption? There are so many unknowns, and that gives me a lot of anxiety. I mean, there are always lots of unknowns in the adoption world, but this is an unusual case. And with all this indecision, we're trying to decide whether to put our dossier through CAS as well. If we get an adoption through them, it may delay or jeopardize our Ethiopian adoption. So many decisions, and not much info. Gah! No wonder I'm stressed & tired most of the time.

On a separate note, we bought bicycles this weekend, so I can't wait to go bike riding. It's been 20 years since I owned & used a bike. Man, I feel sooooo old!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Blah

Feeling blah today - this damp weather is making my back ache. Stupid dampness.

We had a great weekend - my parents came down on Friday & were sitting on my front porch when I got home (they forgot their key). Saturday we pretty much spent the whole day with my brother's family. We had a great time then, too - the folks are always in a great mood when they get to see Evie. She's such a doll - she likes to talk with me and stand on my lap. I was wearing a hot pink shirt that day & she loves hot pink so I really held her attention. I was blowing raspberries on her arm at one point & she was laughing her head off - it was sooooo sweet. Four months old is a great age - they have a personality but they're not mobile yet. Sigh...... Anyway, everyone says I'm really good with her, so I guess that's good?

Sunday we went to take my dad to the BBQ store across from where I work but it was closed (damn it). So we went to Vaughan Mills instead - A & my dad hung out in Bass Pro Shop & my mom & I shopped for a dress for her for the church's 50th anniversary. Because she wasn't "looking" she found a really great dress - navy blue with small white dots & a white short sleeved blazer for over the top.

My parents left early Monday & I didn't do much of anything after that. Ah, holiday Monday.

That is all.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Heh - this looks familiar

Willow did this to me, out of the blue, night. She was all like, look at me, I am the Hallowe'en kitteh! But it's much cuter in sterio.

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Yesterday

It seemed to go really well - as well as it could have gone with 180+ families in one room all wanting answers. The good news - the bankruptcy trustee is thrilled that we want to go ahead & restructure the agency to bring it out of bankruptcy, and there are apparently a group of qualifies people who have stepped forward to do it. The restructuring proposal still has to get through court, though. Fingers crossed. The proposal will be worked on in the next 2-4 weeks, but I'm not sure when it will go before the court. The head chair of the meeting, who is from the government department that oversees bankruptcies, said he was very impressed with the enthusiasm we have, and all the work we have done. He's never experience such optimism in all his years working with that department. The head of the BDO team said the same thing, and she's very optimistic that we can make this work. In the meantime we can apply to BDO to find out where our file is on the list of files in Ethiopia. That will determine whether we sign up with CAS or not. I'm glad to be starting the long weekend with good news, instead of more uncertainty - we're headed in the right direction!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tomorrow

I'm pretty nervous about the creditor's meeting tomorrow, so much is riding on it. Our future, the futures of the other families involved in this mess. Whatever happens at this meeting will affect how the Ontario government decides to help us. I'm so hoping this is a positive meeting with all the right answers but I'm trying not to get my hopes up. Not sure if the nasty blonde horse-buying lady will be there - in a way, I hope so, in a way I hope not. I just hope she has to reap what she has sown. Sigh.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Mystery solved?

The That Damned Rabbit saga continues.....
Turns out the decimation of our garden may not be the fault of one rabbit. Turns out that there is also a mousie at work! We've dubbed him Basil, as scurrying under the basil plants is his preferred method of escape. As I looked out at the garden over the weekend I saw a small brown shape tugging at one of the leaves of the broccoli plant. It was Basil - he gnaws on the leaf stem a little, then pulls the leaf of & scurries back to his burrow, which we believe is under our garden, or in the neighbour's shed. Over the winter we'd often see him under the bird feeder, eating the discarded seeds. He had 2 little tunnels in the snow - one that led to the other side of the yard, and one that lead to underneath our garden. We discovered them once the snow started to melt. Clever little guy. And since it appears to be one little guy - we'll let him be. We didn't want those stinky broccoli, cauliflower & brussels sprouts anyway.

R.I.P. Oliver 2004-2009


In the latest in a series of bad things happening this year, my brother's cat has passed away. He was a very sweet, good natured cat, a tall & lanky brown tabby, with the highest pitched mew you ever heard. He had some seizures a few weeks ago but he seemed to be doing okay. Then on Saturday he had a major seizure & never came out of it. He will be missed.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Not much of an update

We're looking into putting our name into the CAS, perhaps we can adopt a baby locally. Hey, it worked for our friends from our PRIDE group, maybe it can work for us. That doesn't mean that we won't proceed with our Ethiopian adoption, if that turns out to be possible. Man, I wish I was psychic or had a crystal ball or something. Patience may be a virtue, but it's not my best trait. I just wish I could know that this all turns out okay, and that we'll finally be a family of 3 (or 4).

Because I can't be asked to post anything else right now, and because I totally agree

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

We're famous!

We attended a meeting of a lot of families affected by the Imagine Adoption bankruptcy today. There were several members of the media there, and lo & behold, Andrew & I are featured in a picture on the ctv.ca website. We didn't speak with them (we did speak with CBC national news) so we're not mentioned in the article, but hey - this is my 15 minutes. I might as well use it for good instead of evil.

http://toronto.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20090719/bankrupt_agency_090719/20090719/?hub=TorontoNewHome

ETA: We were indeed featured on the CBC national news last night - there was much hilarity in our house when we saw it. We were the third story of the night. Yes, we will accept requests for autographs.

http://www.cbc.ca/canada/edmonton/story/2009/07/19/ethiopia-adoptions.html

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

No more news yet

There really isn't much more to say. This is not something that will be fixed tomorrow, or the next day, or probably even in a month. This is something that will take an awfully long time to fix, on a literal, monetary front. On an emotional front, it may never be completely fixed. On a trust front, again, perhaps we'll never be able to truly trust a process like this again. The last couple of years have been difficult, to say the least, what with the cars being stolen, dad's illness, the possibility of losing my job. At least we've got each other, and my family, even if it hurts to see my brother & SIL and my parents with my niece, knowing that might never be me (being a parent, that is - I'm not banned from seeing my niece or anything). Sigh....

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Cast away

Where do we go from here? I guess that depends on where here is. Best case scenario – all the dossiers currently in Ethiopia are referred children & we can all complete our adoptions. Worst case scenario – our money is gone forever. Slightly better case scenario – we don’t get a referral but we do get at least some of our money back. Without getting at least some of our money back, I don’t know if we can move forward with another adoption. It’s a good thing we didn’t go into debt for this adoption – oh wait, we did. What happens to the paperwork that’s with the Ethiopian side of things? Do we get that back? If not, we’re going to have to pay to get all the paperwork again. What happens to our homestudy – do we need to get approved again if we change to a different agency/ country? I feel like we just squeaked by with approval last time, what with my weight & all. The government even requested a weight loss plan from me, for the next 18 months. Have I lost a single pound since I submitted that plan – no, no I have not. That’s another issue I’ve discussed briefly before, I won’t revisit it here. Honestly, I’m at a loss. I’m numb, I’m devastated, I’m angry. Good thing we didn’t buy a stroller. Oh wait, we did. And some clothes, and a baby gate. We got a crib & playpen from friends of ours. I’m not giving up entirely on having a child, but this certainly throws a spanner into the works. It was just starting to feel real, and being part of the Ethiopian adoptive community was just awesome, I finally felt a sense of belonging. Now I feel adrift again.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Really bad news

The agency has declared bankruptcy. I am numb.

I imagine this is what my place will look like, eventually

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Weekend

It was boring - that is all. I finished the Twilight series, though, and I know find myself all bummed out. I really immersed myself in that "world" for a whole week and now I'm at a loss. Sigh.....

Friday, July 10, 2009

I vote exorcist

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Sigh.....

Well, I guess it's official - no homegrown broccoli, cauliflower or brussells sprouts for us this year. There's only 1 plant left of each, thanks to that damned rabbit (tm). Funnily enough, he hasn't touched the carrots. Who know rabbits didn't like carrots? Or maybe they're just too much work to dig up. What a lazy rabbit!

Last night we had dinner with my brother & his wife & their daughter Evie, and my cousin, his wife & their son Leen. It was a lot of fun - we haven't seen my cousin & his family for over a year, almost 2 years. They're considering moving out west to be closer to her family, so I suspect we'll be seeing even less of them. It was a really good night, we all get along so well.

This weekend Andrew's doing his fun run, but after that we are footloose & fancy free. Which probably means we won't be doing much of anything, at least not until I finish the last book of the Twilight series. Then next Thursday we're going to the Just For Laughs gala, which should be heaps of fun. Then Andrew will be fly-fishing in New Brunswick for the rest of the weekend. Lucky dog!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Man down

Well, actually "plants down". Yes, that damned rabbit (tm) has been at it again. We lost 3 brussells sprouts plants (no big loss to me), 2 cauliflower plants & 1 broccoli plant. Now is the time for action! Now, if I could just figure out what to do.... Perhaps we'll start dusting with black pepper every evening, but that doesn't work when it rains. Oh well, I'll think of something.

Monday, July 6, 2009

I have a sneaking suspicion "that damned rabbit" is doing the same thing to us (see prev. post)

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Seinfeld-ian

Really, I should have called this blog "Seinfeld", because it's a blog about nothing. Well, it is at the moment anyway. As soon as we get our referral I'm sure the excitement factor with ratchet up big-time. Anyhoo, it was a good but quiet weekend. Friday I left work a little earlier than usual & stopped at the grocery store on the way home to pick something up for dinner. I was originally thinking roast chicken, but then I remembered it was our 4 month anniversary of our file arriving in Ethiopia, which I usually celebrate with little cheesecakes or pastries or something. So I picked up a (bargain) lobster for Andrew & a filet steak for me, and we had that with salad. And of course, the little cheesecakes from the bakery (sooooo delicious). Saturday we went to Cora's for brunch, then to a local farm for strawberries, and to the Superstore for a flank steak for fajitas for dinner. While we were there I picked up some cute clothes for Wren (on sale of course, all in size 12-18 months). I got a sweet pair of jeans with rainbows on the pockets, 2 onesies with birds on them, an adorable soft pink cardigan & an orange t-shirt with a japanese scene embroidered on it (sounds weird, is actually really cute). I picked up a shirt for Andrew too. We also got replacement broccoli (& cauliflower & brussell sprouts) plants to replace the ones that bastard rabbit ate. When we got home one of the other Team Alpha Super Awesome Cool Dynamite Wolf Squadron couples invited us over for drinks. Other than the fact that I should have worn a sweater, we had a lot of fun. Sunday was a "re-arrange the house" day. We've been going through our clothes lately, to thin the herd, as it were, and were sitting in the spare room. I thought to myself - I'll bet the linen wardrobe would fit in here (backstory - our house doesn't have a built-in linen cupboard for reasons known only to the previous owner, so we have a shelving unit with doors from Ikea) and I got Andrew to measure it. Sure enough, with a little elbow grease we had the wardrobe in there about an hour later. It went very smoothly, actually, considering the wardrobe is about half a foot higher than our doorways. We also changed out the bedside table & lamp for smaller ones that match the d├ęcor & hung a picture. It really pulled the room together, and gave a heaps more room in our bedroom, enough to put Wren's crib in there if we need to. Of course, we stirred up so much dust my allergy system went into overdrive, so I got minimal sleep last night. Gah. Every rose has it's thorn, I guess. Other future projects will include painting the spare bathroom, setting up the nursery & moving the towel tower into our bedroom, so we can easily access clean towels (now that the linen wardrobe is in the spare bedroom). The spare bathroom is currently rocking a rubber ducky theme, so I'm not sure what colour to paint it. I'm always drawn to green, but Wren's room is going to be green & blue, so I think that'll be too much green. Perhaps a nice beige, or even a terracotta.

Well, that is all for now. Stay tuned for the next installment of nothing.

ETA: I can't believe I forgot to say that I read Twilight & half of New Moon this weekend (starting Saturday afternoon) along with all the other things we did. I got sick of being the last person in the Western world who hadn't read that series. I must say that I am quite enjoying the books, and am making Andrew take me to W@lmart to buy the last 2 books in the series. Huzzah!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

I want my baby back baby back baby back ribs

Actually, I don't, but we're going to check out the new Chili's near my work so I thought that was appropriate.

That is all.

ETA: Andrew had the baby back, baby back, baby back ribs, and declared them delish. I had the monterey chicken (?) fajitas, they were also delicious, and I had plenty for leftovers. Good times.

Ain't that the truth

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Heh, this reminds me of a small furry someone

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No big whoop

In our continuing story of "I don't do anything at any time ever" I offer the following: on Friday we were supposed to go to the local multicultural festival but after a work lunch at the chicken palace, my guts were in no state to be going anywhere. I even had to ask where the bathroom was at Best Buy, when we went to purchase a new cordless phone to replace the phone that shall no longer be named or even thought of. The good news - the bathrooms at Best Buy are quite clean, at least at the one I was in. Saturday I woke up with the worst hayfever ever and spent the rest of the day blowing my nose & trying not to sneeze. We did manage to get out to buy a couple more bottles of the Dowie Doole cab sav that we love (before it disappears forever), and to buy some nice food for dinner (green chicken tikka - my recipe, it was okay but not perfect - and grilled lobster tails - garlic & lime with cilantro lime butter). Sunday we went to see Transformers - Revenge of the Fallen (loved it!), watched the NASCAR race & made steak with chimichurri sauce for dinner. We've also been plowing through a quart of Ontario strawberries since Saturday (sooooooo yummy). As of Monday I still had the hayfever but it seems to be gone for now. Stupid pollen.

No adoption news. I assume the next bit of news will be when we receive the clearance for the first part of the immigration paperwork for our daughter. Until then, I guess no news is good news. Besides, if people are waiting upwards of 20 months (although, not with our agency), there is no way we're getting our referral until at least this time next year, and perhaps not even then. I need to use this baby free time to prepare my body for baby. Because while I am well aware that I need to lose weight for my health & so that I can be a better, faster mom (6 million dollar mom! Nenenenenenene), I'll be darned if I can get motivated to do so. I eat pretty well (usually), I just can't seem to get me of my arse to get fit. We even have a spiffy recumbant exercycle in the basement & I can't motivate myself to use that. I'm such an idiot that way. I did so well with all the walking in England, why can't I make myself walk here at home? Maybe I need a buddy, someone other than Andrew, to motivate me. What I need, what I'm sure every fat person needs, is a magic pill that removes the fat from where you don't want it, with little effort. That is never going to happen. Ever ever ever. I can only blame my genes for this so much, the rest (the majority) of the blame rests squarely on my shoulders. The last thing I want is for my weight to jeopardize our adoption. By the way, mega congrats to my best friend for her continued weight loss over the past few months - you are an inspiration to me. Don't give up on your dreams.

On a lighter(? - he he he, considering the last topic) note, I'll be glad when all this thunderstormy/rainy weather moves out of town, cuz it's literally giving me a headache.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Watch out! Don't ever turn your back on.....

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Caveat emptor

I think that means may the buyer beware. Looks like Team Alpha Super Awesome Cool Dynamite Wolf Squadron (that would be Andrew & I, plus the kittehs) need to buy yet another cordless phone. Well, technically that's not entirely true, we do have the 10+ year old cordless phone that my folks gave us, that holds a charge for 60 minutes or so. The brand new phone we bought about a year ago (5.8 Ghz! LCD display! awesome silver & white trim!) for $30 decided tonight that it was retiring. We know this because it steadfastly refused to aceept any of our button-pushing, which is frustrating when you're trying to order in a pizza. Like "they" say, you get what you pay for. So don't pay for a silver & white GE 5.8 Ghz phone, no matter how cheap it is, because that's what it is - cheap. So I guess I'll be checking out the cordless phone deals on my way home from work tomorrow! Ah, retail therapy.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Doro What?

Now that I'm done recounting my riveting UK holiday, I can now get back to the minutiae of my everyday life. It's not all champagne wishes & caviar dreams, you know. While we haven't really done much since we returned (this is especially true for my more-than-lardy arse), this weekend was actually eventful. Friday was quiet, but the early hours of Saturday brought us that most precious of gifts - the hairball. We don't even get up to try to get Pippin onto a tile floor anymore, we just let her let it rip & do the damage control when she's done. She's now on hairball control food, so hopefully that will help her pass them in a less spectacular fashion. After that fairly rude awakening we were off to Ethiopian cooking class with our fellow Milton adopting couples (at least, the ones that are with our social worker). This class was organized by Alicia, with one of the presenters of our agency's class presenters, Mibrak (I seem to recall her hosting the Ethiopian culture class, part 1). We all met up in a church in a nearby bustling metropolis, to learn how to cook doro wat, a beef stew (the name of which escapes me), a lentil stew & a vegetable dish. We didn't do much of the cooking ourselves, but we were given recipes & were able to see what the food should look like at various stages of preparation. The lentil dish used the same base (onions, garlic, ginger & berbere) as the doro wat. The beef dish wasn't spicy, except for the large chunks of chili added at the end. The veggie dish was onions, carrots & cabbage, stir-fried with ginger & garlic added later. Then we learned how to make injera (on a big circular griddle). It was sooooo yummy, especially the injera, which was made properly, with a starter (something I haven't done yet). We each got some starter to take with us, so we can try making injera at home (once Andrew & I get a flat griddle with a lid). We always have fun with those 2 couples, so it was great to see them again. We're getting together this week for coffee/ chicken wings, and the next day for the local multicultural festival.

After our class we headed down to my parents place, to take my dad out for Father's Day. He picked the restaurant - one of the local steak places - and we had a great time. I think it's the first time he's been out for dinner since his surgery (though he's been out to breakfast a few times). He's doing really well, but he still tires very easily. For his gift, we got him an apron for barbequing (emblazoned with Big Green Egg - that's his fancy BBQ/smoker) and some BBQ rub. He was really impressed with the apron, it had the funniest/weirdest sticker on it - see operators manual for applications. Like you couldn't figure out how to operate an apron? Heh. Good times. I think he was really pleased that we came down. I'm sure he would have also liked to have seen my brother & his family - Evie (the first grandchild) is only 2.5 months old, and Mom & Dad haven't seen her in 3 weeks, which is a lifetime when they're that young. Hopefully they (my brother & his family) will motivate themselves to go see Dad soon. I know it's tough when you've got a little one, but your father also just had major, life-savng surgery & can't travel yet. Not that he visited that often before Dad was diagnosed. Rant over.

That's about it for today. Be well!

Monday, June 15, 2009

UK Trip, Days 8-10

Here we are, in the home stretch! I'm sure you're about as happy to stop reading about this as I am to stop writing about it. I'm still finding my writing groove….

Day 8 - This was a DRIVING DAY. I hate being in the car for longer than a couple of hours at a time, so this day was not good, mostly. We had an early breakfast at the guesthouse, after another mediocre night of sleep, then we hit the road! We took a different route south than we had on our way north, driving through the Cairngorms towards Perth. All went pretty well, except for the odd bathroom break, until our GPS tried to direct us off our beaten path onto a route which appeared to lead northwards again. Well, we were having none of that! We decided we knew better and turned back around so we were heading toward Perth again. What we didn't notice until a fair bit later was that the time to destination on the GPS jumped 2 hours when we did that. Yeah, that's how we roll. We stopped for lunch somewhere in the Lowlands, close to the border. Andrew ordered scampi (I think) & I ordered a burger. Turns out the burger takes 30 min to cook, which they bloody well could have warned patrons about on the menu. If I'd known it would take that long I'd have ordered something else, as we were anxious to get back on the road. We asked some fellow patrons in the pub for directions as to how to get going towards the west coast again (our self-imposed detour had us heading towards the east coast) and hit the road yet again, our GPS taunting us all the way (telling us to head the way she wanted us to go). We finally turned the GPS off until we hit the motorway. After leaving Inverness at 8am, we finally arrived in Hereford at 7pm. Blech. Anyway, as luck would have it, I had booked the best accommodation for that night, a small boutique hotel (Castle House) that I believe was made from 2 or 3 18th century townhouses. It was an oasis to us. They showed us to our room, carrying our suitcases for us. In the luxurious room there was a bowl of fresh fruit, a decanter of sherry, sparkling mineral water & a toiletry bag full of luxury toiletries (body butter, liquid soap & shampoo) - all on the house. We quickly freshened up & headed downstairs for dinner. We sat outside on the edge of the water (the only remaining part of the castle that was destroyed in the mid-1600s) for drinks & nibbles, and the waiter even took our order down by the water. Once our meal was ready he called us inside. The dinner was very yummy, most of the meat & produce was from the hotel owner's farm. After that it was an early night - Andrew was exhausted from driving and I was tired from having slept in the car most of the day. My life is so hard.

Day 9 - After a nice, but quick breakfast, we walked just down the street to Hereford Cathedral (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hereford_Cathedral). This is my favourite cathedral I've visited. It was fairly quiet, being a weekday & fairly early in the morning. I mean quite people-wise, not noise-wise. Almost the whole time we were there someone was playing the enormous pipe-organ, which was really spooky, kind of. It's hard to describe, but it really produces an emotional response in me, walking through a place that has been a house of worship for almost a thousand years, listening to music that sends chills up your spine. While we were there I lit another candle for my father (I had lit one at Westminster Abbey as well). Then we went to see the special chained library & Mappa Mundi exhibit. I just find it amazing to look at books & maps that people wrote & drew so long ago, to see the world how they saw the world. After that it was back in the car, on our way to Dorset, to see the attraction that was the whole reason Andrew brought me on this trip - Monkey World. To give you a little background, ever since we moved back to Canada I've been watching a show called Monkey Business, whenever it was on. This show is about the inhabitants of Monkey World - rescued chimpanzees, orangutans, gibbons, macaques, capuchin monkeys & other primates. They've been rescued from lives as photographers props (drugged, sometimes with their teeth pulled), pets, laboratory subjects, etc, and brought to a place where they can live out the rest of their lives in peace. We only got to spend 1.5 hours there but it was great to see the monkeys in person. They're so cute you can see why people would want them as pets, but it's just not the right thing for these wild animals. Then we checked into our B&B, headed out for some dinner, came back & watched a special Time Team episode about Stonehenge, and crashed.

Day 10 - Had a great home-cooked breakfast (for me - porridge - I love it, it doesn't love me back, not sure why I had it that day - fresh fruit & a freshly made croissant; for Andrew - poached egg, farm sausage, toast, mushrooms & tomato) and loaded our bags into the car for the last time. Managed to get to Gatwick in record time (well, less than the GPS said), offloaded the car, checked out bags in & had some lunch. After lunch we hit the duty-free shops (Andrew got some scotch & some cologne, I got a little something for myself) and then waited for our flight to be called. Then it was on to our not-so-nice flight (which I mentioned in a previous post, no need to revisit it here).

We picked up the kittehs the next day - Pippin was happy to see us & went straight into her carrier for the ride home (she loves her carrier, that one). Willow was a different story. She sat at the very back of her kennel & howled the riot act at us. Eventually Andrew had to crouch down & go in to get her. She's used to spending our vacations at my parent's place, but that wasn't possible this time, with my dad's surgery & all.

Now you're up to date!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

UK Trip Days 8-10 pics

Again, it's come up in reverse. You'd think I'd learn! First pic is part of the gardens & the shed of the B&B we stayed in (Honeycombe Cottage in Shitterton - no, I'm not joking), second is the B&B itself (it's a 550 year old cottage), third is a Capuchin monkey at Monkey World - they are such characters!, fourth is the ruins of Tintern Abbey, and the last picture is of the freebies (sorry - amenities!) at Castle House in Hereford.





UK Trip Days 5-7 pics

These are coming up in reverse order, but whatev. The first pic is Eilean Donan, second one is a graveyard on the Isle of Skye, third one is the Culloden battlefield (mainly the memorial cairn & some of the clan marker stones), fourth is the CUTE Highland cattle, and the other 2 are mountain/ waterfall shots.






UK Trip Days 1-4 pics

I'm too afraid to edit the actual post, so I'm posting a new post. The first pic is Stonehenge (uh, duh), second one is the Roman Baths, third one is Windsor Castle.



Friday, June 12, 2009

UK Trip, days 5-7

Day 5 - This was mostly a driving day. We headed out to Heathrow fairly early to pick up the rental car. After lengthy negotiations, Andrew manages to secure an upgraded car (Saab Aero) for some extra bucks. The extra bucks buy us more legroom and, more importantly, a GPS. We were off to Scotland! The GPS paid for itself by getting out of the area surrounding the airport with no wrong turns. With the amount of round-abouts in the UK, I'm sure we would have gotten completely lost without the GPS. Thankfully, Andrew has lots of experience with round-abouts from growing up in Australia. We got to Edinburgh at about 6.30pm, though it took us an extra 30 min to find our "guest house" as the GPS did not take us all the way there. After a bit of griping at each other we decided to stop at a pizza joint & ask for directions, because if anyone knows the neighbourhood, it'll be a pizza delivery guy. Anyway, we finally arrived, too late to do any sightseeing in Edinburgh itself. We had a little dinner and then headed up to chill out in the room. Well, it wasn't actually chilly, as it never really got too cool in Scotland when we were there, which hampered our sleeping efforts. Also, our room happened to be above the hotel bar, so if we opened the windows too much we got a room full of smoke & noisy patrons. Awesome.

Day 6 - Had a hot breakfast, including haggis (we went all the way to Scotland, we had to say we'd tried haggis). We only tried a little bit each, but it stayed with us for quite a while. It wasn't awful, it just had an odd taste & texture. Then it was off to Inverness, by way of Fort William. You could really tell when you'd reached the Highlands, the mountains were just spectacular. I've never really been around mountains like that before so it was quite a treat. Sure, they're not the highest mountains in the world, but they just go on forever. I took lots of pictures from the car, and they actually turned out - all hail the sports setting! All over the place there was this small yellow shrub that I can't identify & it's driving me nuts. Anyhoo, we stopped in Fort William for lunch and a little shopping. We bought my dad a quaich & a little bottle of scotch (which he doesn't really drink, and won't be able to drink for a while - until he recovers) from the local distillery (Ben Nevis - which is also the name of the nearby mountain, the highest peak in the UK). We also scored a nodding/bobble-head Nessie for the car! We do love our odd bobble-heads. We still miss Louis, the bobble-head lobster that was stolen with the first Jetta. Sigh. Moving on, we got back on the road to Inverness, passing by Loch Ness in the process. No monsters were spotted. That is one big loch. Part of the reason I wanted to go up to Inverness is because of the Outlander series of books by Diana Gabaldon, so it was great to see the scenery in that area. It's going to add a new element to the books, which I plan to re-read (again) in anticipation of the new book, which will hopefully be out this fall. We passed a small herd of hairy Highland cattle on the way into Inverness - so cool! They are just about the cutest cows you'll ever see (but then I kind of have a thing for horses & cows & sheep etc). We finally reached Inverness about 5pm. We checked into the B&B/guesthouse & headed out for dinner. Then it was back to the guesthouse for a little TV, then sleep. Well, we tried to sleep. The bed was VERY firm, and of course it was pretty warm with the window closed, so we opened it to let in some breeze (and traffic noise, and bird noise). Of course, no one thought to mention that because Inverness is so far north, the sun doesn't set in the late spring/summer. So it's like dusk from 11pm-6am. That didn't bother me so much, but it did get to Andrew. My issues were with the hard bed & the thin pillows - too thin for just 1, too thick for 2. Gah!

Day 7 - Had a good breakfast (a nice mix of cold & hot foods), then headed out to the Culloden Battlefield Interpretive Centre, which is near to Inverness. Again, it was awesome to be somewhere I'd read so much about in Diana's books (even though they are fiction, they have elements of actual historical events). It was sad and a little chilling to see the artifacts of the battle - all the musket balls & broken swords, as well as mementos & items that actually belonged to Bonnie Prince Charlie. One highlight of the centre is the 360 degree theatre, which shows a film based on the battle (no narration, just the battle). As you're standing in the middle of the room you hear the wind around you & see the grass & the heather moving with the wind. Then you start hearing bagpipes & the sounds of marching. Slowly the men come into view - the English army or the Highlanders, depending on which direction you are facing. They get closer & closer, facing each other. Then the English cannons start firing, and the muskets (with bayonets), and the Highlanders start yelling & advancing with their swords & shields. They never stood a chance. Like I said, it was chilling. Then the figures fade away and you hear the wind again. By this time you've reached the place where you exit the building onto the battlefield itself. Obviously it's just a field now. You get an audiophone & you walk the path. The audiophone activates at certain places on the path and you hear an account of the battle, often based on writings of people who were there. You pass by the Well of the Dead, where one of the big chieftains fell, the stones placed where the members of each clan were buried, and the big stone cairn commemorating the battle, which was put there over 100 years later (the battle was April 16, 1746). By that time it was almost 11am, so we hit the road to Skye, which was the other thing we had been planning to do that day. Turns out we should have allowed a whole day for Skye to do everything we wanted to do, but we didn't know that at the time. The GPS took us the long way around, through multiple one lane roads, but we finally made it. One of our destinations was Duncan House, which is an artisan studio about 30min inland from Broadford. It was well worth the trip, the Celtic knot jewelry there is made by the artisan on site. I bought a silver ring with thistles & Celtic knots (it's hard to describe) as my "souvenir of our trip" from the artisan himself. It was very cool. Then we went & had some lunch & headed up to Portree, to shop at Skye Batiks. We had also intended to visit Talisker Distillery but as it was already 3.45pm we thought it was too late, as it would take about 45 mins to get there & it closes at 5pm. So we headed back to Inverness the quick way. On the way we rounded the bend and all of a sudden in front of us was a castle (Eileen Donan), right on the shores of a loch! It was stunning. Another un-eventful evening, except for the finale of Britain's got Talent, and a Top Gear episode that we hadn't seen yet (but that happened to also be the first episode we saw when we got home).

We're in the home stretch now. Only 2.5 more days to go!