Sunday, December 23, 2007

Secret Santa's 12 Days Of Christmas

For the last 5 or 6 years I have been a volunteer leader for the youth group at church. Every Christmas, we pick a family in our congregation to be the recipients of 12 days of gifts, delivered to the doorstep by a group of "Secret Santas". In late November, the youth wrapped most of the presents at a weeknight activity, with one gift for each of the 12 days:

1 Wed 12 turkey
2 Thurs 13 turtles
3 Fri 14 stuffing
4 Sat 15 CD
5 Sun 16 lifesavers
6 Mon 17 eggnog
7 Tues 18 ornaments
8 Wed 19 rolls & margarine
9 Thurs 20 potatoes
10 Fri 21 socks
11 Sat 22 pie
12 Sun 23 gifts (ie: boardgames)

A tag was affixed to each of the 12 packages, with a message based on the song "The Twelve Days of Christmas". A few years back, I wrote a new set of verses to better match the gifts for each day, which were mainly the components of a Christmas dinner. I think I wrote the whole thing out in about 20 minutes one night, but we've been using it with very few changes for years:

On the 1st day of Christmas,
Santa gave to you:
A partridge in a pear tree.
The partridge flew away,
But we found you this replacement.

On the 2nd day of Christmas,
Santa gave to you:
Two turtle doves
All wrapped up in chocolate…
…Ooooh, sweet chocolate.

On the 3rd day of Christmas,
Santa gave to you:
Three French hens.
But what good are hens
Without some stuffing?

On the 4th day of Christmas,
Santa gave to you:
Four calling birds.
But the birds were so good,
They went on a European concert tour.
So here are their latest albums.

On the 5th day of Christmas,
Santa gave to you:
Five golden rings.
Santa’s not much for jewelry—
He gives candy rings instead!

On the 6th day of Christmas,
Santa gave to you:
Six geese a-laying.
So we gathered the eggs,
And made you this drink.

On the 7th day of Christmas,
Santa gave to you:
Seven swans a-swimming.
But we exchanged the swans
For these classy ornaments.
(What good are a bunch of swans?)

On the 8th days of Christmas,
Santa gave to you:
Eight maids a-milking.
The maids had to go home,
But they churned this fresh butter.
(Well, it sure tastes like butter!)

On the 9th day of Christmas,
Santa gave to you:
Nine ladies dancing.
(We’re not sure
What this has to do with potatoes.)

On the 10th day of Christmas,
Santa gave to you:
Ten lords a-leaping.
Unfortunately, the lords leapt right out
Of their socks and disappeared.

On the 11th day of Christmas,
Santa gave to you:
Eleven pipers piping.
--And here’s a piping-hot pie.
(Well, it’s probably not so hot now, though
but you could heat up if you wanted—
and maybe serve it with ice cream, etc)

On the 12th day of Christmas,
Santa gave to you:
Twelve drummers drumming.
The drummers all chipped in
For a swell Christmas gift.
Merry Christmas from the drummers,
from Santa, all nine ladies-dancing.
May your Christmas this year
Be filled up with turkey
And with loads of good cheer.
Today was the last delivery for this year's project, and I think the kids all really enjoyed being a part of it. They particularly like the part where they get to ring the doorbell and run away into the night. It's a great tradition and one that we did when I was a teenager, so the tradition continues...

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Comments Feature Has Changed

A few people have told me they've had trouble making comments on the blog since the comments function has changed. Just to clarify, you don't have to have a Google account to make comments. If you don't have a Google account, you have to click on "Nickname" and put your moniker in the blank. This replaces the "other" field that was there before. You can type any name you want in that blank, from something as short and simple as "D" to something longer like "The Sovereign of The Realm".

STEP 1: Type your comments and click on "Nickname"

STEP 2: Type in your Nickname (you can include your web address if you have a website)

I hope this has been informative. Let's see some more comments.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Grey, Pebbled Finish

This is probably one of the dirtiest cars I've ever seen -- and it's mine.

A few weeks ago, we bought a car through the auction and it arrived just this week. It had to be shipped from Vancouver on a truck, so it took a while to get here. I suspect that they took some kind of indirect route to get here, perhaps traveling through a bog... or maybe a bog and then a gravel pit. The car was absolutely filthy after the trip, covered in a thick coat of grime and pebbles. When we picked it up, we had to use handfuls of snow to "wash" the glass enough to safely see outside and drive.

Before I washed the car, I took this picture of the trunk, where you can clearly see the pebbles. I don't think I've ever seen anything quite like that. Once it was all washed off it looked just fine, so the trip through the gravelly bog doesn't seem to have had any long-term adverse effects.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Real Canadian Butter Chicken Rant

When I was about 18 years old I received a letter from the grocery store. It was in response to a card I had filled out for their comments box, in which I said I was disappointed that they had increased the price of chocolate dipped donuts from 3/$1 to nearly 50 cents apiece. The price increase had pushed the combined cost of a donut and a litre of chocolate milk to more than two dollars, requiring me to break a $5 bill to make my favourite purchase. In response to my comment, the store manager sent me a letter explaining the economic concepts of supply and demand, somehow trying to blame the market at large for this unfortunate turn of events. In a way, he was right -- at the higher price I consumed fewer donuts.

I had hoped for a more lucrative response, like the time I left a comment for the wave pool management. I noted that it was a very long walk down a very cold corridor to get from the boys change room to the pool deck. I suggested that they think about heating the corridor. I think I was 10 years old at the time. To their credit, the pool managers sent me more than just a patronizing letter about the demand for hot air -- they also enclosed a pass for a free family visit to the pool. Although I didn't use the pass myself (my oldest brother used it to take a date to the pool, along with my 7-year-old youngest brother... quite the date, I'm sure), I appreciated the gesture.

Now I'm considering writing another letter to the grocery store. It's the same store as the donut incident -- "The Real Canadian Superstore" at 5251 Country Hills Boulevard in NW Calgary. I have always thought that was the strangest name for a grocery store; however, it is much more descriptive than the name of the company's stores that appear in Eastern Canada: "Loblaws". I remember when we moved to Ottawa, we kept seeing all these buildings with "Loblaws" written on the side, but we had no idea what a Loblaw was. Apparently, a Loblaw is a grocer, since the stores invariably sell groceries. A Loblaw is not to be confused with a similar species of Ontario grocer called a "Loeb". I digress.

I want to write to The Real Canadian Superstore because they are always out of President's Choice Butter Chicken Cooking Sauce (PCBCCS). After eating at a few Indian buffets I fell in love with butter chicken (served with rice and naan bread); however, R didn't always feel up for the trip to my favourite Ottawa buffet (Moni Mahal at 164 Laurier Ave). Luckily, R's sister introduced us to a simple alternative: The PCBCCS. We could enjoy the rich goodness of this mild curry dish from the comfort of our own home. It was as simple as buying a jar from the local Loblaws.

Unfortunately, that is not as simple as it sounds.

Our Ottawa store carried several PC-brand Indian cooking sauces, but the PCBCCS was always low in stock, and often ran out completely. A popular item, I guess. This was just a minor inconvenience until we moved to Calgary, where the "Real Canadian Superstore" managers long ago surrendered to the forces of supply and demand. We normally buy our groceries at the nearby Safeway (what a pitifully short name), but we sometimes make the trip up to Superstore for PC brand items like butter chicken. Since August we had never found any butter chicken on the shelf, until this week (we've tried Patak's and it just doesn't compare to PCBCCS).

When it finally came in, R bought 4 jars. You basically have to hoard the stuff if you want any.

I think a fairly short comment to management would make my point: "Stock more butter chicken, you ninnies!" I'll mull it over and decide whether I should include a patronizing explanation of the economics of inventory stocking that I learned in my Operations Management 601 class this semester. I could perhaps photocopy the pages from the text book or print a few powerpoint slides for them with formulas about how to formulate a proper stocking strategy and avoid stockouts.

Aside from the general satisfaction I would get from venting my frustrations, I would hope to receive two benefits by writing such a letter:

1. More butter chicken on stores shelves, so people don't have to start looking on ebay;

2. A coupon for a free donut and chocolate milk.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Christmas Window

I have a cousin in Idaho who wins $100 every year in his neighbourhood Christmas light decorating contest. He has the whole house covered in lights that are synched to music, which is broadcast to viewers via FM radio. They get a steady stream of cars coming to their place all through December. And every year it just gets bigger and better (the picture here is from last year's display, before he got the two inflatable snowmen, etc).

We haven't had any Christmas lights up on our house for several years. In fact, this is one of the few years that we've even bothered to set up a tree. Often, we would fly out of town to visit family so early in the month that it didn't make much sense to leave a tree to wither and die by the time we got back in January. Call us lazy. Call us humbugs. Whatever.

This year is different. This year we have a tree. Sure, I was too busy studying for finals to go along when R's sister and husband went out for the genuine tree-cutting experience, but they still brought back for us an organic, free-range tree. They delivered it right to our door, actually. We pulled out the small box of decorations (which we received as wedding gifts 7 years ago) and now we have a healthy dose of Christmas spirit emanating from the living room. People out on the street can probably see it through the window, where they must be struck to the core with the spirit of the season.

Speaking of windows, we happened to receive a few strings of outdoor Christmas lights that R's sister didn't need, so I decided to try putting those up outside to take it up another notch. Unfortunately, after outlining the kitchen window with lights (which was no mean feat with baby Scott in tow) I ran out of time and had to quit for the day. So right now we have one window full of Christmas cheer.

I had it plugged in for the first night, but I think I'll wait until I get at least two windows done before I plug it in again. But on the other hand, at the rate we've been going, that might not ever happen.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Nightswimming in Banff

It's been nearly a month, but I never got around to posting some more pictures from our anniversary trip to Banff at the end of November. We didn't do anything too fancy -- we mainly just strolled around the main streets of town, ducking into gift shops and baby stores when our ears started to get cold.

We had Scott buried under several layers of jackets, hoods, toques, blankets and sleeping bag (the Zooper Hula stroller came with a sweet matching sleeping bag), so he hardly felt the chill at all. In fact, it didn't take him too long before he just nodded off.

Here's a shot from Banff Avenue (main street) of what might be Mount Rundle. I have no idea what mountain it really is, but if you've seen our latest family picture, you might recognize it. It somehow managed to sneak into the background.

We also drove up the hill to the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, which is quite the alpine castle. It would be fun to stay in all the big railroad hotels in Canada someday. I've been in the lobbies of the big ones in Quebec City, Ottawa, Banff and Waterton Lake, but I've never stayed in any of them.

After a day of walking around in the cold, we weren't quite ready to jump in the cold pool for a swim, but we did spend some time in the hot tub. Luckily, the water in the hot tub wasn't overly hot (more of a warm tub), so it was just about right for Scott to have his second swimming experience. I've heard some babies don't really like the water. Scott is not one of them. During bathtime, he just loves to splash the water all over with his hands. The tub was no different, except that the sheer volume of water may have overwhelmed him a bit. With so many splashing opportunities, it was probably hard for him to know where to start.

We managed to capture some footage -- from a safe distance, of course. He is standing on one of the steps leading into the water, and you can see his practiced Jolly-Jumper technique at work. He still managed to splash and jump at the same time, but it took all of his concentration. This boy is very serious about his work.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Laughing About Spitting

This week Scott discovered a fun new talent. He purses his lips in a bit of an overbite and blows. It makes a "pbtttt" noise. It also produces a lot of saliva.

When he first stumbled upon this new trick, he was doubly thrilled that his mom copied it back to him, and he broke out in a laughing fit that lasted a good ten minutes. R managed to get the camera out and catch the last bit of it. I wasn't there, be she said that he was laughing even harder at the beginning.

We just love his laugh. He's got two major ones, the one in the video here and his full-out belly laugh -- we think both are hilarious. We also love that round-mouthed look he gets when he tries to grab something (ie: the camera).

Sorry the video is so long and uncut. I would edit it, but I'm one quarter of the way through a busy week of final exams. I'm only posting this to avoid reading another chapter of operations management powerpoint slides.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

The Day The Microwave Died


And then the microwave was dead. The microwave that has been in my family for decades. The first microwave our family ever owned. The huge microwave. The microwave with the faux wood panelling. That microwave.

We got that microwave at Christmas about 20 years ago. I think microwaves have been around that long, haven't they? We weren't the first family to get one. We weren't usually the first to get any new piece of technology. I remember when we used to rent a VCR, waiting a few years before we shelled out the cash to buy one. Back when Nintendo first came out, we rented one of those too -- and never bought one. But we never rented a microwave. We bought one of those.

And we kept it for a really long time.

When we got married, my parents passed this family heirloom down to us, in a ceremony of sorts. They said something like, "We have a new microwave in our new house, so you can have this one." It was a special moment for everybody.

That was in the year 2000. The giant microwave served faithfully for seven more years, waving its last micro two short weeks after our anniversary. Not so lucky.

You don't realize how dependent you are on a microwave until it goes "pop." My supply of theatre-style buttered popcorn was completely cut off. I had to eat crackers and stuff. R had to find creative ways to heat up some pre-processed organic baby food that was stored in the freezer. We were lost without our wood-paneled giant.

I bought a new microwave at Canadian Tire on Friday. It's not as big, and it doesn't have any make-believe wood on it, but it will hopefully serve long enough to make popcorn for another generation of our family.

It can be a wedding gift for Scott.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Lucky Number Seven

Last weekend we celebrated our 7th anniversary with an overnight stay in nearby Banff, the famous mountain resort town near Calgary. Since we have never spent the night away from Scott yet, we didn't want to break our streak and brought him along.

I've got some more pictures, so stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Nuclear Medicine

On Thursday, November 15 (what is that, two weeks ago?), a group of us went to the hospital to visit Kevin Way, who was one of our Scout leaders back when I was about 16 years old. He has consistently set records for being the nicest person I know, as well as being the sickest person I know. At some point in his life, he has probably been stricken with every malady you can think of, usually several of them at once. Some more prominent conditions are leukemia, diabetes and multiple sclerosis. The most recent addition was pneumonia. In fact, he has considered himself to be living on borrowed time for the last 20 years.

Through it all, he has remained upbeat, cheerful and thoughtful.

He was great at finding common interests with us, and since we were a bunch of self-absorbed teenagers, he took interest in the things we liked. He came out to countless sporting events, concerts, presentations and awards ceremonies. So, it was the least we could do to come and visit him in the hospital.

The leukemia had diminished his red blood cell count to the point where he had no energy left and could hardly get out of bed. After doctors tried giving him a blood transfusion, he was suddenly invigorated. By the time we came to visit, he was feeling much better. He's lost a lot of weight, but he's still got that same big heart.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Geek Content: Almost Two-Thirds

63% Geek

I have to admit, I made a wild guess on the Star Trek question and nailed it. Also, I've never watched Firefly, but I read a newspaper review once so I knew enough for that one too.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

First Swim

There comes a day in every boy's life when he needs to leave the safety of his bathtub and venture into that great expanse of the public pool. Wednesday was Scotty's big day. R got a last-minute invite from her sister J to go to the pool with a crowd of young mothers -- all relations of J's by marriage (or so I hear). Scott's big dip should have taken place back in September, when R and J went on a failed mission to an outdoor wading pool. Sadly, they were a few days late and the pool was already drained.

Sometimes life is like that -- empty pools and unfulfilled dreams.

Wednesday's pool of dreams was filled to overflowing. Reportedly, the water was pleasantly warm and must have soaked Scott's swimming diaper in a comfortable fashion. Despite the cozy diaper, Scott was slow to warm up to the new experience. He always clams up in public. Before too long, however, he was splashing at every toy in sight, quite pleased with everything. He even went down a waterslide (with his mom).

I only wish I could have been there with them, instead of sitting in the fourth row of Financial Accounting 601, pretending to listen to a discussion about amortization methods while I typed up some research about small-cap potash companies.

Eventually, I will also have my day in the sun.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Baby's First Veggies

First on the menu: Peas.

You know, he didn't seem to like it that much at first, but that changed quickly. Speaking of veggies, here's a little sweet pea that is so cute you just want to eat him up.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Nose Hill

Today we had a few minutes before we needed to be at a family dinner / birthday party, so we stopped along our way at Nose Hill Park for quick walk. It was very quick, because we only had about 15 minutes, so we didn't get very deep into the park, which is about 4 kilometers wide. However, we got far enough to snap a few quick pictures of Scott in his sweet fleece snowsuit thingy. It was great for keeping him warm, but the hood really got in the way when he wanted to look over his shoulder at all the doggies out for walkies.

Perhaps you didn't know, but Nose Hill Park is "one of the largest municipal parks in North America." It's not exactly Central Park -- it's a wide grassy hill. It's nice and high so you can get some great views. I think one of the best spots is on the East side, just off 14th Street, where you get a great look at downtown Calgary. We were on the West side, where you can't see much but grass.

Next time we're going East.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Big Three-O

I'm sure everyone is interested to hear about my birthday. Okay. I'll tell you.

Friday night we got the boys together for a night of nostalgia, revisiting the glory days mainly through the medium of video. When we were teenagers, our favourite pastime was to make home movies -- mainly in the car chase and stunt genre. Several of these films have been immortalized on GoogleVideo, including such favourites as Bike Chase, Paint It Black, and Stunt Movie. There are a few more analog films floating around out there that are shortly going to make their online debut.

At the party we also created three new short films that will appear shortly, as soon as editing is completed. We expanded our efforts into new genres, such as science fiction, hospital drama and cop drama. What these films lack in script development, they make up for in creative costuming. Above is a shot of us converting party decorations into space gear that would make Mr. Spock jealous.

I share the same birthday with my friend KW, so it was only fitting that we sing to him as well. We jammed all 30 candles onto his piece of cake, which created a surprisingly large fireball.

My actual birthday was on Sunday (not Friday), so we got a double dose of cake and fun. The Calgary clan gathered at R's parents' place for the traditional Sunday meal -- plus a Dairy Queen cake.

Here's a shot of Grandpa M enjoying some time with the boys. Can you spot the person in this photo who's missing a soother?

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween #1

Here's a few cute Halloween photos for the archives. I kind of dropped the ball on getting him a certain costume that I had in mind (a foul-up on the order, really), so we were left scrounging a the last minute to find something. R's sister loaned us this dog costume, but it was a little on the small side.
Scott was absolutely thrilled with his other costume -- a baseball player.
The creative costume award for the evening goes to our neice and nephew, who were the lead characters from the Shrek movies. Look at the mini-paunch on little Shrek. And aren't their ogre-ears fantastic? It all just gets me excited for next year.

On the subject of sweet costumes, my cousin and her family managed another stellar showing this year, playing the lead characters from Peter Pan. Check it out.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Shots For Scott

After looking at these thighs, you might think that this boy is a little on the chunky side. You might think that he belongs in the upper quartile for weight when compared on a chart with his peers.

You would be wrong.

Apparently, Scott had an early encounter with the 72nd percentile, but he's drifted back into his home turf in the "under-fifty" club. I was quite surprised to hear that, since he feels pretty hefty to me, and people are always telling us that he looks so big. I guess big doesn't necessarily mean heavy.

Big can also mean tall.

After a fairly modest start, Scott has been climbing the charts like the proverbial weed. In just six months he has grown 8.5 inches. That's about 1.5 inches per month. My hair doesn't even grow that fast. It seems strange that he would be rising in comparative height, but dropping in comparative weight. Perhaps we need to start giving him some Creatine supplements and get him to hit the weights instead of napping all the time.

Isn't he cute?

We have the latest measurement info because Scotty went in for his second round of immunizations this week. For the last month or so, there's been a post-it note on the counter that said, "Shots For Scott - October 23" on it. I don't know if you've noticed, but that rhymes.

"Scott" took his "Shots" quite well. I wasn't there (good thing -- because I'd faint) but R said that he only cried a bit. If we were to graph it, his crying would be in about the 38th percentile. What a tough kid. But he's wiry, and I don't know but the wiry ones can work the hardest (link).

Sunday, October 21, 2007

First Real Food

Friday Scott tried his first "real food" (rice cereal). He was pretty keen to stick the spoon in his mouth (he's keen to stick ANYTHING in his mouth), but he wasn't so sure what he'd got himself into.

I think he ended up with more of it on his bib than in his mouth, which is his way of taking it easy his first time out. When he stopped opening his mouth to take the spoon, we figured he'd had enough.

On the other hand, it seems that he can never get enough of this particular toy, which is attached to his exersaucer. I think he could get the whole thing in his mouth if he would really put his mind to it. He's gotten pretty close.