Sista Moms & Butter Tarts

Oh Canada. How I love thee. We’ve been here for almost a week and it’s gone way too fast. Yes, I’ve had my Tim Horton’s fix and have officially eaten enough Stove Top Stuffing that Kraft’s share price has gone up. On that note, I’ve forgotten what vegetables taste like and definitely look like I’m about to birth a small village. When we return to Belgrade, I’ve got a plan to fix this. I’ll tie some meat to myself and wait until the strays give chase. I’ll have no choice but to run my ass off…literally.

We’ve been staying at our friend’s house for a week and though we’re living like teenage squatters in their basement, they haven’t kicked us out yet. We’ve been forbidden to do dishes or pretty much any work at all, so we’ve been lazy bums while our friends cook and clean for us. You know how you have friends you can hang out with and friends you could actually live with because you can just be yourself around them? That’s our Dawn and Ryan and Lisa and Harold.  There are no expectations — save one. They expect me to be a klutz. I haven’t let them down.  I think when we come back, we’re going to buy a bunch of land and build our own Sista Moms (NOT wives) compound on the water. Dawn and Ryan, Lisa and Harold, Maggie and Jason.  These are people you can wake up to. The very best kind.

When we’re not hanging with the peeps, we’ve been busy ensuring we get to see all of our friends. We leave for Edmonton in a few hours and we still haven’t seen everyone we need to. (Sniff…)

Bigger news… I had a root canal on Monday! This is major. Sure, after all my horrible dental experiences over the last 8 months, I was quite terrified to have anyone work on my mouth but I was thrilled our dentist in Sarnia squeezed me in.  For all my European friends… it’s definitely worth the flight to Sarnia, Canada, to visit Rob Sottosanti at Lakeshore Family Dental. He. Friggin. Rocks.  The chairs actually reclined. (You laugh, but this is not a thing in Belgrade. My dentists there make you extend your neck upward like a baby chick waiting for the regurgitated worm to be dropped in. For hours.) My dentist in Belgrade also tried to convince me to go back to mercury fillings, saying the hype about mercury is overrated. Root canals, he said, “are so twisty and turny” that he’d rather just pull the tooth. In Canada, my tooth was saved.  I’m hoping to fly back for a crown in the summer. Fingers crossed.

We land in Edmonton at 1am Edmonton time (3am Sarnia and 7am in Belgrade), and I’m at my mother and sister in law’s mercy to make the girls’ Christmas morning special because we couldn’t bring wrapped presents in our luggage without the girls seeing them. Amazon was a big help and my mother in law (Jeannette) and sister in law (Kim)  were all over this like “seniors on butter tarts at a funeral” as my friend Dawn would say.  Stockings and everything. They’ve got this. They rock.

I’m told the roads on the way to the airport are bad so I’ve got to go but if I don’t manage to get back on in the next day, you’re all amazing. Thanks for reading and Merry Christmas!

butter tart
Butter Tart Frenzy….you could lose a limb if you’re not careful. 

Cats, Cats & More Cats

We leave our furballs on Saturday and it got me thinking about strays.  Our good friend is staying at our house while we’re gone and we’ve only requested one thing: to take care of all of the cats, indoor and outdoor.  Though Chris thinks they could care less if humans are near, our fat little beasts (Jazz and Shadow) actually get lonely if no one is around.  Our friend has a beautiful little boy that will keep our punks on their toes while we’re gone and maybe, just maybe, chase them enough to give them some much needed exercise.  When they’re not running from kids, Jazz and Shadow like to look out into the backyard at all the other cats, taunting them with their shiny coats and distended stomachs.  Every single morning, when I open the shutters, a row of cats greet me waiting to be fed. (They know where the good stuff is.) Our 2 Canadian cats get the prime pate while the 7 or 8 strays we feed get whatever is on sale, though sometimes I mix it up if Jazz and Shadow are non-appreciative (often).  Occasionally, we let one stray stay in the garage if it’s cold and she has begun to think she owns the place. By the time we leave to wherever it is we’re going, we might have our own cat sanctuary.

Though strays are super adorable, they struggle and have difficult lives. This time of year, people like to give pets as gifts and I think that while the gesture is nice, not every person is a responsible pet-owner. Pets need to be neutered or spayed to control the population. They need vaccinations and food and medical care not just occasionally but routinely. This can be expensive and sometimes the gift of an animal is actually the passing of a burden. Consider, instead, donating to a local, responsible animal shelter that helps control the population. If you want a furry fix, however, you are always welcome to my house. There is no shortage of furry friends looking for love and attention. (Okay, food, they mostly want food…)

cats 2
Shadow, turning her back on her feline friends. B!tch. 

Grover Gardner – Ultimate Goal

We leave for Canada in 6 days and we cannot wait! The land of REAL bacon, Tim Horton’s (Timmy’s for all us Canucks), toques (winter hats), loonies ($1) and toonies ($2), an unlimited selection of English books, DAVIDs Tea, and great Canadian cheer!  Sure, we risk freezing to death, but that’s the beauty of our country. We’re so warm from the Tim’s we chug that we don’t notice when our extremities go rigid and break away from our bodies. (Pretty crazy, eh?) We land in the Great White North on Saturday and we’ve booked a surprise party for the girls and all of their former classmates at the YMCA the following day. They have no idea 20 or so of their best friends are going to be there. Can’t wait for this moment.

School is still keeping me super busy. Some minor changes and one of my major term assignments is done, with one more to go during the Christmas break. I fast tracked this program because, for the first time in many years, I have the time to dedicate to my passion. By the end of this, I will have the best novel I’ve ever written and I’ll be one step closer to two of my ultimate goals: to have a novel published and to have something I’ve written read by my hero, Grover Gardner . If you don’t know who this icon is, please Google him. He is fascinating. Many writers I know want their books on the big screen. That would be amazing. But you know how people have wish boards and dream journals and all sorts of motivational, inspirational trackers? Mine involves Grover Gardner reading something I’ve written. Ultimate goal.

I’ll leave you with something I keep forgetting to post: I can’t find women’s shaving cream in Serbia. I’m walking around all these beautiful Balkan women and I’m beginning to believe they are either hairless or Amazon.  There is no in between on this one. Sure, they could use men’s shaving cream, but I don’t think that’s it. Serbian friends, any thoughts on this one?

One seriously talented dude.

Car Failure

Maybe I’m not meant to drive.

My car just arrived and I excitedly signed the paperwork. I go to pay for it and, surprise, surprise, the guy’s credit card machine stops working. I intentionally had it delivered to the house because I did not want to drive through the city to get it.  Mobile credit/debit machines are common in Canada but I haven’t seen them much here.  I was quite surprised that I could pay at the door.

Turns out, I can’t.  The guy, let’s call him Mr. Hertz, asks, “are you sure you have money?” This, after I call the credit card company to see if my card has been flagged again. (Our cards get flagged all the time in Serbia.) The credit card company says there is no record of a transaction attempt and that the machine is not communicating with them, that Hertz’s machine is broken. The guy doesn’t believe me. Even when my card sits in the end of his machine for nearly ten minutes waiting for any sort of approval response. He swipes my card multiple times. I cringe a little, but MC’s security system is brilliant and they have assured me nothing is occurring on their end.

So, I sent the car back. Not sure if I’ll attempt again before Christmas. Too frustrated. I am now calling a taxi yet again so I can get groceries… (Insert expletive….here…and here….and here….and here…..and here…)


Bubble Suits and Tarantulas

At this very moment, I’m preparing myself. I’m accumulating helmets, shin pads, neck guards, shoulder pads, back braces, wrist guards, bubble suits, steel toed boots and I might even throw in a cup for Chris.

Tomorrow, I am officially going to start DRIVING in Belgrade. For real.

I’ve decided I need to woman-up and get my rear on the road again. This, of course, is something I’ve debated since I’ve got here.  Canadians – appreciate your roads. Appreciate how big they are, how most streets can fit a car the size of a house. Appreciate the pot holes, appreciate how civil our driving experiences are, how road rage is something we remark on because it’s not typical of our daily commute. It’s the norm here.  So is excessive speed. So are broken turn signals. Well, let’s assume they are all broken or non-existent because no one uses them. Traffic signs appear to be suggestions. Sidewalk or old woman in your way? Non issue. Just floor it until either of them gives.

I’ll have to give myself some time to get used to people screaming and honking at me because I haven’t moved fast enough. I have also debated decorating my car with tarantulas so people give me plenty of room to drive. I’m thinking they would just smash into me to kill them so maybe I’ll skip this, but the fear is real.

I’m not entirely sure I’m up for this yet, so I’m renting a car before Christmas. If, by some miracle, I come out unscathed and toughened up, we might buy one in January. But a teeny, tiny one. (I think).  I rented the smallest car I could find, but it’s enough to get me and the girls where we need to go, with a little room to spare. Today, Chris suggested I rent an SUV so I’d have more room. (Insert terror…here…).

My new itty bitty baby rental arrives tomorrow. I’ll let you know if I make it past my gate by the end of the day…

Christmas in Vienna

My husband is amazing. (No, he’s not looking over my shoulder as I write this.) He just is. While he’s not the most sensitive guy in the world, he pulls out these zingers from time to time that remind me how sweet he is. (Chris, if you’re reading this… it’s totally manly to be sweet and sensitive.)

It began a few weeks ago when the weather started getting colder and I realized that, had we been pretty much anywhere in North America, we would be surrounded with Christmas atmosphere. Music. Food. Spiced everything. Cups of Christmas cheer. Holly, jolly people being extra kind to each other. Totally commercial, but I admit I miss it.

When we moved here, we didn’t bring anything and I was really missing my Christmas trees. Yes, I have 4 of them. 2 big, 2 small, and numerous mini ones.  I prefer fake trees because I feel horrible discarding a once-living tree at the end of the season.  If you do, cool. If you don’t, cool. I’m not here to sway anyone’s decision. This is just my personal thing. Anyway, I was baking shortbread with the girls and listening to Christmas music about a week or so ago and told Chris that we should get a tree out here.  Our mission here is to explore and experience the world, not to accumulate stuff, so Chris wasn’t into it. Me… I was planning to get one regardless because I need the Christmas ‘feel’. (Sorry babe.)

I found the Christmas feel I was looking for in Vienna and it was spectacular! The Christmas markets were amazing. We visited the Rathausplatz first and we felt like we had literally walked right into Christmas. I enjoyed some spiced, hot mulled wine while the girls fell in love with roasted chestnuts for the first time. Most of the items for sale were beautifully, masterfully crafted and we perused the stalls while eating, drinking and listening to Christmas music. The following morning we went to the child-friendly Karlsplatz market. The girls got to play in a giant pool of hay, make candles, key chains and homemade soap. We had so much fun that we spent almost 6 hours there, purchasing tickets for an opera, orchestra and ballet at Schonbrunn Palace on our way out.

Sunday saw us at another market near our hotel and we took a horse-drawn carriage ride back to get ready for a night at the palace. We all wore fancy dresses and I was curious as to what the girls were going to think of the concert.  They loved it.

We ended the trip with a morning at the Natural History Museum. Mind blown. It was such an incredible experience. This was also the least expensive activity of our whole trip, just $10 for adults and FREE for kids 19 and under. We could have spent the whole day there but we had a flight to catch.

Back to Chris. He was too busy at work to take the extra time off work so it was just me and the girls. He picked us up at the airport and he had a surprise…a Christmas tree, complete with lights, ribbon and ornaments. I think the girls and I squealed a little as he set it up. It’s small, but just enough for us to feel like it’s Christmas.  The cats have knocked it over several times since so it’s already starting to look a little Charlie Brown-ish, but it’s our Belgrade baby and I love it.

There’s more, but I’ll fill you in on that later. Cheers!



Speedo Machine…Or Borrowed Ginch

Yes. It’s been a while. Hello again.

I started my MA program at the beginning of October and it’s kept me quite busy.  Unlike some other online courses, it’s a taught class which means I cannot do it at my own pace. I have hard deadlines each week.  I was trucking along quite well for a few weeks and even remarked to Chris that although the course is quite academic, it’s easier than I thought it would be, perhaps because I’m super excited to be in school again, perhaps it’s because I’m finally following my lifelong dream.

Then I pulled a Shauna and all hell broke loose.

I misinterpreted the start of one of my modules and missed it completely (that’s why I thought it was easy!). I had to do 4 weeks of work in 5 days. It was not fun.  I had a raging headache trying to catch up but I did it. Whew…

There is so much that happened since my last post, but I’ll give you the condensed version:

-Paris in October is beautiful! Special note: at most swimming pools in France, men are required to wear Speedos. Chris has a pair but this is more for tanning on the beaches of Jamaica. This is not something you see often in Canada. At the first hotel, they told Chris he had to wear Speedos and, get this, they had pairs they lend out for such an occasion. They had BORROWED, USED SPEEDOS and happily showed them to Chris, whose saucer-eyes couldn’t have gotten any wider at that moment. (I admit, I laughed so hard I cried. I’m such a supportive wife, I know.) Even better, when Chris declined this, they directed us to the SPEEDO VENDING MACHINE. This has been the best part of moving to Europe. (Almost.) Long story short, he found some and we had a great time in the pool.

-This experience has definitely widened the girls’ perspective. In Canada, you never see naked boys at the pool. Here it’s almost commonplace so they are used to seeing boys Laura’s age or older (!) swimming naked. (This is more common in the rural areas but definitely not rare.) On their was back from the restroom today, they told me which door was the women’s. “Mom, use the door that has the gorilla without a penis.” We were at a Gorilla-themed Mexican restaurant.  They would have been mortified to use the “p” word in Canada but with all the sculptures and swimming here, they’re not so mortified by anatomy as they used to be.

-We almost got another cat. Since we’ve been here, we’ve been feeding all the stray dogs, cats, and pigeons. (Those lucky birds.) One stray was sick so we’ve been taking her to the vet. Her mouth was horribly infected so her molars were all removed and we had her recovering at the vet’s office for a week, then we allowed her in our garage until she could eat harder food. She’s back outside but our will is slowly crumbling…

-There are  foods I could eat every single day: Watermelon, cilantro, and Stove Top Stuffing.  Recently, I got 4 boxes of stuffing from the school principal and a case sent from our friend Dave in Canada. I now have enough to last me a week or so. (Ok, maybe 2 weeks…)

-I’ve started yoga lessons in my home with an amazing instructor. Those of you who know me know I’m super busy and most often cannot sit still.  After years of attempting, I find I can finally sit through a lesson. It’s super relaxing and, surprisingly, actually a good workout.

I have more, but I think I’d bore you if I gave it all to you today.  For now, happy Saturday!