Sunday, 17 June 2018

Happy Birthday, Amy!

It's Amy's birthday! Happy Birthday, Amy!

Nothing has changed with her in regards to being assessed by Toronto for a lung transplant. It seems that since she remains stable, no one is in a hurry for her to be on the wait list.

In the meantime, she has started a new hobby, photography! After talking about it for ages, she started by buying a cell phone camera kit (it goes on your phone case and enhances the pictures). It didn't take long before she had decided to move up to a DSLR camera. And now most of our conversations are about photo angles, photo editing programs, and the best spots around to take night sky pictures.
A lonely lighthouse on the cliffs

Last weekend, we did a PEI road trip so she could take pictures on the island. We went to random coves on the east coast that we had never visited before and some cliffs around Cavendish. We have spent quite a bit of time on PEI but this trip got us out of the 'usual' spots and we found some new fun places. Unfortunately it was cloudy overnight so we didn't get any lighthouse night sky pictures but it did mean that we got to sleep.
Playing with a new lens that smooths out the ocean!
We also did a photo shoot at Bothwell beach because why not.
This is such a good hobby because it's active (while lugging around the camera and lenses) but also can be sedentary while sorting and editing pictures. And also, I benefit because now I have access to a ton of beautiful night sky pictures that would look great framed on my wall!
Kouchibouguac National Park, NB
Everything moves around the north star.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Cycling Canada, 10 years later.

It was ten years ago that David and I cycled across the country. We packed up our bikes, flew to Vancouver, and started peddling. So much has happened in the last 10 years that it seems like a lifetime ago now.

May 8, 2008. B.C. Day 3. I forgot my sunglasses a few hours later at Hell's Gate.
Every day technically was basically the same (pedal, eat, pedal, eat, sleep, repeat) but they were all so different from each other. From the terrain we biked through, the people we met, and the wildlife we saw. I have many stories about certain days or moments - more when I start looking through the pictures - but the enormity of the experience means that it's hard to concisely describe.

May 16, 2008. Somewhere in BC.These pictures perfectly capture how we entertained ourselves along the road. They still make me laugh.
When we peddled into St. John's on August 1, it felt as though we had simply completed another day and not as though we had just biked for 7000+ km to get there. It feels more significant and intense whenever I'm on a road trip and think "I biked all of this" or "Wow, this highway is endless, I can't believe I pedalled through here" or "did we camp in that field over there?"
May 27, 2008, Lloydminster AB/SK.

I'm not really sure how I physically did it. I hadn't practiced long bike rides with my gear before we left. I did a lot of exercise and weight training ahead of time but no overnight bike trips. It was very much a "learn as you go" adventure with a steep learning curve. We both had a determination that we weren't going to quit and that we would just take each day as it arrived. We motivated each other and took care of each other on the 'off' days. I think that is what got us through, especially when we hit Northern Ontario and the country felt endless.
June 5, 2008. Churchbridge, Sask. David attempts to steal a giant loonie.
We visited parts of Canada that we otherwise would have never seen and met so many wonderful people. We heard the same jokes ("You know what they say about the weather in *name of region/province*, if you don't like it, just wait five minutes!") and watched hockey in different homes. We learned to enjoy the simplicity of knowing that all we had to do the next day was to keep pedalling and our only big decisions were in what to eat and where to sleep.

June 26, 2008. Hearst, Ontario. We needed every minute of humour we could find in Northern Ontario. 
There are big and small life lessons that I got out of the trip. Big lessons like how to ask and accept help from people (although I continue to work on that), how to travel minimally, and that it's okay to not meet your daily goal if it means that you'll be better for the next day. Smaller lessons like crows will eat your food if you don't pack it away properly and that if you run dramatically through a kaleidoscope of butterflies they will not necessarily flutter away around you and the picture will not be what you hoped.

I just look like a terrible person who is trying to step on butterflies.
A lot of people ask if I've gone on other biking trip since this one and the answer is no. It was never something I had done before the trip and never seemed to be something I opted to do afterward. When my health declined pre-lung transplant, I rarely went cycling as it was hard to motivate myself. I didn't have the energy or endurance and it started to become more of a chore as I would have coughing fits and find it hard to breathe.

I've gotten back into cycling since my transplant because it's become fun again but still haven't gone on any overnight rides. I wouldn't say no if someone asked if I wanted to go with them but I seemed to have switched to wilderness hiking instead for my intense physical adventures. But if someone asked if I wanted to go with them on a cycling adventure, I would most likely say yes.
July 10, 2008. Quebec border. Never before have two people been this happy to leave Ontario behind.
July 21, 2008. New Brunswick. Happy to be on familiar roads.
There are many things I would change about the trip if we had a do-over but all of it is minor logistical details like packing different, eating out at restaurants more, and not attempting to cook a pack of bacon in a tiny frying pan on a camping stove that only has one setting (high). But I wouldn't change the trip itself. The passing of time has smoothed out my memories of that summer to the fun and exhausting three months I spent with my brother. I'm so thankful that we took the time to do this trip when we had the chance.
August 1, 2008. St. John's, Newfoundland. Yay!

Sunday, 3 June 2018

Dyeing yarn with black beans

This past week I finally dug out my Christmas present which was to cold dye yarn with black beans! It was a stressful (but slow) process that was a lot of fun. The instructions are here from the knit by a hen shop blog on the chance that you're interested in dyeing things with black beans. She goes through detailed steps, I'm just showing my play by play.

Step 1: Soak black beans for 24 hours. I thought I should aim for the darkest possible blue so that way if it ended up lighter, it wasn't a big deal. It was a 1:1.25 bean to water ratio which meant I needed a ton beans. I cooked them up afterwards, froze half of them, and we ate quite a few bean heavy meals all week.
Beans at the start of the soak. 
24 hours later. I was worried the beans had absorbed all the water.
 Step 2: Soak the yarn in water for a hour. 
I put another bowl on top to push them down. 
Step 3: Boil the yarn with aluminum potassium sulfate and cream of tarter for an hour. This is the process that makes the dye actually stick to the yarn. I figured out the quantities based on the ratios from the blog and how much the yarn weighed dry. To avoid felting the yarn, the blog mentioned it was important to heat the water up slowly. There were no details about "how slow is slow" so I was paranoid and took forever to heat up the water. That was probably unnecessary but I didn't ruin it so a win for me. 
Yarn being boiled.
Step 4: Strain off bean water (henceforth referred to as dye because that sounds better than 'bean water'). I strained it through a cheese cloth to make sure that there were no bean bits in the dye. Apparently bean bits can turn the yarn grey and that's not the look I was going for. 
Dye! The beans didn't soak it all up after all!
Step 5: Add yarn to dye. After the yarn cooled off for a bit, I rinsed off the alum and cream of tarter and then put each skein of yarn in a mason jar that I had poured half the dye into.They sat for 48 hours and I shook them up a few times to move the dye around.

Step 6: Rescue the yarn from the dye, wash it off with a bit of warm water, and see the result of your experiment! Clearly the yarn was twisted too tight in the mason jars for the dye to get through some parts which created a tie die effect rather than a consistent colour. But the blue turned out very blue and I think the different shades look great. I'm super happy with the end result. After having it dry outside for a few hours, it's currently on the drying rack to finish drying. Then I'll ball it up and the real challenge will be deciding what to knit with it! 

Monday, 28 May 2018

Thank you to everyone who supported me and the team for the Walk to Make CF History!! The team surpassed our goal so now my annual fundraising ask is over (although it always continues for Dad). It was a beautiful day to hang out at the park. Amy was in charge of photos because as soon as you buy nice camera, everyone asks you to take all the pictures.

Dad was presented with the Breath of Life award from CF Canada in recognition of his many years as a volunteer for the organization. Yay Dad!

Our team mascots!

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Book: From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death.

I just finished reading Caitlin Doughty's latest book, From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death. 
The book synopsis:
"Fascinated by our pervasive terror of dead bodies, mortician Caitlin Doughty set out to discover how other cultures care for their dead. In rural Indonesia, she observes a man clean and dress his grandfather’s mummified body. Grandpa’s mummy has lived in the family home for two years, where the family has maintained a warm and respectful relationship. She meets Bolivian natitas (cigarette-smoking, wish-granting human skulls), and introduces us to a Japanese kotsuage, in which relatives use chopsticks to pluck their loved-ones’ bones from cremation ashes."
I read Caitlin's other book, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, (you may remember me talking about it) and I did enjoy that one but I liked this one more. This book is less about her and more about discovering how other cultures experience death and work through their grief.

It was interesting to read and one of the main themes is that most cultures think other culture's death rituals are "weird" or "disrespectful to the dead." I think we could all benefit from learning about other cultures and discovering that just because a tradition is different from ours, doesn't mean it's disrespectful.

The book isn't a comprehensive look at all cultures around the world, it's much too short for that, but it did make me want to learn more about the places she did talk about. Like the funeral pyre in Colorado and the forensic body lab in North Carolina. A few of these other cultures are in the US, it's more an exploration of what happens when people decide to do something different with their dead bodies then the traditional burial or cremation.

Pick up the book from the library when you're looking for a short non-fiction death book!