City Mice

Kathryn, Eden and I went to a pancake breakfast and sugar bush tour this weekend out in a place called Shannon, NB.  Google maps doesn’t even know about Shannon, NB, but it was easy enough to find using the map on their website, and it turned out to be quite a nice spot (if you want to see pictures check out Kathryn’s Facebook album, or comment on this post and tell me to post some later).  Somehow, despite the fact that I’m a maritimer, I had never been on a sugar bush adventure before, and I must say it was quite a delight!

Collecting Sap

Before I go any further, I know some of you – like me – may be confused, even disturbed, by the term sugar bush.  There are, in fact, no bushes involved, although there is a substantial amount of sugar.  By briefly consulting Wikipedia, I was able to find out that the term sugar bush probably refers to the fact that most of the maple trees in a typical sugar bush are sugar maples.  This brief article also taught me that a sugar shack is, in fact, a small cabin on or near a sugar bush in which sap is processed into syrup, not a thinly veiled metaphor for a den of promiscuity as I had always imagined for some reason.

The Sugar Shack

Did you know that they need to boil down (concentrate) the sap about 40 times in order to get the finished product?  It’s pretty simple, they basically run the sap through a series of stoves and pipes, stoking a fire underneath to boil the sap, causing the high-density sugariness to travel along the bottom while the water boils/evaporates off the top.  By the time it gets to the bottling stage it’s around 67% sugar – yum!  We gave Eden a taste of it, and she got a little bit frantic trying to grab for more.  Unfortunately, I ended up having to eat most of hers AND mine 😉

Boiling off the water

The pancake breakfast was delicious and hearty.  I think I ate 2 sausages, a slice of ham, a couple of eggs, a muffin, a donut, 2 glasses of apple juice, and about 8 pancakes smothered in fresh maple syrup (FYI ladies, I’m pretty sure I lost about 2 lbs from all that calorie-burning chewing action).  When we arrived at the community centre where the meal was hosted, Kathryn and I looked at each other and said “Uh oh… did you bring cash?” Sure enough, the breakfast was 10 dollars each and we only had a grand total of $17 between us.  When I asked the lady (Ruth) with the tin box full of cash at the entrance, “Uh… suppose I can’t pay with credit or debit here…is there anywhere nearby where we could withdraw some cash?” she looked at me blankly for a second, hardly stifled a burst of laughter, turned her head towards the entrance to the adjoining room and hollered, “Susan, ‘dyou hear that?  They wanna know if we take debit or credit!”.  She then turned back to me and, in a tone that I imagine one uses when speaking to a half-dead plant, said “No.  Where are you from?”

“Well, we’re living in Fredericton right now…”

“Ah…well, this is the country”

(Sheepish grin)

Apparently the nearest place to get cash was about 45 minutes away round-trip, but after watching us pathetically tally up change from our pockets while scratching our heads, she agreed to let us in on the condition that we pay the remaining 3 dollars when we return next year.  It was really kind of her, and I told her not to worry: I’d only eat 85% of what I could, in proportion to our payment (didn’t really follow through with that…whoops!).  Ruth ended up sitting next to us for most of the meal and we had a grand old chat about rural life.  I’m sure I have a romantic notion of what rural life is really like, but I honestly think I would enjoy it.  There’s nothing quite like being in the country, breathing the fresh air, surrounded by trees and hills and water, wondering about the stories behind all the decrepit buildings and cemetaries… someday maybe we’ll live in a place like that.

Collecting the cooled candy off the snow

For now, it’s hard to say what our future holds.  I found out this week that it is “not possible” for MUN to offer me a seat this year, which was a bit of a let-down since I’d felt so good about that school.  I guess I just have such an admiration for Wilfred Grenfell, and I thought that having spent a significant amount of time in Labrador would set me apart from other New Brunswickers.  Alas, I’m still on the wait list for Dal and I’ll give them until at least mid-April before I consider withdrawing my name.  I would hate to miss a chance at going because of withdrawing myself, but on the other hand I just want to know what I’ll be doing in the next year or so, and I’m okay with not getting in this fall, if it comes down to it.

The "sugar bush"

Thanks to all of you who’ve posted on our last few entries, we really appreciate the comments and discussion and hope it keeps going.  Feel free to share your thoughts on sugar shacks, rural living, wait lists, or any topic that this post has brought to mind.  If you want pictures (because you aren’t Kathryn’s Facebook friend or something) let me know and I’ll throw a few on here.  A la prochaine!

*** I scolded Tim for posting this without photos. I guess he doesn’t know blog etiquette. The readers want photos right?

Eden tasting the candy

How Kitchenaid Proved to me that the most expensive does not equal the best quality or service

I work as a Customer Support rep, so I know that it can be a tough job and you sometimes (often) get flak for things that are totally beyond your control.  That said, poor customer service is often a result of company policy that constrains the employee from meeting an obvious need.  I’m going to tell you how KitchenAid (via Whirlpool Canada) really let us down over the last few weeks.

In September of 2010, a couple months after Eden was born, my mom hosted a baby shower in which our main (i.e. most expensive) gift was an immersion blender from KitchenAid; we chose this gift because we wanted a high-quality blender with which to prepare food for Eden, who would be turning 6 months old in January.  To save money and have confidence in what we were feeding her, we wanted to make our own food.

The blender worked really well, I’ve gotta say, for the first 4 months or so.  We made a few batches of hummus, some delicious smoothies, etc. and were quite impressed with its speed, power, and overall effectiveness.  In February of 2011 though, while blending some cooked chick peas in the container the blender came with, the motor suddenly died.  It was disappointing not to have that batch of hummus, but we thought, “oh well… things happen, at least we went with a good brand so we know there’ll be a warranty on it!”.  We called them up, they sent us a pre-paid shipping label and off it went to be replaced.  This was sometime in mid/late February.

In that same month (February) a situation came up with the tenants in the other house on the property we’re living at, and the landlords asked us if we’d be willing to move from 377 (“the little house”) to 383 (“the big house”) – literally, across the driveway.  In fact, here is the view from within our new entryway to the main entrance of the old place:

It was an offer we couldn’t refuse – the big house is really nice – so around the end of February we decided to make the ~30-meter trek across the driveway with our stuff, and settled in the new place.  We officially moved in on March 1st and began the process of unpacking, cleaning, etc.  Somehow, in the midst of all this, it hadn’t crossed my mind to contact Whirlpool Canada and let them know that I’d moved across the driveway.  When I did remember that we had been expecting the package about a week into March, I thought, “whoops!  oh well, even if they did bring it by they wouldn’t have left a package without having somebody sign for it.”  So I waited a few more days.

Finally, I think it was around March 10th or so, I decided to call to find out what the status was on our order.  According to the customer service rep at Whirlpool, the package had been “released” by the driver (Sameday Worldwide) on March 4th.  I asked what “released” meant, because neither of us had seen a truck or signed anything, and it turns out that released can be defined as “left on the deck.”

“Oh…. okay….”

I walked over and checked around the deck, but it wasn’t there.  Of course, it had been almost a week and we’d never seen it despite looking over pretty well every day for one of those door handle thingies (“come pick up your package between this and that time”). They gave me the number for the courier and I called them up.  Turns out they aren’t required to get a signature – I have an issue with this too! – but they told me I wouldn’t be able to make a claim anyway since I wasn’t the one who had contracted their services – Whirlpool Canada was.  When I called Whirlpool Canada to explain the situation, they told me a couple of things:

1) First of all, they had “fulfilled their obligation” by sending out the replacement

2) After I explained that their courier had left the package sitting on a deck with no signature and it had gone missing, and that I was unable to make a claim since I hadn’t paid for the service, they said they’d call me back

3) Several days later they called me back (yesterday, March 24) only to tell me AGAIN that they had fulfilled their obligation and would not send a replacement or make a claim because I had moved without informing them.

Let me show you another picture of the house we moved FROM and the house we moved TO:

The house we lived in before (left) and now (right)

I explained to the rep exactly how close the houses were to each other, and the fact that I had a clear view to the deck where the package was supposedly left, but that didn’t seem to matter.  He told me I’d have to follow up with the courier, even though the courier clearly already told me that they could only process a claim from the company that contracted their services.  The courier ALSO told me that they process claims from Whirlpool Canada on a regular basis, and it makes perfect sense that Whirlpool would be the entity required to make this claim.  Therefore, attempting to pass me back to the courier was obviously just a way to get me off their (Whirlpool’s) back.

So now Eden is 8 1/2 months old, at the exact age where we need a blender to make food for her practically every day.  Fortunately a friend of ours was kind enough to lend us a blender for a week or so, so we made a bunch of food and froze it, but that’s only a temporary solution.  On my income alone we can’t afford another KitchenAid blender, that’s for sure, but we also don’t want to waste money on a cheaper product that won’t do the job right.  I just don’t understand why KitchenAid isn’t willing to be reasonable in this instance and process a claim on our behalf.  I’ve tried to empathize with them on the matter (more than they have with me!), but as a customer support rep I’m just really disappointed with their lack of effort.

Am I being unreasonable?  Should I just accept the fact that – in moving and failing to inform them – I messed up and deserve not to receive my replacement blender?  I’m not freaking out and I never did on the phone, because I don’t want that to be what it takes to get the service I expect… should I just give up on KitchenAid and avoid all of their products in the future?  Does anyone have a decent blender they’re willing to sell us so we can make Eden’s food?

"Daddy? What do you mean this is my last KitchenAid-blended meal?! Noooo!!"

Our New Neice

We finally got down to Moncton to visit our new little niece Awna-Jolie Cross. What a doll she is! Here are some photos from our trip complements of Nana and Grampy Cross.

Eden meeting Awna, she wasn't really that interested but it was past her bed time.

Reading Eden a story

The New Parents, Wayne and Amy with Turner and Awna

Nana and Grampy proudly showing off their grandchildren

Tim’s shortest post ever

I’m an optimist, and an idealist.  I have big dreams, and I tend to see the best in people and find good in all circumstances, but sometimes it’s hard to keep it up in the face of reality.  I’ve laid in bed awake for a while these past few nights just thinking about my world versus the “real” world, feeling like the former is giving way to one that isn’t so bright and hopeful.  It’s kind of sad, but maybe it’s just a part of growing up.  Sometimes I feel like it would be best just to let the happy, shiny world go and accept the flawed and broken one that surrounds me, like acknowledging it would help me to move on and face bigger issues.  Like in all subjects of study, there comes a point where you need to let go of the naive, simplistic rules you learned about in the beginning in order to delve deeper.

What do you think?  Is it really possible to maintain a sense of optimism, even when you’ve seen and experienced the real world?  Let me know what you think.

Bike Rides and Crusades

Tim here.  I’ve been thinking about a few more things I wanted to share since my last blog post, although many of them aren’t nearly as deep or serious as those.

First of all – related to that post – I just wanted to point out that I really dislike phrases like “look at what religion has done” or “what science tries to do”.  Science and religion do nothing in and of themselves, and to speak as though they do creates what I consider to be an illusion.  It’s individuals who do everything, and to de-personify a thought or action as being done or thought of by science or religion takes away an important aspect of it; namely, that it is a personal thing.  While I understand that most people are just trying to shorten the phrases “religious people” or “scientific people” (each of which are also semi-useless terms, since most individuals have both scientific and religious sides) I feel like this makes it too easy to dismiss the individuality of a belief.  Individuals believe, individuals act.  Besides, lumping all scientific or religious people into their respective, general terms is meaningless since both fields have such variety and conflict within them.  Ok, rant complete (for now).

On another note, I’ve been watching an anime series called Fullmetal Alchemist over the last few weeks, on Netflix.  It’s actually quite a good show, since there’s a storyline besides “I’m gonna fight this guy, then I’m gonna fight that guy, then I’m gonna fight this guy, then I’m gonna fight….”.  There’s one character in the story, an investigator in the military’s special forces, who’s the father of a young child named Alicia.  Every time he talks to somebody he goes on a rant about how wonderful and perfect she is and shows pictures of her, which nobody ever wants to hear or see.  To be honest, it kind of reminded me of myself with Eden, and made me feel a bit embarrassed about times in the past when somebody (at work, for example) has mentioned Eden and I’ve gone to my facebook page to show off all the pictures of her…..  but, she IS cute (for example, see below)!

 

She's so proud of the fact that she can sit up on her own!

 

I had a conversation recently with a coworker about how not everybody needs to live the same life as everyone else to be happy.  It made me think about another former post, in which I talked about how silly I now feel I was – before having Eden – to have wanted to live a few more years without kids, just to enjoy my time with Kathryn.  I realized after having that conversation how much of a dingbat I might have sounded like in that post, trying to impose the changes in my life onto others.  I didn’t mean it to sound that way, but it’s hard sometimes not to believe that everyone else ought to do the same things you’ve done to become happy in order for them to become happy.  Sometimes it’s true that the best thing for me is not the best for you, so if you want to stay single for years and years go for it.  But I still stand by my main theme in that post, which was that we need to be cautious of getting stuck in one place and riding it out all the way to the grave, just because we’re relatively content.

In other news, I’m sure you’re all aware of that fact that I’m on the waitlist for Dal med now.  At first this was quite a bummer to find out, but my outlook has really changed since that day (March 7).  I guess getting on the waitlist has given me assurance that I CAN do this; after all, the waitlist consists entirely of people they are willing to take in, right?  We just didn’t quite make the top 30.  So, even though it means more waiting, and potentially not getting in this year, I actually feel more patient than I have for the last 2 months, and quite satisfied with the knowledge that I will make it sooner or later.  I have yet to hear back from MUN anyway, so there may be good news just around the corner anyway.

I went for my first bike ride today, down to the Irving to get some rolls and back.  It was a beautiful day, so I decided to save a bit of gas and get a bit of exercise.  This was a learning experience: I learned that I am in pathetic shape.  The total distance, there and back, was about 1.3 km, on a slight grade (uphill on the way home!!) and it just about killed me.  On the way home I could feel the burn in my thighs and I was practically hyperventilating… it was horrible, not so much physically but emotionally.  This winter has been one of the least physically active periods of my life, and the evidence was strong in that bike ride today.  I’m glad spring is here so I have no more excuses avoid running around!

Lastly, back to the religion/science thing.  Even if “religious” people did things in the past, or claimed to have done them in the name of God, it’s a moot point.  I don’t claim to be religious, I try to model my choices and actions after Jesus in the way that he approached problems and treated others.  I think this is what he asked of all of us, and if anyone in the past was truly following him he wouldn’t have had any part in the crusades, or the bombing of middle eastern countries, or even in the utter assimilation of other cultures in the name of Christian missions.  Jesus is the guy who, having been given the choice to defend himself against accusations of heresy and blasphemy, choice to silently allow his conviction to proceed (to execution) for the sake of people who hated him.  As it says in Romans 5:8:

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

And by sinners he just means people who were not living for – or even trying to live for – God.  It’s pretty crazy when you think about it, that somebody would die for somebody who hated him.  I don’t know about you, but when someone insults me or hurts my feelings I find it hard not to resent them, much less want to give up my time or effort on their behalf.  So, plainly and simply, anyone who claims to follow Jesus (i.e. be a Christian) and does intentional harm to another is a liar, and their actions or beliefs are irrelevant when it comes to a discussion on Christianity or its effects.

Well, it seems no matter how hard I try to make a light-hearted post it always comes back to these kind of issues.  At least you got to hear about a cartoon and a bike ride in the middle, right?  Haha… please leave a comment if any of these thoughts resonate with you (or are dissonant with yours).  We know from our blog stats that hundreds of people view these posts, so would it hurt to leave a comment?  Of course not!  Join in the discussion, motivate us to keep writing 🙂

Also, check out http://www.jeanofmarc.com to read about my friends’ recent experience in Japan, closer to the western coast of the country but still affected by the earthquake in some ways.  Plus, they’re good writers.