Monthly Archives: May 2014

The Long May Weekend – A Year Later

To be honest, I don’t know a lot about Queen Victoria whom the long May weekend commemorates. We still feel repercussions from the Victorian era, such as white wedding gowns and a penchant for prudery. The Queen also plays a memorable role in “The Pirates! Band Of Misfits” in which she wields a mean scimitar. I hadn’t even been aware that she had her own day in Canada until last year when I flew out to Vancouver Island on the long weekend to look for a place for our family.  I had only this one weekend and some substantial internet house browsing in which to find the home we would move to in a few short months.

Such began an epic weekend of rental house hunting with my mother-in-law, Ruth, and my sister-in-law, Erin. We would learn quickly that house hunting online is much like online dating…  Everyone lies.  The pictures are all glamor shots from years if not decades earlier, the houses all looked much cleaner online, and in the case of a couple of our visits the picture can’t quite convey the… shall we say scent… of the actual building.

We called ourselves Little Man’s Angels, an all woman team who were finally answerable to my toddler son.  Even though he was back in the States during our adventure, Little Man became our litmus test for whether or not a property was even worth considering.  Unfortunately most of the places that we visited were not viable. In fact, right after visiting one more decrepit, dirty property in a long line of decrepit, dirty properties with questionable potential for child safety I was starting to wonder if I was being too picky. I must have mumbled something positive about the house when Ruth looked me in the eye and stated that while Dave and I were welcome to live in that house, her grandson would certainly not. I almost cried from relief.

The houses we toured in the greater Nanaimo area over the course of the weekend were memorable. One was so small that it should have housed dolls, not real people. Another reeked of stale tobacco and we later learned a man had been violently killed on a nearby street a few months earlier. Another had a blind driveway that led onto a busy street, not to mention a pile of human feces on the back porch. Another had strange fabric draped from the ceiling, holes punched in the walls, and boasted that it came with an outdoor plastic play house… mind you the playhouse had been used as a chicken coop for three years, but that’s nothing that a little spray bleach can’t take care of right? Right…  The one thing that all of the properties shared was that online they looked and sounded amazing.  I started to panic about our prospects.

Then we saw the property on the farm and I think I heard angels sing as a single ray of sun broke through the clouds and lit the house.  The building itself is nice, but the biggest draw was the farm itself and the surrounding landscape.  The idea of Little Man’s first long term memories being shaped here feeding chickens, petting horses, being chased by sheep…  The three of us looked at each other and had to resist the urge to rush into a jumping group hug.

Later we would begin the pattern that would haunt us for the rest of the move.  Just as things would start to look up, something would come crashing down.  No sooner had we called to secure our rental of the farm house then the great situation fell apart almost instantly.  We almost lost the house when its occupants at the time lost the home they were bidding on, and in fact it was only a few weeks before the actual move to Canada that we learned we’d be able to move in.  Other things would happen as well, but for the purposes of this post, it wasn’t until when Dave and his dad pulled up to the house with the moving van filled with all of our belongings and pulling our car with the cats that I truly let myself believe that things would work out.

The farm house is not perfect, but it has turned out to be a great decision. Almost a year later Little Man still asks to go back to our blue house in Iowa, but I don’t think he misses the house as much as he does the proximity to his favorite zoo and his child care provider.  We’re making friends, we live in a beautiful place, and are finding favorite places that we like to go back to over and over again.

Now that we are at this Long May Weekend one year later the main thing that keeps coming to mind is gratitude.  I’m grateful for the hilarious memories from our house hunt. Grateful that Ruth and Erin were able to take the time (and insanity) of that visit with me. Grateful that we live on such a beautiful island; in such a great home; close to the sheep, pigs, Little Man’s Ladies (aka the chickens), and horses; in a place full of potential for more fantastic adventures and memories.

With the thought of gratitude in mind, I planned a simple meal for the barbeque.  My goal was for something that wouldn’t take much time, leaving more time to be with Dave and LIttle Man, but also something full of flavor that Little Man would devour without us having to focus on getting him to eat his dinner.  Thankfully I was successful.  Little Man gobbled everything up and we were all able to have a nice family dinner full of laughs and stories. It was a perfect commemoration of the House Hunt Long Weekend. I hope that one or more of these recipes can give you a similar experience with your family or friends.

Menu: Mumbai Grilled Drumsticks, Mustard Seed Rice, Simple Grilled Zucchini and Mushrooms, and Mango Lassi.

Mumbai Grilled Drumsticks

Mumbai Grilled Drumsticks
Ingredients
:
2 tbsp. Tandoori paste
¼ cup plain, fat free yogurt
3-4 garlic cloves, finely grated
2 inch fresh ginger, finely grated
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 tbsp. canola oil
10 chicken drumsticks

Directions:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients except for the chicken in a large bowl.
    The marinade ingredients.

    The marinade ingredients.

    253

    The marinade ingredients combined.

    The marinade ingredients combined.

  2. Add the drumsticks to the bowl and toss until they are evenly coated. Use your hands here to really spread the marinade over the chicken.  Cover and refrigerate the chicken for at least 30 minutes or overnight.

    Tossing the chicken in the marinade is best done with your hands.  It's a bit messy, but roll up your sleeves and dive on in.

    Tossing the chicken in the marinade is best done with your hands. It’s a bit messy, but roll up your sleeves and dive on in.

  3. Preheat your grill or grill pan over medium/medium high heat. The marinade is predominately yogurt based, so you may need to grease your grill to make sure the chicken doesn’t stick. Grill the chicken over medium heat for approximately 45 minutes or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Serve and enjoy!

Click here for a printable version of the recipe for Mumbai Grilled Drumsticks.

 

Mustard Seed Rice

Mustard Seed Rice
Ingredients
:
1 tbsp. brown mustard seeds
1 tbsp. canola oil
1 ½ cups white basmati rice
3 cups hot water
Salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Gently heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat and add the mustard seeds. Cover the pan when the seeds start to pop, and shake it periodically to keep the seeds moving. Be careful not to burn them. When the seeds stop popping, about 30 seconds, add the rice and stir to combine. Stir the rice every now and then to let it just start to brown. This should take just a couple of minutes.
    Sizzling the mustard seeds in the oil.  When they start popping, cover the pan to prevent a mess on your stove.

    Sizzling the mustard seeds in the oil. When they start popping, cover the pan to prevent a mess on your stove.

    Popping mustard seeds.

    Popping mustard seeds.

    Sauteing the basmati rice with the mustard seeds and oil.

    Sauteing the basmati rice with the mustard seeds and oil.

    Browning the rice.

    Browning the rice.

  2. Carefully add the hot water to the pan. The pan is already hot so it will sputter and steam when you add the water.
  3. Bring the water to a boil, reduce the heat to simmer and cover the pan. Simmer the rice for 15 minutes, and then remove it from the heat. Let the rice sit with the lid on for 5 minutes. Remove the lid and fluff the rice with a fork. Spoon the rice into a serving bowl and enjoy.

Click here for a printable version of the recipe for Mustard Seed Rice.

 

276Simple Grilled Zucchini and Mushrooms
Ingredients
:
1 medium zucchini, cut into 1 ½ inch thick half moons
5 cremini mushrooms, cut into pieces roughly the same size as the zucchini
1-2 tbsp. olive oil
3-4 garlic cloves
Salt and Pepper
Directions:

  1. This recipe is more a method than anything else. Use whatever vegetables that you have at hand. I chose zucchini and mushroom because they taste great with a bit of the grill’s smokiness.
  2. Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and toss until the vegetables are evenly coated.
  3. Skewer all of the zucchini on one or two metal skewers, leaving a little bit of room between the pieces so they can cook evenly. Set these aside on a baking sheet. Do the same with the mushrooms. Set them aside with the zucchini and drizzle any remaining marinade over them all. Let them sit for 15-20 minutes.
  4. Grill over medium to medium high heat until the vegetables start to char and are cooked through.
  5. Remove the vegetables from the skewers, being careful of the hot metal. Toss the vegetables together in a bowl and serve. Enjoy!

Click here for a printable version of the recipe for Simple Grilled Vegetables.

 

271Mango Lassi
Ingredients
:
2 cups plain, fat free yogurt
2 cups frozen mango pieces
1 cup milk
1 tbsp. honey

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth.
  2. Taste to see if it needs more mango or honey. Adjust seasoning, blend again, and serve. Enjoy!

Click to get a printable recipe for Mango Lassi.

Our Victoria Day bbq dinner: Mumbai Grilled Drumsticks, Mustard Seed Rice and Simple Grilled Zucchini and Mushrooms.  Little Man already made off with his Mango Lassi, so it wasn't available for a glamor shot.

Our Victoria Day bbq dinner: Mumbai Grilled Drumsticks, Mustard Seed Rice and Simple Grilled Zucchini and Mushrooms. Little Man already made off with his Mango Lassi, so it wasn’t available for a glamor shot.

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A Jaunt Between Countries: More Adventures in Immigration

This last week was more adventure in immigration, and it involved a relatively short speed walk between countries.  This jaunt is called “doing a flag pole” by immigration officials on both sides of the border and is now another thing to add to my list of accomplishments.  Please forgive the lack of images with this post, since they tend to frown upon camera usage at the border.

The back story is that I needed to get a work permit for an upcoming job that I’ll post about later this week.  So stay tuned for that.  🙂  Now back to our story…  For some reason that must have made sense at some point to someone, to get a work visa one must first walk from Canada to the States, “do the flag pole,” walk back to Canada, and apply for the permit.  Other than ensuring that a person has the stamina to travel by foot from one country to the next, or to reinforce your complete powerlessness as an immigrant and the need to dance like a monkey on command, I’m truly not sure why this was required.  But this is our saga of the flagpole…

It began with an early morning ferry ride to the mainland where the three of us were gratefully met my Dave’s mom, our fellow adventurer for the day.  Then we drove to the border.  This was the closest I’ve been to my home country in almost a year, and even though I wasn’t actually going to enter the States, it was fun to get close to it again.  As we got closer I also started to get a bit nervous about how this was all going to play out.  When one’s immigration status is in question it can be a bit nerve wracking to leave one country for the next for fear of not being allowed back in.  So I took a deep breath, clutched my passport a little bit tighter, and prepared to dance.  That’s when things got interesting.

Most visitors at the border are simply trying to get from one side to the other.  They’re not trying to find a place to park in order to ask how one legally walks across international boundaries.  Needless to say we missed the tiny sign showing us where to park and ended up stuck in about 20 minutes of stopped traffic on the way to the States.  At this point we realized that we were about a block away from the actual border and that there was no where to go but forward, meaning that we were driving into the States.  This is also the time when we realize that the only person in the car with a passport is me, and Little Man has no documentation at all.  Nervous laughter ripples through the car.  We luckily spotted a “hail Mary” turnaround spot for people like us that just happen to make a wrong turn that could lead them to a different country.

Now we were pointed back towards Canada, figured we had at least one satellite watching our car for the lovely u-turn maneuver, and had the pleasure of sitting in another 20 minutes of stopped traffic to get back to the Canadian border.  At the border station we were “greeted” by the surliest Canadian any of us (the Canadians included) have ever encountered, and told that I have to go back the way I’ve come, but that there are no side walks so I need to be careful of the cars.  Great…  So now I need to “do the flagpole” and avoid being run over by someone desperate to get to Trader Joe’s and who sees me as literally standing between themselves and their $2 Chuck.

So off I go, traipsing between cars with a backpack full of documents while my family plays in the park behind me.  I try to avoid eye contact with any of the drivers, only thinking what a strange sight I must make walking down the street to the border, and feeling rather pilgrim-like.  Nothing like a 10 minute speed walk while inhaling the exhaust of countless cars to make one feel ready for the task at hand.

Once at the U.S. border office I asked a border agent about which line I should be in since I’m not actually trying to enter the country, but just need a work permit.  He said that for “a flag pole” I needed the back line.  The back line was a row of bench seating along the wall that looked like it hadn’t moved in about an hour.  I got in line, and eventually realized that I’m not in line at all, but am sitting with other people from other lines that simply got tired and needed a seat.  Once I realized my error and got into my line, I was second in line and was eventually asked to hand over my passport and take a seat.  Fifteen minutes later I was given my passport back with a stamp and told to walk back to Canada.  Apparently my “flag pole” did not involve an actual flag pole, and I have to say I’m a bit disappointed in that.

However, not one to question border agents who are letting you go, I left the building and started to walk around it the other way to continue my circuit back to Canada.  Who else can get lost trying to walk back to Canada?  Is it possible to miss an entire country?  I ended up in the loading dock and had to turn around.  A passing border agent looked at me, shook his head, and pointed the other way back to Canada.  Perhaps if you can’t even figure out the direction to walk back to Canada, the States isn’t particularly sad to see you go.

Off I went again, this time swimming up current from the cars and on the side to Canada actually finding a sidewalk.  How civilized.  I should also point out that I hadn’t noticed the slight decline for my walk to the States, but the walk back to Canada was up hill all the way.  That’s when I started feeling all the sore muscles from the different yoga warrior positions, and the dolphins… those darn dolphins…

In about the same 10 minutes it took me to walk to the States, I walked back to Canada and was greeted again on the Canadian side by the same surly border agent as before.  This time he asked me more surly questions, scribbled something on a yellow ticket, told me to walk to the tree, turn left, enter the building and go to the second line.  While I may not have circled a flag pole in the States, I did circle a maple tree in Canada.  That somehow felt right.

It was on the Canadian side where things got interesting again.  They didn’t want to give me the permit since it was something I could get from an office on the island, even though there were no immigration offices on the island hence our ferry trip to the mainland, and I was missing some information they needed.  Specifically they needed the start and ending dates for my employment since the permit would only be good for that one job with that one employer.  The dates weren’t listed on my offer letter and I hadn’t come prepared to call the anthropology department, so I looked briefly at the offer letter’s letterhead and asked the border agent if I could call the office to get the dates.  I was given permission and dialed the number hoping the department secretary was not at lunch.  The person who answered the phone was not the department secretary, but instead the Department Chair who also just happened to be a former mentor of mine.  This is exactly the impression you want to give your future employer before you even start your job, that you are having immigration issues, and you need them to do write a memo and fax it to the border asap (please), and I look forward to seeing you again in the Fall.  Ugh.

The second issue that the border agent had with me was that she wanted to see my credentials that allowed me to do this job.  For this I was prepared.  I reached into my backpack, grasped the tome that is my dissertation and laid it down on the counter with a satisfying and resounding thunk.  Yes, it would have been easier to bring my diploma, but that is packed in on of the 20 boxes labeled “Office” while the dissertation was nicely displayed on my bookcase.  This is the most work my dissertation has had in years, being carted around from one country the next, and then placed with a pleasingly heavy thump on the border agent’s desk as evidence of my credentials.  Nerdishly satisfying.

In the end the fax came through, the dissertation was accepted, and the permit was awarded.  Little Man was given a paper Canadian flag, and off we went again with no sidewalks or crosswalks, trying to reach our car on the Canadian side so we could go home, dodging drivers anxious to leave the States with their Trader Joe’s bounty.

Later when we had reached Ruth and Joe’s home, had gotten Little Man down for a nap, and were all happily ensconced in the kitchen holding glasses of crimson refreshment, we regaled Joe with our adventures.  I had successfully power walked between countries, did “the flagpole” and am now one step closer to an upcoming job.  Just one more political hoop to jump through, but that’s an adventure for next week.  In the meantime, we’re enjoying the success of this initial foray, and hoping that I don’t have to do that particular immigration hoop again.  Please!

A Week on Our Own: The End

I am so glad to have gotten to the end of this week!  It was a great week all together, full of fantastic accomplishments, reuniting with good friends, and some awesome Mommy/Toddler time.  It was, however, also a long week of single parenthood (Much love to all the single parents out there!  You’re amazing and don’t ever forget it!), a week of feeling like I should be somewhere else, and a lot of laundry… a lot of laundry.

Day 6 for Dave was spent jaunting from one airport to the next, each one a bit more disappointing than the last.  For Little Man and I the morning was spent at the Hazelwood Herb Farm in Cedar, and then a lot of cleaning… a lot of cleaning.

The Herb Farm was by far the bright spot for both of our day, and it’s finally convinced me that I’m trying to rush Spring along a bit too quickly for Vancouver Island.  The minute the temperatures got into the high teens in Celsius (that’s 60s… I think… in Fahrenheit…) I feel like I should be out in the garden planting something.  Except that it’s still pretty cold at night, and the ground is still pretty cold, and nothing that I want to plant (peppers, basil, etc.) is ready for that type of temperature.  This became very clear to me at the herb farm where they sell the types of plants that currently do good at this time of year.  Little Man and I came away with some great herbs (oregano, thyme, chives, and sage), as well as celery.  I’ve never tried celery in my garden (or container box) before, but I thought that it might look like a great dinosaur forest for Little Man.  So like for most things, including parenting and gardening, I’m learning that a little patience goes a long way.  But right about now, I’m really impatient for Dave to be home!!!

Day 7: Homecoming!!!

Welcome Home!Dave finally made it home this morning.  Little Man has been counting the number of breakfasts he had to get through before Daddy would be home, so this one he ate with relish and was constantly glancing at the door expecting Daddy to come waltzing in the minute his food was finished.  Not quite…  But after breakfast and the crazy dance of getting myself and my toddler ready for public appearances, we finally got the long awaited text that the ferry was pulling in, and then we were off to the car.

It’s always good that I give a buffer zone of time just for the process of getting the few meters (Canada-speak there… Did you catch it?) from our front door to our car.  This time it was the two farm dogs that caught Little Man’s fancy, but then he had to go say “hi” to his lady friends, the chickens.  At that point the little bitty “not dog,” as the farmer calls him, was running with him, Little Man took the opportunity to make a mad dash across the farm towards the sheep pen and his favorite hill at the back of the property.  Eventually the dogs and the toddler were corralled and we got to the ferry terminal just before Dave made it out of the building.

The rest of the day was a blur of Daddy and Little Man cuddles, nap time for all, and much playing.  You could almost hear the “reunited and it feels so good” chorus as the two of them raced around the yard, Little Man “cutting the grass” with his toy lawnmower and chasing his dad.  I have a feeling that the upcoming week will be one of recovering from exhaustion and gearing up for more dissertation deadlines, but at least we’re all together and now there are two of us to clean up toddler messes.  And there’s the awesome sign, too.

Checking the fluids to ensure the mower runs smoothly.

Checking the fluids to ensure the mower runs smoothly.

Lots of toddler cackling here...

Lots of toddler cackling here…

A Week on Our Own: Days 4-5

I’ve fallen a bit behind due to dealing with a lovely Springtime head cold, but to continue our saga of the Defense Week, Days 4 and 5 were a day of play and then a day of rest.  On Day 4 to celebrate Dave’s passing the Defense, Little Man and I went on a meandering Springtime adventure leading up to a picnic in one of his favorite parks.

We began our trek by stopping at Coco Cafe in Cedar for a picnic lunch.  After securing an amazing Roasted Chicken Club on thick, multigrain bread, a Carrot Muffin (Little Man’s arctic fox teddy apparently loves carrots), and a Mandarin Orange sparkling water for myself we were off again.  Cedar Street is a meandering half-circle, more or less, that goes through the town of Cedar and out towards North Oyster and the airport.  Along the way you also come across Fredrich’s Honey House, one of Little Man’s favorite places.

Today at the Honey House we’d brought along a couple of our empty honey jars to be refilled.  I’ve got plans for a post with the contents of one of the jars soon so keep your eyes peeled.  One of the jars we brought to be filled was Little Man’s own “tiny, tiny, tiny” honey jar that he was given there full of Blackberry Honey last summer when we visited for the first time.  We filled up the jars with their local wild flower honey and a gorgeous dark honey, sampling as we went.  Little Man liked them both, but thought the dark honey was the best.  Then with his little jar clutched tightly in a fist and a wooden tasting stick in Mommy’s bag we were off again.  This time we were heading for the park for our picnic.

Our destination for the day was Transfer Beach Park in Ladysmith.  Ladysmith is about 20 minutes south of Nanaimo, and is the town where we went for the Ladysmith Lights display last November.  It’s a cute town, perched on a San Fransisco-esque hill overlooking the ocean.  At the Transfer Beach light turn toward the ocean and follow the curving road down past an old steam engine, past the amphitheater and turn left into the parking lot by the playground.

An astute viewer might notice that Dave is in this picture while the post is about him being in New York.  These photos were taken just after Dave got back, since I failed to take photos earlier.

An astute viewer might notice that Dave is in this picture while the post is about him being in New York. These photos were taken just after Dave got back, since I failed to take photos earlier.

There are two playgrounds, one shaped like a ship for the little ones and a larger contraption of swinging bridges and slides for the more adventurous kiddos.  We generally only spend a short time on the playgrounds, since Little Man’s favorite thing to do is to go down to the pebble beach and throw rocks into the ocean.  I think soon we’ll come back with a little cork boat on a string and see how that fares in the calm waters.

Skipping rocks is the best thing ever.

Skipping rocks is the best thing ever.

While the playtime was great, the picnic was a little less successful.  It consisted mostly of me chasing my toddler around the playground with the chicken sandwich and him giggling maniacally as he dashed this way and that, clutching the arctic fox under his arm, and sprinting for anything he could run around.  All in all a good time was had by all, including the fox, and we succeeded in a good nap time once home.

Day 5: Face Time

After our shenanigans the day before, we played Day 5 close to home.  Dave spent the day with our dear family friends in New York, and I spent the day wishing desperately that we were there with them.  The highlight was later that afternoon when we got to do some Face Time chatting with Dave and our friends.  Little Man was a bit confused as to why Daddy couldn’t appear at his door immediately after appearing on the computer, but in the end was just happy to get some time to chat with his dad.  The next day was to be an all day travel extravaganza for Dave, and a good bit of cleaning for us.

Operation Daddy Sign: Day 4/5

We finalized the Congratulations, Daddy! sign over these two days.  On Day 4 I took a gigantic Sharpie marker and wrote the words on the sign while Aiden took his nap.  Once the ink was completely dry we added a little more glitter glue to the sign, and I added some glitter glue accents to a few of the letters that were written over dark paint and weren’t showing up as well.

The completed "Congratulations Daddy" sign.

The completed “Congratulations Daddy” sign.

A detail shot of the added glitter glue to make dark letters a bit more legible.

A detail shot of the added glitter glue to make dark letters a bit more legible.

Now the stage was set, all we needed was for Dave to make it home.

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