Sunday, 28 April 2013

7 Quick Takes (Vol. 6)

--- 1 ---
Things from our move are almost completely coming together. We should be getting our most treasured possessions out of storage on Monday. With our beloved belongings spread between four cities at the moment, it's nice to get some of them back. The height of that magical, one day 'being settled' for me will be the ability to have all our stuff in one place, with us. Constantly moving around the globe is good for helping you cut down on personal possessions, but there are some things too precious to give away. Plus I'm glad to have Walter's Baptismal Candle back with us in time for his first birthday!
--- 2 ---
This past week has been kicking my butt. Pregnant & tired. Pregnant and too many appointments. Too many appointments causing me to have to work tighter hours at work, subsequently affecting how much 'downtime' I get during the day, or like yesterday, affecting if I get to eat breakfast before noon (although that was completely my fault as I forgot I had a meeting that AM). As soon as my blood sugar drops I basically hit the wall of exhaustion. The other day I managed to get Walter to bed and then disappeared into the bath for an hour with a diet cola, packet of crisps, and a murder mystery. It was heaven. 
--- 3 ---
Maybe it's the special grace given to pregnant ladies, or married ladies, or maybe it's just because even with the tiredness & packed schedule things are still a big emotional improvement over the past year, but I've actually been able to notice all the awesome things that David does (normally I don't notice, because I'm not very observant, and then people have to point them out to me). The man is amazing, but at the same time no less than what I expected when I married him. So it's really got me thinking about all the negative expectations people seem to have about men.

I have a husband who can cook, clean, and more than competently look after a baby. I'm grateful, very grateful, but I also feel sad that people who don't know us that well always enviously tell me that I'm lucky, or look taken aback when I don't join in on complaining about how useless my other half is. I'm beginning to see why David gets so insulted that the prevailing attitude among those who don't know us seems to be that since he's a guy all he's really good at is watching sports and scratching his ass...

My point? Go tell your husband how much you appreciate him. And then go tell the world. Because at least among the guys I know, there are a lot of good ones who know how to be a true partner. I'm tired of being told that "most men aren't like that". If they're not, then they damn well should learn how to be... so let's start building our guys up.
--- 4 ---
I was thinking about stereotypes when I typed the above. Then I realised that I'm barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen... In my defense, I don't have a desk so I'm using the kitchen table, and we don't wear shoes indoors. But still.
--- 5 ---
Walter's doing amazing with his solids. He likes to eat what mummy & daddy eat, whether or not it gives him "tummy ache" when he goes to bed, and if I'm in the kitchen he is pretty much guaranteed to whine at my feet until I give him food. When I have time to be responsible, I try to give him cut up banana. The rest of the time I resort to baby biscotti:

--- 6 ---
The commute to work is giving me lots of time to read, which was the one thing lacking in post-baby-delivery life. David's been loading me up with old murder mysteries (like Murder on the Orient Express and A Man Lay Dead), whilst the free books I can get for my Kindle off of Amazon & the Gutenberg Project are introducing new authors to me (the best so far is Grant Allen). It's so nice to have time to read again, and it means that I can usually transition fairly easily from a busy work day to a demanding Walter thanks to the 45 minutes of peace & quiet on the bus.
--- 7 ---
Life is a bit too chaotic to get my Quick Takes out on Friday. By chaotic I mean that I now count Walter crawling around on the kitchen floor and eating up the crumbs that he finds as part of his weaning plan, because letting him learn to feed himself that way is just easier than trying to find time to do it in a typical "this is my first child and I'm middle class so I read books and over-plan everything" sort of way... you know, the stuff I had time to do before I had an actual baby. I should mention that the crumbs are on the floor because we let him feed himself while we eat (it's a good distraction), and his current method is to cram as much food as possible in both fists and then spill it down his front/hide it in his clothing/store it on the floor for later. On the plus side, at least my floors are getting a regular cleaning (both from the human-hoover and from the need to sweep them constantly if I want to avoid wading through a sea of crumbs).

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Friday, 19 April 2013

7 Quick Takes (Vol. 5)

--- 1 ---
We survived Easter, barely. Holy Saturday was hard. I was really sick, Walter was still sick, and David had committed to doing one of the readings at the Easter Vigil, which at our church takes place before dawn on Easter Sunday (so 5am this year), and was sad that he was going to have to get up in the middle of the night to spend Easter on his own. But we had our Easter miracle -- a kind friend sent David home from the Vigil with a batch of homemade hotcross buns, so we had a special Easter breakfast. I sang Walter the Exsultet when I put him to sleep on Saturday which made me feel somewhat connected to the church universal, and by Sunday afternoon Walter's digestive system had sorted itself out and I was able to keep food down. By Monday we were able to make it to our favourite gastro-pub, The Old Spring, for Easter dinner. So it was very different from usual, but it ended up being a special family time nonetheless. And I am really enjoying being able to sing songs with "alleluia" in them to Walter again!

--- 2 ---
On one of our last days in Cambridge we took a family walk into town. After a few hours of walking we'd burned off our pub lunch & afternoon coffees, so we decided to pick up a snack from the sausage cart. It led to a conversation of the different types of hotdog/sausage street foods we've had in various places:

- BC: we don't buy them on the street, but you can get a really good kosher smokie from Costco. It's not specific to BC, of course, but we only eat them there.

- Alberta: The climate isn't really conducive to street food, and we couldn't remember ever consuming a hotdog in the province... that said, we were able to sample lots of delicious Ukrainian and Mennonite sausages at the Old Strathcona Farmer's Market so I guess that counts.

- Ontario: hot dog venders on Toronto street corners. We loved their corn relish, and the ability of the hot dog to help create sobriety between leaving university events & reaching home.

- New York: we went for the big guns and decided to try an authentic American chilli hotdog at Nathan's Famous on Coney Island. It was sad. I don't think we'll ever do it again. The pizza was much better.

- Berlin: Currywurst!! This is our favourite so far -- German wurst topped with "red sauce" and loaded with curry powder, served either with a roll or with fries. So good.

- England: sausage-in-a-bun. If it weren't for Germany this would be my favourite. Sausage in a bun just has a better taste than the hotdog and for some reason doesn't feel as dodgy. Nice floury bun, nice hot sausage, and lashing of diced onion & chilli relish. It was good.
--- 3 ---
David and I are sort of splitting the end of my maternity leave, except he doesn't get any pay to stay at home and look after Walter. It just means we can have an income again :) Anyway, Walter spent my first week back at work enjoying himself too much to nap. David says it's like Walter can't believe I would leave him & David unsupervised, so he feels he needs to cram in as much fun as possible. My first day gone, Walter laughed hysterically every time David went near him and wouldn't sleep at all. I'm really glad that they're getting this special time together and it's made going back to work so much easier.
--- 4 ---
Since it's still Easter for us Catholics, I'll post these now: my family is Ukrainian and my Gramma's house is full of the Ukrainian Easter eggs that she & her sisters made back in the day. Last time I was at Gramma's I was able to sneak some pictures:

Easter meets Christmas!

--- 5 ---
On Sunday I took David & Walter to Peacock's Tearoom to celebrate my annual raise. I've been trying to take David there for over a year so I was thrilled that our high tea lived up to every expectation. Although it's not quite as romantic as taking tea in an apple orchard, the food was superb and the gigantic list of loose leaf teas made our day. The English certainly have a knack for making a good pot of tea and whenever I am back in North America I lament the horrid, semi-flavoured water that passes for tea most places. Walter got to join in our tea time fun by eating crumpets & jam. He went a bit berserk and by the end of the meal he had jam all over his face & feet (having finished his meal he decided to suck on his toes) and bounced on my knee with the most devilish expression of glee on his face.  
--- 6 ---
Walter's been crawling since 7 months and is, as predicted, getting into everything. He climbs & pulls himself up quite easily, so he can effectively get around most barriers. The funny thing is that when he is tired he seems to forget that he is mobile. The other day he crawled away from me, down the dark hallway, and then sat there sobbing because he was on his own in the dark and couldn't figure out how to get back to mummy!
--- 7 ---

I've gotten my first 'normal' paycheque for the first time in about 6 months. This meant I could do the mature and responsible thing and create a household budget. I even used an excel spread sheet and figured out how to get the cells to do the math for me. Unfortunately, a pretty & functional spread sheet doesn't equal a pretty final result. So it's time to sit around and count my blessings (which is perhaps what people mean by that irksome '#firstworldproblems') rather than feeling we're still best neighbours with the Have Nots :) There's too much hope put on instant gratification, but waiting another month or so for a day-trip to London should only serve to remind me that I should be grateful I live close enough to London to make it a day trip! Still, for the present I think I am best served by continuing to read books in the vein of Little Women and The American Frugal Housewife, which will teach me to bear this season of tightened belts with the grace & composure of someone who does not need to find their happiness in lots of material freedom.
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Pippa's Visit

On our last weekend in Berlin our friend Pippa came from Aberdeen to visit. I’d been looking forward to her visit since it’s fun to see friends and since we didn’t know when we’d next see her.

She arrived Friday night so we had a warming supper of pasta and garlic bread, followed by a late night walk through the area and the procurement of some vanilla-kirsch-eis from Kaisers. We had a great visit and stayed up a bit too late talking :)

On Saturday we left David at home, working, while we went out to explore the city. Our day was a mix of shopping, eating, and sightseeing – an attempt to get the feel of Berlin during daylight hours! We began by viewing the Berlin Wall Memorial and then heading towards the Berlin Bear Pit – as a vet Pippa was particularly concerned with whether or not the bear pit had bears in it... unfortunately it seems that it does, although they were indoors so we couldn’t see them.

Graffiti must be grammatically correct

Statue of a Medieval warrior outside the Märkisches Museum

Berlin's Bärenzwinger (Bear Pit)

En route to the bear pit we’d stopped for some mulled wine, and it turned out to be a good thing that we did since the next stage of journey took much longer than expected as there was a relatively large island missing off my map and it was difficult to tell if we were going in the right direction. But all was well and we ended up at the Georg Braeu in the end!

Getting lost -- scenic style
Going to a “brauhaus” was such a great experience and I was really sad that David had to miss it. The beer was delicious and it was so fun to have authentic German food that wasn’t sausage or schnitzel (or boulette). I ordered a cabbage roll and really enjoyed comparing it to the Ukrainian and Mennonite cabbage rolls that my family makes. Ours are cabbage stuffed with a mixture of rice & meat (either ground beef or bacon), whereas this was cabbage stuffed solidly with seasoned pork. Sort of like a giant sausage only with cabbage for the casing. It was really tasty, especially with the beer. This is around the time that Walter started cluing in to grown-up food so I had to wrestle my beer away from him, at which point he want after the gravy on my plate. 

Enjoying some German beer
Following lunch we went shopping, browsing through some of the more electic shops enroute to Alexanderplatz. It was a great way to kick start Christmas shopping and we even managed to take in the little beginnings of a Christmas market. Then it was back to our flat in Wedding for my own version of German food (wiener schnitzel, spätzel & red cabbage), followed by an evening walk for some (and time at home with Walter for me). 
Pippa Pinocchio!
Pippa had to leave early on Sunday morning so our visit was lamentably cut short. But we were so glad that our dear friend could come visit us while we still had a fixed address.

Friday, 12 April 2013

In lieu of a Quick Takes Post

I'm a couple weeks behind on Quick Takes, because:

- we've moved twice
- I've gone back to work
- Walter, David, & I were all down with the flu

So, in lieu of a Quick Takes post, I offer this news (which is probably old news to many of my readers)

The Porter Family is expecting to increase by one more member!

We are all very excited, although Walter made a point of jealously drinking his milk while glaring at the ultrasound screen during our first scan appointment this week.

And, don't let 'first scan' throw you off. I'm quite far along in this pregnancy, but due to various complications from travel and not being certain which country I'd be having the baby in (and thus which country to qualify for medical care in), I missed my "12 Week Scan" and so this was my 20-ish week scan.