Monday, November 30, 2015

Week 23: Most Memorable Vacation

This week's (last week's?!) challenge made me realize how fortunate I have been in traveling. One of the advantages of not getting married until I was 36 was that I was able to indulge in my love of traveling. When it came to picking my most memorable vacation, it was a little difficult. After all, should I write about my and Dave's first trip to Europe in the summer of 2007? Or how about our trip to Vienna with Tim, Janice, Tessa, and Willem in May 2010? What about my and Dave's kid-free vacation to New Zealand last year? And our Southern Road Trip this past spring was pretty memorable too!

However, I decided to pick a trip I hadn't blogged about before. In the summer of 2004 my dad and I took the Trans-Siberian Railway from Beijing to Moscow, through Mongolia. Then we added a side trip to the Ukraine to visit the area where my dad's parents lived before they emigrated to Canada.
Dad and I on the train, somewhere in the middle of Russia.

One of the (many!) cool things about this trip was that I took my dad on it. Between the ages of 25 and 30 I lived in a house which I owned with eleven other people. When we sold that house, we were all left with quite a good nest egg. As my dad and I had been dreaming about this trip for quite some time, I decided to use my nest egg to take us, because why save for a rainy day when you can travel?!

I flew from Toronto to Vancouver, where Dad and I met up. Then we flew to Beijing. We spent two nights and one day there and we went to the Great Wall. It was a really hot day, and we were jet lagged, but it was so cool to visit. We tried to visit The Forbidden City but we got there about ten minutes before it closed and they wouldn't let us in. Boo.
Dad and I on The Great Wall during an extremely hot and muggy day.

The next morning we got on the train for twenty-four hours and took it to Ulaan Bataar in Mongolia. We spent two nights and two days there. I was shocked that edelweiss are a symbol of Mongolia and they were everywhere. We rode camels and visited a family who lived in the countryside. We got to sample arag (the local Mongolian homebrew) and other horse food products. The butter was the best thing I've ever tasted. Yum! I also remember eating a Mongolian "vegetarian" meal of fried potatoes and carrots topped with french fries!
Then we got back on the train for another 24 hours and took it to Irkutsk on Lake Baikal in Russia. Sadly, it was super foggy the day we visited the lake so we didn't see much of it. I remember loving the decorative wooden houses in Irkutsk. And I think that's where I ate the best shrimp meal I've had in my entire life.

After we left Irkutsk we were back on the train for three straight days and nights. The train would stop for short periods of time (I think the longest stop was 20 minutes) and the train almost left without us in Novosibirsk. Those three days were a little intense as there weren't showers on the train! I spent a lot of time reading and looking out the window.

Thankfully we had amazing train mates (there were four to a compartment) and we shared a compartment with Dave and Alex from Ulaan Bataar until Moscow. They were from Australia and so fun to travel with. I ended up going to visit Dave and Alex in Ireland for St Patrick's Day the following March (another memorable vacation!).

After 7,835km (4,868 miles) we finally got off the train for good in Moscow. We spent a few days there and went to Red Square, St Basil's Cathedral and did some shopping. I bought about a million sets of matryushka dolls. I just LOVED those things.
Then we flew to Zaporozhye in the Ukraine and stayed with a local family who knew all the history of the Mennonites (my denomination) in the area. Both of my dad's parents were born in the Ukraine and left for Canada in the 1920s. We found out during our visit that my great-aunt (my grandpa's sister) and my dad's cousin from Germany had visited this family earlier that summer so Viktor was able to share some of my great-aunt's recollections from being a small girl there as he toured us around.
 
Dad and I under a famous (sadly, mostly dead) oak tree in Chortitza.
My grandpa talked about playing under this tree as a small boy.
My great-grandpa's lumberyard
It was still being used as a woodworking shop.

After we left the Ukraine we flew to Vienna, Austria, where we had a brief layover, and then flew home. Two and a half weeks after we'd left, we returned home having circumnavigated the globe (another cool aspect of this trip), seen many amazing things, had once in a lifetime experiences, and met a lot of interesting people.

And that was my most memorable vacation.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Week 22: One Thing I've Never Done That Most People Have

This is another writing challenge I didn't know what to do with. I have to admit, it would have been easier to write if it had been things I've done which most people haven't :) However, I was talking with Dave and Donny a couple of months ago and they were helping me think of things. And we came up with this:

I have never gotten pulled over by the cops or gotten any kind of a ticket -- a parking ticket or a speeding ticket.
Even when I was driving in New Zealand, on the opposite side of the road, and had no clue what I was doing, I didn't get pulled over! Ha!

So maybe this isn't a huge deal, and none of you have ever gotten pulled over either, but I like my clean record and hope to keep it that way.

One thing to note, however, is that I didn't get my drivers license until I was 35 so I haven't had as long to get pulled over as some other people may have.

And if I'd written this post eight years ago, I could say that I'd never driven in a car by myself!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Winter Wonderland

We woke up Sunday morning to snow. It's odd because I wasn't really expecting it. I mean, I knew they were calling for snow but our first snowfall of the season is usually a light dusting. This snowfall was some serious business though.
Of course, the kids were thrilled and, after church, they were eager to get out and play.
Dave was cleaning and I was organizing but I took some pictures of the kids and just enjoyed how much they liked playing together. Because I didn't want to interrupt them, I took these through the playroom window. And you can even tell it was snowing a bit more.
One of the really nice things about the parenting stage we are currently in is that the kids play really well together and without us around. I'm so happy the stage of constant supervision is letting up.
And I'm glad the kids enjoyed playing in their own winter wonderland.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Week 21: Someone Who Inspires Me

I'm a few weeks behind on the writing challenge and I have to admit, it was this post from a couple of weeks ago which tripped me up. It is a little depressing to say that I couldn't think of anyone to write about.

Did I pick my mom who went back to school when I was ten, continued to parent four children, and got top marks while earning a PhD in Psychology?
Did I pick my grandma who lived to be 104 years (and seven months), was dedicated to her church and her family, and had such a zest for life, she fell in love again at age 103?
Did I pick my friend Karen who challenges me with great conversations about church and parenting and isn't afraid to share the tough stuff of life?

Did I pick Janice who has taught me about how to seek out fun things to do with my family, as well as all about enjoying a good cup of tea?
Did I pick my blog friend Bekah who challenges me to be the best wife I can be by modeling how she loves her husband, Ryan?

Did I pick my blog friend Sherry who has taught me how to be joyful in parenting while mourning the loss of her stillborn daughter Mattie a few years ago?
And there are so many other people I could name who inspire me in different ways so I ended up not writing this post because I couldn't figure out who inspired me the most.

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Weekend What

My friend, Tracy, calls her posts about their weekends "The Weekend What" and, rather than coming up with a clever title every weekend, I'm just going to borrow hers. Thanks Tracy!

This weekend wasn't super exciting or super boring, it just was. On Friday night Dave and I had a date and, unusually, we spent it shopping. Since Channukah and Christmas are fast approaching, we decided our kids might appreciate some gifts. And we got most of our shopping done. We also checked out a great clothing sale for Dave and I and I got a great mid-weather jacket. I've worn it as often as I can since I bought it, and I LOVE it!

Saturday morning I caught up on folding laundry and dishes. It was super exciting :) And then Saturday afternoon was Dave's work kids' party. Our kids have a healthy mistrust of strangers and so refused to sit on Santa's lap or get a halfway decent picture with him and Mrs Claus. Since we don't "do Santa" in our house, I didn't really care and found it funny. However, they did thank Santa for the gifts.
And I have to say this for Dave's work -- they do an awesome job of shopping. Sam got a Minion nightlight which makes light patterns on the ceiling and Rachel got a Frozen puzzle and book.
 
We watched Despicable Me 2 with the kids on Saturday night and now we really want to watch the first one. Yes, before Saturday, we'd never seen either of the movies!

Yesterday we woke up to the first snowfall of the season and it was a doozy. I'm already sick of shoveling. Ha!
And the rest of the day was busy with Sunday School, buying some new beds (More on that coming next week...!!! ), and acquiring assorted bedding needs. Plus we did groceries, rearranged our outdoor clothes to fit with the weather (good-bye flip flops), and I hosted book club.

Like I said, our weekend wasn't super exciting or boring but it was a good weekend, nonetheless.

Happy Monday everyone!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Currently...

I decided it's time for a "currently" post so here you go:

Currently, I am...

Listening... to nothing, but tonight Dave and I are going to this concert:
Barenaked Ladies - Silverball.jpeg 
image from here
 
Eating... a lot of Bartlett pears, pineapples, and pomegranates. Yum!
Drinking... I made a citrus syrup last week and I put all the rinds in my water pitcher and filled it. Yum! Citrus water for the win. It's delicious. It's probably time to make a fresh batch but I've just been adding water all week.
You can see the clear pitcher with the rinds in it on the right.
 
Wearing... my scarf which Sherry crocheted for me. I love it and it's been the perfect weather to throw it on under my jacket. And then sometimes, I just keep it on all day.
Please ignore that this is pretty much the worst picture of me EVER. I've been slightly sick for two days, and I had just finished off another hour and a half of work at 11 at night. Just admire the pretty scarf and then move along!

Feeling... tired and a little exhausted by parenting a four-year-old who has been having some major listening issues lately. Dave and I are feeling a little at the end of our rope with her these days.
It's because she has no personality at all!
 
Weather... We've had a pretty mild November thus far but there's been a lot of rain. However, I'm enjoying being able to soak up a little more warmth and sunshine because, before too long, winter will hit in all its cold glory. And of course, I'm taking advantage of hanging out all the loads of laundry I possibly can :)

Wanting... a day off with no demands from either work or the house. I'm really looking forward to Christmas with a four day break from work. It's only 38 days away. Yeeks.

Needing... more sleep. I've been perpetually tired since August and I'm kind of tired of it. Ha!

Thinking... that making Sam stop reading his chapter books to read us his (much shorter, more ridiculous) home reading books is insane and annoying.
On the left: Sam's "fun reading" -- a 73 page, fictional book of Canadian history.
On the right: Sam's "home reading" -- a 14 page, picture book about tropical rainforests
 
Enjoying... my work at home days. I love how much I get done when I'm not interrupted by people in the office. (Even though I only have six other co-workers and most them are part-time, it's still so nice to work at home.)

And that is life currently.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Our Weekend In A Very Few (Not Very Good) Photos

With a riveting blog post title like this one, I'm surprised any of you are tuning in to read this! Also, I've decided, after discovering that I've only taken about 43 pictures in the past two weeks, that I am going to do another Project 365 next year. Weeks have gone by this year where I take barely any pictures and I miss it.

And while I'm at it, I can't believe I didn't post anything after Tuesday last week. All of a sudden it was Thursday night and I was like, "Oh yeah -- I should write a blog post" but I didn't have time and then the week was over. Gah.

On Friday night we all went to a birthday party for one of the kids' friends. It was at a play place and it was insane. Not to mention that it followed a PD day where Sam had a seven hour long play date and Rachel was at her dance studio for seven hours for their PD program. So both kids were exhausted and the craziness of about one hundred kids climbing all over the play structure became rather overwhelming.
However B's mom made these super cute minion cake pops so I had to get a picture and B's dad photobombed it!
On Saturday, perhaps in reaction to the play place insanity, my body decided to throw in the towel. I felt supremely awful with a headache, my cold:part 1,257, and lack of energy. I spent the entire day in bed or on the couch, napping and reading. My FitBit shows a grim picture of my day.
Sunday morning I woke up feeling much better and we went to church, for Sunday School at least. Then we came home and got caught up on chores which didn't happen on Saturday. I love that the kids just hang out in the playroom. This room is everything I dreamed it could be when we bought this house.
Sunday afternoon we ran (walked!) a few errands, and decided to enjoy some ice cream. I was so glad to be feeling so much better and we just had a really great afternoon.
I'm on the playdough rotation for Rachel's class at school this week so she helped me make some pink (of course!), cherry flavoured playdough.
And finally, for those of you who remember Rachel's epic tantrum of last week, we realized she still hadn't spent her birthday money so Dave took her back on Saturday and she had enough money to buy two ponies!!! And then she quickly bedecked them with bows. We may have come to this whole bow party a bit late, but even Rachel has embraced it with gusto!

And that was our weekend. And now we have plans for the next seven nights in a row so we are definitely going into survival mode around here. Yikes :()

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

It Ain't Over Til It's Over

And now for the rest of our weekend...

Saturday afternoon Rachel had the temper tantrum to end all tantrums. We were at a toy store to buy some birthday gifts for other kids and Rachel wanted a Webkins pony. We said, "No" and she proceeded to Lose. Her. Mind. Dave ended up carrying her out of the store while she was screaming at the top of her lungs, "I WANT A PONY!!!" It was completely stereotypical and also embarrassing.

After that charming display of behaviour, when we got home I determined the kids needed to entertain themselves while Dave and I recuperated, so I whipped up some marshmallow paint. The kids LOVED it and we got forty-five minutes to regain our sanity.
Saturday night I went to a party to celebrate my friend's 50th birthday and, when I left for the party my FitBit was at just over 10,000 steps. After partying on the dance floor all night, I got home and saw this:

I told Dave it was the most fun I'd had at a dance since our wedding dance.

Then I awoke at the lovely hour of 4:23am to go and get our winter tires put on at Costco. I'm glad I got there two hours ahead of time as the next onslaught of people showed up at 6:20. And then they got cold within ten minutes and started complaining about it. Try standing in the cold for two hours people. Grrrr. But I did get to see this beautiful sunrise.
And then I got home and put my comfort bag on my feet to try and thaw my frozen toes. Plus I read Harry Potter and ate salad at 9:30 in the morning because, for me, it was practically lunchtime then :)
 
The kids enjoyed a morning of playing:
 
And in the afternoon, while Dave took Sam to a birthday party and went shopping with Rachel at Costco (because our winter tires were put on so quickly the store wasn't open yet when I left!), I did some yard work which ended when my yard waste bag gave up the ghost, whatever that means.
We had a yummy fall supper of potatoes mashed with celariac and buttercup squash which we just call "The Amazing Wonder Vegetable" because it is delicious mashed with butter. And Dave BBQd because the weather was amazing.
Then we went grocery shopping because it's way more fun to grocery shop as a family at 7 on a Sunday evening than 7 on a Monday morning like we did last week.

And that was our weekend. It was a good one, and really, what more can you ask for?

Monday, November 09, 2015

I've Got The Morning To Myself

In case you haven't noticed, I seem to have a hard time writing posts for Monday mornings. I'm not sure why this is. Today, to make things easier, I decided to write about just a small part of my weekend. Tomorrow will be the oh-so-exciting recap of the rest of the weekend.

So pretty much every Saturday morning Dave takes the kids out. Sam has Hebrew and Religious School at the synagogue. We signed Rachel up for a music class and, every other week, she has Tot Shabbat. I get about four glorious hours to do whatever I want and Dave has made it clear that he has no expectations as to how I will use my time. All that said, here is what I did this past Saturday for a few hours:
I went for a run. I hate taking selfies but I wanted to capture my awesome post-run hair and the bead of sweat dripping down by my eye. You're welcome. After this I showered (Not pictured. Ha!)
I did all the dishes from the night before, including the kids' lunch dishes.
 I cleaned the playroom and the dining room.
I drank two cups of coffee-hot chocolate and read blogs. Because I was commenting left, right, and centre, you may have figured this one out :)
While I blogged I also got rid of my Blue Jays (red and blue) pedicure and did a Saskatchewan Roughriders one. My toes aren't always so sports-focused, but they almost always sparkle!
I picked out Sam and Rachel's clothes for the week.
And just as Dave and the kids came home I was going through flyers, menu planning, lunch menu planning, and making a grocery list (both the regular grocery store and Costco).

And that was my exciting Saturday morning of alone time. Honestly, even if I don't always spend it in the most exciting way I LOVE having time, at home, by myself every week. It is such a gift.