Monday, 31 December 2012

Hello 2013!

2013 has arrived! I hope you had a wonderful night of celebrations.  We had a rather quiet night that involved the Hobbit and later counting down from the couch. I am still fighting bronchitis so I didn't want to risk passing it on to any of our friends or family.

I have already shared a lot of my resolutions with you all, and am ready to meet 2013 with new energy and excitement for the year ahead.  There's some big things happening. We are listing our condo in a few weeks now and will begin the house hunt. This is going to be tough for a few reasons. Right now we have about a 10 minute walk to our offices downtown. Moving will likely = commuting unless we decide to move to a bigger condo. We are avid cyclists and runners and would really love to be close to the river valley and trails system too, so certain parts of the city are a no go for us.

I am super optimistic that we will find the perfect home though. My wish list is as follows: a newer kitchen because we just reno's ours, a walk in closet (which likely equals a newer home), walking distance to a coffee shop and grocery store, and a fenced backyard so we can finally rescue a bully from Alberta bulldogs.  My nice to have list includes space to garden, upper floor laundry, and 2.5 bathrooms (for when my family visits).

Have any of you moved recently? Were there any big items you had to compromise on in the name of affordability etc.

Do you have anything really big happening this year? Weddings, moves, graduating, new babies perhaps.

I really do wish you all a splendid year. I have a feeling it will be a great one!! (p.s. the image is from Chinese New Year last year in Hong Kong)

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Bricks, Mortar and Big Hearts

I am a month behind in posting this, but I thought this lazy Sunday afternoon would be a good time to write about our recent trip to El Salvador.  I mentioned in my last post that J and I have been blessed with the ability to travel.  While he has seen almost all SE Asia now, I had the memory making experience of working in Edinburgh, Scotland for 18 months after graduate school.  From there, I traveled to Germany with my roommate and through most of the UK.

Our recent travels to Laos and the Philippines left me with feelings of guilt. In Vientiane, we were lucky to add a bike tour into our itinerary that took us into the back roads of Laos.  We visited and elephant sanctuary, which felt oddly, geared more to tourism than to animal welfare. We saw sign after sign left by World Vision and other humanitarian organizations as we passed through small villages where clothes are washed by hands, well water is scarce and satellite dishes balance precariously on metal clad roofs.  In Manila last winter, I was shocked by the amount of children on the streets.  I felt gloomy as we toured through historic sites wondering if this is truly what travel was about.

Who does it benefit? Do the dollars we spent on our activities and food benefit the wider community? In most cases, the hostels and guesthouses we stayed in were owned by ex pats. Our tour guides were local, but we never asked them about their wages. These are countries with a greater portion of their GDPs supported by remittance payments than by local economic development.  I left those trips with a feeling that we needed to do more, or if nothing less we needed to gain a better understanding of what it actually meant to grow up there, to raise a family, and to live (or survive).

I began to search for opportunities to travel and give back. I wanted to spend time immersed in culture. I wanted to understand the political systems. I wanted to do something to help, and selfishly, I wanted to do something for me.  I ended up at Habitat for Humanity's Global Village website, sharing all the info with J and Emailing team leaders to ask questions (mostly about my veganism and whether it might be considered insulting if I turned down meat).

In two short months, we had applied, completed phone interviews with our amazing team leaders (Ray and Dawn) and booked our flights to San Salvador.  We stayed for two weeks and the build itself was 8 days including orientation, 5 build days, and R&R together at the end of the build. It has taken me a while to figure out how to put into words what the experience was like, but I will do my best.

After a rocky start and flight delays, we arrived in Sal Salvador to be greeted by a driver that took us to our hotel. We stayed outside of Sonsonate Province on a hillside and were driven to the build site each day in 2 vans.  Our build site was in Quo Mango, a small rural dispersed village.  We built a 400 sq. ft. cinder block home with two bedrooms, a den and a bathroom.  A team of masons were on site and gave our team various tasks each day to make their work go faster and make more progress on the house.  From mixing mortar, to hauling bricks, laying bricks and filling in ALL the cracks with mortar - our days were full, tiring and rewarding.  We had guides provided by Habitat that answered any questions we had. While we sifted sand, I had the chance to talk with Jesus about the political system, the civil war, the gang activity (and recent truce), healthcare and so many other topics. He answered my questions with the honesty of an 18-year-old who had just begun his first full-time job as a translator. Those talks we had are probably among my finest memories.


We learned Spanish and the universal value of a smile. We learned to be patient when we didn't understand. I confronted my arachnophobia ever day including a scorpion that crawled out of a brick that I had lifted one morning. I learned how blessed I am to be able to choose what I eat every day and to be so selective.  We saw the pride of a grandmother and the backbreaking work that it takes to run a household without modern conveniences. We shared laughter, hugs and tears at  when it was time to leave. As clich├ęd as it may sound, that trip changed me.


I recently contacted our team leads about how I can go about becoming a team lead.  I have always had the travel bug but now I might just have the habitat bug.  When we returned home, we received letters from Habitat encouraging us to keep our good works going in our own communities.  It is true. Until my next trip, I will continue to be involved in my City.  To pay attention to what is going on around me and to be thankful for all I have been graced with.

If you have any questions, I would LOVE to answer them. If you have had a similar experience, I would love to hear about that too.

Much Love,



Saturday, 29 December 2012

Dream Destinations

In my last post, I made a resolution to travel more in 2013, which sent me into traveler's dreamland thinking about all the wonderful places I would like to visit.

We are in the process of making a traveler's wish list of little trips we would like to take.  Winnipeg will be a mandatory stop. My little nephew is turning 2 on May 1 and last year I only made it home once. I have aunty's guilt from missing out on so many milestones.  But aside from that, there are a few places on my list that I would love to make it to this year.

  1. Portland, OR - I hear it is like Mecca for Vegans.  It would be awesome if we could take a trip there during the Portland Veg Fest, which I am pretty sure will take place some time in September. I have been a devout follower of Peas and Thank You for some time now, and Mama Pea's posts on Portland (like this one) always make me want to book a flight ASAP. 

  2. Austin, TXWe have friends that go to Austin City Limits almost every year (except this year because they are having a baby and I am pretty sure that will change some of their travel plans).  There are so many things about Austin that appeal to me: the weather, the food, the cycling (Mellow Johnny's)

  3. Asheville, NC - This one probably seems a little off the radar, but I really, REALLY want to go to Moogfest in 2013. We couldn't make it in 2012 because it was smack dab in between the wedding and our honeymoon (it's a hard life I know) but the lineup looked amazing.

  4. Quebec City - four years ago I fell in love with Montreal (it was the first trip we ever took together) and have wanted to travel to Quebec city ever since.  I think it would make a great summer vacation to travel to Ottawa-Montreal-Quebec this summer.

  5. Antalya, Turkey - this is one of the big ones. Every year we take a 2-3 week trip somewhere great.  So far, we have traveled together to Thailand, Laos, Philippines, Hong Kong and El Salvador. Turkey in on my dream list.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="613"] Konyaalti Beach Antalya[/caption]

So that is my list (so far) for 2013. Tell me, where do you hope 2013 takes you??

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Looking forward

It is December 27.  The Christmas celebrations are mostly finished and we are (sadly) heading back to work today.  I know a lot of people experience post holiday blues, but I often get more energy at this time. Now that I can get back to my routine and prepare to welcome a new year with new challenges and surprises.

I am not really one for sweeping new year's resolutions, but I can certainly acknowledge there are things in me that need to change.  I also look to 2013 for new goals, new races, new travels and seeing my niece and nephew grow and change.  So, in no particular order here is my hit list for 2013:

  1. Stop swearing at home.  I don't swear ever, at all, anywhere but at home when we are arguing. And I really hate that.  So my resolution is to not swear when we are arguing.  I have no idea how to action this yet so advice is welcome.
  2. Run faster not further.  I am super excited to be taking part in the Edmonton Run Project this year. Starting in January I will be working with 4 coaches (1 former Olympian) to work at improving my 10k pace. More on that in a later post!
  3. Kick the aspartame habit.  I have been doing really well for 4 weeks now.  I can go days and days without a diet Pepsi and I brought Stevia to work to avoid putting a splenda in my coffee. What I need now is to keep the momentum going!
  4. Bi-monthly travels.  4 years ago, when J and I first started dating, we used to go on 4 day trips.  We saw Montreal, my home town a few times, Victoria, and the ski hills in a matter of months.  We lost those little adventures along the way and this year we vow to bring them back. 
  5. Less Soy. I can be a lazy vegan and turn to veggie burgers and processed products more often than I would like to admit.  By going soy-free for a while I think I can curb this habit. 

There you have it! The top 5 for 2013.  Have you made any resolutions for the new year, or are you more a year long goal setter and change maker? I would love to here them!

For those of you heading back to work this week, we will make it through this 2-day week together : )

Monday, 24 December 2012

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you all a merry and delightful day spent exactly as you love to.  I started the day off as I start all days, with a smoothie and my coffee waiting for JJ to wake up. Someday, I hope to host a vegan brunch at our home. Who knows, maybe in 2013 when we have room for more than 2 guests : )

May your day be full of love, vegan goodness and the warmth of friends and family.

Much Love.