Thursday, 23 June 2011


- hydrangeas
- having Costco shopping in the fridge
- homemade mango vinegar drink
- productive evenings
- cooking dinner

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Wordless Wednesday - Our Garden

The vegetable planter in the front

and the hydrangea bush hiding a rather shy friend...

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Betty Fox

Does the name Terry Fox mean anything to you?

I can guarantee that it does to every Canadian. He was voted number two on the CBC's "Greatest Canadians" list. Those of us who went through the Canadian school system participated in annual Terry Fox runs. Most probably know his trademark hop-jump running style and have heard about the foundation his mother and brother set up after his death. Many may have even seen the movie about his life or can still sing the refrain to the earwormingly catchy song.

I was only two years old when Terry lost his battle with Cancer, but family lore says that I saw him - apparently we drove by him running along the highway one overcast and rainy day.

Years later I suddenly announced at breakfast that I wanted my mother, fighting her own battle with Cancer, to come to school with me that day, to attend a school-wide assembly. My mother questioned me about it, but I was embarrassed about explaining why. I couldn't put it into words but I remained firm in my desire to have her there. Amazingly patient, my mother believed her daughter and rearranged her schedule for the day so that she could attend the assembly.

My mother wasn't the only mother there that day. The guest of honour was Betty Fox, Terry's mother. She was there on behalf of the Foundation to personally accept a cheque for the large amount my school had raised in our annual Terry Fox run. She spoke briefly about Terry and his battle but I'm rather embarrassed to admit I don't remember much of what she said.

After the assembly ended I gave my mother a hug to than her for coming before I had to head back to class and she had to go back to work. I don't remember talking to her about it afterwards, again I was probably embarrassed to actually discuss the big 'C.' But over a decade later, after she too had lost her battle with Cancer, I found a letter she had written me after she went home from the assembly. In it she grumbled gently a bit that I had sprung my request on her, but thanked me for insisting she be there. She said that as somebody battling that horrible disease it meant a lot to her to be there, and she thanked me for sharing it with her. Hearing Betty Fox speak meant a lot to my mother, she was honored to be there.

It was that incident that I thought of yesterday when I heard that Betty Fox had passed away. She continued to be an advocate for Cancer funding right into her 70s - she was one of the flag bearers at the 2010 Olympics and she and her husband carried the torch into the stadium in the lighting ceremony for the Paralympics that followed. Although her son's dream of erradicating Cancer has yet to be realized, Betty did so much to raise awareness of the disease and funds for research. She, like her son, was a great Canadian.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Tears of Disappointment, Shame, and Pride

A week and a half ago I took a train into downtown Vancouver. I went shopping at a downtown mall and picked up omiyage gifts for U's family at the iconic Hudson's Bay store. It was a bright warm sunny day, although the mountains were hidden behind clouds, so I decided to walk along the waterfront to the Olympic fountain - which I heard had been re-lit to celebrate the Canucks and their run for the Stanley Cup.

Then I walked back to downtown, stopping at the big London Drugs to pick up snacks, and met a high school friend to watch game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals. She had camp chairs and we set them up right in front of her office building, in the huge crowd gathering in the middle of the street in front of one of the huge screens. As we got closer to game time more and more fans streamed into the area, and it was an AMAZING atmosphere. Everybody was in Canucks blue and green. We regularly got wiffs that proved BC weed was being consumed but there were no displays of public drunkenness or violence. There were families with young children, high school students, older couples, I could hear conversations around me in nearly half a dozen languages. It really seemed like the entire city had turned out to celebrate together. Just like I did during the olympics, I felt so lucky to be able to be in Vancouver to witness it.

While I enjoyed the atmosphere and the moment in general I didn't enjoy the game so much. Our boys lost, and lost badly. But the fans were good natured. A group of guys behind us started good-naturedly heckling those who were leaving early - ribbing them for being fair weather fans - but everybody was laughing and smiling. We had lost two games badly but in a few days the team would be back on home ice and we had confidence that our team could do it.

A week later and it was the final game of the series, winner takes all. An even bigger crowd is in the downtown area, near the arena where the game is underway. Tens of thousands of miles away a nagging fever has kept me home from work for much of the week and so I'm able to watch the game on a much smaller screen, all by myself.

Unfortunately, the hometown team disappoints once again. A record-breaking season ends in disappointment and the hopes of a city, of an entire country, dashed. It has been 17 years since my team has gotten this far, and I (along with much of the city of the Vancouver) was sure that this was our year.

But my tears of disappointment quickly turned to those of shame and shock as the TV coverage moved from that of the Boston Bruins celebrating on the ice to car fires and throngs of thugs rampaging through the streets. The live coverage was raw and shocking and I couldn't believe it was actually happening, not in the city that I love so much. But there it was.

Rioters smashing the big show windows of the Bay and making off with expensive bags and jewelry. Police cars being flipped and set on fire. Clouds of pepper spray filling the air and plumes of smoke rising to the sky. The tv announcer says in shock "Vancouver is burning!" The rioters move down the street and the windows of the London Drugs are smashed in as the rioters make off with armfuls of potato chips and electronics. I was sickened but I couldn't stop watching, disparing as a city I love was ransacked. (

I almost couldn't watch my regular Canadian news the next day - ashamed at what the Toronto-based program would have to say about Vancouver. But that was when my tears turned to those of pride as I learned about hundreds of volunteers - regular people from all walks of life and all ages - who turned out with brooms and dustpans, garbage bags and plastic gloves. They began to clean up the city and in doing so attempting to reclaim it as their own, not willing to let it be claimed by the thugs who had rioted the night before.

This outpouring has continued and grown. The windows of the Bay were boarded up and then the boards were covered - in handwritten messages. Messages expressing shame, shock, support for the team, and support for the city. Police cars parked nearby and throughout the downtown area were covered too - in post-it note messages of support and thanks.

That is the city I love. That is Vancouver. And I'm still crying.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Vancouver Loving

Its still Thursday here in Vancouver and there is plenty to love!

- watching game one of the Stanley Cup finals with my dad and aunt (and of course the home team scoring the winning goal with 14 seconds left in the game!!!!)
- grilled zucchini
- fresh cherries
- waffles
- making plans to see good friends (one from far away who just happens to be here on a research trip this week)
- packing up my mum's good china (and knowing that U will honestly be thrilled and touched when I unpack them in our kitchen)

Operation HB - Stage Four

I was about ready to give up on finding a good Chinese restaurant near us. U kept talking about two places near his work, but he admitted neither were very good... Then one day he mentioned he had spotted a new place on his drive home.

I wasn't keen about another meal of bad Chinese, but gave in as he seemed so excited. My apprehension deepened when we got to the neighbourhood and parked in a game center - walking between rows of pachinko machines to get back out to the street. I was about ready to turn around and leave when we walked into the restaurant. It was full of older drunk men - the restaurant featured course menus and all-you-can drink sets.

When we walked in a middle-aged woman bustled up to us and then dashed to the back of the restaurant and began clearing off a table in a frenzy. Given the half-drunk glasses of pop and piles of pokemon cards I guessed it was normally where the woman's son sat while his parents worked (a glimpse into the kitchen proved there was a single middle-aged man hard at work).

We ordered our usual - mapo tofu, boiled dumplings, and chicken with cashew nuts. The mapo tofu came out first - in a bowl that would have looked at home in a kitchen just about anywhere. And the contents? Tasted Luke a home cooked meal too. A GOOD home cooked meal. I took one bite and looked at U with a big grin. It was good. Nothing fancy, nothing special, just good (non-Japanese-ized) Chinese food. The chicken with cashews was similarly good, and the dumplings had a meaty skin that screamed hand-made.

Definitely not the place to have a fancy meal, and MILES away from the uber fancy hotel top Chinese restaurants so common here, but finally we had food somewhere for a good Chinese meal.

All of the groups of drunken men had staggered off by the time we finished and the son had reappeared and looked rather annoyed to find his piles of pokemon cards disturbed. The waitress gave us a big smile when she came to gather our plates, however, and I thanked her for such a delicious meal, commenting that we had been having trouble finding good Chinese. She positively beamed at me, and called through to her husband in the kitchen, relaying my comment in rapid-fire Chinese. He poked his head out through the curtain and nodded at me with a smile.

We went back to the game centre and U beat me in a game of table hockey before we, and our very satisfied tummies, headed home.