Sunday, August 26, 2007

Why Janis Doesn't Cook

Yesterday, I was making buckwheat pancakes for supper and arguing with Jolie about how good they are. I say, "Other pancakes taste bland in comparison." She says, "You know how you don't eat green food? Well, I don't eat grey food!" She was getting ready for work and I was thinking about how much I hate cooking, even something as simple as pancakes, when I noticed some smoke coming from the top of the stove. I thought maybe it was something that had fallen down into the burner and looked closer to find that I had turned the wrong burner on and had just cooked our kettle. Crap! And that, folks, is why I stick to microwave popcorn or cheese bread and french fries in the toaster oven.

I'm Back!

I got back to Port Coquitlam at 2:30 AM on Monday after a sixteen hour layover in Toronto on Sunday. Fortunately, my dear friend Yuriko, from college days, was able to meet me at the airport. We went to church, out for lunch and then to her apartment to look at her wedding pictures and for me, to take a much-needed nap. I was especially glad to see her, as she will soon be moving back to Japan with her new husband. She is such a wonderful person and I'm so grateful for her friendship.

The next couple days, I thought Layni might never stop attacking me with hugs, kisses and outbursts of "I missed you SO much!" Yes, I missed you too - now get off me! Jolie's mom and step-dad stayed until Friday, so I enjoyed visiting with them as well as catching up with everyone.

I took Layni and Lysa to the pool on Tuesday, where we ended up staying 3 1/2 hours, much to my shock... I still can't believe we were there that long... those girls love the water! I've been getting back to the gym - which I really needed! - and going for walks with Lysa, picking blackberries, and enjoying the last couple weeks before school starts. Layni got her yellow belt in Tae Kwon Do on Saturday... way to go, kid! Should I be scared of you yet? Haha! She can be my personal bodyguard.

Thursday night, Jolie and I got a shock as we left for the gym about 8:30 PM - a couple of bear cubs climbing the tree in our front yard right by the driveway, soon followed by their mama. Actually, it turned out there were three, Jolie's mom told us when we came home. My mom said she's never coming to visit me... it's too dangerous!

It's good to be back, though I miss my family in New Brunswick. I wish, once again, that the two coasts weren't so far apart (or I had more time and money to travel!) but I am so grateful to have had a whole month to relax and just be with the people I love there. It was wonderful.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Highlights from the Last Couple Weeks in NB

- Going to Campobello Island with my parents - I'd never been before and enjoyed visiting President Franklin Roosevelt's summer "cottage" - with 18 bedrooms and most of the original furnishings, it was a fascinating look into history. The thing that amused me most were signs warning of intoxicated bees... evidently they get drunk on nectar and fall out of the trees onto people... fortunately, we missed out on that novelty! While there, I finished a baby blanket that I began for my best friend's daughter shortly after her birth almost three years ago. I think I'll stick to dishcloths from now on... that's more in line with my attention span and level of discipline, haha! While there, I met several relatives - my maternal grandfather's nieces... six of the seven live on the island and the other one happened to be visiting from the U.S.

- We took the ferry to Deer Island; I hadn't been there since my Grade 4 and 5 field trips! My parents patiently waited while I explored a very cool antique store with shelves filled with old books, where I could have happily spent all day, and ended up buying a couple things for Jolie that I hope she thinks are as awesome as I do!

- I spent a couple days with my Aunt Kathy in St. Andrews. She's the coolest... loves books and movies as much as, if not more than, me. We watched "Water", an amazing movie set in India at the time of Gandhi, about an eight year old widow forced to live out her life in a home for widows. It was beautiful and tragic and very moving. I need to see "Earth" and "Fire" now, by the same director. We also watched The Vicar of Dibley, a delightful British comedy, went for walks, ate good food, and looked at her photos... she's an amazing artist, especially in black and white. I'm a little biased, of course, but it's true!

- Our mutual friends, Jason and Amanda, who I haven't seen in years, came to visit us at Alisha and Derek's house. We had a wonderful weekend together, BBQing, playing with Ella, and visiting. The girls went to a baby shower for a friend in Fredericton Junction (where I went to Sunday School and church with Alisha during my high school years) while the boys stayed home to watch movies. It was great to visit with some old (and newer) friends there.

- That Sunday, Derek asked me to do the Scripture reading at his church and he preached on the "lukewarm" letter in Revelation... he's a great pastor and a great friend. I really enjoyed being part of their church that morning. That night, I went to my brother's house for yet another barbecue, to celebrate our mom's birthday, since she had to work the next night. The steak was delicious. I've gained between five and ten pounds since I've been home, which doesn't bother me, but I've got to get back to the gym and stop eating so much "good" stuff, so I can start feeling healthy again!

- Got my mom an infamous "Superstore" cake for her birthday - on the East Coast, it's the "Real Atlantic Superstore" as opposed to the "Real Canadian Superstore." They have the best store-bought cakes... but really it was for my MOM, haha!

- Saw the movie "Stardust" with Alisha, a lovely fairy tale of a movie.

- Went berry picking with my mom again and got her to activate her library card. I've also set her up to check her bank accounts, hotmail, facebook etc. online... now we'll see if she actually uses any of these things when I leave!

- Went mini-golfing with my dad - our summer tradition. He beat me, of course, being the golfer he is, but I vastly improved my game from 75 to 62 on my second round, and I was the only one to get a hole-in-one... I felt victorious about that!

- My aunt Iris and her daughter, my cousin Shelly, came down to shop and have lunch. We hit the dollar store, Bargain Shop and Giant Tiger (have I mentioned how much I love East Coast shopping?). They've been going through a lot with their family, so it was so good to see them and be able to laugh and lighten the load for awhile. And they brought another Superstore cake! (My mom's birthday is the 13th and Aunt Iris's is the 17th.)

- Had ANOTHER barbecue at our house with Dan and Melissa. You might laugh at me, but barbecue toast is SO good... that smoky flavour... the chicken was okay too! Dan and I went to see Rush Hour 3 - mostly because nothing else was playing that we hadn't already seen, but I quite enjoyed it. Jackie Chan is such a cutie... how can you not love him?

- Today, Alisha, Derek and Ella came to visit and say our final farewells, as they are leaving for the Atlantic Baptist Convention tomorrow. Ella is so funny and imaginative. She has a pet dog who is blue, but not Blue from Blue's Clues, a purple kitty and an orange rabbit - all her imaginary friends. She also has an alter-ego named Francesca, who is a rather whiny and slightly dense turtle. We had fun running around outside and trying to coax the chipmunk out of his hole, which Ella kindly filled with rocks, leaves and flowers for his lunch. I love her and can't imagine how grown up she'll be next summer when I visit.

Two more days here, a day of travel and I'll arrive back in BC VERY EARLY Monday morning. (Stupid 16 hour layover in Toronto... though I do get to visit my friend, Yuriko.) I'm feeling how I usually feel at the end of my vacation... eager to see everyone and catch up on Vancouver life, but sad that I'm leaving and feeling like I'll be missing out on NB life. I'm grateful, though, to be blessed with so much love in my life, even if it's often separated by distance. To my NB friends, thank you for everything, and to my BC friends, I'll see you soon, and to all my friends in between, I love you and you're always close in my heart!

Monday, August 06, 2007

Quick Update

Saturday was my brother and sister-in-law's reception/barbecue for extended family and friends at Oakland Lodge in Fredericton, a beautiful property, and yet more good food. I got to visit with some more of my aunts and uncles, which was great.

Sunday went to Lincoln Baptist Church again and loved the singing and sermon of that small in number, but big in spirit, church. Sunday night, Alisha and Derek came over for a late supper (she's always late; it's a perpetual joke now) and we watched the movie "Serenity" which is a sequel to the "Firefly" TV series that they got me addicted to. Alisha and I then played Uno and laughed our heads off while Derek kept score, doodled on the notepad and lamented how late it was getting and how he would really love to go to bed at a reasonable hour once in awhile. Sorry, Derek, not while I'm visiting, haha!

Today, Mom and I slept in while Dad got up ridiculously early to go golfing. Then we went for a drive in search of half-and-half soft ice cream (which we finally found at the local Dairy Delite), followed by a walk on the "old highway" - a beautiful trail by the river. Tonight, I got together with Tammy, for supper and catching up and lots of laughing, followed by "The Bourne Ultimatum." Matt Damon is hot in those movies, I have to say. And it's one of very few movie franchises that has managed to be enjoyable every time - I say go ahead, and make another awesome sequel... I'm ready for it!

I'm leaving tomorrow for a week on the road. Going to Campobello and Deer Island with my parents for two days, visiting my aunt in St.Andrews for a couple days, then going to Alisha's house to visit with old friends who are coming for the weekend from Petitcodiac, and returning for my Mom's birthday on Monday. Then one more week and I'll be back in BC! It's been great, but it's amazing how fast the time goes. I'm sure I'll have mixed feelings going back, eager to see everyone again in BC, but missing everyone here in NB. Anyway, must go, it's 12:30 AM and I need to pack and get some sleep!

Friday, August 03, 2007

Another Week in New Brunswick...

Last Saturday night, we had a barbecue to celebrate my brother Dan's birthday and as Kev's last meal in New Brunswick, as he flew out EARLY the next morning. Dan's in-laws also came, and we feasted (again - it's becoming a habit now!) on steak, followed by a delicious cake that Melissa made.

The next morning after seeing Kevin off, I enjoyed the service at Lincoln Baptist Church, where I was sent to Sunday School as a kid and was first introduced to Jesus by some wonderful, caring teachers. Their guest speaker was a missionary from Africa, whose wife had just given birth to a baby girl a few weeks ago. His words touched me deeply, as he challenged us that any earthly thing that we mourn the loss of inordinately, is something we've made an idol of... it can even be the good things in our life, like our children, but if we put them before God, we're breaking the first commandment.

It's funny, but the older I get, I seem to be becoming more materialistic in a way. When I was younger, I wouldn't be caught dead carrying a purse and I didn't care about what I wore, but now I enjoy getting (new-to-me anyway!) things like that. I like fun things (like DVDs and books) and pretty things (like clothes and purses) and I often struggle with the balance between enjoying beautiful things (which I do think reflects God's personality - look at the beautiful world He has made!) but not letting that enjoyment or desire for things get out of hand.

It was a thought-provoking sermon for me, and I so enjoyed the music and the spirit in the church. Although churches on the East Coast are significantly smaller than the one I attend in Coquitlam, they are so loving and joyful and down-to-earth - you feel at home, even if it's your first time there. And after talking to my best friend's mother, I discovered that that missionary wife was my best friend's brother's wife's best friend! (Did you get that?!) I love the Maritimes, where everyone is connected!

Sunday night, my best friend, Alisha, picked me up and we went to her parents' house for a birthday barbecue for her father (whose birthday was actually the day before, same as my brother's, but they kindly postponed the festivities so I could be there and have ANOTHER steak... I will definitely be getting back to the gym when I return to Coquitlam, I swear!). We had a great time visiting.

The next day, we drove to Alisha's house in St.John, and had Christmas Eve in July. We decorated a little Christmas tree, listened to Christmas carols and watched "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas" and "The Holiday" - a delightful film starring Kate Winslet, Jack Black, Cameron Diaz and Jude Law.

The next morning, we exchanged presents (our Christmas in July). Ella loved her "Big Bird in China" DVD and dress-up clothes; Sharon, Alisha and Derek all loved their books (imagine, me, giving someone a book... unbelievable, I know); and I loved my new Big Bird mug, happy face Bible cover and groundhog puppet, Phil. Then we went to the beach and I was quickly reminded how FREAKING COLD the Atlantic Ocean is. The good thing is, after awhile, your body goes numb and you don't notice the cold as much anymore... or is that a good thing? Haha! Had a wonderful time with Ella, who is 2 1/2 years old, and loved throwing rocks in the water to see them splash and playing in the sand.

I feel so blessed that even though I live so far away and she only sees me once a year, Ella loves her "Auntie Janis". She loves Big Bird and happy faces, just like me, and is so much fun to be around. I love it when she tells her little stories and then laughs at her own funny jokes... that laugh is priceless! And I love how concentrated she is on "Monster" (a talking index finger) or Phil, the groundhog puppet; she just focuses right on them and chats away... she has an amazing imagination and is a delightful kid.

Wednesday morning, Alisha's mom looked after Ella while Derek worked at the church (he's a pastor) and Alisha and I attended their church's prayer meeting. There was six of us there and it was a wonderful time of praise, singing, prayers and tears. Even though I had never met these women before, I felt instantly comfortable with them as my sisters in Christ. It was an amazing time.

Sharon (Alisha's mom) drove me home Wednesday afternoon, and Mom and I went into Oromocto and I went on a shopping spree for the kids. I am such a sucker... I know they don't really need anything, but I love to give them gifts. It reminds me of that verse, Matthew 7:11, "If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!"

Thursday morning, Mom and I braved the heat to go berry picking. We got six boxes of blueberries and two of raspberries, before it got too hot. But let me tell you, East Coast mosquitoes are nastier than the West Coast variety! Usually they never bug me, but they did that morning. We treated ourselves to ice cream afterwards. Oh, this vacation living is TOUGH, haha!

This morning, Mom and I went to downtown Fredericton. She had to go to the bank and I went to the Owl's Nest used bookstore... it is HUGE and I didn't even get to look at a fraction of the books there, which is probably just as well for my wallet! I love the historical architecture that has been preserved in Fredericton - it is beautiful - and so clean! I'm always lamenting the litter in Vancouver, but I haven't noticed any yet here in NB. One thing both my brother from Calgary and I DID notice is the abundance of roadkill here. My theory is that since we haven't yet pushed all the animals out of the wild with rampant development, they don't have to scavenge the roadways for food.

Tomorrow is yet another barbecue... Dan and Melissa's reception for extended family. Two more weeks and I'm back to BC. I'm sure you're tired of reading this post already so I'll shut up... love you all!