Thursday, December 30, 2010

Grocery Store Savvy

I'm still adjusting to the fact that every trip to the grocery store is an adventure (to look at it any other way would be dreadfully depressing ;o).  On my most recent trip I learned a few things that I need to remember for every trip in the future.  Here they are:

1.  Always look at the packaging.  Most boxes or cans are dented.  While it may not matter much to have a dented can of diced tomatoes, but can you imagine what the crackers look like inside the smashed box?
2.  NEVER buy the bottom row of bananas from the bunch.  In other words, grab the bunch and remove the 3 or 4 bananas on the bottom.  They may LOOK haft decent at the store but within a day the bottom ones will be BLACK.  Those poor bottom bananas suffer every bump on the plane and they stoically cushion the top ones.  We've been here 1.5 weeks and I have enough bananas in my freezer to make banana bread for a small army (thank goodness I have a small army!)
3.  Inspect how much dust is on top of the item of interest.  You don't have to be a genius to figure out that lots of dust means it's been there a long time.  While there may not be an alternative, at least you can lower your expectations as to how fresh the food will be.
4.  Rule of thumb:  If it's relatively healthy it will NOT be fresh.  The Fruit Loops probably came off the plane that morning but the plain-1g-of-sugar-Cheerios have been there since 1963.  The cans of Pepsi get restocked everyday but the Ocean Spray cranberry juice was part of last year's Christmas stock (how can I tell that the juice was old you ask?  The cranberry juice bottle was RED, the juice had been in the bottle for so long that the red pigment had time to penetrate the plastic thus staining it red.  Seriously, the next time you buy cranberry juice, you'll see, your bottle will be CLEAR.
5.  The grocery store closes very early EVERY night.  Closing time is 6pm most nights and 7pm on Fridays.  So now I really have NOWHERE to go in the evenings.  Great!  It was an outing that I looked forward to.  It was the ONLY outing that I looked forward to.  ;o)
6.  Meal planning needs to happen during the grocery store trip.  Planning a week's worth of meals beforehand is futile because the ingredients needed will not be there.  So walk in the store, scope what's available then think think think...  Or better yet, just buy what looks good and figure it out later (those of you who really know me will know that this is really difficult for me because I am such a planner).

It certainly takes some getting used to but I'm slowly getting the hang of it.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Eve Surprises

The reality of being so isolated hit me on Christmas Eve.  That, coupled with wanting to be home for Christmas (Selkirk, Ottawa or Halifax - one of those three would have been just fine!), made for a bit of a lonely day.  So I was DETERMINED to go to the Christmas Eve service.  I was going to get out!  Even if it meant being out way past my bedtime (the service was at 10:30pm), having to go all by myself, having to walk there and back, and sacrificing sitting down and watching Christmas Vacation with my hubby.  I needed to get out and try to meet people and more importantly I needed to spend some time with my King.  My attitude needed a facelift.

I arrived on time for the service and the church was nearly empty. Had I missed it? Nope!  I'm learning that people here are in tune with Ward family timing.  Everything starts at least 15 minutes late.  By the time the service started, 30 minutes late, the church was PACKED!!!  If that wasn't surprising enough, there were TONS of children.  Babies, toddlers, preschoolers all the way to teenagers and adults all piled on top of one another.

Ok, it's time for another list.  My Christmas Eve Service Surprises

1.  Sheer number of people
2.  High proportion and number of children
3.  The children were dressed in their BEST outfits.  I'm talking about frilly, sequenced or satin dresses for the girls and collared shirts, vests and even a few ties for the boys.  Even the babies were decked out in smashing outfits.
4.  How well behaved the children were.  I mean, they were well behaved for a typical church service but considering the double whammy that it was Christmas Eve AND that it was soooo late, they were sheer angels!  Now after discussing this at our Christmas dinner, I was informed that children here do not have routines - at all.  None of this 7:30pm bedtime.  Everyone goes to bed late and they all simply sleep in the next morning.  If they want to nap at 4pm, great, they can fill their boots!
5.  How LONG the service was.  I didn't get home until 1am.  I felt so guilty at times because there I was getting really tired and cranky thinking "is it over yet?", while the 2 year old beside me sat there on his dad's lap smiling...  OK if the children can sit through this long service on Christmas Eve in less than comfortable outfits (I imagine) than so can I!
6.  While I didn't understand a lot of it (only some of it was translated), it was a nice service.  I enjoyed singing Christmas carols in French or in English (depending on which language I remembered them in) while they sang them in Inuktitut.  Tears filled my eyes while witnessing beautiful older men dancing in the aisle and praising God.  I was especially touched by a seemingly poor dad and his young son.  I assume that they were poor because they were wearing nothing but dirty t-shirts.  This man however was so warm.  He clearly loved his son and was wonderfully tender toward him.  They sat in front of me and I really appreciated his warm smile, hearty handshake and "Merry Christmas" wishes.

I went back home tired, but the joy in my heart had been renewed.  One can be anywhere in the world but there is something special about meeting together with the body of Believers.  Hallelujah.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

My New Best Friend

Boxed Mashed Potatoes.  Yup you read me right.  Idahoan boxed mashed potatoes are my new best friend for the following reasons
1.  They are the fluffiest, creamiest and smoothest mashed potatoes I've ever had.
2.  They take MINUTES to make.
3.  They are SO much cheaper than buying a bag of potatoes.
4.  They are effortless.

Hali, my neighbour suggested that I start buying them to save money (not to mention to save myself the frustration of buying a bag full of rotten or soft potatoes).  She even suggested that I make them for our Christmas turkey dinner.  REALLY?  "You want me to bring BOXED mashed potatoes to our Christmas dinner?"  Yup.  Well, Brian and I were impressed.  Actually these boxed potatoes were a big topic of conversation at last night's dinner.  Now I'm sure that they are stripped of every nutrient because they are so refined and yadda yadda.  BUT at least there's an alternative.  A really decent one at that!

Now I don't suggest you bring these mashed potatoes as your contribution to the next potluck or get-together, unless you are very good at lying that is.  "Wow, these are the best mashed potatoes I've ever had!"  "Yes I know, it's my secret recipe...".  It just seems wrong to bring boxed potatoes to a Christmas dinner but there you have it, the girl who prefers anything made from scratch, provided BOXED mashed potatoes and we all LOVED them!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Inuit Cultural Tidbits

1.  Lifting up eyebrows (opening eyes wide) means "yes"
2.  Scrunching up the nose means "no"
3.  The Inuit grieve the death of a person as a community.  Last year someone committed suicide on October 30th and they cancelled Halloween.  Usually all businesses and stores will shut down until after the funeral - essentially, the community shuts down.  If one was to make a meal for the family, one would do so AFTER the funeral.  I am learning a few things about how the Inuit deal with death because a 3 year old boy was run over and killed by a truck that his father was driving.  If we had been here even a couple of weeks earlier we would have known this family since Nathan would have been in this little boy's preschool class and his older brother is in Kindergarden with Benjamin.  I've been trying to contact Leonie regarding the Christmas Eve service (to see IF there is one).  I imagine she has not been at her store this since she has not returned my call...
4.  The inuit children are so darling and interested.  Every time we go out, the children gravitate toward us and ask us our names (by now most of them remember us - but I've got my work cut out for me trying to remember all their names).  They stand right by us or follow us and stare.  They smile shyly and have meek dispositions.  Yesterday, Hali and I walked over to the grocery store with the kids (now THAT was an experience - see below).  Inside the store I met 3 siblings:  Brandon, Cassidy and Brianna (one of the girls was adopted but I never figured out which one).  Hali was telling me that Inuit children learn to take care of other children at a very young age so that I wouldn't be alarmed by their "fowardness" with my kids.  Well sure enough Brandon became Isaac's little guardian, following him, helping him when he fell in the snow, playing with him and even pulling him in the sled all the way home.  The girls helped with the older kids and one of them pulled the sled containing all the groceries also all the way home.
5.  Inuit people, for the most part, are very friendly.  While at the grocery store an older man missing many teeth scooped Isaac into this arm with a huge warm grin.  Well, those of you who know Isaac can picture the LOOK he gave him.  The man warmly started talking to him and within seconds Isaac was pointing at the cart and telling him something in his jargon.   I wanted to take a picture but wondered what the man would think.  I regret it now because I imagine he would not have cared.
6.  Safety is not the # 1 concern.  They do not wear helmets while on their quads or snowmobiles, they drive fast even with their kids on and even if kids are on the road (or the side of the road) they do not slow down.  This made me nervous yesterday.  There are no sidewalks and the roads are not clearly defined.  We had a bit of trouble figuring out where the safest place to be was.  If there was a child in the way they would drive around instead of stopping and waiting - Yikes!

Kids make everything more "interesting"

It once took my friend Jenna an entire day to make these beautiful alligator cookies.  They tasted great and looked fabulous.  Well, I'm not sure what our gingerbread cookies will look or taste like, but it's definitely going to take us all day to complete the process.  We (when I say "we" I mean myself and my 3 little, ahem, "helpers") managed to get the dry ingredients mixed before lunch.  Once Isaac was down for his nap, Benjamin, Nathan and I took advantage of our "alone" time to finish the batter.  I was just about to take the batter out of the refrigerator when my neighbour called to borrow the rolling pin (the one I had borrowed from her - along with the bowls, hand mixer, cookie sheet and whisk).  So now the baby just woke up and the cookies aren't rolled or baked (not to mention that the dough has probably chilled too much by now ;o)

Gotta go get my baby and I think that "my" rolling pin is at the door!

Cookies are rolled, cut and baked.  While doing all of that would have simpler while Isaac was napping, it certainly would not have been as funny.  Isaac, I think, is very smart (of course I think that I'm his mommy!) because he catches on to things VERY quickly.  Not 2 seconds into the process that he was right in there trying to pound the batter and using the cutters (even on cookies that had already been cut!).  Isaac was also my batter monster.  If he is sick with raw egg poisoning I promise you that I TRIED to keep him from eating the dough, but the little turkey grabbed every little morsel he could.  Not to mention that every time I turned my back he was on the table ripping pieces off the cookie sheet.  Benjamin and Nathan thought this was absolutely hilarious and of course that's all Isaac needed to keep going.

My little helpers also wrapped daddy's Christmas gifts this morning.  Well, Isaac managed to crumple every single last piece of wrapping paper, running away with the rolls a few times.  Then he ruined the scotch tape dispenser and also ran with scissors.  Benjamin and Nathan did a great job with their wrapping and I'm sure daddy will be sooooo proud.

Today, in my heart, was a bit of a sad day.  My church friends usually get together on Thursday mornings and here we were with nowhere to go and missing our dear, dear friends.  So this is what I took out of simply being home just the 4 of us:
1.  How thankful I am for my 3 rambunctious little boys.  They keep me busy, they make me laugh and while they make every activity one hundred times more complicated, they also make everything way more interesting (as long as I take the time, the patience and the right attitude to include them).
2.  It's going to be a LONG 4 years... (ha! just kidding!)
3.  It's not easy making new friends.  It's risky putting oneself out there and waiting to see what the "verdict" is.  I've never liked making new friends.  I am far too sensitive for the "I wonder if she likes" thing (besides I feel like I'm too old for this! ;o)  It's also very humbling to feel so needy and dependant on one single person because you have NO ONE else.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

3 days 'till Christmas

Last night I braved the store.  It took me 5 minutes to walk and I was back within 25 minutes.  I was thinking of all of you in the South trying to do last minute stuff.  Trying to find parking, last minute baking or gift buying...  I said to a number of friends before moving here that I would be happy not to run one more errand, not to go to another mall or to make one more return.  I told you the truth and so far I still mean it.

This is a strange advent season for me because so much is different.  I don't have any baking done (and I probably won't be able to since I have no bakeware, mixer, bowls or many ingredients for that matter!), very few houses have lights, there may or may not be a Christmas Eve service, and the reality is that we don't have much to do (no family here and, well, only 4 friends - Hali, Chad and the kids!).  I guess this is the perfect year to focus on Jesus' birth.  It's strange and sad that I'm not even quite sure what that means or how to do that.  The comforting thing is that I know Jesus will show me.  Usually Christmas is a time that we like to help those in need around us, but we don't know anyone!  It would have been nice to set up a hamper but no program like that even exists here.  Brian and Chad are responsible for distributing the toys (I'm not sure who donated them) to all the kids in the community.  I think I might like to join Brian with our boys in doing that...

We are having Christmas dinner with the Butler family, which is really nice because even though I have a turkey in my freezer, I don't have anything to cook it in!  I was planning on making Miriam Burzuik's Hawaiian meatballs with Colleen Irwin's wild rice casserole along with the Ward family shrimp dip (we brought canned shrimp with us on the plane ;o).  I guess now I will save that menu for New Years.  First however I have to make sure that I can find all the ingredients at the store.  I'm a little worried about the wild rice.  Actually, I'm A LOT worried.  We'll see I guess.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Nature Wonders and Yummy Fun

Whenever I wake up in the middle of the night I always look outside.  Even for a brief moment I look at the sky to see the stars (I guess I also look around to make sure everything is as it should be - this is what Brian's night shifts have done to me ;o).  I've always loved looking at the night sky and have used Orion's Belt to situate myself - I used to see it out from my driveway back home in Rockland, from my bathroom window in my house in Selkirk, and now I see it out my back window here in Coral.  Well last night I saw much more than stars, I saw the Northern Lights, the Aurora Borealis.  Much more than I was expecting!  While I'm sure they can be far brighter, I was awed and stepped outside in the middle of the night in my housecoat to get a better look.  I'd seen pictures before but, as often is the case, they don't do the lights justice.  Pictures don't show you how they jump and dance across the sky.  Or how the intensity of the light changes at different points along the ribbon stretching across the sky.  I look forward to seeing them again. I also witnessed part of the eclipse last night.  That's something we don't see everyday either!

This morning I witnessed something else for the first time.  The moonset.  I saw a HUGE yellowish moon set down below the horizon painting the sky with beautiful colours - like a sunset but much softer.  The colours were light:  blue, purple, pink and they stood out against the white horizon.  I tried to take pictures but once again, not the same.

Today is the shortest day of this year. I'm glad that it's nice and sunny.  The sun rises and sets "on the same side" (as opposed to crossing the sky like it does in the South).  It follows the horizon.  Very different and striking.

Hali, the other RCMP wife organized a gingerbread house decorating activity for the kids.  There I met 2 teachers and their kids (both of which hope to return to NS someday!).  It was a lot of fun and is helping me wrap my mind around the fact that Christmas is only 4 days away.   OOOOHHHHHH!  BTW our turkey came in the "mail" today!!!  So we will have a traditional Christmas dinner after all.  That also means that we will be heading back to the store to stock up on FRESH food.  

I'm off to helping my boys with a Christmas craft that my mom sent.  Thanks grand-maman.  We are going to have so much fun this afternoon.

Monday, December 20, 2010


Top Adjustments

(not in any particular order - they are all annoying!)

1.  No recycling program (it KILLS me to throw away perfectly good cardboard and glass)
2.  Delayed freight planes with food orders and grocery store supplies (tonight we went to the grocery stores and they had both run out of bread and were getting REALLY low on milk, and unspoiled fruits and veggies.  Also if the plane doesn't come in, we will not have a turkey for Christmas!)
3.  Extra darkness in the morning - it's hard to get going.
4.  No dishwasher (my hands are killing me from being so dry - I guess I will have to start wearing gloves. yuck.)
5.  The "loss" of my wonderful friends in Selkirk

Top Perks

1.  Looking out my back windows at the vast expanse of land.  No trees or houses, just blanket rocky terrain and frozen Hudson Bay waters.
2.  Brian's work location (we can see him sitting at his desk from our dinning room window!) and hours (8:30-4:30).
3.  Having the computer in the main living area. Yippee!
4.  Having a great family with young kids literally 5 steps away.  No need to start the van or get the kids all dressed.  We just put our boots on and go (we will probably run once it gets really cold)
5.  I really like my little house.  I love the open concept, the bigger eating space, the bigger closets, the much bigger entrances etc (the only downside is that we've lost our extra living space, the basement).
6.  The water tastes AMAZING straight from the tap!!!!

I will be updating this as I go along...

Glad Tidings, Bounceroos and Leonie

Well I've finally met the infamous Mrs. Leonie Duffy.  If you've done any online research of Coral you will have come across her name.  According to websites, she is the owner of the one and only hotel and the sewing store.  In Rankin Inlet, her artwork is showcased at the airport.  I just had this impression that she was a prominent member of the community.  Well I was right!

We walked into Glad Tidings Pentecostal Church and who was there to meet us?  You guessed it - Leonie!    She is ALSO one of the church leaders, the worship leader (with a loud and beautifully boisterous voice), the translator for the pastor (?) and probably so much more!  I think I took her off guard with my excitement and zeal of meeting her...  Ooops! :o)

Church was an experience.  The worship was exactly what you would expect.  Joyful, loud and very traditional (indigenous) sounding.  Familiar songs such as "This is the Day", "When the Saints Come Marching In" to name a few, were sung both in Inuktitut and English.  The speaker, Leonie's husband we think, will take some getting use to.  You see neither Brian or I have a Pentecostal background...

We can see the church from our "front yard" and it takes minutes (at a slow pace) to walk to.  But in good Ward family fashion, we had to take the truck because guess what? Yup, we were running late.  Pathetic and embarrassing.

In the afternoon, I took Benjamin and Nathan to play outside with some of the other kids.  We walked over to the 2 Inukshuk (not sure of the plural of this word yet) that we have a few yards away in the back of our home.  We've had very mild weather since we moved here but nonetheless the wind has bite.  So we had hot chocolate at the Butler residence (the other RCMP family) and had a wonderful time bouncing and giggling on their bounceroo.  It was hilarious to watch the kids.  Chad and Hali purchased the air-filled beast when they were posted in NWT and had 24 hrs of darkness.  Once in a while, when the kids need to blow off some steam, they move all the furniture and let 'er go!  I think we will be buying one for ourselves this summer when they move.

My evening was blessed by a package that my in-laws sent.  My mother-in-law so thoughtful.  In the box was a Ziplock bag filled with small branches of evergreen.  It brightens up my dinning room since I put them in a "vase".  Also included was a tin of Polar Berry tea.  I am sipping it right now and I love it.  Thanks Harold and Donna! PS the chocolates are also very much appreciated  - we will not be buying any from the Northern Store since a box of Turtles for example is over $20!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

We've arrived!

Hello everyone!  I know that most of you are excited to hear about our adventure (I was excited to find out what we were in for!).  There is so much to tell already but because it's late I will focus on the time since we've landed in Coral Harbour ( I will go back to tell you all about HOW we got here later - let me tell you you will want to hear these stories...)

Flying over Hudson Bay felt eerie to me.  Nothing, nothing and more nothing.  Just ice and dark waters.  The sunset was spectacular and I wish I could have taken a picture but Isaac was sleeping in my arms and therefore was unable to do so.  We were about to land and there I saw it:  A tiny lit hamlet named Coral Harbour.  What is civilization doing here?  (In the middle of dark, cold nowhere!).  More importantly, WHAT ARE WE DOING MOVING HERE???!?!?!?!  Nervousness, excitement and a sense of "finally we are home" is what I was feeling.  From the glowing little circle I followed a lonely and long road to the airport.  You see the airport is a 20 minute ride from Coral (the reason has something to do with American soldiers in WWII - I will get my facts straight and let you know...)
We landed at the Coral airport around 3:30pm on Friday, Dec 17th and it was already dark.  It felt like it was 7pm or later both because it was dark and because it had been an exhausting 36 hours.  Chad (the Corporal) was waiting for us with both RCMP trucks and thank goodness because we needed both of them for all our stuff.  Driving in the North is far different than in the South.  You see NOBODY wears seatbelts (well now there's me - I simply HAVE to wear it!), not even the RCMP officers, not EVEN Brian!!!!!  Those of you who know Brian, have fallen off your chair or your chin has fallen on the computer desk table.  Kids travel without car seats and babies are held on our lap.  So there we were driving home with Benjamin and Nathan in the back and Isaac on my lap in the front.  Yikes.  I prayed silently every time we met another vehicle...

Hali, Chad's wife is wonderful.  She had cleaned our house as much as she could (picture a house that has had single male RCMP relief members living in it since August...  yuck.).  Hali had made the boys bed and had set up the crib for Isaac.  She had purchased a few groceries, had us over for dinner and sent us home with a freshly baked loaf of raisin bread.  Amazing!

Day 2

I actually felt kinda rested today.  This was the most sleep I've had in weeks.  It was pitch black outside and I noticed that it was raining!  Yes RAINING!  It was a skating rink out there.  I spent 3.5 winters in Selkirk  and it NEVER rained once the snow appeared.  This feels like Ottawa or Halifax!  Marty, an Inuit man we met said that an elder had said that this has not happened since 1945.  He also explained that if it gets really cold in the next couple of days that the caribou will all die since they will not be able to dig for their food since the snow will be frozen...

Today we had daylight from 10:30am to 3:00pm where it was bright outside.  That's a lot more than I expected to get up here.  It was difficult though to get started this morning.

So today we went to both the Northern Store and the Co-op store.  I tried to prepare myself for this but I was still disappointed.  The fresh produce is far more limited than I had imagined and we could not find cottage cheese, skim milk or cream.  They only have 2 percent milk- I've been drinking skim since I was 5 years old!!!!!  The candy section however was spectacular!  Every different kind your little heart could desire.  The junk food was everywhere.  Poor Benjamin and Nathan where in a tizzy "can we have this?" "what about this?"  "pleeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaasssssseeeeeee mummy?"  The prices were as bad and worse that we had expected.  Fozen peas were $8, molasses $10, applesauce cups $7, Kraft singles (16 sl.) $9, milk $15...  We will be learning how to place food mail orders very soon.

We met a number of people today.  Perry the Coop owner, Johnny, Marty, a few boys...  Everybody can tell that we are new.  The white skin and driving around in the RCMP truck give it away.  So far, the Inuit people are extremely friendly.  They are very eager to speak to us.  It's very welcoming.

We drove around a little bit to see the town and we saw 2 polar bear skins hanging.  Wow.  The houses are small and most of them are painted in a bright colour.  Most people use a snowmobile (no helmets of course) to get around and I've seen a few quads too.

This afternoon we set up our Christmas tree.  Benjamin and Nathan decorated it.  When they were done, Benjamin commented "our tree is hideous".  Sadly, it does look a little Charlie-Brown-ish.  There aren't enough ornaments and the few that we have are all clumped in a few key areas.  Not to mention that I couldn't find the lights...  So it's a bit bare - oh well.  ;o)

I am new at this blog thing but I've taken some pictures with the hopes of sharing them with you.
Signing off for now