Monday, 19 June 2017

It Is Going To Be A Tough Week

I am still a bit down because of Father's Day and how much it reminds me of Dad's death. Unlike more organic remembrances, that may still be sad but are at least enjoyable nostalgia, Father's Day just makes me think about the fact he is missing from my life now. It is definitely painful. His birthday is also coming up on Wednesday so it is a rough time for grief all around.

My event is, and like all event planning, the last week is chaos. It is basically controlled panic. While I do enjoy it, I could never do events like this full time - too exhausting. Also, this is a massive event and there has been less time to plan it than normal, even for a smaller event.

Also, related to work, it seems local discontent is coming a bit to the surface, which in general is a good thing because it will allow me to address concerns and improve relationships. But really this isn't coming at a time when I have the time, energy, or even mental capacity to give it the attention it deserves.

One week from today, next Monday, I should be able to take a deep breath and feel more centered.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Happy Father's Day

Dad - I miss you.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

You Can Cook Those?

Jason took me out for dinner tonight before he goes away for a week to San Francisco. It was a really nice evening and a great escape from work, which is all consuming at the moment.

We went to Woodlot on a side street in Little Italy. (And it turned out that area was having a street festival so walked around for a bit afterwards.)

One of the most interesting aspects of the night was that we ordered roasted radishes, I don't think I have ever had a cooked radish! It is totally different from the sharp taste when they are raw, both Jason and I really liked​ them. So strange to experience new food that is something so normal and simple.

How have I never had a cooked radish before? I am 33.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

The Lost Summer

I ran across a video on Facebook called 25 Years of Summer Songs and all of them brought brief flashes of life back to me, except one. It was so strange to recognize each one, remember the song, reflect on my time during that year and then be confronted by a blank. It was jarring but I assumed it was probably an American list and that song wasn't popular here.

Then I thought about the year - 2004. I don't know if I would say it was the worst summer that I have had but it was a rough one: staying in Ottawa after my first year at Carleton in Engineering, to take summer courses. Working at a minimum wage job across the city that took over an hour and half on transit to get to. Dealing with a long distance serious relationship. Not many friends around because so many people return to their hometowns during that first university summer. However, that minimum wage job was at Extreme Pita, so that is full-time radio listening and I am surprised that the song didn't stick in my mind from that.

The song, Burn by Usher, seems to be pretty universally agreed to be the main song for the summer of 2004. While I recognize other songs from that same album, that one just isn't in my memory. I don't totally agree with all the picks each year, in 2001 I can remember Drops of Jupiter being a major summer song, but that might have just been personal experience. I might not be big on music but songs are still often a serious memory link.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Too Early For Worms

There is sun light peeking through the top of the drapes in the bedroom. IT IS FOUR O'CLOCK IN THE MORNING!! The light doesn't wake me up or keep me awake (I don't need darkness to sleep) but the birds do. It is too early in the day for birds, go back to your nest beds.

I love that the days are getting longer, but hate that it also means the mornings are getting earlier.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Scaredy Cat

I don't really post much about Two here anymore​, because she has her own Instagram (linked on the left) but this morning she was being pretty amusing. Basically she randomly became super curious or scared of everything, like she had never seen it before. When she is curious she taps and bats at the item incessantly. If she is scared she either runs away or attacks or both.

Things Two was scared of or intrigued with​ this morning:
- The bathmat
- Phone charger cord
- Me taking my morning pills
- A hair tie on the bed
- Jason
- The dryer door
- A sock
- My purse
- Turning on The Tassimo
- Bed pillows, throw pillows, couch pillows

And this evening everything is back to normal again. It is funny when she goes a bit crazy, makes me wish I could have stayed home with her for the day to watch all the rushing around.

Monday, 5 June 2017

I Do Things Too

I did mention before that Jason has been doing a lot of work around the house, but I am also trying to be involved too. A few weekends ago I dug up the Perennial plants that I already had (two Bleeding Hearts that were a birthday gift from Mom last year, and some Irises from Aunt Dan). We need to do some serious work in the yards this year and I will replant them in the Fall when I know more clearly where our gardens are going to be. I got some planters to keep on the back deck so I can look after them over the summer. I also bought more perennials (manly Hydrangeas) since I really feel like Annuals are a waste of money.

Back Deck Planter Garden
Before & After - Spring 2017

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Smart Served

Sunday Mornin' Coming Down - A post about my Dad each Sunday, named after a song that he loved.

My parents got their Smart Serve certification so that they bar-tend at Give Me Liberty (the Liberty Village BIA street party that I worked on in 2012, 2013, and 2014.) According to my mom, it was actually at that event that my Dad learned about Shazam.  I don't know if they got much use out of the Smart Serve beyond those few times, they may have found it helpful for yacht club events. I was able to list Mom's as a Smart Serve bartender at my wedding so she at least got one extra use out of it.

Interesting side note: According to Anne you have to redo the certification in Alberta because it expires after a period of time. In Ontario it lasts forever. Teri and I did a course one weekend when we were 18, wrote the test and the end, and are still good 15 years later.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Candy Prep

Jason is 'on production' which I think is something in computer developer lingo but basically means he is scheduled for a off-time shift and has to work from home from noon to eight today.

To prepare for his Saturday work day he bought a Family Size pack of licorice sized Nibs and a big package of M&M's. He will now sit at the computer and focus very hard on work while eating a tonne of candy.

Friday, 2 June 2017

And Why Did I Go?

So, since I haven't been away, and most people knew that I wasn't, what has been the cause of the month-long blog hiatus? A lot of friends and family have been wondering why I haven't posted, and everyone has their own ideas as to the reason behind my stalled writing on Always Standing.

Here are the theories I have heard:

- The trails of home-ownership. Nope. It has been a busy Spring at Casa Verde but more for Jason than me. He has been working on the lawn, trying to get rid of weeds and seeding in more grass. While I was in Ottawa this past weekend Faye and David came and helped Jason and Noah tear down the gross shed/kennel behind our garage.

- Newly wedded bliss. Nope. I know we just had our honeymoon, BUT. We got married in September 2016, moved in to our own house in May 2016, bought our home in December of 2015,  and we had started to live together in October 2013. So the bliss wouldn't really be the type to keep me from posting.

- My new job. Nope. While it is true that I am working long hours at the office in preparation for our big summer event, it has only stopped me from posting in that I don't want to log into a work computer to do it. We use Google for everything here and having my account on the computer to access Blogger might get tangled up in the accounts I use for work. But I often have my personal computer here so could easily pop on it during a break and fire off a post.

The actual reason:

- My tablet broke! I don't think I ever mentioned that I had my own tablet but Jason got me a very nice Google Pixel C for Christmas. (It was intended for my birthday but came so early that I got it at Christmas instead.) Well, I have been using it to post on Always Standing because it is always on hand and the Blogger interface on it is okay. I hadn't realized how much I relied on it to blog, but I do. All my Azores posts were done from the tablet, it is pretty much my main computer now. Well, the screen on it went wonky about a month ago and Jason spent some time trying to fix it but ended up having to send it away. I have it back now and posting will pick up again.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

And Where Have I Been?

Obviously I was in The Azores last month, but where did I go after that? Why haven't I been posting on Always Standing, was I away from Internet? Actually, over the May long weekend, I was. We went to The Cottage and the Internet is terrible there. I also had a weekend trip to Ottawa but besides that I haven't done much.

It doesn't feel like a month has passed since I was posting regularly, but somehow it has been. I will start easing back into it, sorry for the absence.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

I Guess I Have Always Had This Nose

This is what I looked like exactly 33 years ago today, though only the nose is recognizable to me:

"30 minutes after delivery the flash bulbs start popping."
Photo by George Sweeton 
May 24, 1984

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Me, On A Sailboat, On Tuesday, In The Azores

When Jason shared his photos from the trip I was surprised how many there were of me. I am just not bothered by having my picture taken so it doesn't really register. We both only had our phones with us in terms of cameras but Jason came away with more pictures. I thought I would show what our sailing day looked like based on photos, it was a nice post to do about Monday, lets do it for Tuesday too. (All photos are Jason's unless otherwise noted)

Setting off! A beautiful day, a beautiful boat!
Skipper Pedro (left), First Mate Rui (right), and Jason
Photo by ME

Touring along the coast, passing cities and towns.
The architecture is very 'European.'

They let me drive!
I think there was some type of autopilot going too, 
but when I turned the wheel the boat moved.

Left the wheel to hang out at the bow.
One of the quiet coves along the southern coast of Sao Miguel.

I can see it! Our destination far ahead. 
It doesn't lie far off the coast of the city of Vila Franca do Campo,
but we left from Ponta Delgada so had to travel east to get to it.

The reason for it all!
something that I REALLY wanted to explore.
While we didn't see it from this angle (helicopter?)
you did get a sense of its shape from sailing around it,
climbing along the rocks on the inside, swimming in the lagoon, etc.
Photo from Tourism Website

We are getting closer.
The weather was perfect.
Just enough wind to be exciting,
not enough wind to make Jason uncomfortable.

I can't take my eyes off of it.
It is literally an ancient submerged volcano, and looks like it.

Rounding the islet to get to the entrance.
The cliffs show the rocks at strange angles and formations.

So beautiful.
Not just lava rocks and harsh cliffs,
also tropical vegetation.
(And later we would learn,
tons of newts and crabs.)

Time to swim!
We reach the entrance and they anchor the boat.
Jason and I swim into the Islet to explore.

Docking the boat.
After our excursion, we went into town for lunch.

It has moss still on the shell!
My reaction to one of the pieces of seafood served at lunch.

Full on tentacles.
But then I had fresh octopus for my main course,
it was amazingly delicious, melt in your mouth good.

Saying goodbye. 
Left the islet and the city Vila Franco do Campo,
time to sail back to the main port.

Dozing.
Spent the ride back enjoying the sun.

A bit bigger than us.
Came into port just as a cruise ship was leaving.

We want to thank our friends and family who supported this trip, which was our honeymoon, and those who participated in our crazy wedding back in September. The money that was gifted to us was used on this trip and allowed for the types of adventures we might not normally splurge on. We had so much fun and are very grateful.

Boats, Bones, & Bikinis - Tuesday In The Azores

I got to swim in the ocean again today, but this time it wasn't warmed by a hot spring. It is our last full day in The Azores and our postponed sailboat charter was scheduled. I was so excited to finally get to explore the Islet of Vila Franca do Campo, but we had been told when we booked with Sailingside that we would have to swim into the centre of the crater on the islet because it was too shallow. The sail boat could anchor near the opening and wait for us.

This swimming idea did not appeal to Jason when the internet kept telling him that the ocean was around 16 to 17 degrees. We had done the Toronto Island Triathlon in similar temperatures, and Jason had bad memories of it being way too cold. So we woke up early this morning to go find him a wetsuit to rent. The major town that is just slightly down the road has a surf school so we set out to rent a wetsuit there. When we found it, there was just a number to call. They were set up on the other side of the island where the waves were better, but that was still on our way to the boat. When we met up with them, in a moment of weakness, I decided to rent a wetsuit too.

I am glad we held off going on the sailing trip because the weather today is much better for being out on the water. We got onto the boat and headed out of the harbour with our Skipper Pedro and First Mate Rui. We explored the coast along the way and finally made it to the islet. Jason and I went into the cabin to change and I decided that I would be fine in my bathing suit since the sun was shining and I don't really like the feel of a wetsuit. So this is why in the photo below taking by the skipper who stayed back on the boat - you can see me clearly but Jason blends in with the rocks in his head to toe black.

Exploring!
Jason (wetsuit) and I (bikini) in The Azores
Photo by our skipper Pedro
April 2017

We jumped off the back of the boat with snorkelling masks and breathing tubes, which I didn't know how to use so just ignored. Jason and I swam, through the thin entrance area and climbed up on the rocks inside the crater. We walked around, though the seagulls have taken over during the months when they don't run the ferries - so there were bones everywhere. There were also newts! Tons of them that were sunning themselves on the rocks but would run away when you got near. There were also quite a few crabs, including big red ones. 

Another couple had come in a sailboat too that was parked near the entrance and they were scuba diving in the lagoon area. They said that the previous day they had seen giant manta rays in the lagoon from the land and had come back to see if they could see them in the water. We didn't have any luck but we did see a couple of schools of beautiful silver fish. Jason saw other cools things since he is better at snorkelling than me, I think I kick too loudly.

We went into the town of Vila Franca do Campo for lunch before heading back to Ponta Delgada, this time sailing further away from the coast so we could get consistent wind. 

For dinner we went to an interesting restaurant, Quinta dos Sabores, that we had gone looking for earlier in our trip but required advance reservation. It was a farm to table style and they cook a five course meal just for those attending that evening. The food was good and we were hungry from being on the water all day.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Photos For My Favourite Day - Monday In The Azores

I didn't know how excited I was to swim in the ocean or how much I have started to enjoy hiking on holidays but today was so much fun, I think it has been my favourite so far. Let me detail our activities using photos (unless otherwise stated, all pictures were taken by Jason.)

We drove to the south-west coast 
to go swimming in the ocean at Ponta da Ferraria.
The cliffs are steep, would our little car make it?
----- 

Of course it would!
The switch-backs helped of course.
That truck is not ours, we rented a little car.
----

The jagged lava rocks make for an eerie looking coastline.
But this is the best place to swim in the ocean 
when the weather is a bit cool out.
----

Because these natural pools are fed by a hot spring.
At low tide the ocean is 28 C in this spot.
----

These pools have been used since the fifteenth century.
History was onto something, we enjoyed a nice swim.
----

Then we went for a hike at nearby Sete Cidades.
We set off to get to the lookout point for the 'twin lakes'
wanting to see the iconic crater formation.
---- 

The walk started off taking us pass an aqueduct.
(Which I could find no information about,
obviously it killed me to have no facts on this!)
----

About half way through we noticed
fog had started to roll in.
----

Was it going to be worth the climb
if we couldn't see anything? 
----

Because it really was a climb!
It was another hike with a big elevation gain,
almost 200m again, in a short period of time.
----

But we stuck it out, worked up a sweat,
and reached the top. (Hydrate!)
It was an enjoyable walk, no one else was around.
----

But at the top instead of seeing this:
Photo from a travel site.
Iconic image of the Azores,
seen a million times while researching the trip.
----

We had this view:
----

Still, it was a wonderful day!

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Sulphur Stew - Sunday In The Azores

We were scheduled to go sailing today but when we arrived at the marina the captain suggested postponing the trip and waiting for better weather. It was pretty chilly and very grey, also apparently quite windy out on the water. We appreciated him giving us a chance to come back on a nicer day and we agreed on a Tuesday trip. That will be the day before we leave so it is cutting it a bit close, but the forecast is good for that day.

Both the captain and first mate highly suggested that we go to Furnas, pretty much everyone we talked to had mentioned this place. It is also the main destination for tourists when cruise ships come to port for the day. Basically it is the one big unique attraction. But the whole island is amazing, I didn't understand why everyone kept going on about this small part of it.

We decided to go because it was crappy weather and that is recommended. The first stop was in the main place for geothermal, volcanic activity. A conservation area with geysers and boiling mud and all that awesome stuff. We had seen some of it before at Caldeira Velha but this was at a much larger and more intense scale. As you can see from the short film from my phone HERE, I am not a good videographer. I also really like boiling mud!

In that video you can see piles of dirt with posted restaurant names, this is for a dish called cozido and it is another main reason to visit the Furnas area. It was recommended by a lot of people because it is very unique to the area - seeing that it is a stew cooked in the ground using geothermal heat it does lend itself to being pretty unique.

When we went into town Jason got the stew, though admittedly not at a very appropriate location. The stew is made from hearty and root vegetables, various cuts of meat, and types of sausage. It really would be best enjoyed in a very casual setting. However, we had lunch at a fine dining restaurant in a luxury hotel, see my photo of Jason on the right eating the stew with white table cloth.

The reason were at such a fancy place was that the hotel owns these beautiful gardens and hot springs and if you eat lunch there than the admission is included. The admission on its own is surprisingly high, especially as we just ended up walking around - I didn't think the hot springs would be a good idea for me. The gardens were spectacular though, they were started in the 1700s so some of the trees are huge and everything is very exotic and magical.

We drove home along the north-west coast which is a fairly remote area with gorgeous scenery, jagged cliffs and rough seas. So beautiful. (I only feel asleep for a short period of time in the passenger seat.)

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Hospital Tales And Watching Whales - Saturday In The Azores

My Saturday started really early with multiple trips to the toilet to pee. I recognised the symptoms of a bladder infection (UTI) right away. I decided to go to the hospital to get antibiotics, told Jason, left him in bed to sleep, and headed over the hills on the short 15 minute drive to the main city. This also gave me a chance to practise driving standard again during a time when there were no cars on the road (literally none, I saw a total of three the entire time, both there and back.) 

Since it was the middle of the night, the hospital was fairly quiet and they moved me through quite quickly. When I first got there they said that it would cost 170 Euros to see a doctor, more if there were tests. (They did end up doing blood work.) Jason called our travel insurance from the hotel and by the time I was leaving the hospital payment information had been faxed and it didn't cost me anything.

After a bit of sleep and breakfast we went back to Ponta Delgada for our Whale Watching trip, stopping first at a pharmacy to fill my three prescriptions. We did have to pay for the medication, but it wasn't a lot and I am pretty sure we can claim it when we get home. For someone who enjoys hospitals, this was not at all the issue it might have been for other travellers (though I did not enjoy the IV going in so they could take blood.) The only unfortunate thing was another night without enough sleep. 

The whale trip was rescheduled to start half an hour later because the boat hadn't returned from the morning trip. We were told that the captain had taken them far out to see blue whales and that we would likely get a sighting too. Jason was so excited, he was practically bouncing in his chair as we sat on the marina patio having ice cream and waiting for the boat to come in. 

We boarded quickly and were on our way to many hours at sea looking for whales. Jason did get a glimpse of a blue whale, as we saw one surface a few times. We also got great views of a sperm whale that hung out near the boat for a long time. We do have a great video of the friendly sperm whale, including a dive that involved a tail flip. However, I can't figure out how to load it up onto the blog so instead I am included a photo from Jason that is reminiscent of my mom's famous seal shots:

"Whales" by Jason 
Atlantic in April 2017 near The Azores 

The captain would have kept us out on the water longer but a couple on board had a flight to catch. We could see the 'blows' of other whales in the distance, as it was our four hour hour trip ended up being almost six and a half. Jason struggled a bit to not get seasick and stayed outside the whole time. For the last little while I headed into the enclosed area to have a nap. Sadly my sleeping made me miss seeing some dolphins that Jason said showed up off to the side of the boat at one point, but the nap was still nice. 

Ring Science

Jason looked up what happened to our rings yesterday and it is pretty interesting!

So, our rings are silver and the sulfur in the hot springs reacted with it, turning into 'silver sulfide,' if we had stayed in longer the colour would have moved past gold to brown to black. It is known as Black Sulphide.

To fix this, you can polish the rings, since it will normal silver below but that results in losing some of the material. Our plan is to reverse the reaction when we get home. If we put the rings with aluminium foil and baking soda than it will reduce the silver and silver Sulphide which will reform the silver metal.

There is not point doing anything about it now since we plan to visit more hot springs during the trip and exposing the rings to sulfur again. Even though Jason really doesn't like the bownish gold they are right now.

Part of the reason that gold is considered a more precious metal is that it is less reactive with other elements, so this wouldn't have happened if we hadn't gone with the cheapest material option like we did. But I love it, makes me like our silver rings even more!

Friday, 14 April 2017

Rings, Springs, And Organizing Things - Friday In The Azores

Breakfast is included in our hotel, so after a bit of a sleep in we went downstairs to see what the buffet would look like. I was very impressed, four rows of food including a full row of bread and pastries, lots of hot food, fruit, yogurt, even chia seeds!

We went into town (Ponta Delgada) to sort out whale watching and figuring out how to get to the Islet of Vila Franca do Campo, since the ferries don't start running until May.

We booked our whale watching with Moby Dick, one of the main operators and top rated on Trip Advisor. We are going tomorrow.

While we were booking, I noticed a brochure for sailboat charters; this is one of the ways I had figured out we could get to the islet. Also, it seems like a fancy thing we normally wouldn't consider - perfect for a honeymoon treat. The lady at Moby Dick said that the brochure was for a friend and she would call him for us, a few minutes later he was leading us to the boat (that was finishing up a film shoot for a French travel show.) We booked a private full-day trip for Sunday, and have no idea what to expect!

After a quick stop back at the hotel we headed over to Caldeira Velha hot springs. It was only 2 Euros each to go in. The short walk through the forest was breathtaking, with a stream, palm trees, and ferns everywhere. We passed a small pool and patch of boiling mud (so cool!) The larger pool was a bit cold but had a natural warm water waterfall so if you stayed close to, or under, it you were fine. It was totally magical. We did spend some time in the smaller, warmer pool too. After we got out Jason noticed that our silver wedding rings had changed colour! 

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Trails And Tea - Thursday In The Azores

Jason and I arrived this morning in The Azores, specifically Sao Miguel Island, after an overnight flight. After leaving our luggage at the hotel (it was too early to get our room) we went exploring the central area of the north coast. I got us lost a lot so we ended up driving up mountains at some points and then through towns on really narrow streets. Eventually we made it to the tea plantation, which was where we had chosen to spend a bit of time while we waited for our room to be ready. 

They have two major tea plantations on the island, we chose to visit the free one which is still an active factory (the other is more of a museum I think.) The one we saw, Gorreana, is only one of three places in Europe that grows and produces tea. Though they have only been doing it since the late 1800s.

Besides checking out the factory, we did a hike through the tea fields (elevation gain of over 200m in 30 minutes gave me some Inca flashbacks.) The trail system here is incredible! Great maps and trail markers:

Amazing Trail Map And Markers
Gorreana, Sao Miguel, Azores
Photos by Jason

The main tourism website actually lists all the hiking trails and lets you search by length, difficulty, and shape. Unfortunately this one through the tea fields is the only loop-style easy trail under 5km. Looks like our next few hikes will be harder, and I didn't find this one particularly easy! However, the lack of sleep may have played a part, luckily our room was ready in the early afternoon and I could nap to catch up on sleep. 

Six Hours In

I didn't get a chance to sleep on the plane, so arrived with Jason this morning in The Azores, for our honeymoon, pretty damn exhausted. After touring around a solid portion of Sao Miguel Island (it is quite small) while we waited to check into our hotel, I came up with the following delirious impression...

The Azores is like Spain and Hawaii had a secret love child 500 years ago and didn't tell anyone about it. They just put the kid the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and gave it to Portugal to look after. All lush landscapes with volcanic geology, green vegetation, and bright tropical flowers interspersed throughout by classic Latin/Mediterranean style architecture and European towns/culture. It is an amazing merger that to some degree feels very familiar but at the same time is like no where else.

Like you would expect from a hidden illegitimate child, The Azores, both the islands and their population, are quiet. Comfortable with their complicated and unique identity but also very reserved about it. Most people speak English and Spanish (and more) but they occasionally point out the difference in those languages as they connect to Portuguese, the main one spoken here.

The weather changes on a dime many times throughout the day, a bit moody I guess. Flipping from cloud covered mountains to rainy coasts to stretches of blue skies across patch work stone fenced fields. The weather doesn't stay the same very long but it also doesn't seem to be too extreme.

Lastly, they got pretty into cows. Bit of an obsession, cows are everywhere and wander all over the roads at times - even major highways.

Basically this place is strange and amazing but also absolutely STUNNING! I can't wait to explore everything from the waves crashing on the coastlines to the black lava rocks on the hill tops and everything in between. Stay turned for more updates.

Monday, 10 April 2017

National Siblings Day

According to my Facebook feed it is National Siblings Day. Though really it is only recognized in The States, everyone is posting photos of their brothers and sisters. I figured I would join the fun on Always Standing. Instead of posting a 'Throw Back' image, here is a recent one from September:

Mike and I at my wedding
September 23, 2016
Toronto City Hall, Ontario
Photo by Stephanie Beach Photography

He also was back in Ontario a couple of weeks ago. Instead of attending the funeral for Aunty Laura he chose to spend the money coming back to visit her before she died. He brought along Maya too since she is still young enough that you don't have to pay for an extra seat. Not only did they get to see our aunt but they spent a bit of time in Toronto with me too. I love hanging out with Mike, he is a great little brother!

Sunday, 9 April 2017

How To Make Money After Retirement

Sunday Mornin' Coming Down - A post about my Dad each Sunday, named after a song that he loved.

I don't know who's idea it was but my parents 'sell' parking space in their driveway at the cottage on busy weekends. People who are used to paying for parking are happy to hand over $10 for the chance to be close to the beach, even though there is usually free parking somewhere. My mom has continued to do this and once mentioned that she saved up the money to pay for Spanish lessons.

I found out last week that my Aunty Laura was saving up money to travel, which she did a lot of. The way she made the money to travel was about as high brow and low brow as it gets. She saved her Bridge winnings, and collected beer bottles to turn in. It took some time but she was a talented Bridge player and $5 each win starts to add up. Also, for as long as I can remember she was always collecting discarded bottles that could be returned, but at 10 cents a piece it doesn't seem like that would add up quickly.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Aunty Laura

I got notice this morning that my Aunty Laura had passed away over night. She has been sick for the last couple of months and had been put on palliative care a few weeks ago. Goodbye Aunty Laura, you will be missed.

Aunty Laura and I at my wedding
September 24, 2016
Toronto Island, Ontario

This is her official Obituary which will be published in the London Free Press on Friday:

Sweeton, Laura Delbridge 
April 5th, 2017 

Born March 13, 1943 and died at home on April 5, 2017. Predeceased by her father Alec, mother Berniece and brother George (Carol). Aunt to Christine (Jason) and Michael (Aimee), and Great-Aunt to Avery and Maya. Bridge player, collector, cat lover and traveler. The funeral service will be conducted at Westview Funeral Chapel, 709 Wonderland Road North, on Sunday, April 9th, 2017 at 1:30 p.m. with visitation one hour prior. Private interment, Exeter Cemetery. Those wishing to make a donation in memory of Laura are asked to consider the charity of your choice.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Nothing Like A Conference

I spent the last couple of days at a BIA conference related to my new job. It was a very invigorating experience, it is always so inspiring to hear what other groups are doing. I am already excited to go again next year.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Happy Birthday Steph!

It is Steph's birthday today! 
I hope she is having a good one.
Prime seats in front, up top, on a double decker bus.
London, England - January 2008
Photo by ME

It has been nine years since we took this photo, and we have been friends since September 2003, yet she still makes me this happy! Since moving to Toronto in 2010 we don't see each other as often, but we both make the effort and I head up to Ottawa pretty often. We make it work, she is worth it. Happy Birthday!

Not A Good Quote

Yesterday I wrote about Mike's inspirational quote about building your dream. Well, last night at a workshop I heard this after the leader encouraged us to help pack up the chairs:

"Teamwork makes the dream work."

I hadn't heard it before, and while it is cute, I don't really like it. However, the content of the workshop was great! Kristen and I took it together, just a little 3-hour bit of instruction for two Tuesdays. Six hours and we got to build a multi-page website from scratch learning some HTML and CSS along the way. I will post more about what I built later this week but it was a good little course and I am quite glad I took it.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

I Will Build It

Hanging out with Mike yesterday talking about our future career plans, he mentioned the quote, "If you don't work on your dreams you will just end up working on someone else's." I had heard it before and I really like it. The internet seems to suggest that it is from Farrah Gray and is worded this way:

"Build your own dreams, 
or someone else will hire you to build theirs."

Thursday, 23 March 2017

The Binder/File That No One Wants To Make

Before my father died I lived a very innocent life. Ignorant of the pain experienced after tragic loss and blind to the fact that the grief process may never truly end. I am far from enlightened now but I am experienced and I recognize similar feelings and situations when I witness friends and family dealing with death or dying.

One thing that is extremely helpful is to have a clear plan in place and to communicate your wishes openly with those around you. But, no one seems to want to talk about death, especially their own. Gord had completed a short worksheet about his funeral wishes and while I am sure the days following his unexpected death were a numb blur for Teri and her family, at least there was less decision making to be made, removing that element of stress from the process.

Having an 'end of life' binder or file is a good thing to do for the people you care about. You are helping to minimize any conflict between friends and family members with different ideas, providing details eliminates the need for speculation after you are gone, and mainly it eases the daunting logistical task of planing a funeral and handling an estate.

Here are two amazing resources, pick one and get on this:
-- The Death Wise Binder is incredible. You can print everything off HERE. This is my preferred choice because it is so thorough, beautifully organized, and includes a system of revisiting the data every 10 years. (Yes, it wants you do it on the '9' birthdays but just do the first version now and catch the next '9' birthday for a revise.) Admittedly it is massive and intense, at 24 pages long this option is overwhelming for even the most organized. It also shows you so many other types of documents that could/should be made.
-- For those looking for something a little bit simpler, the American Lung Association Life Planning Worksheet is a nice three-page option. You can print it HERE. This one covers the very basics and will at least help to start the thought processes and difficult conversations. In fact, you can skip the first two pages and just fill out the questions about a funeral and will on the third page. (Providing the location of  your will is really helpful, speaking from experience here.)

Not only should you fill this out, but copies should be shared with a few important people in your life as well. Also, a version of this document should be one done for every member of the family - regardless of age. The thing with these conversations is that they tend to get harder as you get older. Parents and grandparents are increasingly reluctant to share information pertaining to their death, and my generation will suffer for it as we will be the ones helping work through the inevitable - though hopefully far in the future.

Ignore excuses and get the information you need from those you care about - there isn't a 'good' day to talk about this. It is very common to find this type of discussion, organization, planning, and research upsetting. Questions and fears about mortality might be inevitable but try to shelve them for another time.

Just like I believe everyone should try to be open and comfortably talking about money, I am realizing I feel the same way about death and end-of-life planning!

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Two Domains For Always Standing

I never noticed but I think that Always Standing is officially a 'Dot C.A.', or Canadian domain. I always tell people to just Google it (since it tends to show up early in the search results) or refer to the web address with a '.com'. But, I just noticed that when I was typing it out with the '.com' at the end it flipped to '.ca' so I have both domains!

Answer in the Comments:
How do you get here; Google, bookmark, typing it in, other? 
What country code is at the end of the address in your browser?

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

One Year In The Force

Jason has been at his new company for one year today. When I previously mentioned it, I didn't say where. Well, I think a year in it is okay to say that he is employed in downtown Toronto for Salesforce, a company that works with Customer Relationship Management (CRM.) It has been nice to commute part way with him, and he is very happy not be driving each day as his last job was in Markham and not very transit accessible. I hope he continues to enjoy his job and love his work.

Motherhood - The Housewife In Literature

Excerpts from Ladies of Leisure: The resurgence of the housewife novel by Laura Miller:

It’s a wonder that anyone has the nerve to write about housewives at all anymore: Not only are these women bored, but they have been universally declared boring.

The readership for fiction is and has always been predominantly female and middle-class.

She is a wife and mother, roles that seem to have taken over her identity. Yet she looks down on women like that—most of whom, she can’t help noticing, are better at being wives and mothers than she is.

A 2014 novel that, while not technically about a housewife, wrestles with the same conflict between family life and self-determination, and it’s clear that the theme is enjoying a minirevival of sorts.

It’s as if such women can no long support a full-fledged novel, as if it’s impossible to imagine that these women could be happy, but equally impossible to take their unhappiness seriously.

But the housewife does have one last thing to offer novelists: An opportunity to flaunt their literary technique. The housewife is to the novelist what the still life is to the painter: a subject whose banality will take a back seat to her creator’s display of virtuosity.

She passive-aggressively rebels against her joyless, lonely existence in an unwelcoming foreign land by falling into a series of affairs.

To be so materially lucky that you’re not allowed to experience any discontent at all turns out to be just another way of being swallowed up by your social role.

She’s bored. She’s anxious. She’s guilt-ridden. She’s exhausted and frustrated and probably depressed.

Perhaps she’s refusing to acknowledge her own freedom, or perhaps she knows something the rest of us don’t. A lady of the house, a woman of leisure— with all that anyone in their right mind wants—she’s still dissatisfied. So have been many housewives before her, and so are many housewives today. But before we condemn them for their perversity and their tedious complaints, it’s worth remembering this: That’s always been one of the reasons they read so many novels.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Execut-ing It Up

Last week, in a whirlwind - interview - job offer - contract negotiation - Board vote - start immediately - situation that spanned just four days, I became the Executive Director at The Junction Business Improvement Area. So I didn't really get much of an unemployment break at all. It really is great to be back in a BIA job, I love the concept so much. The title of Executive Director is exciting even if the realities of the position are pretty overwhelming. The neighbourhood itself is awesome, actually it is too cool for me but hopefully I will find my own way to fit in.

By the end of last week a press release introducing me to The Junction BIA Members (see left) had been sent out and people were already welcoming me to the area. The week is starting off with our website publishing the same announcement publicly. You can read it HERE.

We Keep Raising The Bar

I have posted before that Jason and I like to put time frames on things we buy, we also like to buy things cheaply. I usually prefer to find the lowest price possible with little regard for quality - Jason has more of a focus on value and getting something durable. We also try not to get anything really expensive, luckily besides the house and its renovations, we haven't had to make a lot of big purchases.

I am not looking forward to having to buy a new couch or living room set, it is going to be annoying and expensive. Until yesterday, the most expensive piece of furniture we had gotten together was our bed frame. Even the appliances we have had to buy recently have all been around that same price point. Well yesterday, that changed and our new largest item purchase is for something we won't even be using - a Murphy bed for guests, the Stanley Cabinet Bed. (We got it with a grey stain so it looks like this picture but isn't the same colour.)
I have been wanting a Murphy bed for the spare room (also laundry room) since we first moved in. However, they are expensive. I have done lots of research to find a good price but all of them have to be attached to the wall. Jason hasn't been a fan of the idea.

At the Home Show on Saturday we came across a booth selling cabinet beds - basically a pullout couch, in a chest of drawers. This meant it was movable, in case we want it in a different room later on down the road, and it didn't need to be installed into the wall. The problem with a product that is this specific is that not many companies make it and therefore they can charge a lot for it. There was a slightly cheaper imported brand but the Canadian-made version was solid wood instead of MDF (important to Jason). I found the imported ones looked oddly top-heavy because the drawer at the bottom was significant smaller than the cabinet above, also the model we chose was only slightly more than the import anyway.

We get it in 6 to 8 weeks and I hope it lives up to the price, I also hope that it stays as the most expensive thing we have bought for a long time - maybe until we buy a car! But if we ever need a living room set then I am going to have a tough time.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

My Little Maya Bird

Wishing a big Happy Birthday to my sweet little niece, Maya Quinn Sweeton, who is turning ONE today.
Photo from Facebook

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Quote Of The Day

“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”

- Mark Twain

Monday, 13 March 2017

Little Gallbladder

I am at Steph's today in Ottawa, a quick turn-around trip that has me here for less than 36 hours. However, Steph and I got a chance to catch up last night, and today play a quick new card game that she had recently ordered online. The card game was designed by the same person who does The Awkward Yeti comic. He did these which Steph showed me after my gallbladder surgery last year:

Monday, 27 February 2017

A Perfect Poem

The service for Teri's father was opened today with a poem from Edgar Albert Guest, it was an excellent way to remind the gathered group of friends and family about the type of person Gord was:

It Couldn’t Be Done

Somebody said that it couldn’t be done
  But he with a chuckle replied
That “maybe it couldn’t,” but he would be one
  Who wouldn’t say so till he’d tried.
So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin
  On his face. If he worried he hid it.
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
  That couldn’t be done, and he did it!

Somebody scoffed: “Oh, you’ll never do that;
  At least no one ever has done it;”
But he took off his coat and he took off his hat
  And the first thing we knew he’d begun it.
With a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin,
  Without any doubting or quiddit,
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
  That couldn’t be done, and he did it.

There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,
  There are thousands to prophesy failure,
There are thousands to point out to you one by one,
  The dangers that wait to assail you.
But just buckle in with a bit of a grin,
  Just take off your coat and go to it;
Just start in to sing as you tackle the thing
  That “cannot be done,” and you’ll do it.

- Edgar Albert Guest, "The Path To Home," 1919

The rest of the Celebration of Life this afternoon followed suit and was a lovely string of friends and family coming forward to share their memories of Gord (including beautifully done speeches from Teri and Kevan.) It was a touching tribute to a wonderful man.

Friday, 24 February 2017

Shock And Sadness

Teri called me on Sunday evening with the terrible news that her father had passed away. It was sudden and unexpected - later determined to be the result of a brain aneurysm. I first met my best friend's dad, Gord Osmond about 25 years ago, and he is probably the kindest person I have ever known. His goodness moved beyond his polite and thoughtful demeanor and into action.

I always found it impressive that he taught Grade 8 for his entire career as a teacher - the students are at a very difficult age. But I can imagine that he would have been the perfect person to provide knowledge and guidance. Gord was a great balance of fun, intelligence, organization, and caring.

Always the athlete, Teri would tell me stories of her dad playing sports in high school, he continued to be active his entire life - playing hockey, baseball, curling, tennis, and more. He was involved with the local retired teachers organization. The activities and groups he was a part of often received the benefit of his participation at the executive level, helping to run and coordinate. Gord was generous with his time and active in the community. He was passionate about politics with a focus on education, healthcare, and equality.

Teri's house has always been a joy to visit - Bonnie and Gord have made their home in Paris and their cottage up north places of love and warmth, where I always felt welcome. Gord was a great father, it isn't just that Teri and Kevan grew up to be amazing people, which they did, but they were always awesome from the moment I met them. I witnessed from the age of 7 how involved and engaged Gord was with his family, his friends, his school, students, and hobbies. He touched so many lives and we are all much better for it. He will be dearly missed.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Wedding Update

I posted the following on Jason and My Wedding Website but I thought I would put it here as well. (This is why it is written weirdly in third person.) After our wedding was over, we spent the last week in September doing a lot of donations:

CASH DONATIONS
During the reception at Watermark Pub we gave each guest 3 bingo chips in a small bag. Each chip represented one dollar. Our guests brought these to the head table during the evening and placed them in a charity jar. There were two jars representing different charities. We also asked that instead of just clinking glasses to get us to kiss, guests donated an amount of their choosing to one of the two charities. With the combination of poker chips and cash donations for kissing, we have given the following:

- $175 to The Heart and Stroke Foundation
- $280 to Jesse's Journey Foundation

Thank you to all our guests for their generosity!

DRESS DONATIONS
Chris has donated both of her wedding dresses:
- The Paperwork Dress, the cocktail length dress worn by Christine on Friday September 23, 2016 to Toronto City Call to sign paperwork was donated to The Brides' Project in Toronto. The Brides’ Project accepts donated wedding dresses and resells them raising funds to support cancer charities.
- The Main Wedding Dress, since the large dress worn to the ceremony on Saturday September 24, 2016 had been purchased used and was more than 3 years old it couldn't be donated to The Brides' Project. Instead, this dress was given to Double Take, a thrift store that supports The Young Street Mission.

OTHER DONATIONS
- Hot Dogs and Hot Dog Buns, on the Monday immediately following the wedding all the leftover perishable food was brought to Second Harvest in Toronto. This organization arranges the delivery of fresh food to various community agencies.
- Paper Plates, Cutlery, and Plastic Cups, we also had a lot of leftover picnic supplies which were given to The Daily Bread Food Bank.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Types Of Luxury Spending

I don't really know who came up with this, I have been trying to track it down to give the creator credit, but my guess is The Future Laboratory as mentioned by A. Caccamo in his article: The Beginner's Guide to the Luxury Industry. You can skip this post and just go to the source material, it is a good article. If you would also prefer to watch something there is an animated presentation on the subject of The Luxury Consumer Evolution too.

Unlike the above suggests, I don't think that these stages are steps on a ladder or scale, if they are more thought needs to be put into what makes a consumer move or change from one to another, both overall and per purchase. Instead I think of these as 'reasons' for each luxury purchase, the discussion to get something expensive when cheaper options are available is based on one of these five justifications - sometimes unconsciously. Overtime, a persons buying habits would show a preference for some stages over others.

Stage 1 - Acquisition of Wealth (The Show Off)
Using luxury items and experiences to show wealth and define social position

Stage 2 - Discernment and Worth (Design Maniac)
Using luxury items and experiences to show a higher level of taste

Stage 3 - Emotion and Experience (Vibrant Feeling)
Using luxury items and experience for emotional impact, or uniqueness

Stage 4 - Responsible and Aware (Leonardo Di Caprio)
Using luxury items and experience to connect with moral or political values

Stage 5 - Intellectual and Poetic (Isolated Self-Reflection)
Using luxury items and experience for self-improvement and transformation

It is cool to think of movements through the stages as a generational thing, 'new money' is flashy but long-standing wealthy families are more private. But as I said before I don't really think the stages are connected to time, they are personality based.

A lot of my friends would fit into Stage 2, they perceive their luxury items to be better made or more precise than less expensive ones, and while it isn't a show of wealth it is often still a little bit related to the demonstration of class. No better or worse, all my expensive purchases are usually connected to Stage 3 - I like to spend money on experiences and I want them to be emotionally powerful.

It is a fun concept to consider and I hope the experts in this field move further along with the theory.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Just Read

I like this graphic from Indigo, even if it is just a call for consumerism. Buying books is awesome, but remember libraries! Still, the love of reading is one of my greatest joys:
I have a couple of comments about it though; firstly, everyone incorporates rhymes before the age of two - babies love rhythm, that is what lullabies and nursery rhymes are all about. Also, I hate the idea of rereading books, I really don't want to read the same thing for a second time that day. I am hoping that I will be able to continue to refuse the reread, but I know that repetition within the day is inevitable with children. I hope to stay strong and only read something once a 'sitting.' As long as there are enough books around than there will be tons of options - remember libraries!