Friday, 25 May 2012

What am I eating?

Last week I bought myself a frozen raspberry lemonade. It tasted good; a sweet, lemony slushie. But as I sipped it, I wondered what on earth I was drinking. The raspberry flavour was completely artificial while the lemon had "lemon flavouring" (along with other unspecified natural flavours and a host of other ingredients). The slushie mixture was made of water and a sugar syrup with even more ingredients. I thought how much better that lemonade would have been with real raspberries, lemon juice, a bit of sugar, and ice.

A few days later I got my daughter a can of iced tea. The front of the can bragged about how it's made from "the best stuff on earth" with real tea and natural flavours. As we were walking along, she turned the can around and started reading the ingredients.

"Sodium hexametaphosphate?" she read with some confusion. "I know sodium is salt but what is hexametaphosphate?"

I had to admit I had no idea. Google has subsequently informed me it's used primarily in laboratories, detergents, paints, and photography applications to keep particles from clumping or settling. Why is it in her tea? Is it that hard to shake the can before drinking?

A hundred years ago, if someone had a glass of iced tea, they had tea, cold water, and sugar with maybe some mint or lemon thrown in for flavour. My daughter's can had 11 ingredients (including water) and six of them were not identifiable as food (mmm... calcium disodium edta anyone?). Even though it was lemon iced tea, there was no mention of lemon in the ingredient list.

The following day I was on a forum where someone asked for healthy meal ideas. One person offered a dessert suggestion that consisted of a ready made pie crust, filled with instant pudding and topped with artificial whipped topping. That was when it hit me. We can go all day, eating food, and manage to eat nothing that isn't crammed full of additives and modified ingredients. And many people do. Why does a package of muffins contain xanthan gum and monoglycerides? Why is the milk in my cream cheese modified? How is it modified?

We move in just under a week. Right now our cupboards are almost empty and most of my cooking supplies have been packed. When I restock our fridge and cupboards in our new home, I am restocking with real foods. If I don't recognize an ingredient, that food is not coming into our house. If the ingredients are modified, same thing.

Right now, what I've been doing is finding recipes for the basic ingredients I usually buy ready made. Things like gravy mix and soup stock. I've also been reading ingredient lists at the grocery store. Next Friday I'll be picking up a paper wrapped package of cream cheese, for example, instead of a tub.

This is how I explained our upcoming diet change to my son. "Remember the time I was tired and didn't feel like chopping the potatoes for poutine and we just went out and bought a package of frozen fries? It was a bit quicker but it didn't taste as good as when we usually make it. Now, instead of using powdered gravy mix, I'm going to make my own and it'll taste even better."

I'm wracking my brains for a conclusion but am too tired. I got kept up last night by a bunch of kids skateboarding under my bedroom window. Then, when I tried to take a small nap this afternoon, people outside my building started operating a power washer, a jack hammer, and some piece of heavy machinery that alternated between ramming into something metal and backing up while beeping. Oh, and someone's car horn got stuck and was constantly honking. ALL AT ONCE! That nap didn't happen. My son's due home in 10 minutes. It's totally quiet now. So, in conclusion, here's a gratuitous shot of the teeny bit of the solar eclipse I saw this weekend (taken from a friend's van window)...

Monday, 14 May 2012

The difference determination can make

Watch this video - just make sure you've got some Kleenex beside you. This is for anyone who ever thought they weren't strong enough or just wouldn't be able to succeed. You never know until you've tried... and tried... then tried again.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Cats and Dreams

I have a reoccurring dream. In it, something wonderful is happening, something rare that I want to take a picture of. I find my camera, focus, and hit the button. But the camera just won't take the picture. Seconds pass and the opportunity fades. By the time the camera will actually take the picture, the shot is gone.

Last night I dreamt I was standing in my living room talking to my Mom on the phone, when I looked out the window and noticed we were having a lunar eclipse. I ran and grabbed my camera, only to realize the eclipse was happening super quickly and would be over within seconds. I snapped a picture right away, knowing I wouldn't have time to change the settings and knowing the picture wouldn't turn out, then raced to get the camera on the right settings... in vain. I got the camera set just in time for the moon to go back to normal. Normal still looked pretty neat so I snapped a couple of photos anyways. When I went back to view my photos, I discovered my first photo turned out amazing. I'd got the shot I wanted, even though I worried I hadn't.

That's life. Sometimes you try your hardest only to watch an opportunity slip away, despite your best efforts. And sometimes, when you least expect it, the opportunity you thought slipped away turns out to be there after all. I love surprises like that.

I also wish that picture existed because it was an amazing shot. But considering it was a cross between a lunar eclipse, a solar eclipse, and something off SuperMario Galaxy, I don't think even Googling would come up with something similar.

I woke up around 1am to find our cat Blackie snuggled up beside me. I had my arm stretched beside me and she was using my upper arm as a pillow while she purred like an outboard motor and gave my arm a lick every few seconds.

Blackie can be needy at the best of times but this was beyond her usual needy behaviour. She was so happy to see me, but me being in bed asleep in the middle of the night isn't exactly an unusual occurrence. Then it dawned on me. The last time she'd ever seen people packing for a move would have been with her previous owners, the ones who locked her in a shed and left her behind. Even though I couldn't sleep through her "OMG my Mommy is still here!" snugglefest, I let her cuddle and purr for about 10 minutes before rolling over and giving my arm a break. So far Oreo is oblivious to the move and Angel thinks the boxes are an amazing jungle gym. But neither of them were abandoned like Blackie. In three more weeks we'll already be in our new place and she'll have lots of new corners to explore.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Something for me...

I went onto a digital scrapbooking store's website a few days ago, looking for a moving day scrapbook kit. However, when I typed "moving" into their search box, this kit popped up...

The colours drew me to the kit, then I saw "positive" and the shiny yellow sun. The more I read, the more I realized the kit was perfect for me. This move is going to be a positive change, a fresh start, a new beginning. I am going to have way more options, exercise wise, at our new home. I can't wait until I can scrapbook some new diet pages!

Ironically, when I went back onto the website to find the kit I'd bought, they had a new kit listed 20% off titled Celebrate {You}...

Colin looked at it and said, "You have to buy that for you". So I did. Luckily digital scrapbooking is a lot cheaper hobby than traditional scrapbooking. This kit cost me $4 and is my Mother's Day present to myself (both kids have told me in the past day they had no idea Mother's Day was this weekend so I'm expecting nothing).

And I had great news today. After a solid month of being told they'd know "today" when the current tenant of our new apartment is moving out, I finally heard from the superintendent and he's moving out on the 25th. Four days before our move. So I'll be able to go in early to clean and measure curtains. It's so nice knowing we'll be moving into a clean apartment.

And I'm off to do some more packing!

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Neverending boxes

At least that's how it feels. These days my life seems to consist of going to work, picking up boxes at work, coming home, and packing.

Last week was the worst. I'd pack a bunch of boxes but nothing seemed to change. I had stuff piled everywhere to sort into boxes, yet the cupboards and drawers all still had stuff in them. Some nights I woke positive my drawers were breeding endless amounts of stuff.

This week, things are slowly improving. The hutch in the dining room is empty, as is the computer desk and both bookcases. Several dresser drawers have been emptied as well. All the pictures are off the walls and the tops of my kitchen cupboards are barren.

In some ways I may have been a bit too hasty. I went to turn on my bedside lamp last night, only to remember I packed it. Along with all the pillows on the couch. I keep reminding myself it's only three weeks... then I panic all over again and pack a few more boxes.

I feel like this is a dream. We had a whirlwind trip through the apartment that left all of us struggling to remember what exactly the apartment was like. Some things stand out clearly, like the second balcony and the storage closet. Others... not so much.

Was it carpeted or hardwood floors? I asked my Mom. She thinks hardwood but wasn't entirely sure. Where there blinds? She asked me. I think there were curtains but I'm not sure either.

It's weird moving into a place you only half remember. I keep telling myself that in three more weeks I'll be going downstairs for a swim. In three more weeks I'll be on the treadmill listening to my MP3 player. In three more weeks I'll be riding my bike in the local conservation area. I might as well be telling myself that in three more weeks I'll be flapping my arms and flying to the moon because that feels just as likely.

Speaking of the moon. I took some pictures of the supermoon this year and have to share them. I walked to the greenspace across the street and went to the cliff in the back in the hopes it would give me a better view. I watched and waited and, just as I was about to admit defeat, I noticed something bright orange shining through the leaves...

I really wanted to take my pictures before the sun fully set as I loved the orange look of the moon. Then noticed a hill behind me. That brought me just above the trees...

This one is my favourite shot...

A friend of mine posted a picture on Facebook of the supermoon rising over water. Next supermoon (June 23, 2013) I'm planning on hanging out at the lake with my camera.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Beginnings and endings

My son and I took the bus to our new neighbourhood on Saturday. We walked around looking at local shops while I handed out resumes then took a walk around the outside of our new building and through the nearby park. Both of us agreed we couldn't wait until we moved. Everything is so close by and convenient. Three grocery stores, a big drug store, a mall, pet supply stores, bakery... the library just a walk through the park... conservation area a short bike ride away.

That night I packed a few more boxes and wondered at how quickly our home is turning into just another apartment. Each box removes a bit more personality. I looked forward to pulling everything back out in a few weeks and making our new apartment a home. Our days here are ending and our lives in a new home are about to begin.

On Sunday, son and I walked to my work to pick up a big packing box. Soon we noticed flashing lights ahead and a police car parked on the sidewalk. Then police tape came into view. My heart sank, and I commented to son that I hoped nothing happened to the elderly couple in the first house. We drew closer and realized it wasn't their house, it was the house my friend's ex-husband used to live in. Him and his girlfriend moved less than a year ago. They have shared custody and that was the night he always had the kids.

We walked past and looked at the damage. The front of the house looked the same but there were huge holes burned through the roof and the windows on the east side were charred and broken. I hoped no one was home and we continued on our way. Of course, before long we were informed by several people that three adults had died in the blaze. A tragedy for sure, but it didn't directly affect us. I was mainly relieved my friend's children weren't living there when the fire broke out.

I had a short shift at work yesterday and the phone rang within minutes of me coming home. It was my son and he was clearly in tears. He wanted to come home. Could he please come home? I, of course, asked why. 

"Mom, Hollie died. She was in the house that caught on fire and she died. Please let me come home."

We talk about how teenagers think they're immortal but that belief extends to adults too. I never thought I'd have to comfort my children over the death of a classmate, a peer, a friend. We walked home in the rain, while my son asked me all the hard questions. Why did she die Mom? Did she hurt? Why do bad things happen to good people? Could I have made a difference? What if I'd been allowed to be outside until after midnight? Could I have seen it and saved them? How come the fire hydrant didn't work? Who's supposed to check them? Why couldn't they get out? Why didn't the landlord have safer stairs?

We go through life blindly assuming everything will stay the same. If things don't work out today, we'll have another chance to make things better tomorrow. Like life has a guarantee. Hug the people you love today, tell your kids you love them, show your friends you care. As I told my son, there isn't a reason why. There's no one sitting there deciding who is going to die and who will live. Sometimes life plain stinks. Sometimes bad things happen to good people. Sometimes wonderful things happen to bad people. All we can do is try our best to be good to the people around us. If their lives are going great we can make them even better. Otherwise, we can try to be a bright spark on a gloomy day.

Rest in peace kids... I hope you were aware in life how much you meant to so many people.