Sunday, March 27, 2011

I've Moved

Hi Folks!

I have moved my blog over to Wordpress. Please visit me at my new pad & follow me there since I've so far been unsuccessful at easily transferring my "Followers" there.

See you soon……..

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Ray Of Sunshine

Well I'm still alive folks! I've been completely swamped under work and committee deadlines for the past couple of weeks, so all things non-priority have pretty much taken a back-burner in the meantime. Thankfully for my sanity I am emerging slowly from the ashes - the deadlines have all been successfully met, & I am beginning to see the light again. Hopefully I can resume blogging over the weekend.

I just came across this list of "74 Simple Things You Can Do To Brighten Your Spouse's Day" on my RSS list though & thought I'd share it with you all. It never hurts for any of us to even just be reminded to say something positive to our partner.

Those aeroplane pretzels ARE good for something after all!

1. Simply tell her one thing that makes her special to me!
2. I could surprise my husband by taking him to the Irish Festival this afternoon. 
3. Texting him at work and keeping him from getting bored in the minutiae of the day.
4. Declutter the bedroom 
5. Take the kids to the park while they are on Spring Break and let her have a nap.
6. Tell her how much I’m glad I married her (married 20 years).
7. I could have the house clean and dinner ready when he comes home after his long day at work 
8. Give him an encouraging note or email during the day.
9. Compliment her via text every hour on the hour all day!
10. I took the kids because she was sick. That way she could rest.
11. One thing I could do to brighten my spouse’s day is to buy her some flowers.
12. Dinner. Then dishes. She loves that!
13. A simple thing I could do (and actually just did!) to brighten his day is give him a call, unexpectedly, just to tell him I love him & wish him a great day 
14. One simple thing I can do?  Compliment her sincerely on something specific with her appearance.
15. One simple thing I could do to brighten her day is let her sleep in and get the kids ready for school.
16. I could call him and tell him I love and miss him while he’s at work.
17. My husband is easy. Smile at him and say, “I appreciate you, honey!” makes his day. I know I look grumpy much of the time with stress, pain and worries. I don’t smile enough. So when I do, it makes a difference!!
18. A simple thing I can do to brighten my husband’s day is a phone call to simply remind him that I love and appreciate him.
19. One thing I can do to brighten my husband’s day is to watch the BYU basketball game with him!   Go Cougs!
20. Send him a text message telling him what I’m looking forward to about our night tonight (especially if physical!) 
21. A three-minute hug.
22. Give her flowers for no special reason at all – apart, of course, from saying she’s the love of my life.
23. I could send him a text message letting him know I’m thinking of him & offer support as he prepares for his final exam tomorrow!
24. I could bring him coffee in the morning, pack his lunch and make his favorite dish for dinner.
25. Empty the dishwasher before I leave for work.
26. Call him and leave him a special voice mail!
27. Greet him by dropping my work bag and showering him with hugs and kisses…for the rest of the evening!
28. A quick 5-10 minute back rub can turn my wife around if she has had a bad day (or make her day great if she is having a good day already).
29. To brighten my wife’s day, I can clean the bathroom. She hates to do it!
30. Sending him a daily email while he is deployed with thoughts and moments from my day and letting him know I love him and I am proud of him.
31. I will give him a massage tonight, just because, without him having to ask.
32. Tell my wife how much I appreciate all she does for me, the kids and our home and that I pray for her constantly.
33. Send a text message of the kids saying Hi and that we love him!
34. Clean the toilets.  Sexy, huh?  Depends what I’m wearing while I do it – like a smile, for instance.
35. I could draw funny faces on the eggs in the refrigerator.  =)
36. One simple thing I could do to brighten my husband’s day TODAY is locate a copy of Boondock Saints for us to watch!
37. I can have dinner ready and a cheerful disposition when he comes home from work.
38. I could get out of bed on time so we can get the kids ready more quickly and not make him late for work (being late is his pet peeve and I push the limits every day).
39. To brighten my wife’s day I make her coffee in the morning.
40. Practical: Put away the laundry. Fun: Make out session.
41. I can tell him that I appreciate him and everything he does for us.  Sometimes I get in the habit of complaining about what he’s not doing, and I forget that telling him what he is doing is 10 times more important!
42. To brighten my spouse’s day I will wake up cheery, not grumpy and tell him how much I love him and how much he means to me.
43. Have dinner waiting for him when he gets home.
44. Drop by his office with a cupcake from the shop across the street on my lunch break.  Just so he knows I’m thinking of him.
45. Make Rice Krispie treats
46. My husband works night shift, so I buy a Red Bull (his fave pick me up) and put it in the fridge for him when I get in. 
47. Do his laundry while I’m working from home today!
48. I can thank him for his awesome management of our finances and his hard work to pay off our student loans so that we can start a family!  
49. Put a Love note (post it) on his computer screen.
50. When he came out of the bedroom to head to work (we were running late coming back from crew practice) – I had his toast ready, hot water in his tea thermos, and the tea was almost completed….
51. One thing I can do is let her know that I love through notes left around the house, emails, or flowers.
52. Say “I love you”.
53. Thank him for his support as I face challenges.
54. I will look at my wife’s eyes, give her a kiss and say I LOVE YOU.
55. One simple thing I sometimes do is pre-toothpaste his toothbrush.  It saves him just like 4 seconds in his morning routine but when I do it I always hear him say “awww” from the bathroom.  Haha.  It’s silly, but it’s something.  
56. I had to work today at our church office, and he has been away since Monday.  He’ll get home before me – so I have some delicious corned beef and cabbage cooking in the crockpot, so we he walks in the door he’ll be greeted with love cooking in the kitchen!
57. I can make him a cup of coffee. I love it when he does it for me.
58. Make him his favorite brown bread… and have it come out of the oven as he comes in the door.
59. Make him his lunch before he goes to work 
60. Be sure that your eyes light up when you see her.
61. Let him sleep in!
62. I could give my husband a back massage. I think I will. 
63. Today, I will keep my three year old awake in the afternoon, when he would normally want to nap.  This means an earlier, easier bed time for him, and more time in the evening alone for my husband and I.  I know he’ll really appreciate that, especially on a Friday.
64. To brighten my spouse’s day, I could write him a love letter telling him why I married him, and why I love him!
65. All I did was ask him if there was anything I could do for him today.  I have never done this before, but I wanted to let him know that I am here for him and I want to help him if he needs something.
66. I make my husband his favorite dinner and make sure to have warm water in his glass (his prefrence) when he gets home from work.
67. Wash the dishes…Naked!!!
68. Pray with him in the morning.
69. Clean the house
70. I do my best to write a quick love note on a sticky note and hide it somewhere that my wife will find it each day.
71. Write an encouraging sticky note for him to find when he gets in his truck to go to work!
72. Something unexpected that she usually does, like perhaps cleaning a bathroom?
73.Drive her to the training the morning and pick her up at the end of the day.  It’s always exciting to see her get off the train and come home with me.
74. The one thing I can do is set his slippers out by the couch when he comes home from working all night so he doesn’t have to go into the bedroom to get them before he relaxes for a while.

This list came from a post at If you haven't checked it out yet, it often shares some interesting relationship posts. 

What other things do you guys do to spread the love with your partner? 

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The NZ Lowdown 6: Fiordland (Part II)

The Spectacular Milford Sound

Our day was off to an early start. Actually, earlier than necessary, because a small pattern had begun to emerge. Like many men, M has a TV addiction. And the remote control serves as an accessory appendage for him. By now, each morning has begun earlier than required, with some cricket on TV. And likewise no bedtime had swung around without cricket highlights from the day. This was all quite bewildering to me due to his acute revelation on Day 1 of our trip!  

But anyway, the real purpose of our early start for the day was a guided day tour - the major focus being a cruise on Milford Sound. Our guide Andrew (oddly, a Welshman!) collected us at our hotel & a small group of us made the drive up from Te Anau to Milford Sound, stopping off occasionally at a few locations en-route for photo opportunities.

Milford Sound forms part of the Fiordland National Park (a World Heritage Site), and is reportedly the most famous tourist destination in NZ, in spite of its remote location on the southwest side of the South Island - literally at least 1-2 hours from anywhere. It is really something else to witness - Rudyard Kipling even described it as "The Eighth Wonder Of The World". It's actually a fiord, although was originally, wrongly named a sound by Captain Cook when he charted the area back in the 1770s.

In spite of the gorgeous weather the day before, our Milford Sound day was characteristically wet - the Fiordland National Park region experiences tremendous annual rainfalls, apparently on about 200 days or more of each year!  Nevertheless though, the scenery was spectacular, & I imagine it wouldn't matter what kind of weather you visited this region in - each would bring its own, special mood to the region. I found the low clouds very mysterious during our cruise - very moody indeed.

Moody Milford Sound

We also saw plenty of wildlife during the trip - especially colonies of NZ fur seals on the rocks at the side of the water. They were thankfully completely unimpressed by the numerous boats cruising up and down the sound.

Basking NZ fur seals 

Mitre Peak is one of the most photographed mountains in the country - typically you'll see photos of it on clear blue sky days when it is reflected brilliantly in the water below. Our weather didn't allow us this privilege, but it still looked formidable, rising almost a mile out of the water into the clouds.

The famous Mitre Peak

M stole my small camera. A few hundred photos later…...

The Lesser-Spotted Brit!

We cruised along the sound for a couple of hours - it's about 16km long & opens out into the Tasman Sea - and on our moody weather day, you can imagine how rocky the sea was when we reached it. Quite a ride, let me tell you! But one of the benefits of the area's terrific rainfalls is that they really accentuate the waterfalls that fall from the sheer cliff faces rising either side of the sound. 

The waterfalls were especially spectacular due to the day's rainfall
After a bit of lunch and some coffee on the boat, we finished our cruise & met up again with our tour guide, & our small group drove south back toward Te Anau, with a few more stops en-route for yet more photo opportunities. 

More moody mountainous terrain on the drive back to Te Anau

Another stunning waterfall captured on the way home, off Milford Sound Highway

More scenes from the journey home.
Still moody, but a little sunshine tried to break through by early afternoon

After we dried off back at the hotel, we decided to take a drive over to the Te Anau Wildlife Centre - a great little place to visit. We were lucky enough to see a rare, flightless takahe - a chunky bird that looks like a big blue chicken with a stout red beak. These fellas were thought to be extinct for the longest time, until a few pairs of them were spotted in the mid 1900s on the Murchison Mountains. They look a bit like bigger versions of the not-so-rare pukeko - and birds like this are thought to have been ancestors of the takahe.  

A pukeko (left) and a takahe (right)

Afterwards we were feeling pretty exhausted to be honest, it had been a long day, although great fun and eventful. I should say that in addition to his cricket habit, M had begun to develop quite a taste for fast food "Commonwealth style" -  pasties, meat pies, and fish & chips had become something he'd beg for each day!  So for dinner I gave in to his addiction & we headed out so he could get his fish & chip fix for the day! 

He was also quite taken by the newspaper wrapping!

In spite of the day's amazing scenery, I think this was the bit of the day that he treasured the most.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The NZ Lowdown 5: Fiordland (Part I)

After breakfast next morning, we said a sad goodbye to the lovely Queenstown scenery & drove southwest to spend a couple of days in the Fiordland National Park region.

Te Anau Was Our First Port Of Call
The weather was beautiful yet again all day - I think this was actually the warmest day of our trip, it was 80 degrees Farenheit, with an amazingly blue sky - just perfect.  We checked into our hotel - a few hours early again, but once more without any hassle from the reception desk - and then we took off into the town to explore a little.

Lunch was followed by a drive around the lake & a little walk around town. And there may have been an ice cream stop at some point too! We'd also decided to take a tour of some Glowworm Caves in the region, so that trip pretty much occupied our afternoon.

The trip began with a cruise across to the western shore of Lake Te Anau. This is the 2nd largest lake in NZ by surface area, & it is beautiful, especially on a bright, sunny day like we were lucky enough to experience. It was so peaceful cruising across & enjoying the scenery aroundabout, as well as seeing all the jet-skiers in action as they'd rush into the wake of the ship to catch some great waves.  

The beautiful Lake Te Anau

The tour company took us to their Cavern House when we disembarked on the shore - that's the only thing there, except for the underground cave world that we visited next! They had a really informative & interesting set of displays there for tourists to see while waiting to take one of the small boats into the caves. Plenty of information about the life cycle of glowworms, as well as the history of the caves. And they had the obligatory coffee & snacks that never fail to make me happy! 

The shore in front of the Cavern House

Small groups of about 14 of us at a time would then go off on a small boat with a guide to travel a little distance in the limestone caves. It's quite a spectacle - the cave labyrinth is amazing to experience as you walk through a small part of it to reach the boat. There's a fair bit of stooping & bending necessary in order to navigate the caves along the way, & the roar of the rushing water around you is phenomenal to hear. Very powerful.

Photography isn't allowed in the caves since the flash would compete with the light from the glowworms, and therefore prevent us seeing what we'd gone there to see! The glowworm lights are such simple things, but quite special to witness. At least for me anyway. And especially with the roaring water to boot. It all seemed so paradoxical in some ways - the water was so fierce & loud, and yet the glowworm lights were so tiny, delicate & peaceful. Very magical.

More beautiful scenery around Lake Te Anau

Once we returned to Te Anau we went off in search of goodies. Since it was such a gorgeous day we'd decided to make full use of it, as well as our surroundings, & so a picnic was in order. We'd scoped out a quiet spot on the lake earlier on our drive, so once we were armed with paper plates, glasses from the hotel room, wine, cheese, meats & crackers, we drove out there again. Once the wine was being chilled (in the lake!), we started snacking!

Lakeside snacking

Afterwards we decided to catch an early night back at the hotel - the next day was due to be an early start for us as we headed north to Milford Sound.

We'd had a perfect day though.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Fruits Of Our Labor

The Designated Donor
On Monday when I left NY, we packed my car full of as much of the weekend's unpacking as possible - I was the "DD".

Bags of Tricks

Usually that acronym means I'm the alcohol-free driver for the night. Or that I'm in charge of doing the Dunkin' Donuts run for coffee & hot chocolate.

In this case, however, I was the Designated Donor - a title that I'd bestowed upon myself, I must admit. Control freak that I am, I was pretty sure that if I didn't evacuate as much as possible from the house, that it would somehow find its way into M's permanent collection before my next visit.

We'd bagged clothing separately from other items like bedding, pillows, blankets & towels. Then after work on Tuesday evening I did a DD run. "Buddy Dog Humane Shelter" in Sudbury, MA are the proud new owners of 8 huge trash bags filled with the bedding & towels etc. And our local Salvation Army were more than keen to relieve my car of the other 7 bags filled with clothes.

I think it's becoming increasingly uncommon now for people to just throw away clothes - I'm sure I speak for most of us in saying that it's probably a natural thought process to donate unwanted clothing. But it might not be second nature to think that way about old bedding & towels.

As a veterinarian, I know first hand how animal shelters always cherish donations of bedding, towels & the like. So don't throw out your old stuff folks - I guarantee that even if you don't think it's fit for your bed or bathroom any more, it'll be welcomed with open arms by your local shelter.  If you don't have one close by, you could even try your your local veterinarian's office, or "doggy daycare" type establishments too - they'll be put to great use!

Don't you just love the feelgood experience when you donate things that you no longer need?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Boxed In

I was fortunate enough to have today off work, courtesy of Presidents' Day, so I'd driven up to upstate NY for the long weekend to see M. Since he has just relocated up to the "North Country" region, we'd signed a lease for a townhouse up there, & he physically moved in on February 1st, with just a couple of car-loads of belongings at that time. Sadly, however, the removal company delivered the rest of his life there last week. He warned me in advance that the whole downstairs area was completely filled with boxes, but I really wasn't quite prepared for the true extent of the carnage until I was face to face with the demons!

The floor space here was really the only free space available downstairs!

My heart sank when I walked in & saw all the boxes.  I already knew that M was a hoarder, but I wasn't quite fully prepared for the full extent of it, & I knew it was going to be a very "long weekend"! M is a total procrastinator, although he does work well when motivated, & especially when he sees rewards from his labor. 

I knew that if we were going to make any real headway here, I was going to have to find some happy medium between lighting a fire under his ass & hanging back & making the purging seem like it was his idea.

I used to think I was a pack-rat until this past weekend. Does anyone else own 3 clothes irons? And truthfully, with all the kitchenware I opened, you'd think Martha Stewart lived there - and I reminded him of this as I was trying to break my way into the kitchen through the pizza boxes & empty Arby's bags…..

Dozens of the boxes were literally filled with paperwork just thrown into them - receipts, unopened magazines & newspapers from many years ago, photos, random things like pens, pencils, notepads. You name it, it was probably there. And in multiples of multiples. I didn't know how the weekend was going to pan out. 

The first day was a hard slog. You know how it feels when you start opening boxes after a move - you work for hours, & even though you feel the physical effects of your efforts, at the end of the day you really only "see" that a little bit of space has been cleared. So, for a couple of nights, even though I was able to get to the kitchen area to cook, we had no space to sit anywhere, so ate dinner standing against the counter. It usually takes a fair bit to get me to the point where I vocalize that I'm feeling overwhelmed by something, mostly because I tend to deal with stress by digging into the problem & trying to progress to reach some kind of resolution. By Friday evening, however, I was verbalizing my overwhelmed feeling. I felt like we were getting nowhere, & although I could see that boxes were being opened, I could also see that M was merely "relocating" their contents to different rooms! I did at least find some solace in our trash run though - we filled M's car with empty boxes & on our travels late Friday afternoon, we managed to find an empty dumpster to accept them! A small victory.

Oh & I was presented with some lovely flowers for my efforts too - what girl couldn't love a man who buys her flowers?

Bigger victories followed, however, and from day 2 onwards we managed to start making some serious headway. I don't know how it happened, but the purging began. Extra woks & other pans were allowed to be placed into a box for donation. Clothes were also allowed to be grouped into bags for donation too. I've seriously never known a man who owns so many clothes. I'd estimate that he owns about 10x the amount of clothes that I own, & I'm pretty sure that is an underestimation. And shoes. Jeezy peeps…..somehow I managed to get him to donate a box of old Army boots (about 12 pairs of them). And I lost count of the number of times I heard the phrase: "I've been looking for that!". Oh & let's not mention the 3 trash bags filled with (ancient) Army uniforms to donate. Many of which originated from his basic training days (M has been "Army" for 15 years).

Many of the boxes had actually never been opened in about 4 years - they'd been moved from IL to GA & never opened. Then they were placed in storage again while M was overseas last year, & there they remained until they were relocated up to NY last week. 

Sorry - I'm rambling now…...I can summarize the whole experience by telling you I was a little "in shock"! But I can also say that I was really proud of M for all the purging he did though. I understand completely how difficult it is to part with belongings, especially when you've been through life experiences that triggered some kind of "nesting" or "collecting" activity. But I could also tell that he really enjoyed seeing the fruits of his labor once he did start purging, & this kind of inspired him to continue (this shocked me too, I must say! I didn't think we'd purge half as much as we succeeded in dealing with). Although some things were clearly harder than others to part with, & were just sequestered away  - like his Boy Scout sleeping mat from a few decades ago. And what 35 year old man doesn't need a Chicago Bears lunchbag?

I suggested that the saved lunchbag should hopefully curb the fast-food runs!

Eventually we carved out enough space to be able to open up a table downstairs. It was wonderful being able to sit down to eat dinner. By this point, my catchphrase had become "Go" since I was sick & tired of opening bags & boxes of goodies with this phrase written on them. M was an Army recruiter in previous years, & still had a veritable collection of just about everything "Army" that you could wish for with that darn motto plastered on it. Pens, pencils, notepads, CDs, staplers, water bottles, T-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, computer mousepads, breathalizer sticks……..oh my word, I'm hyperventilating again just thinking about it…..but at least by Day 3 there were even some "Go Army" lawn chairs for us to sit on at dinner time!

Table For Two

Anyway, by the time I left this afternoon, we had made a total of 10 dumpster runs, & additionally had filled the downstairs bathroom with trash bags of clothes & bedding to donate. There were many other boxes to donate too. As well as the 3 trash bags & one huge plastic tote box filled with shredded paper, courtesy of the gazillion bank documents etc, that had been kept from back in the days pre-abacus. 

At least after 3 days of solid work we were both feeling pretty good with the results, especially as we'd managed to visit some furniture stores over the weekend too, & had chosen some things. So yesterday we did a trash run, purged a heap of boxes & trash, & then headed to the furniture store to order a sofa, some chairs & a split box-spring that will be able to make its way up the stairs.  Then we warded off cabin fever by heading out for an afternoon drive. We headed out to Sackets Harbor & watched some loonies walking out on Lake Ontario to do some ice fishing!

Walking on Lake Ontario

Ah well, if you're still with me now, thanks! There may even be some community service hours in it for you…….it's been a stressful few days watching the boy purge & not-purge, but overall I'm really proud of him because I know how stressful it is allowing "things" to just disappear from your life.

I just spent 5 hours driving back to Massachusetts, & he's playing video games & has been very quiet. I think that sums up how he's feeling about it all!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Here's To Bacchus

Eat, Drink & Be Merry
It's been a stressful time recently since M has not only had to relocate his life to upstate New York in the past couple of weeks, but he's also been awaiting his final divorce settlement. The latter finally happened this past week, so it's been a big relief to both of us. Even though it obviously wasn't me going through it, I have been amazed at how it affected me emotionally too, just as the bystander. I don't think I've ever personally known anyone going through a divorce before. Anyway, it was quite draining on me even, so I'm not only relieved for him that it's over now & he can move on to the next chapter in his life, but also that I can kind of move on too.

I picked him up at the airport on Friday & we enjoyed some quiet time celebrating at home that evening.

We didn't do anything of any real excitement on Saturday, but we did celebrate our first Valentine's Day together - two days early, I know, but we won't get to see each other then, so we fast-forwarded a little! 

We'd talked about going out since M wanted to take me out for dinner, but then I suggested staying home & cooking, & eventually we decided on a fondue night. I haven't done any fondue-ing for quite some time - I think the last time I had fondue was about 3 years ago for a birthday celebration. And I certainly haven't played fondue-chef myself for maybe a couple of decades!

For Starters
We had a merry old time anyway - we started out with a wine-based, cheese & avocado fondue. I used Gruyere, Emmentaler & Comte cheeses, & that turned out delicious. If anyone is interested in trying it out, this was my simplified version of a few that I came across online:

- Mix together 2 mashed avocadoes, 2 tablespoons of cornstarch, 1/4 cup of sour cream
- Warm up 1/2 cup of dry white wine & gradually add 1lb grated cheese, & keep stirring 
- Gradually transfer in the avocado mix & continue stirring

Other herbs/spices can obviously also be added according to preference - garlic, black pepper etc. And you also add extra wine or cheese to the mix if you need it to be thinned or thickened. For dippers, we had beef, crusty bread & veggies, but naturally "anything goes" with fondue!

For Dessert:
When it came to dessert, I couldn't resist a recipe that was shared recently by Mommie Cooks on her fabulous site. I love all things chocolate, & you just can't beat Toblerone! Our dessert dippers included chunks of pineapple, melon & muffin! Delicious…..

We had a lot of leftovers since we were just a twosome for dinner, but I can assure you there will be no waste!