Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Racism, eh?


I was very sad/appalled/shocked when Stu emailed me this article this morning at work. Located 160 km north east of Montreal, Herouxville has a population of 1,300 which includes just one immigrant family. Recently the local town council posted town rules on its website. Among these were a series of directives to newcomers to the town. Statements include, 'We wish to inform these new arrivals that the way of life which they abandoned when they left their countries of origin cannot be recreated here . . . We consider it completely outside norms to . . . kill women by stoning them in public, burning them alive, burning them with acid, circumcising them etc.' The declaration rules out many things that are already illegal under the Criminal Code (i.e. killing people) and also bans things that the Supreme Court has ruled are allowed (such as carrying ceremonial daggers.)

I was curious to note that the notice is still on the website after all the bad press today (not just in Canada) but the council seems to be holding its ground. It will be interesting to see how/if the provincial and federal governments intervene. Even if the council is forced to remove the statements the damage is done - it's really sad to see what attitudes people hold deep down. I normally rest easy on the laurels of Canada being such a great place - my Irish friends hold the universal (perhaps mis-guided?) perception that Canada is an equal society with a wonderful quality of life. Not so much today (come to think of it, maybe laurels aren't such a good place to rest anyway . . . )

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Knitting Pretty


Inspiration has arrived! Knitty magazine (sweet, free online knitting mag based in Toronto - three cheers for Canuckian knitters!) sent me an email today with some bonus winter patterns. They publish a quarterly issue full of articles and patterns and then every now and again release extra goodies. Take note all you stitching friends out there - they have a great pattern archive. Today I got this pattern for a lovely fitted cosy top called Thermal - I'm thinking purple-ish. I'm ready to commit. Watch this space . . .

In other news, the parental's visit is going fab. I'm back at work and so they're left to their own devices in big bad Belfast (it's not really that big and not all bad!) The mad walker (aka Dad) continues his hunt for Sunny Boy hot cereal. Please pray that he finds a source soon as he has already exhausted the supply he brought from the la belle prairie. We don't want his sejour here in cloverville to be negatively coloured by an intense yearning for that special blend of wheat, flax and rye. Some home comforts are hard to beat. At least there's always CBC online . . .

Monday, January 29, 2007

Night Swimming


Lil ol' Always Paddle has been feeling a bit neglected tonight. I was busy working on creating another blog for my portfolio called La fille solitaire. Don't panic! I'm definitely not single but just doing an assignment for my French night class which was to write a blog entry looking for a partner on the net in the style of the Canadian Are you my wife? blog. Anyway, if anyone reading spots appalling grammatical mistakes en francais, bear with me - I'm taking the class to improve, particularly in my writing, and we are getting there slowly but surely! You may also be relieved to know that as soon as my teacher has a chance to grade the blog I think I'll be retiring the franco dating service before it really gets going!

But enough about random blogs in badly written French. Stu and I have started going to swim club at our gym on Monday nights and it's fantastic! The instructor is a pro (in his sixties and still a man of steel!!) and the workout gets your heart pumping big time. It's amazing how much harder you work when you're swimming with a group and also when you have the laps broken up into different strokes and speeds. Going along to this class takes us one step closer to trying a triathalon of sorts (one of my New Year's resolutions, if I recall) so we shall see! The class satisfyingly induces that good old 'swimming your guts out feeling' that brings back all kinds of fond memories of childhood swimming - from running feverishly up slippery stairs to ride the water slides at grandma and grandpa B's condo to killing oneself to complete the dreaded continuous swim during annual summer swimming lessons at Memorial Lake ('Get in the water kids - it's at least ten degrees out here!') What doesn't kill you will only make you stronger - you heard it here first.

Quick Flick Pick

'Why are we doing what we are doing? What is it doing to others?
And what is it doing to us?' - Filmmaker Eugene Jarecki


My friend Dunny emailed me over the weekend recommending the 2005 documentary Why We Fight. I haven't seen it yet as I can't seem to get it on dvd over here (at least not for UK region dvd players - that whole dvd region thing is so annoying!) but thought I would do a quick post about it to spread the word - the trailer looks very interesting and thought provoking.

No other big news from Belfast early this Monday morning. It's back to work after a week of holidays . . . sigh . . . Time to make the donuts . . . ;)

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Down in Downpatrick


Had a nice day out - this afternoon we drove to Downpatrick (about half an hour from Belfast) and visited the St Patrick Centre. It is a really good self guided tour that takes you through the life of Patrick, missionary to Ireland during the sixth century. According to the interpretive centre the whole driving the snakes from Ireland thing is a myth that was added by monks in later centuries in order to spice up the story which I found kind of disappointing. Nonetheless, the tour is based on Patrick's writings and there's lots of interesting information about the story of his life and early Ireland and Roman Britain. Plus, visiting the centre's the least we could do since in Ireland we are fortunate to get every March 17th as a bank holiday!

For a while when I didn't know for sure what I wanted to 'be' (still don't!) I was very keen on going into museum studies and working on exhibits like this. When I visit a really well-done centre like the one today it reminds me of this past ambition. I don't think I'll ever go into museum work, but I will say that museums are cool. Quite literally in this case because despite being a very modern facility the visitors centre was not heated at all (they must be trying to save on running costs because they don't get a lot of people in January!) so after an hour and a half of going through the exhibits we all had to go and get hot chocolate to warm up!

After we visited the centre we went to Downpatrick Cathedral which is the seat of Patrick's grave. The original walls were built in the twelfth century! When Stu and I were there a few years ago, it was funny (not necessarily haha) because these tourists (USofA I think but don't quote me) were getting photos taken while posing laying glamour model style on the big rock over the saint's grave. Nice.

Friday, January 26, 2007

'Too bad that all the people who really know how to run the country are busy driving taxi cabs and cutting hair.' - George Burns

In our church home group we are going through the study guide Living God's Politics that accompanies Jim Wallace's book God's Politics. We just started last night and so far it made for some very interesting discussion. The first week's study focuses on the relationship between faith and politics and asserts that God is concerned with how we organise ourselves in society. We will go on to look at topics including war and peace, poverty, racism and a consistent ethic of life. Wallace offers some interesting analysis of the American political spectrum, but it was also interesting to discuss with friends in home group about how to be active in Northern Ireland where political life is so . . . er . . . unique.

We really like these Thursday evenings - our home group is full of fun, funny and interesting people all around our age who have quickly become good friends since we starting going along in September. Last year when we were newer in Belfast our main friends were from work and Stu's family which was good but it's been really nice to get out there a bit more.

I've had a great week off with my mom and dad. It's been pretty low key as far as sightseeing but I think all three of us have enjoyed it - highlights have included exploring Belfast on foot, packing picnic lunches and sneakily eating them in cafes, drinking lots of coffee, taking pics of green fields and big fish and spending time hunting for some warm weather clothes for my Mom (no small feat in January!) in preparation for their upcoming trip to Spain, Portugal and Tenerife (nice for some!) Stu has been all systems go with work lately and his week included some time away in London so I certainly enjoyed the company of the parentals. It's back to work for me on Monday so alas the end is nigh for these lovely lazy mornings watching property shows (Mom's request - I'm happy to comply) while lingering over coffee! But enough about work - reality will bite soon enough but it's still only Friday tonight.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Accidental Tourist

I enjoyed a lovely day out in Bangor this afternoon with my mom and dad. We took the train down the coast just a little ways from Belfast and had fun drinking coffee, taking pics, wandering around and doing a bit of shopping. I would not usually think of Bangor as an exotic location to visit (I had a couple unpleasant months working at a deli there and for a while was only able to associate it with my less than impressive stint waiting tables!) but we had a lot of fun today and my parents really enjoyed seeing the sights. It is cool to have them here visiting for many reasons - chiefly I love getting to spend so much time together but as a fringe benefit I think it will motivate me to see a bit more of Ireland. One can tend to get kind of blase/stuck in a routine when you've lived in a place for a while (even if it's not your life-long home!) and I'd really like to get out and see more. Tourist at home hey? Let the games begin!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Kevin Bacon Effect

Every now and again Stu and I indulge in the pointless activity of playing 'Six Degrees of Separation.' You know . . . the game where you try to figure out how many famous people you can link yourself to through personal acquaintance (it's said that any actor can be linked to Kevin Bacon within six film roles. He's started up an online fundraising website called sixdegrees.org which plays on this idea.) It's fun to see how many steps away from famous people I can place myself and this somehow makes me feel important (that's warped huh?) Anyway, dear readers (who are mostly friends and family I presume) I love you all the same but I have to admit that certain friends prove more useful than others in linking me to celebs. For instance, my friend Tee grew up in the same town as peanut farmer and former president Jimmy Carter. That's certainly a good connection but hands down Dunny of the OC gets the award for the most links as she connects us with several famous faces including presidents Nixon, Regan and Bush Sr (and by extension Dubya - not sure if I'm happy about that connection!) She's also met the Indigo Girls and recently rode on a plane with Danny DeVito (the big news is she's taller than him and believe you me, Dunny is not especially tall.) Anyway, if we bend the rules and don't insist that my friend's actually met the famous person (which in this case I don't) the DeVito encounter connects us to the entire cast of Cheers and that is very very cool. I heart Sam Malone.

So here comes my inevitable blogger question - who do you know?? Our friend Santosh has met Bono (twice!) and Stu's new job now can connect us with some infamous Northern Irish and UK politicians (again, not sure if this is a good thing!) Let me know if you have any momentous connections that I don't know about and I can incorporate them into my fruitless little game . . .

In other news, Nancy has gotten Cleo the blond bombshell Airdale Terrier. She's a beauty and as an added bonus she matches Bonny, the sexy new granny car. (She's also a never-nude but let's just say that if you don't know why, don't ask! . . . Speaking of which, let's all just pause collectively for a second to mourn the cancellation of Arrested Development.)

At the end of this post I also wanted to tag on just a bit of knitting news. I haven't been doing too much lately apart from being in the early stages of a nice simple scarf in sea green Colinette for my mom. Anyway, to answer your request Dunny here's the link for a fun and easy-ish felted booga bag. It's a satisfying project - I made a couple that turned out really well and I know Andi made one too. Also, anyone looking for some footloose and fancy free knitting check out this 365 day free form knitting project. It's a mad and zany way to use up all those little bits in your yarn stash.

Monday, January 22, 2007

A Taste of Summer . . .

Here's little bit of Saskatchewan summer for anyone who's battling snow, rain, wind and cold temps this January (Erin, we don't mean you ;) One week in Jersey does not necessarily count as a gruelling winter experience!) The pic is of the one and only Nancy at Otter Rapids a couple of summers ago. While we're on the subject, I miss canoing and I miss Pioneer Saskatchewan Camp. (Santosh and Matt, if you're reading, I enjoyed remembering your various exploits with Winston and Greg Balboa that summer at PSC!)

Circuitously speaking of holidays, I'm on them (again! I know, I know, it's a rough life . . . ) I've the week off to spend time bumming around Belfast with Chris and Anne. I'll try to remember to bring the digi around with me and post some pics from our adventures!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Do something!!!

We just watched Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth tonight and it was really interesting and very scary. If you haven't seen it yet, click here to see the trailer and get further information on climate change. I feel very compelled to take some serious steps to reduce my carbon footprint and also harangue our government into doing more (from time to time I use this blog as my little notepad for resolving to be a better person and hopefully by posting it on the internet, I will feel more bound to follow through but the effectiveness of this strategy remains to be seen.) My dad thinks that the documentary should be shown in churches everywhere and I agree (along with schools, workplaces, shopping malls . . . !) Have you seen it? What did you think?

We had a very nice day - after church Stu's mom and dad had us and my parents over for a lovely Sunday lunch. Fortunately our two sets of parents are great friends so it's fun when the six of us get together! Sara, you asked about NI culture shock for the parentals - they're doing well so far and enjoy noticing the little differences (since they've been here before the charming murals/'peace' walls etc are not as jaw dropping as they might have been.) For instance, today at lunch they heartily appreciated the classic Northern Irish multiple dessert convention (i.e. having a selection of desserts to end a Sunday lunch) that you educated me about many moons ago.

Finally, Nancy adopted the belle Airdale Terrier Cleo this afternoon - pics will be posted as soon as Ninny has a chance to send them on - hope all goes well on your first day of 'doggy-motherhood'!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Sunshine Alert!


At very long last I've finally seen Little Miss Sunshine and LOVED IT!! I had really meant to see it in the cinema but somehow regretfully missed it. While I've been waiting for it to come out on dvd 'in my country' it's been heartily recommended to me by lots of friends (Santosh, Ruthie and Beth) who know their movies and I have to say it didn't disappoint. What a funny and lovely movie! Great acting, great story and great characters - it's visually pleasing and has a really good soundtrack which features the very cool Sufjan Stevens (who of course is a friend of our very own woman about town Sara C! How are you by the way Ms Domestic Goddess?! Haven't had the pleasure of your comments recently - come back!!) I don't really get too into the Oscars but I hope this film gets lots of nominations when they're announced on Tuesday.

Speaking of things that make me smile, can I put in another shout out for Ugly Betty?! We're only three episodes in here in the UK and I'm here to proclaim that it's my Friday night highlight - it's great to have something creative, clever and funny on tv - all the more so these days when the rest of the airwaves are sickeningly and boringly consumed by the lowest of the low Celebrity Big Brother (according to PR master Max Clifford ding dong Jade's career's dead! Picture me doing a happy dance.)

Since Ugly Betty seems to have so many cross-overs with The Devil Wears Prada (I don't fault it for this because I liked that movie too) I was interested to learn from Wikipedia that the series is based on a long running popular Colombian soap called Jo soy Betty, la fea (I am Betty, the Ugly) and is produced by Salma Hayek who appears in the American version.

Well, those are my entertainment thoughts for you tonight. Hope all of you out there are having a good weekend and do make sure it includes some little 'good to yourself' indulgences be it a movie, a funny tv show, a walk in the snow, some flowers (hooray - tulips are in season again!!) or some good-ish wine! After all, who couldn't use a little sunshine in January? :)

Friday, January 19, 2007

Vote Cam!


Big and exciting news!! My brother Cam Broten has announced that he's running for the NDP nomination for Saskatoon Massey Place constituency. To find out more, visit his new website (it's a bit more polished than this lil' ol' blog) and if you're in Saskatoon and any way NDP inclined (which is a good move in my opinion!) get out there and knock some doors on his behalf! Congrats to you Cam and all the very best - I so wish that Stu and I could be home to help with the campaign! Watch this space for more news in the coming weeks . . .

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Forward-itis

I have a confession to make. This year I've started sending forwards. I would have formerly been the type who exclaimed, 'Why do people send you crap like this!?' when my inbox was filled up with random emails full of pics of cuddly puppies or top ten Irish jokes (personal favourite has to be pictorial series of what cats do when your at work - think cat sitting at keyboard, cat watching tv etc . . . brilliant.) Now that I'm a full on office worker (read delighted by little diversions) I find myself saying 'Bring it on!' and sending them on. Sad but true. So (family this means you) if you're a recipient of my random emails (like this little gem that I passed on today of a grumpy cartoon character called Maxine - can you say random) please excuse me and try and resist blocking my address. The files made me do it.

In other news, poor Stu's stranded in London (again . . . ) He went at the crack of dawn this morning and was thwarted in his efforts to get his evening flight home. All the trains to Stanstead airport were cancelled due to the very nasty windy rainy weather that's hammering the UK. After standing for a very long time in a very long 'queue' for an already very full bus it became obvious that the flight would be missed. With my blessing he bailed on the quest to reach the airport, booked another flight for the morning and went to go stay at our friend Duncan's flat. I say that if you have to be stuck you might as well go out for a good meal with a good friend. Thankfully I have Mom and Dad to keep me company so I didn't mind too much!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

From the Broten House to the Big Brother House

Well, they've made it :) The parentals are live and in the flesh in Belfast - after 26 hours of travelling (Saskatoon to Ireland via Florida . . . ) they were happy to touch down and didn't even mind the rainy day. They were relieved to get a bit of sleep this afternoon and then we enjoyed a nice dinner together tonight. Both Stu and I are very happy to have them here!

On an unrelated note, if you have a UK address (and maybe even if you don't!) I'd encourage you to go to the Office of Communications (OFCOM) website and complain about Celebrity Big Brother. For those of you who are wondering what I'm talking about, the UK (and elsewhere in the world too) has erupted over a big hoo ha in the Celebrity Big Brother house. Three of the women housemates have been justifiably accused of bullying and racism against
fellow housemate and mega superstar Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty. Yesterday morning there were about 200 complaints logged and by tonight there's been thousands. Now I haven't watched it at all but Stu and I enthusiastically logged on last night to complain because it's generally an awful show, the clips that I have seen have been pretty bad and I'm tired of hearing people talk about it at work! (I won't confess to being a bit addicted to the show a few seasons ago. Ahem.)

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Random-ness


It's been a bit of a long Tuesday and I have to say that I'm especially happy it's over. There was nothing wrong with my day per say, but I am just very much looking forward to tomorrow morning at approximately 10.15am when Bruce and Annabelle arrive, live in Belfast, at George Best City Airport. It's been about six months since we've been together so I cannot wait for their arrival! Good times (all I have to do yet tonight is clean my house!) I should begin with something of a disclaimer - please excuse the random character of this post - what with all the impending excitement of the parental's arrival I just cannot seem to manage a coherent entry tonight . . .

So anyway, on behalf of Ms Ninny thanks for all the comments about wee Cleo - I was especially happy to hear from Russell and visit his dog's (Captain Jack Sparrow - great name) blog. My beloved siblings, there's your challenge - get your dogs blogs! All the cool kids are doing it!! (Er . . . on second thought cpb, it might be a political liability if it hit the papers because you might look a little bit . . . well . . . crazy. No offense to you Russell and Amanda . . by the way, Newfoundland looks incredibly beautiful in your pics!) Ninny, until you set up www.shawndeecleopatrapaperdoll.blogspot.com, we (as in me) over here at lil' ol' Always Paddle will be delighted to post pics of your new shaggy friend.

In other news, tonight in my French class we read an article (en francais bien sur) about the Canuck who's started the blog Are You My Wife? I spent a while surfing his blog (Stu asked me if I wanted to marry him) but I don't think he's nearly as cool as Kyle of One Red Paper Clip fame. Come to think of it, I wonder how Kipling SK in January's working out for that dude (you're not such a canny trader now are you ? . . . )

Finally, I leave you with some NI specific lyrics from Corb Lund. Andi and Demi introduced us to Corb (pictured above) when they visited and he's of the real good country genre (in a cool/folky/honky tonk way.) Of course I also like his name (recurring theme - how much I love cool names rather than whiskey that is - I leave the whiskey to my better half.)

Well I've heard it said that you can get some heat in Irish pubs
Servin' Jamesons to an Orangeman and Bushmills to his cuz
Well here's what you do with Tullamore Dew, you can meet 'em both halfway
It's time to switch to whiskey they've been drinkin' beer all day

Monday, January 15, 2007

It's a girl!!

Good news for the Broten family! I am soon to be the proud auntie of . . . wait for it . . . an Airdale Terrier!! Introducing Nancy's new dog, the three year old Cleo (full name - Shawndee Cleopatra Paper Doll - love that - Shawndee.) Not to brag, but she was once a show dog (hence the name) and Nancy has informed me that she even comes with a certificate that says labels her a champion. We are impressed. Wisely, Cleo's getting spayed this week and then she'll move into 14th Street where Oscar and her will (hopefully!) become the best of friends. Congratulations Ninny! :) (Stu and I are feeling decidedly left out of the dog-loving gang!)

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Family Ties

Enjoyed a lovely day with Stu's family over in Lisburn. Water sliding was followed by a birthday party for Holly which included games and a pink cake topped with a ballerina mouse made of sugar! What fun! Holly got My Little Pony for her birthday and she also really likes Polly Pocket. I found this amazing because I had these same toys some twenty years ago (that makes me feel old.) That's some staying power for pink and purple ponies! By the way, thanks for all the children's books recommendations - Who knew the topic of kid lit would evoke such interest!?

The whole day was lots of fun, including the awkward silence during the birthday dinner when niece Ella upon realising that Stu and I have been married nearly four years stated, 'Um, normally people have children by now.' Ella likes having baby cousins and wants more. Don't hold your breath little friend.

After all the busy birthday fun, Stu and I chilled out by going to the Strand Cinema (right by our house) to see Pursuit of Happiness (which only just opened here - we are generally way behind!) Both Stu and I really enjoyed it - a tear jerker in a good way.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Little People


Not too much to post tonight except to say happy Friday!! I love Fridays - such a glorious feeling to have two free days stretching out in front of us . . . Sometimes my weekends are not very exciting and I don't mind that one bit.

Tonight we did a bit of shopping after work for some little gifts for our niece Holly's birthday (she's four) and our nephew Daniel's dedication (he's ten months.) Both the dedication and birthday party are this weekend so tomorrow and Sunday will be filled with fun of the little people's variety. Browsing in the kids section of Waterstone's I realised that neither Stu nor I really know much at all about what kids like. We settled on a board book about cars for baby Dan (apparently board books are the way forward for the baby-types which makes sense considering their general love of chewing on things) and a story book called 'How to Catch a Star' by a Northern Irish author called Oliver Jeffers for Miss Holly. The pictures are very cool which won us over.

I was trying to remember what I liked back in the day and I seem vividly recall enjoying Robert Munsch books during my early years but unfortunately the old classics like 'I Love You Forever' and 'The Paper Bag Princess' weren't any in stock. Sadly we don't get to spend enough time with our wonderful nieces (Rachel who's ten, Ella who's eight and Hols who's four) because they live on the south coast of England so it's always fun when they come for a visit. We do see little Dan quite a bit but he's a bit young to be in the habit of telling us about his favourite books! Anyway, should sign off and get to bed - tomorrow morning has been much anticipated as we're all heading to a big leisure centre where there are some pretty mean water slides.

On a side note, how are all you blizzard bound folks faring? I hope everyone's okay!! The pictures and stories on the news websites are absolutely crazy.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Booster Juice, Brotesy Style

Before I went home for our holidays last summer, a friend asked me what I missed the most about home. I was half-way through listing off the many things that I yearn for including family, friends, the cabin, camp, hot dry summers and freshly fallen snow (sorry to all you blizzard bound - I do actually miss it!) when she interrupted me. Turns out she was actually wondering about what foods I missed the most. Where would I be sure to visit for treats during my trip? I didn't have to think too hard before listing my top three, hands down - Tim's, Pita Pit and Booster Juice.

My brother thinks it's weird of me to miss Tim Horton's because he contends that their coffee's crap. I don't really go there for the java per say, but more because for me it's just an altogether happy experience. Unlike coffee shops over here in clover land that don't really open bright and early and charge in valuable pounds, Tim's is nearly always open and oh so cheap. I suppose that I have particularly fond memories of Tim's because I associate it with my UWO days where you couldn't walk five steps without passing a stand. Ah, the memories . . . Make mine a medium double double with milk and why not a honey dipped for the road!

Anyway, before I got sidetracked onto the gospel of Tim Horton's (I'm sure you were all on the edge of your seats for that one hey?), I meant to discuss my love of Booster Juice and then segue into a post of my new favourite smoothie recipe (hence the pic of the woman with fruit on her head - get it?) So, moving right along. I do love Booster Juice (except of course those massive styrofoam cups and their obnoxious colour scheme) and my missing of their smoothies is compounded by the fact that I have never had a good smoothie experience here in the UK. I'm not going to go into all the gory details (okay, maybe I am) but one time I got one with fermented fruit (eww) and another time they had the drinks all pre-blended and sitting in the fridge which meant there was no thick icy goodness. Sub par.

I bet you're wondering if we're ever going to get to that smoothie recipe right? Stay with me. In this month's issue of O Magazine (Andi, don't even try to pretend you didn't read it - we all know the truth!) there was a yummy recipe. I've been making them in the morning and taking it to work in my Tim Horton's thermos. I don't think it would be rash to say that it's been the highlight of my day (so either this smoothie's pretty dang good or my days are pretty sad! Bit of both actually.) Without further adieu . . .

The Best Life Smoothie
Mix in a blender a small banana, 1 cup of frozen berries or other fruit (mango is the bomb - I'm told by a reliable Canuckian source that you can get a massive bag of frozen berries at Costco for only seven bucks), a 1/2 cup of nonfat milk, a 1/2 cup of low fat yogurt, a spoonful of honey and no more than 2 tablespoons of wheat germ or ground flax seed.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

White out

Just a short post for you all tonight as my day was filled mostly with work since life at the office is quite busy right now. I'm in hyper productive mode, trying to meet some deadlines in order to take time off when the parents arrive (more holidays!) Yes, self imposed stress, but stress all the same.

Anyway, my sympathies to you, dear friends and family, as you cope with a mega blizzard in Saskatoon. All my sources (Ninny and cpb's comments and CBC Saskatchewan website) tells me it's seriously bad out there. If I were you I'd opt for hot chocolate and a good book or maybe some good old sit-com re-runs. There's really no other appropriate course of action.

If you are holed up at home, I recommend going onto Itunes and downloading 'Nowhere With You' by Joel Plaskett Emergency. I heard it this morning on one of my recently acquired CBC podcasts (yes, I'm still going on about these!) and the song is excellent. Also for your info, the free download this week on Itunes (at least on the UK version) is a Josh Ritter track and you all know how much I love him . . .

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

The Edison Twins

I've discovered podcasts. Well, I've known of them for a long time, but only last night did I take the time to venture onto cbc.ca and upload some for my listening pleasure while walking to work. What joy!! This morning I was so happy to listen to 'Saskatchewan This Week' where old faithfuls like Shiela Coles and Ted Deller told me stories of the homeland. As I shut my eyes real tight when I bused by the paramilitary murals on the Albert Bridge Road and imagined that it was about twenty degrees colder, I was magically transported to Toon Town, flooded with memories of driving up Idylwyld on my way to Caswell School with my dad. I must say, Shiela Cole's been living it up on 540 for a long old time now. As in, for my whole life!!

This evening when I was walking into Belfast for my French night class (yet another of my New Year's resolutions is to do more French homework with a major priority on getting that dang old subjunctive tense nailed once and for all!) I listened to CBC Radio 3's podcast - brillant!! Somewhere in the cast in their quirky CBC way they mentioned 'The Edison Twins' and the snappy theme ran through my head all through conjugating etre and avoir etc this evening. Wikapedia tells me that 'The Edison Twins' was on the air from 1982-86 which means that I was only six at the very most but nonetheless I have vivid memories of loving their zany scientific adventures. All I can say is podcast or bust!!

Monday, January 8, 2007

Chili-chonga


I am conscious that my last post makes it look like all I ever do is watch tv and dvds. In case you're getting worried, I do do other things. Lots of 'em. I just happen to like to talk about interesting things on the tube.

Anyway, making a concerted effort not to talk about television I have decided to share Stu's Chili recipe with you. We recently bought a small freezer as part of our new 2007 strategy to lead less hectic lives (new year, new you - you know the drill . . . ) The idea behind the freezer is that we'll make some meals ahead of time (like, on the weekend when cooking's fun) and then have something homemade and healthy for those evenings when neither of us wants to do much. This is the same strategy that had me out running in the pouring rain today after work, but I'm only mentioning that because I like to use my blog to give myself a cyber space pat on the back. Anyway, the industrious Stu made a big batch of his oh so good chili last night and we had some tonight with the rest going into the freezer, neatly packaged in pieces from my fairly large collection of tupperware.

Stu's Chili
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, pressed
2 green peppers, diced
500 grams extra lean ground beef
1 14oz can of kidney beans, rinsed
2 14oz cans of chopped tomatoes
tomato puree - about 2 tbsps
mild chili powder - about 1/2 - 3/4 tsp
2 tbsp white sugar
worcestershire sauce - a few splashes

Heat olive oil in a large heavy bottomed saucepan and add onions and garlic, sprinkle with a bit of chili powder and salt and pepper and fry until translucent. After about five minutes add green peppers. After a couple more minutes add the ground beef and brown. When the beef is browned, add the beans, tomatoes, tomato puree, remaining chili powder, sugar and worcestershire sauce. Simmer on medium heat for at least 25 minutes. Stir the chili and taste and then add what's missing be it puree, chili, sugar or worcestershire. (Sometimes Stu has added cinnamon or cocoa powder to the chili and that's good too.) Serve with rice, grated cheese, natural yogurt and chopped spring onions. Yummy.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Sunday night rant

This painting called 'Blessed Art Thou' (as in 'Blessed art though among women' from the Hail Mary . . . ) is by a Florida artist Kate Kretz. Her depiction of Angelina and her young ones hovering over a Walmart has been receiving lots of press attention lately and her blog has gone from receiving 30 unique hits a day to about 15,000! Blogs are so interesting because they allow you to see things from angles other than those presented in the mainstream press. For instance, her blog post for today is giving the back story/alternative view behind a semi-negative article about her art published by the associated press likening the piece to van art. You decide. I like it.

Speaking of Walmart, Stu and I recently watched the documentary Walmart: The High Cost of Low Prices. It was fairly good and did a sound job of categorising Walmart's wrongs on everything from how it treats its employees, to its use of sweat shops in China and the way it kills all local business when it moves into the area. Three things were particularly notable. First, it was striking how many of the everyday people who were negatively affected by and were speaking out in opposition prefaced their comments with something to the effect of, 'I'm a loyal American but . . . ' It was as if people feared that they were in danger of committing treason for questioning the free market ethos. Second, there was a big segment of the documentary that revealed that Walmart encourages its employees to seek state benefit programmes to get everything from food vouchers to health care. It was sad to see how discouraged people were with working 40 plus hours a week and not making near a living wage. Finally, it was really interesting/puzzling to see how much local municipalities have paid Walmart as incentives to bring stores to local areas. Pay a multi-billion dollar company to come into your community and kill all the other businesses within a matter of weeks . . . That makes sense . . . A lot of what the documentary covers you sort of know in the back of your head and we weren't surprised at how bad they are, but just reflecting on it now it makes me steaming mad. Boo (and boycott) to Walmart (and Asda here in the UK.)

Just quickly while I'm on the subject of documentaries and greedy corporations, I would strongly recommend Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room. It does a fantastic job of telling both the numbers and human story of Enron. Bethany McLean, the journalist who initially questioned Enron's accounting systems and then went on to co-write a book chronicling the corporation's collapse is inspiring. If anyone's seen any good documentaries lately, please leave me a comment - I'm always on the look out.

Since this post began with some pop culture (but then diverged into a bit of a rant) I will finish with something lighter and of the same ilk - I watched Ugly Betty for the first time on Friday night (yes, it may be old news to you but bear with me as it just premiered here!) It was very good (although funnily similar to The Devil Wears Prada which I also really enjoyed) and I really liked the star America Ferrera (not to mention her cool name.)

Saturday, January 6, 2007

'Growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional.'



Some exciting birthdays have been happening this week in my world. Well, not exactly in my world but in the worlds of my loved ones. Thought I'd do a post in honour of all these New Year babies because I think sometimes the post-Christmas birthday types get kindof overlooked as everyone breaths a collective sigh of relief after all the gifting and partying of the Christmas season. So here we go . . .

For one, my dad, Chris 'Bruce' Broten turns the big 57 today! Exciting times for this year of his life because he and Mom have now officially begun their career break and are visiting family in Toronto en route to coming to Belfast! I can't wait to see them in just under two weeks!

Also, many happy returns to my friend Liz who is also celebrating today! (Nancy, please give her a big hug from me and Stu - I think there's a party tonight!) Also, my friend Munjula celebrated a significant birthday a few days ago (won't say which one!) and I hope that you had a great day! :)

Last, but certainly not least, our dear friends Dave and Angie Gibson welcomed little Archie William Gibson (pictured above - no, that's not a techni-colour baby pic of my dad) weighing in at 8lbs 1oz on the 3rd of January!! Congratulations to D and A and welcome to the world little Archie!!

Happy birthday from me and Stu to Dad, Liz, Munjula and Archie!!

Friday, January 5, 2007

Evolution

Maybe you've already seen this. I read about it today on the Globe and Mail online - it won an advertising award. I think it makes a very good point. What a world we live in.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Always look on the bright side of life . . . de dum, de dum, de dum, de dum


For one of the first times since this blog was born I found myself chalk out of interesting ideas for a good post (some of you may be thinking that several of my previous post ideas have been neither good nor interesting, but since I'm the master of this blog let's not go there.) Trying rather hard to come up with an idea, I sat back and reflected on my day, wondering aloud (yes, aloud) whether or not anything interesting/notable/discussable occurred. Sorry folks, unless you want to discuss budget spreadsheets and report writing I got nuthin'.

This makes me sad. Isn't it unfortunate how the hum drum of working for the man can quickly cause a person to lose their joie de vie? Here I am back at work for only two days and already I'm slipping into dullsville.

My job is sometimes very interesting, but on days that it's not I think that it's important to inject some life affirming activities into the routine somewhere. This happened to be one of those uninteresting (and slightly stressful) days, but looking on the bright side, the good parts of the day deserve their due. In no particular order today I have enjoyed walking the 40 minutes home from work in the mild weather with my lime green nano attached to my ears listening to the playlist 'country' (as in sortof Americana folk type country mixed with the odd Faith Hill favourite), finding V8 juice on a two for one deal at the grocery store (they usually don't sell it and it's usually not on sale), cooking Jamie Oliver's 'Working Girl's Pasta' for din dins (made with canned tuna believe it or not - cheap and tasty!) and reading a really good book on the couch all night snuggled up under the luxuriant fleece blanket that my sister-in-law Ali got me for Christmas (the reading night is thanks largely to Stu's resolution to ban tv for a month - good idea!) Hmmm, maybe it wasn't such a bad day afterall . . .

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Resolutions, Schmezolutions!


Well folks, the party's over. Stu and I went back to work today. Time to put an end to all things good like napping, leisurely afternoons at the Coffeeyard and wearing pj's in the middle of the day. Someone please remind me of all the good times when I start whining about being tired like, tomorrow.

The day was doubly sad because we also had to bid a fond farewell to Andi and Demi who are now enjoying a couple of days in Dublin - it was lovely to see them and for the four of us to spend time together. It was a chilled visit - we all enjoyed reading club, Guinness and Stu's witty Irish anecdotes. While I'm on the topic of the McWicz twins (and I do mean twins because they are very alike - I mean they both love marzipan!) can I just say that Andrea makes me laugh so much and it's wonderful to spend time together because we've been really close since that fateful day in January of '93 when Andi spied me reading 'Runaway Jury' in the camp van on the way up to Women's Weekend, knew I was likely a bit of a nerdo but wanted to be my friend all the same. Aww, the start of a beautiful friendship . . .

We've been talking a lot lately about New Year's resolutions. 'Tis the season and all that I suppose. I've never been much of a resolver, but last year was memorable for me because for the first time I made some significant resolutions and actually accomplished them. Imagine-toi! Last New Year's Day I announced at my sister and brother-in-law's dinner table that in 2006 I was going to run a marathon and knit a sweater to which my bro-in-law Paul exclaimed, 'People never keep their resolutions!' I thank you dear Paul for your challenge which I held close to my heart. Your words motivated me every step of the two (count them - two!) marathons I ran and every stitch of the one (yes, just one) sweater that I knit. So there.

I took a pole of my fellow Shaw Street dwellers and have for you a sample of our resolutions.

Believing that 'all happiness depends on a leisurely breakfast,' Andi resolved to have a leisurely breakfast before work. Also, Andi is probably going to do a marathon (not too big a feat for her since she's already done a half-ironman triathalon and for this is the hero of the world.) And she's going to quit smoking. (Just kidding.)

Demitri doesn't really do resolutions. He thinks that it is strange to pontificate about things to such an extent. Maybe it's a girl thing. When pressed, the Polish Hotdog resolved to eat more chocolate and ice cream.

Stu has resolved to not watch any tv for all of January (movies are still allowed.) I will try to foil his plan. Also, he's hoping to blog once a day. Check him out! Last but not least, inspired by Andi the Great, both he and I are hoping to try a tri.

As for me, I'm going to make doing weights at the gym a regular part of my life and I'm going to endeavour to produce something crocheted. And I expect you to hold me to it. Not really.

Monday, January 1, 2007

Three cheers for rain gear!

Today we celebrated the first day of 2007 by taking our house guests up to the north coast of Ireland. The scenery, as always, was really beautiful and green. And even though the skies were dark and the wind and rain were cold, it was refreshing to get out of the city and let the winds off the Atlantic blow the cobwebs away (as Stu would say.)

I really love going to the north coast. If any of you lovely friends ever see fit to come and visit us, I can pretty much guarantee you a daytrip up there, including one of my (self-proclaimed) world famous picnic lunches, Stu's telling of the legend of the Giants Causeway (ooooh!), an invigorating walk on the Whiterocks Beach (didn't do that today because it was pretty cold out) and if you're good, an ice cream cone. You might even like it so much you'd like to stop and stay a while, in which case we heartily recommend the Whitepark Bay Youth Hostel - it's lovely. (What the day won't include is a walk across the Carrick-a-rede rope bridge, at least not with me accompanying you! Ninny and Dunny, you know why. Let's just say that there were tears.) Don't all book your flights at once now!

It was a lovely day out and, as the host, the chilly weather and scattered showers didn't worry me one bit because Andi and Demitri are officially the most hardcore people we know (by a very long shot!)

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!! We were so happy to have Andi and Demitri here to help us celebrate the arrival of 2007! They are staying with us for a few days after living in Barcelona since September. We had planned to go to an outdoor concert downtown but those hopes were dashed by gale force winds and driving rain (hmmm . . . Bad weather? In January? In Ireland? Who woulda thought it?!?) Anyway, plan b was a yummy Indian meal prepared by Stu, a bottle of cava and riveting games of Extreme Uno and Would You Rather? Good times all around. Hope you have a Happy New Year, where ever you are!