Saturday, January 23, 2010

Random Acts of Kindness?

In an article written by Douglas Todd of the Vancouver Sun in September 2009, he stated that in ancient Greece, Aristotle defined kindness as "helpfulness towards someone in need, not in return for anything."

In anticipation of the Dalai Lama’s visit to Vancouver this past September, the Vancouver Sun Newspaper asked readers to write in about random acts of kindness.  Specifically, they asked readers to “Please send us a letter in 200 words or less describing what "act of kindness" you have performed or plan to do”.

What really stuck with me though, was that they wanted readers to tell about random acts of kindness that they performed. Honestly, I would have much rather heard about someone who was on the receiving end of a random act of kindness. In fact, one gentleman who wrote a letter to the editor asked the question “if one does a random act of kindness is it still a random act if they then tell everyone about it?” I couldn’t have agreed with him more.

Some of the letters telling of what people did were truly fantastic. Others would have fallen into the category of plain old using good manners. Honestly, is someone opening a door for someone else with an armload of books a random act of kindness? In my opinion, that is something that should be done as a common courtesy.

I love the idea of a random act of kindnesses. The best part of them is that it might be something that someone might do and not realize the impact it has on the recipient. A random act of kindness could be someone telling a stranger how beautiful she looks, without realizing that that same woman struggled that morning trying to figure out how to put on her wig because all her hair had fallen out due to chemotherapy. That one small comment has a profound effect on the receiver.

A random act of kindness could be something as small as bringing a bouquet of tulips to a busy and harried school secretary “just because”, or anonymously picking up the tab for a young family at the local diner. It is something that is done from the heart with no expectations of anything in return, including recognition.

Perhaps I am being a bit over the top in that I don’t really need to hear about the random acts from the people who have done them. I am all for doing random acts of kindness, just not telling everyone that you did it. I do however love to hear stories from the recipients of these random acts. It is then that you truly appreciate the effect.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The big change over the last six months.

"it'll be fun" she said.

"no it won't" I told her....

My friend D was referring to boot camp.  She wanted to try it, and to be honest, I had looked at a bunch of different companies doing boot camp, but the cost and time commitment was prohibitive.  If you want to sign up for one month of hell, one camp in our area charged $200 for three days/week, and $270 for five days/week.  In addition, they require that you to buy your own stuff too (weights, mats, balls....).  Far to expensive for me. 

D had done her research and the local community center had a beginners boot camp, twice a week at 6:00am.  It wasn't nearly as expensive as the other camps, and they supplied the stuff that you needed.  I reluctantly agreed to join.  We started in July (too bad my 20 year high school reunion was at the end of June...).

The first week was really tough.  After the first day I could hardly move.  I was nearly in tears every time I went up and down the stairs.  It did get easier though. 

We stuck through it for July and August.  And I lost a grand total of ZERO pounds.  But I did feel better. 

I then started to get more serious about my eating.  I liked to think that I ate well, but I was snacking all day and when I wrote down everything that I put in my mouth and figured out how many calories I was actually eating I was shocked.  My version of breakfast, lunch and dinner was basically finishing what the kids didn't eat.  The food I ate was ok, I was just eating too much of it (with the odd chocolate treat).

Fast forward to today - D and I aren't doing bootcamp (it is outside, and the cold and wet just isn't appealing) however we have taken up spin classes, and work out at the gym.  Each of us needs the other to stay motivated, as the only time we can go is 6:00am.  That means we are getting up at 5:30 am most mornings.  We have both lost weight, and I am hoping that we keep this up. 

So what are the chances of having a 21 year grad reunion?  Slim....

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Brought to you by the letters O, M and G.

I was in Starbucks the other day with the kids – it is a smaller one near us that has very limited seating, and when it is full, the idea of “personal space” goes out the window. We were lucky to squeeze into a small corner table with a couple of seats, I was a bit nervous though as it was next to a group of businessmen and Renee was dangerously close to full meltdown mode as it was pretty close to nap time.
The three men at the adjacent table were in their early to mid 50’s, and very distinguished looking. And when I say “distinguished” I mean they weren’t wearing the equivalent of my wardrobe of tee-shirts and jeans (on a good day) or yoga gear (did I mention I have never done yoga IN MY LIFE?). I think I may have had my funky rain boots on, so that at least is a bonus.

A youngish lady came up to the men and started chatting with them. I’d peg her in her late 20’s to mid 30’s (hard to judge because she was wearing a ton of makeup). She was an attractive lady though. They obviously knew her, not sure if she was a co-worker perhaps, or maybe a real-estate agent or insurance broker…at any rate, they bantered back and forth for a few minutes. Near the end of the conversation, she had mentioned her dogs – and one of the guys said “maybe we’ll just call you the dog lady” (and then they all chuckled). She laughed right along with them, and then told them she had to go. Just after she left and was out of earshot (but unfortunately, I wasn’t) one of the men said:

“I’d like to make her bark like a dog, OH BABY”.   The other two quickly agreed with him and started to laugh.

I just about spit out my coffee. REALLY???? I’d expect that from a few drunken 20 year olds perhaps, but those words coming out of a guy’s mouth that was old enough to be her FATHER was just icky. So so glad that Nick didn’t hear it. Not too sure how I’d explain that one.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

room with a view

this is the view we had this morning from our small side window in the living room.  One day, when we gut and reno the house I'll make this the view from the kitchen.  That is Mt. Baker in WA in the shot.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

My extremely talented friend...

I have written before about an extremely talented friend of mine and her ability to make amazing cakes.  She could give all those guys on TV a real good run for their money.  I have written about her sushi cake she did for my birthday last year, the kiwi cake with the Canadian spin that she did for my mom, and the first cakes she ever did for me, a Venom cake for Nick and girly girl cake for Renee. 

Also did a crab cake for my dad and sister-in-law (they are both born in July, so we figured using the astrological sign of cancer would be appropriate)

I haven't written about the pirate cake she did for Ethan this year (which was truly amazing - I loved the hanging skeletons)

And when Nick told me this year that he wanted a star wars cake for his birthday, complete with a couple of cops just to "keep everyone in line", she came up with this for him:

When she brought the cake over to the house, Nicholas took one look at it and said "but that isn't how you spell my name"!  The cake lady told him that she didn't have enough room to print "Nicholas" so she did the shortened form instead.  Nick's eyes lit up, and he asked if that was in fact his name.  I told him it was.  He almost NEVER writes Nicholas now...

So for Christmas this year, the cake lady surprised us with an amazing clay sculpture of our family.  I love it.  So freaking talented...

Sunday, January 03, 2010


One of my biggest weaknesses is cookbooks.  In the last month I have bought three.  Three BIG ones.  And this is in addition to the seemingly endless amount of bookmarked online of recipes that I want to try.  And the cupboard full of cookbooks I already have. 

One website that I read frequently is The Pioneer Woman.  I have tried a few of her recipes, most have worked really well.  One of Ken's favourites is apple cake in an iron skillet (he calls it sex in a pan).  In fact, I had to go out and buy a SMALLER skillet because when we used the big one we'd eat all the dessert in one sitting.  Just the two of us.  And I wondered why it was so hard to lose weight....

I must admit, the apple cake doesn't look pretty, but it smells and tastes AMAZING.  And works equally well with pears.  Caution - it is LOADED with butter - which I regularly stock up on when we travel to the US.  Unsalted butter up here is insanely expensive, so picking up a few pounds (ok, more than a few) is a must when we go to south.  In fact, on my last trip down with some girlfriends we were grilled at the border about the amount of butter we were bringing home.  You'd think it was drugs or something.  Never mind the wine we had, that guard was all focused on the 10lbs of butter each of us were trucking back to Canada....

The Pioneer Woman also has a cookbook (which of course, I bought).  I have tried a couple of recipies and they turned out quite well. 

Another weakness is Williams-Sanoma.  I don't really buy stuff there, but I browse.  And dream.  And drool.  I did see this cookbook in their store, but I didn't buy it.  But then, as I was in Costco a few days later (buying aforementioned butter) I saw the cookbook, and it was almost half the price.  I scooped it up. 

I haven't tried anything in it yet, but I have found a bunch of recipies that I will try in the coming weeks.  I love how it is laid out, and the photos are amazing. 

Last but not least, I purchased Baking, by Martha Day.  It too was in Costco, and it was CHEAP.  I'd never heard of her, but a quick google shows that she has written numerous cookbooks.  Again, the photos are amazing, and I can't wait to try some of the recipes.  I am such a sucker for a good cover for a cookbook (I think mine is a newer edition, because I couldn't find it online, but here is an earlier version of her book):

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Something went crash and left a mess.

Red Breasted Sap Sucker, originally uploaded by

A couple of weeks ago we were eating lunch and Ethan asks why the window is "messy". I asked him to define "messy". He told me that there were feathers and other gunk on the window. He then looked down and told me that there was a big bird in the yard.

Years ago when I was studying at UVIC (oh how I miss Victoria...) I took a bird identification course. It was basically a filler third year level course that I needed to get enough credits for my Biology degree. The only textbook required was Peterson's Field Guide to North American Birds, which was a bargain compared to the $100+ textbooks required for other classes. I quite enjoyed the course (not as much as the statistics class where we had to chase grasshoppers in open fields attempting to catch and mark them, but that is a whole other post).

I never did think that I'd use that knowledge that cost many thousands of dollars, but I do, almost daily. After examining the dead bird, looking through the field guide, we came to a consensus that it was in fact a Red Breasted Sap Sucker.  The kids were just fascinated, so much so that Nick asked if we could get a bird feeder. Normally we don't have them out as they are an attractant for the bears (which visited and played in our yard again this year), but most of them are hibernating at this point, so I figured why the hell not.

So the field guide is by the window, and almost every day one of the kids (even Renee) brings it over to see what type of bird is at the feeder.  We have had a huge variety, even the big woodpeckers having a go at the birdseed.  At least it is a break from the endless Star Wars and Lego!

Friday, January 01, 2010

This time last year...

balancing act, originally uploaded by sassyanna.

We were covered with the white stuff. As I sit typing this now, it is pouring rain. I do really like the snow - as long as I don't have to go anywhere in it.

Post number one of 2010 done!