Saturday, April 30, 2011

Gnocchi

As part of my challenge to myself, I decided to cook a surprise dinner for Hilary tonight.  Never in a million years did I ever think I would make gnocchi from scratch!  I came across a great and easy recipe from The Cooking Photographer that sounded like even I could make it.  So I did!


 


In hindsight, I made them a bit too big and I couldn't conquer rolling them with a fork to get the traditional gnocchi shape.  But they tasted great!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Adoption Reading Challenge - Book 4

This is the fourth book that I have finished for the Adoption Reading Challenge that Jenna is hosting at The Chronicles of Munchkinland.  Be sure to follow the link through to read other people's book reviews.


Hunting Shadows is a great book written by an online acquaintance of mine, Dan Sandifer.  Dan is both an adoptee and a birth father, so this fictional story rings very true.  It is the story of a 14 year old boy, Hunter, who finds out he is adopted when he has to work on a genetics project for science class.   The story reminded me of my own issues with that same genetics project  The only difference was that I already knew that I was adopted.
Hunting Shadows takes us through the young boys journey of trying to find his birth parents.  From the uncooperative adoption agency that seems to just want to take his money, to the problem of sealed birth records, Hunter encounters one road block after another.   Hunter does have the love and support of his adoptive parents who are willing to do whatever they can to help Hunter find his past.  While I was reading the book I did find that this part of the story line seemed a bit over the top.  Even my own parents who had always claimed to be open and willing to help me search when I was ready, were nowhere near as open and enthusiastic as Hunter’s.  Dan acknowledges this in the afterward of the book, letting the readers know that the characters of the parents were very much based on his own experiences growing up.  It warmed my heart to know that there are adoptive parents out there willing to go that extra mile for their child and set aside their own fears.
The book has several characters in it that really give the reader as sense of the different ways people can react to adoption.  The librarian, an adoptee in reunion herself, who is willing to help Hunter and even meet with his Mom to help calm her fears about losing Hunter to his birth mother.   The temp Librarian who is an adoptive mother and feels that adoptees should be grateful for their luck and forget all about the horrible, loose, druggy parents that gave them away.  The hospital clerk who is ready to give Hunter his original birth certificate until she finds out he was adopted and then tells him all the records were destroyed in a fire.  As an adoptee, I have encountered all of these types of people, and some even more extreme in their convictions.
Hunting Shadows also deals with the emotional roller coaster that is searching and ultimately reunion - pain an adoptee can go through when their birth parent doesn’t want to meet them; the effects on siblings – both birth and adoptive; fear and uncertainty.  For such a short book, it covers a lot of ground!
I would highly recommend Hunting Shadows for everyone in the adoption triad.  It is a heartfelt firsthand account of what an adoptee goes through during search and reunion, and makes a great case for access to birth records, not keeping secrets and how open adoption could avoid a lot of the problems of reunion

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

You should really read the fine print...

before you board the aircraft.

It all started because I wanted to save a few dollars.  That always seems like a good thing at the time, but it's funny how often that can back fire on you.

We were going to be flying from Halifax to Toronto for Easter weekend.  Before I booked the flights I did my due diligence of price comparison from the 3 airlines that fly from here to there.  I made myself an Excel chart (cause I do everything in Excel) that allowed me to see times and prices for all 3 side by side.  And one carrier had the right times and the best prices.  Seemed like a no brainer. Of course it was for the newest airline to start flying from here to there, one that I had heard advertised on the radio at least once an hour for the last month.   I checked them out, they seemed legit and not likely to go under in the next 90 days.  So I booked the tickets and promptly forgot about it till it was time to go.

We left on Thursday.  We got to the airport, got checked in, got on our flight.  It was connecting through Montreal and everything was going along all tickety-boo.  One of this new airline's selling points is that they offer free beer and wine as well as free lunch and snacks on all their flights, something all the other airlines gave up years ago.  They also claim to have roomier, more comfortable seats.  We quickly found out that all these things were true.

Things were smooth sailing till we took off from Montreal and the pilot announced that due to a good tail wind we would be landing at Billy Bishop airport about 10 minutes early.  Odd.... Even though we live in Halifax, I thought it would have made the news if they had renamed Pearson International Airport.  Maybe they just renamed one of the terminals.  I chose to ignore it and continue to enjoy my free micro-brewery beer.  When we started our decent into Toronto and the name Billy Bishop Airport kept coming up, Hilary started to shoot me the "look".  You know the "look"?  The one that only one spouse can shoot to another?  Yeah, the "look" that says, boy howdy are you in a heap of trouble!  She leaned across the aisle and casually asked me "Where EXACTLY are we going?"  Somehow, my generic response of "Toronto" wasn't good enough.  That much she already knew, since the CN tower was outside our window.  I sheepishly got up and asked the stewardess which airport we were landing at.  Her answer was "Billy Bishop", but when she saw the confused look on my face, she added, "on Toronto Island of course".

Ooops

We had a car reserved at Pearson, which is on the other side of the city.  We were landing at 4:30 on the day before a holiday long weekend, in downtown Toronto.  On an island.  Luckily the airport is attached to the ferry terminal, and the island is actually only 400 feet from the mainland.  The airline also has a free shuttle that would take us from the ferry to a major downtown hotel.  Our options from there were public transit, taxi, limo or airport shuttle to get to the other airport and our car reservation, or hope to find a car rental place that still had available cars an hour before closing for a holiday weekend.   We had to do all of this while lugging 2 suitcases, 3 knapsacks, a booster seat and a tired, cranky kid who's ADHD medicine was starting to wear off.

We opted to try and rent a car, which we were able to do in Union Station.  To really help things along, the car was parked in a parkade 3 blocks away, accessible via underground walk ways.  Which of course were crowded with folks trying to get home from work.  The map they gave us was vague at best, but we eventually found the car.  We then managed to navigate our way through traffic and out of Toronto.  Good thing that we had both lived there once upon a time.

All in all it worked out.  We were a bit later getting to our destination then if we had flown to the "right" airport, but we made it.  What really bothered me was how I had made this seemingly glaring mistake.  You would think that if a city has more then one airport, that it would be rather obvious which one you were flying to when you book your tickets.  I went back on their website and the only indication of airport on the booking page is the 3 letter designation after the city name:  Toronto (YTZ).  Like I was supposed to know what that meant!  I don't know what the 3 letter code is for Pearson, other then it starts with a Y. (I just looked it up, it's YYZ).  They should really advertise these things a little bit better!

So let this be my warning to you... read the fine print (or at least the 3 letter codes!) before you board the aircraft.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Awesome Customer Service


I've worked in customer service for nearly 20 years.  I've done it, I've trained it, I've supervised it.  It's not that hard.  It really boils down to "Be nice to people" or "Treat people the way you want to be treated".  So when I encounter exceptional customer service I feel the need to shout it out.   To me, exceptional customer service is going above and beyond.  It's not remembering to say thank you, or maintaining eye contact with me while we talk.  Too many people have come to accept those moments as the exceptions since as a society we have stopped expecting great customer service.

Applebee's here in Halifax gets my shout out for EXCEPTIONAL customer service.  Hilary and I took advantage of having rented a car last weekend to treat ourselves to some take out food from somewhere that we can't normally get when we are car-less.  Our order was fairly straight forward:  A burger and fries for Hilary and a salad with a side order of garlic mashed potatoes for me (cause garlic mashed potatoes ROCK).  I confirmed over the phone that it was an extra side of potatoes.  I confirmed again when I picked up the order that they had indeed rung in fries for Hilary and mashed potatoes for me.  They had.  I left a happy customer, dreaming of my mashed potatoes.

You know where this is going right?

When I got home and unpacked the food, the kitchen had gotten it wrong!  They had Hilary's burger with mashed potatoes and no fries were to be found. I called them to let them know and to vent some of my frustrations that the order was wrong after having checked it twice.  They offered to make a new serving of fries and I could go pick it up.  Thanks, but no thanks.  With gas prices these days, and the fact that it would take me another 20 minutes to get there and back, I wasn't willing to do that.  I didn't expect them to rush me over some fries, or really do anything, other then hear my complaint and maybe double check things for the next guy.

Instead I got transfered to the manager as the first person I spoke to was concerned that they couldn't solve my problem.  The manager was great.  He heard my concerns, he didn't make excuses, he tried to fix it.  And in the end he got my address so that he could send me something to say sorry that my dining experience with them was not exceptional.  

I never expected a gift certificate for $25.00 to make up for the fact that we were missing $2.99 fries!

Way to go Applebees!  That is some exceptional customer service!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

My light box

I figured if I was going to take this new hobby seriously, I needed to have some of the "toys".  But when I priced out a light box at a photography store I knew I was in trouble!  Google to the rescue with a DIY light box.  It took me about 30 minutes to get it put together and another 30 to find the lights buried at the back of the closet!




Our ironing board doubles as our craft table and has various other usages, none of which include ironing.


The grass is actually a piece of scrap booking paper. The options are endless, but I did find that a solid white background worked best (check out yesterday's soup)

Now I just have to find somewhere to keep the box that the cats can't get it, or I'll be replacing the tracing paper every time I want to use it.

Monday, April 18, 2011

My first dinner


I made a Coconut Curried Sweet Potato soup  for diner tonight.  It turned out well, though I had to thin it out with more stock then the recipe called for. It would have been really nice served with Naan, but was quite yummy on it's own.  It was super easy to make too, which was great for my first dinner.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Daring a new hobby

I love taking pictures.  To the point that Liam just rolls his eyes and makes faces at me any time he sees me with my camera.   So after I got my new camera at Christmas, I decided I would expand my picture taking to things that can't complain!  I even started a second blog, Today's the Day I Photograph, where I post pictures that I think are post-worthy.

I really enjoy taking pictures of food, and the great thing is that there is often new and unusual food things happening in my house.  I have a lot to learn about staging and lighting, but for now I'm having fun with it.

Hilary made a comment the other day that has set the hobby ball rolling in a new direction.  She said that I should also do some more cooking so that I have more things to photograph.  Hilary has always done the bulk of the cooking for our family, simply because she is much better at it then I am.  She is confident, she can touch raw meat and she understands which flavours go well together.  Left to my own devices, I wouldn't starve, but it would be pretty bland (and probably vegetarian) fare.

I've decided to embrace the challenge!  Since I can't just look at an ingredient and be inspired to whip up something awesome I needed some help.   I had already been checking out photoblogs for food, like Taste Spotting to see how other peoples pictures looked. While I was surfing around there I came across some recipes that I liked and felt I could make.  I'll be doing my first one tonight! It's a surprise for Hilary, so I'll share tomorrow what it is and how it worked out.

I then came across another website, The Daring Kitchen.  Once a month they post a recipe challenge, and you have till the 14th of the following month to cook it, photograph it and blog about it.  They also have a Daring Bakers challenge, but since I am already comfortable with baking I signed up for the Daring Cooks challenges.  I should be getting the first challenge later today.  If all goes well, I'll be posting the reveal on May 14th.

I'm excited to see where this new hobby takes me!  Now I just have to make myself a light-box, and I'll be all set!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Yeah!


Having struggled for so long with reading and learning disabilities, it's a wonderful thing to see Liam buy a book and sit and read it on his own (and ask for a pen to fill in the questionnaire parts)!