December 20, 2007

Happy Holidays from Stuart, Kate, and Nellie the family Pooch

Off the top, Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Kwazy Kwanza, and happy new year to everyone. We are in awe to the many of you who have managed to get out Christmas cards and photos. Thank you for sending them to us; it's great to hear about how your year has been! We admit our complete and utter failing in this department, and in the same breath thank you for your success! consider this your letter... without a stamp, envelope, or paper... and really, isn't that what we need in this time of environmental consciousness?!

Okay, time to get serious:

One of the obnoxious things about the human condition is that we like to look back on time spent, and try to rate the quality of that time. I say that because the past is full of…well…the past. Stuff you can’t change, can’t give back or can’t take back, no matter what.

“Wow”, you’re thinking right now. “Such a cheery start to the letter. Seems a bit ominous for the ol’ holiday piffle, doesn't it?”

Well to be honest, there is only one thing this year that was a truly negative experience, but it weighs heavily on us right now; that ‘thing’ being dad passing away. Christmas was without a doubt his favourite time of year. Dad was the type who would, on Boxing Day, eagerly pronounce that there were only 364 days left until next Christmas.

And right now, we miss him terribly. Even his musical Christmas tie, spitting out its tinny holiday tunes at each press of the button. We’re a bit scattered to the four winds as a family this year, in part perhaps because we’re old enough to be able to share the time with others than just ourselves, but as much as anything, I think it is an acknowledgement that things ain’t quite right, at least for this year, and we need to do our own thing.

As such, Mum is headed off to England to spend a few weeks with my sister and her boyfriend’s family. My brother is headed to Prince George to celebrate with his in-laws, which will be followed closely by a near month-long trip to Hawaii with Dina and wee Aria. And Kate and I have two weeks off of work, which we plan to split between time here in Vancouver and time up at Whistler. Kate also has her birthday this weekend, and we have our wedding anniversary on the 30th (I save money all year, for the grand week that is the Merry Annibirthday).

All in all, we have much to be thankful for in 2007. I started a fantastic job back in February which presents me with ever-changing challenges and is by no means short on interesting issues, and it is a job I look forward to continuing through the coming year.

Kate transitioned out of her speech language pathologist job that she held for a year, opting to focus her attentions on early behavioural intervention for pre-school aged children with autism. Not to be one to start on the ground floor, nor take a break, Kate essentially entered into a partnership role with a private firm, and started it the day after she finished up at the Centre For Ability. This too, is a job that presents her with ever-changing challenges and is by no means short on interesting issues. And like me, she loves what she is doing, so we’re very fortunate in the employment department.

Other highlights of the year are well enough documented on this blog: the wonderful arrival of our first niece, Aria. The beginning and end of many a pocket of renovation on our house. A shift in lifestyle choices as we have endeavoured to eat local. A great week puttering around Vancouver Island in the summer. Jaunting up to Kamloops here and there to hang out with family. And lets not forget the simple things that make every year great, like taking the dog for long walks on Saturdays, dinners out, sleeping in now and again, visiting with friends, staying healthy (save the odd bout of the sniffles here and there), taking time to get to know the neighbours…. And the list could go on.

So, as I said at the start, the past is what it is. Stuff you can’t change, can’t give back and can’t take back, no matter what.

But that’s okay.

We can at least learn from it, appreciate the experience for what it was, and never have to do it again.

And when things have really gone well, we can remember those things fondly, be glad for who we are, be glad for who’s with us along the way, and be glad for what we have going forward.

Happy Holidays everyone. All the best for 2008.

P.S.—for those who missed it last year, I’ve elfed the household. It seems everyone is doing this this year, so while it may not be all that novel, if nothing more, Nellie looks funny with a human body .

November 30, 2007

(A renovated) Home for the Holidays

The time of the year has again rolled around where the morning finds drivers must unhappily scrape frost off their windshields, and where puddles underfoot have the ice cracked off the tops of them as walkers trod over them, as though they are servings of nature’s crème brûlée...except they're flavourless, infinitely colder, and considerably more depressing... (PS, I don't like winter...)

While things may be chilly outside the Chase household, it’s certainly warmer inside, thanks to the arrival of our fantastic new fireplace! Yahoo! At long last and by popular demand, it’s time for a little before-and-after of the rooms in the house that we’ve been transforming.

We’ve slacked off a bit in the last while, in that the rooms are now totally liveable, and we have lost the motivation to do the finishing work like mouldings and baseboards… we’ll get there though!

1. The Study BEFORE, when it was our bedroom:

The Study in progress:

The Study AFTER:

2. The Living room BEFORE, when we didn't even know we had a fireplace:

The Living Room in progress:

The Living Room AFTER:

And last but not least, our happiest renovation, the bathroom.

The “bathroom” BEFORE, a la cramped shower and crappy 70's decor:

The “bathroom” in progress:

The Bathroom AFTER:

We’re most pleased by these developments. And, it’s fitting that this blog post come on the day that it does: we’ve been in this house for one year today, exactly. Happy anniversary to the house!

Time to get it all gussied up for the holidays!

October 11, 2007

Life is like a bowl of ice cream...

This week is a bit of a mix of ‘what’s been up’. A few scoops of Neapolitan ice cream, if you will. There’s been lots going on in the last bit, and here’s the report. With photos this time, I promise!

Hmmm. First, the vanilla scoop. White, pure, and well-intentioned. Kate and I spent our Thanksgiving weekend up in Kamloops, where we had lots of visiting with family of course, and eating turkey, but we got lots of work done, too! (this is the well-intentioned part) We raked leaves and pine needles, reorganized a few rooms at my moms house ( A little drilling, a few shelves put up, a bit of dusting, moving some furniture around, you know how it goes), and cleaned out my dad’s old workshop space, which resulted in several runs to the dump. My brother and I both worked at that task. A great man, my father, but a great packrat, too. For the five per cent of useful things he had in his workspace, the other 95 per cent was garbage, or things he thought were of value, dating back thirty years or so. Does anyone need an 8-track player for their car? How about a 15-year-old can of wood stain? How about a pile of extension chords, either male or female socket-less at one end? It was a trip down memory lane though, despite the oddities, like finding his old fishing gear, or the winter gloves he used, year after year, for shovelling the driveway. Even his ancient chorded drill could not help but remind Jamie and me of many years of shoddy home repairs. We miss you dad, but thank goodness your work bench is clean. Now mum can find a screwdriver if she needs one.

Next up, the Strawberry scoop. Sweet and light! Kate and I have had lots of opportunity to visit with our niece, Aria, in past weeks. Jamie and Dina came down to Vancouver recently, and then, as just mentioned, we were in the loops over the long weekend, and we got to hang out with the wee bebe again. Here she is, hanging out with Nanna Chase, and then bouncing around in front o her second cousin--she loooves that jolly jumper!--and then being fed by her father. contrary to the evidence in this photo, she does like her food, and most of it stays in her mouth.
she’s so darned cute, she gets her own scoop of ice cream, not to be lumped in with the rest of the thanksgiving weekend. Well anyway, she’s not so wee, actually. She’s somewhere in the neighbourhood of 22 lbs., and she’s only 6 months old. She’s adorable though, and very happy. She makes it sort of a shame to live in Vancouver, because we don’t get to see enough of her! Mind you, my sister lives in England (sorry to rub that in, Kari), so I should consider myself as much a next door neighbour to my niece as anyone else!

And lastly, the chocolate scoop. Rich and indulgent. Kate and I continue to tear apart our house, and soon enough we’ll have a remodelled bathroom, a remodelled study, and our gas fireplace is being installed next week, just in time for the chilly weather. We know we’re pretty lucky to be able to afford to do such things, hence the indulgence part. It’s also a guilty pleasure being able to take sledge hammers and crowbars to one’s walls. That’s how I spent my birthday this year, actually! No joke! I came home from work, put on my grubbies, and we started tearing out the bathroom walls. Forget a nice b-day dinner on the town, we ordered take-away Indian food so that we could get to work!
This should also be considered as a chocolate scoop itemsimply due to the nature of all the stuff we uncovered, as most of the S*@t that we found in behind the walls was, at best, brown. usually black, however. and dusty and musty...hence the masks, need one ask.
In other indulgent news, I won some concert tickets for a David Usher show off of a radio contest recently

and we got to eat some tasty food, see a great show, and meet the man himself, too.

There you have it… hopefully by my next entry, we’ll have some of the reno’s done!

September 24, 2007

A little more Green...

well, I got some good feedback from y'all in regards to the last entry, so I think I'll just be lazy about bringing forward new material, and give you a sampling of the things people had to say about eating locally!

"... I love that you’ve put your thinking about eating locally out there, sharing your own reasoning and thoughtful choices about how to combat global warming. Eating locally, mostly something I’m interested in and trying to learn more about (and practice in my own way!).

By the way, I agree about olive oil, and I think each of us begins to do as much as we can w/o feeling guilty about a few concessions.It has to be user friendly or people might not even consider trying..."

"...I’m a ‘green girl’ myself but with a twist. I buy organic or biodynamic only. My diet is organic, predominantly raw vegan, which means nuts, seeds, and avocados are a staple of my diet, none of which are grown here. I also can’t eat apples, so pears play a big part of my diet, especially in the winter when fruit selection is limited. I don’t buy local unless it’s organic or I know that the farm is not spraying. I will not support the use of pesticides even if it means I’m paying a lot more for produce and it’s grown more than 100 miles from here. I do not eat processed food or anything that is GMO (canola, corn, soy, wheat). I eat what’s in season and have been stocking up the freezer with BC organic fruit and veggies. It definitely costs more to eat this way – just last week I spent $2.79 on a bunch of organic BC carrots (4 of them), instead of $1.79/lb for organic US carrots.

There are a number of areas where I disagree with the 100 mile diet (especially that they were vegetarian who went back to eating meat, which is not sustainable for the planet), but if even one person becomes more conscious about what they eat, it’ll be a big step in the right direction……..

You might like to check out the following two movies: “The Future of Food” and “We Feed the World.” Both are very interesting. There’s also the Slow Food Movement, which is predominantly in Europe and places other than North America..."

and this same person also suggested a bit more interesting reading, if you're into it: , and last but not least:
an article from david suzuki

"...After reading your blogspot on the 100 mile diet, I think you and I share some common beliefs around the topic of consumerism. Good on you by the way, and Kate as well! It's a good practice, one that I myself am trying to incorporate into my daily life too! It's tough though, and I do indulge in things like wine, rice, couscous, olive oil, chocolate, cheese, and certain fruits like kiwis and oranges. But the key for me right now is to cut down on eating imported foods, and also to eat as many whole foods as possible. I've been a vegetarian for five months now, but Scott still eats meat and thus purchasing organic meat is important to him, and me! The consumerism issue has been on my mind for quite some time now, and ...I went and saw "The 11th Hour", the DiCaprio documentary on climate change. It is good and I highly recommend it. It addresses the issue of consumerism as being one of the fundamental problems at the centre of the global warming/climate change dilemma. It makes connections and provides solutions.

For me, I've been thinking a lot about the importance and the value we (as human beings) place on material things. I've been thinking about and evaluating the extrenuous, unnecessary things in my life. I think about ways of living more simply, and thus more happily..."

September 4, 2007

A Somewhat Inconvenient--But very Tasty--Truth.

Now, I think I’m a pretty standard sort of guy. I’m your average white suburbanite, as a matter of fact.

We have one fuel-efficient car parked in front of a nice house, and that’s plenty. I mow the lawn, and listen to inoffensive music like John Mayer and Maroon5. I get up at 6 a.m. to run the dog, and I pick the morning paper up off the porch when I get back. I work at a job I love, in an innocuous-looking office building downtown, and I take the bus to get there. I call my mom at least once a week, and chat with the neighbours over the fence. I hit the gym a few days a week, and get in on a volleyball game when I’m able to.

Pretty standard stuff.

But Kate and I are trying to be a little more radical these days. No, we’re not out there with protest signs. We’re not spray painting our messages on bus stops or getting our voices heard on the six ‘o’ clock news.

What we're doing is growing veggies.

Shocking, I know. Okay, okay, so that in itself is also nothing new, nor particularly radical. We’ve done that for years. But the veggie garden has been a seed for bigger ideas as of late (pun intended?)

Ever heard of the Hundred Mile Diet? Chances are good you have, since the book about it, and the environmental movement in general are gaining so much steam these days.

What the Hundred Mile Diet basically says is that you should not rely on any food source that comes from anywhere outside of a 100 mile radius of your home, because it’s killing our world. Have you ever put much thought into where the meal on your table comes from? We have. And that’s all part of the reason that there is so much smog hanging around the Fraser Valley and in the Strait of Georgia these days.

At the end of our block, there’s a Chinese grocer, and it stocks every manner of Asian foodstuff imaginable. Problem is, it literally comes from China. No, we’ve got nothing against the Chinese, if that’s what you’re thinking. What we have a problem with is that all of that Bok Choy, all of those Ya Pears and Fuji Apples, were picked before they were ripe, put on a giant boat, spent the next 58 days crossing the pacific ocean, got on a truck, was sent to a packing facility, put on another truck, and was then sent to our neighbourhood store three hundred yards away, only to be put on a shelf for 69 cents a pound, where it has two days to be bought up before it’s thrown out, over-ripe and only suitable for the crows and seagulls that swarm the dumpsters.

So what was the point? The pollution problem in itself is obvious and alarming, but I’m not going to beat anyone over the head about it--we all get enough of that in our daily media as it is. Nutrition is also a question, though, since the fruit was picked two months ago and left to ripen off the vine. It’s no different that a California strawberry, picked green and shipped up the coast, so we can pay $4.99 / pound from the local Safeway.

And Kate and I thought about all this and said: why?

Why go to the little grocer to get the apple that’s done more international travelling than I have, or go to the Safeway to get the strawberries with no flavour, when we can go to the farm, pick 40 pounds of the things at a quarter of the price, and have enough fruit to eat fresh and freeze to last us for the next year?

So, we’ve changed some things. We now buy our produce—and our fish, dairy, and meat—from a farmers Market on Saturday morning, from a local producer, or we go to the farm and get it ourselves. talk about fresh, and the money goes right into the hands of the farmer. In the price of our eggplants, garlic scapes, apricots, apples, sides of lamb, and strawberries, there is nothing built into the price other than eggplant, garlic, apricot… well, you get the point. No paying for advertising or trans-continental shipping in the price of our food. Major nutritional value and virtually no carbon footprint.

okay, so you can probably see the drawbacks to this plan. It means giving up a lot. And I am the first to admit, we are cheaters. We’ve put up an exceptions list to deal with these little… indiscretions. For example, while we don’t buy pasta anymore, we will still buy bread, so long as it is at least baked locally. The common denominator of course being flour. We don’t grow wheat here in BC, so technically, we shouldn’t buy it. But we do anyway.

Beer is also a no-no. So, I’ve stopped buying it. But there too, is an exception. We’ve said if guests are coming for dinner, we’ll buy a six pack or something. Not to worry, wine is still made well within a hundred miles, so that can still be bought… unfortunately, I despise the stuff. Too bad for me, good for Kate who loves it.

Tofu, edamame beans and other soy products are out. Sure, Tofu is made here in Vancouver, but the beans aren’t grown here. In Olive oil, we confess our hypocrisy, and will continue to buy the stuff.
well, there's lots more to it, but basically, if you come over for dinner at our house, pretty much everything in your meal will be local—if not from our own backyard—and unbelievably full of flavour.
We even eat out less now, as our home-cooked meals are so satisfying. We just don’t feel the need to go out.

By now, you get the point. Maybe it's not so much radical as it is exciting and satisfying, and different. But when there is so little in my life that I am preachy about--To each his own, I usually say--I figure I can stand on the soap box for a while too :)

I’ll wrap it up here by saying that no, it isn’t as cheap as going to the Safeway or IGA. And no, we know not everyone has the luxury of paying extra, nor of having a big veggie garden.

Ultimately though, we need to find ways eat local, drive clean cars, fly less, etc. etc. etc. God gave us this big, beautiful world. It is nothing more than our own desire for convenience which will result in our losing it.
An intro to the 100 Mile Diet

City Farm Boy, a vancouverite with a great idea about urban farming

The Omnivore's Dilemma... haven't read it yet, but it sounds interesting!

August 17, 2007

A litte R and R

I’ve been meaning to get on here and update my blog with a quick run down of how the vacation time that Kate and I recently took was spent. As I mentioned at the end of the last entry, it would be more manly than flowers and such… so, without further adieu…

We kicked off our week with a stay at a lovely bed and breakfast in Esquimalt on Vancouver Island. The Lord Nelson, it was called, and we stayed in a lovely suite with it’s own kitchen, a hot tub out back, and lovely gardens all round. We th… what? OH! Right! Manly, I said! Manly!

Okay, well, it was a short walk down to the waterfront from the B & B, which was coincidentally located right near the Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt (there… manly…). The shoreline in that particular spot is peppered with old bunkers from the second world war, which had gun turrets pointed westward in case the Japanese ever came buzzing across the pacific in our general direction.
Now, the site is just a great spot to walk and view the ocean. The only threat from the air you have to watch out for now are seagulls pooping in mid-flight...

Anyway, after our one night’s stay, we drove further into the island to find Gordon Bay on Lake Cowichan. We’d booked a few nights of camping in the provincial site on the side of the lake.

Lemmee tell, you about our new tent. It is a thing of beauty. It’s not wee. It’s not not so wee. It’s frickin’ huge! It’s pretty much a church. Not ideal for backpack camping, but great for car camping! Not only can I lay out flat in this tent without my feet pushing out the edge, there’s even a solid foot of clearance. That’s right folks, 2.5 meters of floor length! But wait, there’s more! I can stand up in this thing!! Can I get an aMeN?!
And, you guessed it, that’s not all! The church… err, tent… features two doors, two very large window, and a skylight! (no, there is no hole in the roof, merely a mesh roof to the tent, so on clear nights with no fly, you could have a full moon roof, or, on nights when it might be cloudy, the fly still has a clear plastic patch that lets the light in that way. Halleluia!) Anyway, out of one door, the fly can be unzipped and can act like an awning, and out the other door—the front door--there is a fully enclosable, netted vestibule. I call this the Narthex. You can be inside, but outside at the same time, without worry of them nasty ‘skeeters getting atcha. It’s sweet!

Well, as you can see from the rest of the pics, the lake itself is a beauty.

We couldn’t take Nellie with us to the main beach, but a short 10 minute hike away, there is a rocky point that we basically had to ourselves, and it offered awesome swimming.

Nellie wasn’t sure about the whole camping thing. Being a dog that sleeps indoors, once the sun went down, she was all like “okay guys, lets go into a building and sleep now, okay?” but instead, all there was were trees, a campfire, food from the table that we wouldn't share with her (as usual) and the scent of bears


She warmed up to it by the time we left… basically, anyway 

After camping, we went to Nanaimo for a night to visit with a friend from the flatwater kayaking world, Ashley.
She and her husband Eduardo let us stay with them. We haven’t seen them in years, so it was great to catch up!

Next, it was over to the mainland on the ferry, and up to Whistler for the long weekend. The highlight of being up there is that on the August Long weekend of each year, Whistler plays host to the Canadian Barbeque Championships. Oh. My. God. So much meat. So little time.

As I wrote about this last year, I'm simply going to plagiarize myself, and repost the event description from 12 months ago! Also, here are some photos, if you’re not much interested in words…

"...The highlight of the weekend--aside from the glorious weather,mountain vistas, shimmering lakes and fresh air--had to be the Canadian Barbeque Championships, which took place in Whistler village over the course of the weekend. Picture it if you will:

two dozen or so competitors gather to cook up their best BBQ'ed Pork, Chicken , and Beef. You, as a spectator / carnivore head to the site. upon paying five dollars which goes towards the charitable cause of crohns disease / colitis research, you're given free access to wander up to any of the competitors tents, and sample of the particular meat they happen to be cooking for the competition of the hour.

This is our whistler neighbour, Norm, and his son Oliver

First up, the Pork. Forgive me Jewish God, for I have sinned. There was more pulled pork in a plethora of mouth-watering marinades than this here meat eater knew what to do with.

This is Norm's wife, Natasha, and to her left, Marissa (she can pack in the BBQ for an 11 year-old!)

There's more gloriously succulent ribs on hand than even the most gluttonous of gluttons could hope to gorge upon. There's a little bit of Homer Simpson in all of us, I think. And on August sixth, there was a lot Homer showing up in a lot of people.

After the pork had been turned in for judging, the competitors turn to their chicken recipes, and the process began again, with the carnivores running around like chickens with their heads cut off (pun intended) trying to grab up the samples before they're all gone. And so it went with the beef after the chicken had been turned in.

Yes, my meat-eating friends (sorry to all the Vegetarians out there...)It was every bit as wonderful as I describe, and then some. I imagine it will be right up there with wedding days, and--when they arrive--the birth of my children. Unlike such events, however, the BBQ champs happen every year. Amen..."

…and that was about the extent of it! Ten days goes by awfully quickly, unfortunately. Still got lots of vacation time to use up before the end of the year! Yahoo!

July 28, 2007

a little summer colour

alright, so here's the story on this series of pictures. It's short and sweet. When kate and I moved in here, one of the most common comments we got from passers-by as we would work on the house would be: 'whatever you do, DON'T touch the garden! just wait to see what come up!'

the previous owner of this house threw wildflower seeds all over the place. inside the fence, outside the fence. front yard, backyard, down the side of the house. she didn't do much else for the yard, though. We have two foot tall dandelions. everywhere. and stinging nettles. turns out Kate is allergic. weeds of all descriptions fill in any gap where a flower hasn't. No shortage of morning glory around here either, unfortunately. Nothing glorious about that frickin' weed, if you ask us!

aaaanyway, spring rolled through town, and with it came the flowers. No. pardon me. THE FLOWERS.Week after week, we've been treated to something different as various blooms have come and gone, and for all the weeds, the flowers have been worth it! Here's some examples for you! and you'll note these pics aren't all flowers--you'll see some berries int here too! no, they didn't grow here, but it's another sure sign of summer. we've recently gone out to some local farms and picked 40 lbs of strawberries, and 20 lbs of raspberries! that oughtta last us through the winter :)

the next entry will have more manliness to it--I'm off camping this week! yahoo!