Thursday, February 28, 2008

Tai Chi update

I started Tai Chi beginner class this past Tuesday night. It is a class of about 9 students, and I am the youngest there by about 15 years. I missed only one week, which is good because I thought I had missed two. Since I had also attended the session at the Museum, I wasn't as far behind as I could have been.

I haven't totally formed an opinion yet on whether or not I "love" it. I am neutral, but it is still a very early stage. I am going to have to force myself to slow down as I found I was rushing some of the moves. Being high-strung and in need of some relaxation, my automatic reaction is to do things quickly. Hopefully I can learn to slow down, and gain some benefit from a slower pace. I have a need for something to keep me on an even keel, to be less emotional, not as worried.

I also found I was stretching some of the moves further than intended. I think that comes from having done some yoga. Tai Chi is not an activity in which you push your limits of flexibility; it is quite the opposite. I will have to make that adjustment.

I think I will continue through the beginner course and see what comes of it, and whether I want to join the continuing program. I would still really like to join a yoga class, but haven't managed to make it important enough to research where to go/when it is/etc.

Monday, February 25, 2008

New Passport

Since I got married and changed my name, I've been going through the process of changing all of my documentation to reflect my new name. It is not a task I have enjoyed because it has been taking up a lot of my time and can be frustrating to deal with many offices full of bureaucracy.

Today's name change task is dealing with my passport. I had been delaying the update because of my travel schedule. Your passport must match your ticket in name, so I had to keep my passport in my maiden name until I stopped traveling long enough to surrender it and get the update.

Until recently, you could have your new married name pasted into your passport as an "observation" until it expired and you had to reapply. In the last couple of years (well after 9/11) the Canadian gov't decided they would no longer follow this process, and instead are forcing married women to reapply from scratch.

I do not agree with this new policy, and I believe it is an effort by the gov't to squeeze even more money out of me by making me pay the $87 again, when my passport is only 2 years old. Why don't they offer the option of having me appear in person at a government office, providing all of my documentation, verifying that I am who I say I am, and that I have a new last name? As long as my married identity is verified by an official, why clog the system with an innocuous married name change? What was so bad about the "observation" that it had to be done away with?

So here I sit, following this dumb rule, and will take about an hour for me to be seen. At least they are playing 80s music in the waiting area. I may start karaokeing soon.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Happy [legal] Anniversary

A year ago today, John and I went to the Orange County Courthouse and got married (for the first time). Happy legal anniversary, honey. I love you.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Trying something new

I've decided to step out of my comfort zone (read: the couch) tonight and am going to try Tai Chi. The NB Museum is hosting a session in the Hall of Whales, so I am going to go out and give it a try. John used to do Tai Chi before his instructor moved away, and may want to pick it back up again when he moves here. I thought I would go and see what it was like and if it's something I might want to pick up.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Family Day

Apparently yesterday was a holiday in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Ontario: "Family Day". Basically an excuse to have a day off between New Year's and Easter, and it coincides with Presidents' Day in the US. Manitoba celebrates Louis Riel Day. For the rest of the country (BC, Que, Atlantic), it was business as usual.

My first thought is that the name of the holiday is lame. There was discussion for quite a while on having a national holiday around February, but I thought it was intended to be Prime Ministers' Day (similar to the thought behind Presidents' Day). I don't think having an extra day off will really allow all families to spend more time together. People have Good Friday off and don't recognize Christ's death and sacrifices, so I guess it ends up equal in that respect.

What really peeves me is that Ontario made this a provincial statutory holiday, yet they don't have a stat for Remembrance Day (Nov 11, Veterans' Day in the US). Every day should be "family day". Why doesn't Ontario care to recognize the efforts of the people who fought for our freedom through a paid holiday and the closing of businesses to allow for a time of reflection?

If Family Day encourages some families to spend more time together, great. I'm not discouraging the thought behind the "holiday". However, I think Ontario doesn't have its priorities in order. We may not have our current families if it weren't for the sacrifices made on behalf of those who fought for our country. In my mind, giving thanks and remembering the efforts of others is more important than designating a day for families, when that should already be an everyday focus.

Monday, February 18, 2008

SoCal trip

I had a good, though short, trip to SoCal. It was cooler than the last 2 years I had been there in February, so I didn't end up packing very well. It was more like fall in SJ, so instead of the tank tops, I needed long sleeve t-shirts instead. I ended up repeating clothing a lot.

I arrived at lunchtime on Wednesday. John took me home, dropped off my luggage, discovered the Valentine's Day flowers had arrived a day early, and we decided to go to Olive Garden for lunch. Very yummy, as usual. I only managed to stay awake until 8pm that night.

Thursday I had totally to myself as John had to work. I stayed in for most of the morning, doing laundry, watching some How I Met Your Mother (I had downloaded the episodes a while ago to have for this trip), and waiting for the rain to pass through. Hearing how much rain we got at home, I was pretty worried about my basement. I had my mother drop by and check on it. I thought I was doomed, but thankfully there was only a small amount of water that came in under the door. After the rain stopped, I walked across the street to In N Out for lunch, but ate light due to the upcoming supper where I knew we'd be having a larger meal. I did a little bit of shopping in the afternoon, picking up a couple of electronic things which were much cheaper/better at Radio Shack than at The Source. Now I can use my own headphones on Air Canada flights, and I got a new, better battery for my old cordless phone that I finally placed in the basement. No more running for the phone when I go downstairs to tend to the fire.

Thursday night's dinner was at Claim Jumper, basically a nicer version of Outback Steakhouse. John had steak and I had prime rib, very good. They have honey butter with biscuits, and I had a chocolate cupcake for dessert. I was stuffed, but the meal was very good.

Friday was a half day for John. I took the morning and walked across the street again to pick up a couple of kitchen items for me & my brother. John and I went to El Pollo Loco for lunch, then over to Sam's Club. John bought an atomic clock, a tax book and some chocolate bars for a co-worker (hard time finding them elsewhere). After that we headed to Main Place mall, where I finally managed to score a spring trenchcoat, and a shirt I had waffled on at xmas but was now $5.99. I thought I had stumbled on a sale on pants, but didn't include activewear, so I ended up ditching both pairs of pants.

Saturday was church day, and we had planned on going to see a movie at the $1.50 theatre. Little did we know that theatre would have 2 giant lines, so we opted to go home and watch more HIMYM instead. John has been watching the show from the start and encouraged me to pick it up. I'm glad I did, it's really good. Still think it could have had a better title though. That's what kept me away in the first place.

Sunday we had breakfast at Denny's, then caught the first show of Michael Clayton at 12:25pm. The place was packed. For a movie about to be released on DVD in two days, I was surprised. The movie was good, but we agreed that it wasn't in the same league as No Country For Old Men.

I spent some time reading outside on Sunday afternoon as I was feeling the need to enjoy outside as much as possible. It's depressing to think that I won't be able to abandon my winter jacket for another 2 months. Being outside without freezing my butt off is a novelty John hasn't had to adjust to yet.

So here I am, flying home again. The thing I miss most about flying from pre-911 era issues is being able to bring a bottle of water with me through security. I wonder if they will ever relax that rule.

The battery in my laptop barely lasted over an hour, so no more TV for me until I get another charge. The person in front of me put their seat back, making it really difficult to use the laptop anyway. I made sure I whacked into the seat as much as possible for giving me such little space to work with (yeah, I know, passive-aggressive). I am in a window seat today, and I dislike those. I hate making everyone move when I need to use the bathroom.

Looking forward to getting home and being back in my own bed. Not looking forward to freezing and going back to work. Or getting stuck in Montreal if the high winds keep delaying my flight. Such is life.

Yay, travel

This trip almost didn't happen. The original plan was to leave SJ on the 11th, fly to Tampa, attend meeting on Tuesday, leave Wednesday from Tampa to go to SoCal, returning home on the 18th. Unfortunately, luck mistook me for my husband the day I left.

I left my house knowing that my flight was 25min late. Ok, no problem, I have a 3 or 4 h wait when I get to Toronto, plenty of time. When I arrived at the airport, there was a long line of people waiting to be rebooked for the Toronto flight. It had been delayed again, this time until approx 1:30pm. I was going to miss my connection for Tampa, and there weren't any other flights for the rest of the day. I ended up getting rebooked on a flight to Orlando instead. I tracked my Dad down to see if he could drive me from Orlando to Tampa.

My flight was then delayed even further. It turned out to be mechanical difficulties, combined with waiting on the tarmac in Toronto for 1h20min for fuel. If I missed my meeting, there was no point in even going to Florida at all - my options were best left to either staying home or flying straight to SoCal on vacation. Problem was, work paid for my whole ticket. It was cheaper for them to pay for my vacation leg of the flight than to fly me to Tampa and back. If I missed the work portion of the flight, I couldn't justify to my boss having him pay for my vacation flight. I had to find out if my ticket was refundable. Normally it wouldn't have been, but because the issues were mechanical, they would have refunded the whole ticket. Great for work, but no vacation for me.

A last-ditch effort by the Air Canada agent had me rebooked on a routing through Toronto then Chicago and down to Tampa on another airline. Ok, great, I'll make it to the meeting after all. I got to Toronto and had an hour and a quarter to check in at the United desk, getting boarding passes for substitute flights, and then clear customs. Waiting through the United line wasn't going so well, so I cut over into the first class line and explained that I just needed my boarding pass, here are my vouchers. I got those, and then ran for baggage claim. I waited a ridiculous amount of time for my bag (it came onto the belt about 30min after I got off my flight) and ran to the customs line. The customs agent let me through, and I ran for security. Little did I know that I was "randomly selected" for extra security search. Random my ass - all 3 of us who skipped into the first class line got dinged for extra security. I got through that as fast as I could, ran for my gate (I still have a broken toe, as you recall) and made it just as the last few people were boarding. I got on the plane, we pulled away from the gate, and I thought it was ok... until the captain came on and said that we missed our scheduled departure time and now had to wait on the tarmac until we got another gate or were allowed a new departure time. At least an hour. I wanted off that plane - if I wasn't going to make my connection in Chicago, I wanted to get back on Air Canada and fly straight to Tampa.

We ended up being stuck on the plane on the tarmac for an hour or so, and then left for Chicago. By now I knew I would be missing my connection in Chicago to Tampa, and was really upset about the prospect of having to stay overnight in Chicago where I don't know where to go. I landed in Chicago, and good luck finally struck. My Tampa flight was also delayed, due to weather. I ran for that gate and was able to board.

By this point, I was thoroughly convinced that there was no way my luggage would manage to follow my crazy flight and plane changes. I thought I'd arrive in Tampa but have nothing clean to wear. I landed in Tampa just after midnight Eastern, and seeing that pink bag on the belt made me thank God out loud that my bag had made it. We made it to Tampa.

The rest of my trip was, thankfully, uneventful. I flew from Tampa to SoCal without issue, and am now on my way back home.

This trip reconfirmed some things for me. I prefer flying through Montreal. Dash 8 planes seem to have fewer issues and can fly in bad weather better than the CRJs they use for Toronto. Also, my brother lives in Montreal, so if I get stuck due to weather, I have a place to stay.

I jinxed myself. The flight attendant just asked if there was a doctor on board. Didn't end up being anything serious. Now I'm in Chicago and my next flight is delayed due to high winds. Go winter travel.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Drink crystal update #3

I drove to Moncton yesterday on my drink crystal mission. I found the wholesaler, Rolly's Wholesale, without any trouble. I walked in, asked for the crystals, and the guy went with me to get them. He commented that I must really like my juice. I chuckled and told him my story, though he didn't seem all that interested. He also said that they had only recently begun stocking the crystals, but that they seemed to be selling a lot of them. A good sign for being able to get more again in the future.

I paid for the boxes and he carried them out to my car. As I was driving away, I said to myself, that doesn't seem like the packaging I saw at the store. The case of crystals at the grocery store was flat and wide. I wonder if I got one great big box full of crystals, not in individual packaging? At my next stop, I popped the trunk, opened one box, and voila: one giant box full of crystals. I laughed. I wanted crystals, I got crystals! It comes with a sheet of paper giving the mixing instructions, thankfully.

With this much product exposed all at once, I didn't think it was a good idea to store the crystals in the box long-term. When I got back to SJ, I stopped and picked up some plastic food containers for a better storage solution. Even though I drink the grape pretty much every day, it will take me a long time to work through all of this. It filled 3 containers, each of which holds 4.3L. That's a lot of crystals.

I ended up not buying enough containers, so I still have to get a couple more and do the orange crystals. I'll look after that when I get back from my trip. I may even find some different/better containers.

I mixed up a batch according to the directions on the sheet, but they do caution that you should add more or less mix, according to taste. My first batch needed a bit more mix, but it's ok for now. Next time, I think I will up the mix to 3/4 cup instead of 2/3. That seems closer to the amounts found in the individual envelopes.

So the crystals have been procured, and I'm happy to have the much better-tasting grape back again.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Drink crystal update #2

I promptly heard back from Crosby's this afternoon. They told me the information I received was incorrect, and that they do still produce all flavors of crystals. The wholesaler I spoke with earlier is actually a Sobeys company, so that's why they gave me the song & dance about not having it, but they lied about the fact that the company isn't manufacturing it anymore.

Crosby's suggested 3 possible wholesalers in the province who I could contact to see if they stocked the crystals, as he told me these companies did still purchase crystals from them. I picked the closest one, in Moncton, and gave them a call. My first question was whether or not they
sold to the general public, and they said yes. I then inquired about the crystals, and they said they have both flavors in stock. YAY!!!! I got their store hours and thanked them for the info. I then wrote back to Crosby's and thanked them for their info and help, and that the wholesaler would sell to me.

It seems silly that I have to drive to Moncton to purchase something that is manufactured 15 minutes from my house. However, I can get the product right away and not pay any further markup by going through a second store. Since I will likely be buying a case of crystals, it will last me a long time, and I won't have to make the trip repeatedly. Plus, I am often in Moncton for work or to go to Costco.

I am now making plans to see if I can drive to Moncton on Saturday to go to the wholesaler. I realize I could probably have had this solution earlier if I wasn't as accepting as I usually am, but better late than never.

Drink crystal update #1

Last year I blogged about how my drink crystals were disappearing from store shelves. After writing that blog, I decided to contact Crosby's directly and see if they could shed any light as to what was going on. Here's what they said:

Thank you for your e-mail regarding our Crosby Drink Crystals. We are still producing the drink crystals, however, in March Sobeys de-listed our drink crystals all together and Superstore has been gradually removing one flavour at a time from their shelves. Name brand products, such as ours, are slowly being replaced by no-name brand or "private label" products. The stores will tell you there brand is cheaper, however, they are the one who dictate the price on the store shelf, not the manufacturer. Sadly, there are no longer any stores in New Brunswick currently purchasing either of those two flavours and soon, I suspect, you will no longer be able to purchase any of our drink crystals. We are more than willing to supply any of the grocery chains with our crystals, however, once head-office delists an item even the store manager is unable to order it. Other than travelling out of province, about the only way you will be able to obtain our crystals is to have one of your local corner stores request the item from a wholesaler such as Trecartin Brothers as we are unable to supply small grocers directly. Thank you again for your customer loyalty and your concern.

I pondered this course of action for a while, but since I am somewhat irrationally afraid of asking for things that are not stocked, I hadn't pursued it any further. Lately though, I have been getting more and more fed up. I've found substitute brands, one from Co-op and one from Sobeys, but they just aren't the same. I miss the originals.

I got up the gumption today to call a wholesaler to see if they stocked the crystals before calling or visiting a corner store to make a request. The answer was somewhat surprising. The wholesaler told me they did have Orange, but didn't have Grape because it wasn't being manufactured anymore. Grape is the one I miss the most; the one I notice more difference between the original and the Co-op brand.

I decided to write an email back to Crosby's to confirm that this was true. If so, I guess my quest is over. The orange from Sobeys is close enough that I don't notice too much of a difference. I'll see what their answer is, and whether I have to make substitute grape a permanent change.