Friday, March 30, 2007

News Flash

Big news! Much to my parents' delight recent statistics indicate that Saskatchewan's population is growing. According to recent news reports Saskatchewan's growth in the last quarter of 2006 exceeded the national average for the first time in 23 years. And, very interestingly, the main explanation for the increase is people moving (presumably back) from Alberta! I think it's a very positive report.

Keeping on the current events theme, I cannot help but highlight this story of 41 year old astronaut Sunita Williams who has been in orbit since December. Unbelievably, she's going to run the Boston marathon on a treadmill in space!! More power to her, but seriously, why would you do that!?

And that's the news. Goodnight folks!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

To do

I know I'm only about one inch into Thermal but I couldn't help but do a bit of pattern surfing lately and quickly came up with my next project. I think that Flair by Knit and Tonic is lovely and swing coats are all the rage here these days (mind you, by the time I get this done they'll probably be out!)

Not too much new in my world then, other than some daydreaming about knitting . . . After work we went to see our friends Dave and Angie and their little three month old beautiful baby Archie William. Dave is from here and they're home from Scotland for a visit. We timed our visit to get to see wee Archie when he was awake and he is so gorgeous! It was also very nice to catch up with Dave and Angie :)

Later this evening we went to the gym for a swim and a much needed de-stressing soak in the hot tub (work is 'winding me up' a bit lately) and then home for a late dinner. Oh, and how could I forget, the new series of The Apprentice started tonight and did not disappoint in all its compulsive and cringy glory!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Cerise

I bring you a cherry tree in blossom on University Square in Belfast. This spring sight seen on a walk near Queen's University with Stuart was the highlight of my day. The walk was a breath of fresh air and good company inbetween a particularly uninspirng day at work and my French night class. C'est la vie!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Sunny Monday


The paparazzi snapped the Ninnygoat on a sunny Sunday afternoon paddle on the South Saskatchewan. Imagine my parent's response when they logged on to the digital Saskatoon Star Phoenix this morning (a daily ritual - the news junkies need to keep up on the SK news!) and saw Nancy, her friend Matt and 'their' dog Cleo on the front page! Sorry that it's such a small pic - Despite my best efforts I couldn't get anything bigger than a thumbnail.

So, I have to say my sister's front page appearance was probably the most exciting event of this Monday. Although come to think of it I must give mad props to Rachel Allen and this yummy, fairly healthy recipe which we enjoyed tonight after going for a swim at the gym.

Creamy Pasta with Sun-blush Tomatoes, Olives and Pine Nuts
serves 4-6
400g dried pasta
250ml fat free creme fraiche (or half fat free sour cream and natural yogurt)
75g semi-sun-dried (also called sun-blushed) tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato puree
12-16 black olives, pitted and chopped
50g pine nuts, toasted in a dry pan until golden
50g Parmesan cheese, finely grated
salt and freshly ground black pepper
pinch of sugar

Bring a large saucepan of water with 1 teaspoon salt up to the boil, and cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet. Meanwhile, place the creme fraiche in a saucepan and heat to a gentle simmer. Add the sun-bluch tomatoes, tomato puree, chopped olives, most of the toasted pine nuts and most of the grated cheese. Season with salt and pepper and taste - it might need a pinch of sugar too. When the pasta is cooked, drain, leaving a couple of tablespoons of the coking water with the pasta. Stir in the hot sun-blush tomato sauce, taste and season again if necessary. Sprinkle with the remaining pine nuts and grated Parmesan cheese and serve.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

A good day


I had a very nice day today for my 27th birthday (oh, that sounds old!) Stuart was speaking at a church first thing so I spent the morning with my mom and dad which was very good and relaxing. Later in the afternoon we went to a lecture that Stuart was doing about human trafficking for his work and then Stu's parents and the rest of us all went back to Mom and Dad's for a little party and some very good cake. It was really wonderful to be all together and especially nice to be with my parents on my birthday for the first time in six years I think! I should also mention that the weather was gorgeous (not quiet +20 though like in Regina!) and very spring feeling - flowers are out all over the place!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Chop-tastic

Had fun this evening trying out my new food processor that Stuart got me for my birthday! (He gave it to me this morning because he has to leave for work early on Sunday morning and I don't like the sound of getting up early, especially on my birthday.) This evening we were truly amazed at how efficiently the new Kenwood dealt with the carrots and mushrooms for tonight's stir fry. And, I should clarify that while this is indeed a home appliance it is certainly not like being given a vacuum cleaner for my birthday - Call me crazy but the food processor has been a much coveted item that has something of a toy-like quality for me.

Here's a little random story from our day - as we were walking up to Marks and Spencer in Ballyhackamore we passed a non-descript red brick building. Some people were coming out of it and before I could register their vaguely familiar faces, Stuart asked me if I knew who they were - Suddenly I twigged as I saw an old man wearing a black fedora getting into the back seat of a car. 'There's Ian!' I exclaimed, sounding a bit too excited since I am not a fan. And so it was - we had stumbled upon a very important meeting of the Democratic Unionist Party. The post-election deadline for Sinn Fein and the DUP to form a coalition government is Monday so the big wigs were apparently doing some strategising. I was a bit disappointed in myself because several of the faces belonged to people that I have repeated pledged that if I ever met them in a street I would give them a piece of my mind. And what exactly did I do apart from excitedly spot a famous face? Not a thing. How pathetic.

So from new kitchen gadgets to old political leaders all in all it has been a good Saturday. We went out for breakfast with Mom and Dad which was very nice and then did a bit of grocery shopping. Later on in the afternoon Stuart had to go and record a little radio feature for his work about human trafficking. The weather was absolutely gorgeous today - so nice to feel spring arriving! Oh, and while we're on the topic of spring and before I forget about it myself, I should mention that the clocks 'spring forward' tomorrow here in the UK! (Not cool to lose an hour of the weekend!) Being from one of the only places in the world that doesn't do the daylight saving thing, I always find time changes very confusing and just generally difficult to cope with. Good luck to me :)

Friday, March 23, 2007

Friday night project

An exciting package arrived today from the good old U S of A - the OC to be exact. Such fun! The contents included lovely burgundy yarn for Thermal (I started tonight!!!), some stationary thingy for 3x5 cards that Stu was very keen on (puzzling to me), California coolio brown leather flip flops from Dunny for my b-day and a mag featuring Ugly Betty! Big thank you to Ms Dunny for the flips and also for just generally being our source of all good things American :)

So, you guessed it, my weekend plans include a lot of knitting as well as spending time with the 'rents, having a special day on Sunday for my bonne fete and just generally chilling out. Bliss.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Painty Paintersons

I'm only really crafty when it comes to yarn, so it was with some trepidation that I went to a 'Paint Me Glaze Me' (paint what? glaze what?) night with some friends from church tonight. All in all it turned out to be a good night - I spent the evening painting polka dots on a wee jug which I hope, after it's glazed and fired, will look something like this Bridgewater rendition. We shall see.

Otherwise life is all go with work and other things mixed in in the evenings. It feels like we should be farther through the week than Wednesday, especially since Monday was a holiday, but maybe that's just me. This is going to be short and sweet tonight as it's somehow gotten a bit past my bedtime, what with all the crazy painting and glazing going on. Adios amigos.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Lost in Translation

Bill Murray and Scarlet Johannson's 'Lost in Translation' may be more realistic than we first knew. Visit www.japander.com to see ads like this little gem. Oh Jack.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Stop the Traffik


In addition to being my 27th birthday, March 25th is Freedom Day - the 200th anniversary of the abolition of slavery in the UK. Many concerned organisations (including CARE that Stuart works for) have come together to form the Stop the Traffik Coalition. These groups are wisely using Freedom Day to draw attention to the modern slave trade of people trafficking. I decided to post about this tonight because there is an interesting story about sex slavery in the UK on the BBC website today that I wanted to link to. According to the article, the Home Office estimates that in 2003 alone some 4,000 women were trafficked into the UK for sexual exploitation. For all you Canadians, there's some information available from the government and also from the Canadian organisation International Justice Mission. Also visit the Not for Sale website or read some recent Sojourners articles on the topic.

So, what can we do? Click here for some suggestions of ways to get involved in the campaign to end this modern slave trade. This week I'm going to write to my MP and the Prime Minister and ask the UK government to:
1. Prioritise the abolition of the modern slave trade.
2. Ensure that the UK government ratifies the Council of Europe’s Convention on Action Against the Trafficking of Human Beings (the Convention only comes into force when 10 member states have ratified it).
3. Increase funding for projects working to support victims of Human Trafficking.
4. Improve training for agencies (Police and Immigration officers) that have contact with victims of Human Trafficking.
5. Commit to understanding Human Trafficking as a violation of Human Rights rather than simply as an immigration issue.
6. Address the connection between dramatic increase in demand for Prostitution and rise in levels of Human Trafficking.

Spread the word. Stop the Traffik.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

All in the family!

Had a wonderful day today with lots of family - my mom bravely hosted eight people in her little flat for a lovely Sunday lunch on this 'Mothering Sunday' (aka UK Mother's Day!) It was great for Stu and me to spend time all together with my parents, my aunt and uncle and Stu's parents. The craic was mighty, as they say!

I volunteered to bring dessert and last night I made a yummy (if I do say so myself) no pastry pear tart from Rachel's Favourite Food at Home. With a few minor adjustments it was a great gluten free recipe - I'm always looking for new additions to the repertoire for my father-in-law who has ceoliac. All in all it has been a very nice Sunday . . . and even better, did I mention that it's a long weekend? No work tomorrow!!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Happy St Patrick's Day!

Happy St Patrick's Day! Luck of the Irish to you and all that jazz. I had a wonderful day in Dublin yesterday with Mom and Dad and Uncle Tom and Aunt Judy! We drove down (three cheers for Dad driving the rental car in frantic Dublin!) and spent the day doing lots of sightseeing. In the morning they braved the crowds (Americans like to go to Dublin in March I'm thinkin') to see the Book of Kells and the Old Library at Trinity College. While they were doing the tour I had a chance to go to Avoca my favourite store ever and look at lovely things. Later on despite the cooler weather we sat up top during a really good double decker bus tour of the city and fortunately had an entertaining and knowledgeable tour guide so we all learned a lot. After that we went on a bit of a wild goose chase by foot to find the Georgian House Museum but we all agreed that the hunt was very worth it in the end. The house has been fully restored as a Georgian residence (about 1790) and it was really interesting to see what life was like then. Apparently the wealthy bathed about twice a year (at the most!) and the women wore layer upon layer of makeup made of wax and lead that would melt and burn their faces if they got too close to the fire! Fun facts. Anyway, the whole day was great and the city was definitely buzzin' with all the extra people there for the big St Paddy's weekend.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

A grey area

Okay Ninny, I know I haven't been posting very regularly but the truth of the matter is that the past two nights when I've sat down to share my wisdom with the world (hehe) my wireless connection has gone hay-wire and so I just went to bed. Sad but true.

So anyway, how about something completely frivolous for a change?? On Sunday night the new series of Grey's Anatomy started with back to back episodes on channel five. Now, ask some of my friends at work and they will confirm that I've been talking about this since July when the last series finished. Again, sad but true. So needless to say that I was looking forward to the episodes when a moral crisis arose . . . usually we go to church on Sunday night and then have coffee with friends. Would I forsake such wholesome fellowship for a soapy hospital drama (when Dr McDreamy's involved need you ask!)? My dilemma was momentarily solved when Stuart phoned his dear mom who happily agreed to tape it for me since our ancient VCR doesn't record. Now I'm giving you far to much detail, but to make a long story longer I ended up second guessing my moral high ground position when I found out that the in-law's VCR didn't work! Shock horror. The resolution you ask? I am now a happy bunny because my dear friend and colleague Beth happened to have several episodes downloaded and hooked me up with the sweet little disk yesterday. Now, aren't you glad I posted?

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Oh how I love a good controversy!

Here I go again folks . . . Over some tasty Indian food last night our friends Paul and Ruth were telling us about Martyn Joseph. Joseph is a Welsh folk singer who specialises in singing truth to power and is apparently very popular in Canada. Anyway, Joseph recently sang a controversial song at the Greenbelt Festival in reaction to TV evangelist Pat Robertson's controversial statements, among others, that Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez should be assassinated and that Ariel Sharon's stroke was divine punishment (he later apologised.) On a side note, check out Robertson's Age Defying Protein Pancakes and Pat's Diet Shake. Strange but true.

Click here for the full story or listen to the very interesting interview with Joseph on BBC Wales.

Friday, March 9, 2007

It's getting hot in here . . .

Now, I don't know if this will generate as vigorous a response as the Crocs post (who knew!?) but I wanted to flag up some comments about global warming by Sojourners editor Jim Wallis on his blog. Ninny kindly forwarded me the Sojo e-zine that had the following excerpts from Wallis' blog where he took on champion of American evangelicals Dr James Dobson regarding climate change (apart from those warm fuzzy memories of Adventures in Odyssey I am decidedly not a fan of the good doctor!)

Dobson and company recently criticised the leader of the National Association of Evangelicals for saying that global warming should be a moral issue for evangelicals accusing them of '. . . using the global warming controversy to shift the emphasis away from the great moral issues of our time, notably the sanctity of human life, the integrity of marriage and the teaching of sexual abstinence and morality to our children.'

Oh brother. Thankfully Wallis proceded to challenge Dobson to an open debate on the issue with these very good questions, 'That is indeed the key criticism, and the foundation for the real debate. Is the fact that 30,000 children will die globally today, and everyday, from needless hunger and disease a great moral issue for evangelical Christians? How about the reality of 3 billion of God’s children living on less than $2 per day? And isn’t the still-widespread and needless poverty in our own country, the richest nation in the world, a moral scandal? What about pandemics like HIV/AIDS that wipe out whole generations and countries, or the sex trafficking of massive numbers of women and children? Should genocide in Darfur be a moral issue for Christians? And what about disastrous wars like Iraq? And then there is, of course, the issue that got Dobson and his allies so agitated. If the scientific consensus is right - climate change is real, is caused substantially by human activity, and could result in hundreds of thousands of deaths - then isn’t that also a great moral issue? Could global warming actually be alarming evidence of human tinkering with God’s creation?'

On a side note, we are continuing to work our way through Living God's Politics, the study guide to God's Politics in our home group and I think everyone involved would highly recommend the resource. The book has prompted some very good conversation and lots of brainstorming about ideas for concrete action in response.

But back to global warming, a friend at work today was telling me about a new British documentary that contends that global warming is not caused by human activity at all but rather that the sun is simply heating up. As my other friend exclaimed, 'So it doesn't matter what the hell we do!' Great. Let's just say I won't be watching . . .

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

A day in the life


This'll be a quick post as it's late and I feel tired enough to fall off my chair! However, I don't want to disappoint you Ms Ninny as I know you look for the daily posts. I usually try not to do just a simple summary of my day, but that's about as creative as I get when I'm sleepy. Sorry! :)

Work was good for both Stu and me (yes, Stuart's mostly over the cold which is good.) I was especially relieved to find out that my contract has been extended until the end of August! I was slated to finish at the end of March so it's been a bit of a waiting game to see if there would be an extension. I've also gambled a bit with myself as I haven't been very motivated to apply for other posts - I think I had a sneaky feeling that things would work out and I have to say that I am glad that they have, at least for now! What else is new? Ah yes, I went for a run from my office after work. This is my new strategy as I sometimes find it hard to get out or go to the gym once I've gotten home and been tempted to sack out on the couch. And now we've had a nice evening tonight with our friend Cherie who came over for dinner (dahl - yum) and to watch Ugly Betty. (Yes, she does like it - I'm not such a rude host that I force my favourite shows on unsuspecting dinner guests!) Cherie goes to our church and it's fun to get to know her better. Which brings me to now which happily brings me to going to sleep. Zzzzzzzzz.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Once you Croc you can't stop

I am contemplating getting me some Crocs. When we were home in Sask world this summer they were everywhere (and I do mean everywhere!) At the lake, at the mall, at church, at the pub . . . these brightly coloured plastic shoes were all purpose footwear for the prairies. They were so prolific in fact that you couldn't help but think enough already people! Surely it might be a good idea to change your footwear from a day in the garden to an evening out but maybe that's just me? Anyway, long story short I was pretty surprised when we returned to Belfast to see them selling for a significant amount of British pounds in the oh so trendy shoe store Office. And now, suddenly as the weather is warming up and the days are getting longer (yipee!) and I start thinking about working in the yard (never mind that I don't have one!) and being at the beach (never mind that beach weather is rare here!) I've got Crocs on the brain. Well, maybe that's a bit of an overstatement but I will say that my friend Anne-Lise recommends them highly for house shoes stating that they are super comfy and great if you are standing at the stove cooking for a long time. Would you Croc?

Monday, March 5, 2007

Skype-a-bunga


This may be very old news to all you high-tech types out there but tonight we discovered the wonders of Skype. We were over at my mom and dad's flat tonight and were very pleased to get their wireless connection and online Skype phone working like magic. Of course when we got home we wanted to get on the bandwagon and were happy to discover that our darling Mac has a built in mic and camera. If anyone has a Skype number let me know and I'll add you to our contacts because Skype to Skype calls are free and if there's one thing I like it's free!

In other news, today I was overcome with the desire to get back into running. Since the Dublin marathon in October I have been a less than diligent runner. While I have been doing quite a bit of swimming and other gym-y things nothing quite beats a run. I have to publicly pat myself on the back because I went for a run after work despite that fact that the weather was stinkin' (read pounding rain and wind) and I felt fab for it. I think my renewed vigor is linked to the feeling that spring has sprung. Conversely, poor Stuarty was struck down with a bad cold today. I contend that this is not surprising as he's been working way too much over the past six weeks but that's just my opinion. Pauvre Stu.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Friends!

It's so good to see friends this weekend that I haven't seen in a long time and be able to pick right off where we left off! That's how I felt spending the past couple of days with our good friends from Vancouver Anne-Lise and Darren. We had a really lovely time together just chilling out and doing lots of catching up. Love that! It was a bit of a bummer that Stuart had to go away to work in Enniskillen for the day as he would've enjoyed spending a bit more time with them. Their great company coupled with their descriptions of the Alps, Swiss chocolate, the outdoor cinema and the law-abiding Swiss has prompted Stu and I to already start planning a trip to visit them in Geneva this summer!

Another highlight of the weekend was getting a chance to go over to my mom and dad's flat for dinner tonight and to just hang out with them. It is a very unique experience for me to be living in the same city as my parents and to get to just pop by for a visit and I have to say that it's a real treat!

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Election Fever

I read Ninny's comment on my last post and must admit that I have been slacking on the daily posts. I have no real explanation except that life has felt busy/chaotic (mostly in a good way) and as such I have been very tired some nights and given myself permission to fall into bed without having done a post. Bad me.

Why so busy you ask? Well, most recently we've been busy preparing for the East Belfast Election Forum that we held at our church on Thursday night. It was a great event! We were really pleased with the turnout of about 100 spectators and nine election candidates. Some very important questions were asked by the audience on topics including housing, health, education, policing and water charges. Stuart and our friend Paul did a great job of chairing and keeping things organised and all I can say is thank heavens for the bell that told candidates when their time was up on each question! There is an interesting post about the forum by our diocese's Bishop on the Northern Ireland election blog.

What else is new? To fill you in as well on the past couple of days, our dear friends Anne-Lise and Darren arrived last night from Geneva to visit for the weekend which has been really great! We've had fun sharing meals, drinking coffee, shopping a bit, getting all caught up and giving them the real politik tour of Belfast. It's great to see them!

Oh yes, and had I been posting regularly the past couple of days, I most certainly would have done a post wishing everyone a happy March! Isn't it good to get to a 'spring-y' month? That's all for now . . .