Hi, this is Dave’s wife, Jenn. With the new year brings plenty of opportunity to reflect on the one that has passed, so here are five themes of our 2013.
1. Job Horizons
Dave and I have both undergone more career change the past year than we’ve seen in a long time. I started 2013 with a new job, having switched from a support role at a processing office to a processing role at a support office (both at ATB Financial). I have learned a remarkable amount and I’ve been given some great opportunities this year. I worked with the same group for six years previously, though, so the change in pace has taken some adjustment!
Dave also started 2013 with the idea of a career change, and in August he left SciQuest (formerly Upside Software) to be a software developer at Questionmark. His reasons for wanting the change are many, but suffice it to say that he is now doing a lot more of the kind of work he wants to be doing, and a lot less of the kind that just causes unnecessary stress.
2. Hellos and Goodbyes
2013 was a trying year in some respects. In late July, our aquatic turtle finally ate the algae eater that cleaned up after her, and then stopped eating. This wasn’t abnormal in itself, however she also became quite lethargic and we took her to the emergency vet. An x-ray showed that she was gravid with a dozen eggs, which can cause serious health complications if they are not passed. We tried to encourage her to lay them, however when we took her to a reptile vet later that week, we also discovered she was suffering from sepsis (an infection was poisoning her blood) and a vitamin deficiency (which still baffles me!). It was a worst-case scenario and she passed that night… She had been Dave’s pet for more than 25 years.
We have also celebrated new lives, however… In October we adopted an adult Corn Snake who we named Mr. Homn (after Lwaxana Troi’s tall, silent butler on Star Trek: The Next Generation). We have cared for snakes before but this is the first one either of us have owned. He has a great temperament and we’re both quite happy to have adopted him.
The other big news was my sister’s first child Violet on June 27 – she was ready for the world five weeks ahead of schedule, with very little warning! We received a phone call from my mother at 7:15 that morning – my father would learn of his first grandchild over the phone from Poland. There were only minor complications and she is healthy now. 2014 will be an exciting year for her and her parents!
3. Getting Healthier
Dave posted about us changing our eating habits back in March, and about our first experience with Community-Supported Agriculture in October. We began our overhaul at the end of 2012 so it’s been a full year now – at the end of that year I’ve lost 20 pounds, and Dave has lost 30. We’ve also tried countless new recipes and learned how to use new ingredients such as jicama and fennel.
The bigger part of this change is us rethinking our relationship with food. I think that emotional eating is built into the Western way of life – you reward yourself with junk food, celebrations are built around meals, and a treat acts as a great distraction when you, say, need to weigh a chinchilla. It’s hard to overcome, but life gets even harder if we don’t find a way to keep it in check. The various things Dave and I have done have connected us more to our food more than ever before – where it comes from, what aspects we need to fuel us healthily, and how it’s transformed from stuff in the ground to a delicious plateful.
I credit a few books and a chef for enhancing my relationship with food this year:
i. Food and the City: Urban Agriculture and the New Food Revolution by Jennifer Cockrall-King. She’s actually an Edmontonian, however her novel examines food production in urban centres from Vancouver to Paris. We already compost, garden, can, and freeze our own food, so the scale on which the stories of this book are told is fascinating.
ii. The Kitchen Counter Cooking School: How a Few Simple Lessons Transformed Nine Culinary Novices into Fearless Home Cooks by Kathleen Flinn. I was fortunate to have grown up with a mother who cooked, but it wasn’t until this year that I really saw the value of cooking, and this book demystifies home production of many things we’re used to buying pre-made. Her technique for chopping an onion is the best I’ve come across!
iii. Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation by Michael Pollan. He examines food from the basis of the natural elements of fire, water, air and earth. Some of his stories are a bit lofty for our undertaking – whole-hog barbeque or artisanal cheese-making, for instance, however we already pickle, and his mead-making inspired me to try our own Meadening. We got books on mead and cider-making for Christmas, so we’ll look forward to new fermenting adventures this year!
iv. I surprised Dave with a Thai cooking class for his birthday, led by Elaine Wilson of Food You Can Cook. We’ve taken a couple of cooking classes together before, and we loved Thai food but were a bit mystified about preparing it authentically. Elaine spent the first part of the class telling us which ingredients to buy, what brands to look for, and which stores to shop at. The latter half we prepared a stir fry and a pork meatball noodle soup. Aside from knowing how to shop for this stuff now, the other remarkable thing we gained is a sense of balance. Elaine explained how to use sour (citrus juice), salty (fish sauce or soy sauce), spicy (chilis or hot sauce) and sweet (palm sugar) to strike a balance of flavours, and that knowledge has carried over into other cuisines. It has also made me more confident in my palate and experimenting without following a recipe.
We are booked for a sushi making class in 2014, and I expect we’ll learn a lot there, too.
Dave and I met in 2006, just as I was planning a trip to Australia with my younger brother. My mother is from Australia and we all (along with our middle sister) have dual citizenship. I got a new Australian passport for the trip, and armed with a new digital camera and a Flickr membership, shared my adventures in as close to real time as you can get with a 16-hour time delay! I was 10 when I last went before that, and while I have photos from that trip (taken with a Vivitar 100mm camera very similar to this one), they’re not quite as shareable.
Dave and I made our own trip down under in April – the travel itself was pretty much the same as my trip seven years ago, but we spent much more time planning and preparing this time. I got to Sydney very jet lagged last time – Dave planned for us to shift our sleep schedules forward a couple of days in advance of our flight, and while the other passengers around us slept on Pacific time we waited (as much as we could) for Australian Eastern Time. It worked remarkably both ways!
This year, we had some different options – Cockatoo Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site similar to Alcatraz, and my maternal grandfather’s workplace, had since opened to the public, and one of my paternal cousins was in Sydney on a law fellowship. We also stayed overnight at the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, hosted by Australia’s Conservation Volunteers. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity, although there are similar programs around the country we may one day partake in.
I’ve always loved Australia because it’s so different (the plants, the animals, the terrain, the climate), but it feels like home (my family there, people speaking English in my mother’s accent). My husband met them for the first time so I am grateful we could go! Here are my photos and Dave’s from the trip.
5. Expanding our photographic horizons
Australia was a great experience for photography – I take a huge technological step every time I go! We also took advantage of having mobile phones with decent cameras – it was nice to be able to use my Galaxy SIII instead of taking my entire kit on long days out. I shot some nice panoramas!
Dave has grown in leaps and bounds – he’s made use of new gear and older gear. We’ve expanded our horizons – I modeled in January, June, and October. We went Aurora chasing late one June night. We got some great wildlife photos in Jasper. Dave has done all sorts of Hobo nights. We also made a bit of money – ATB Financial’s calendar starts with my ice dino this month, and Dave’s Blue Hour shot was used for a local real estate development’s website.
2014 promises to be a calmer year – we need those every so often! Still, we’re planning our next big adventures and looking forward to documenting them.