Menu Plan Monday: January 28 – February 6

I bought a slowcooker on Saturday. I wasn’t sure if I was going to buy another one since moving to Perth, but the heat wave we’ve been having (+40 degrees Celsius every day) changed my mind – and the fact that I’m 36 weeks pregnant. By 4pm I pretty much have no energy left to stand in a hot kitchen and cook something so I figured getting a slowcooker would be worth the investment (of $25…at Big W, aka Walmart). I’ve also missed making my yogurt and since we’ve been having smoothies all the time it’s nice to have plain yogurt to throw in it. Eden LOVES yogurt, it’s probably her snack of choice these days, so making it in the slowcooker is much more frugal.

That said the meals this week are centered on slowcooker recipes. Since Tim’s not going to be around for 10 days I need to be somewhat organized when it comes to meals so Eden and I don’t just end up eating pbj sandwiches, or bread and cheese all the time. I also want to make sure I don’t have a lot of work to do during the pre-supper time because Eden normally needs a lot of attention (when Daddy comes home and plays with her normally) and I want to make sure we’re eating veggies.

To be honest I’ve been finding this summer cooking thing difficult. Tim and I like salads and other cold meals but Eden doesn’t really eat raw veggies so I’m finding it difficult to think of meals that we can all eat and enjoy together. I’m also finding that making raw meals like salads takes more work at supper time and doesn’t last as long (normally we get 1 meal, maybe lunch the next day) before they go bad. If you have any summer recipes that contradict what I’ve said please share them in the comments!

That said, here is my meal plan for the next 9 days! For most of these recipes I can do the prep in the mornings when I have energy and Eden is happy.

Breakfasts: We normally eat breakfast cereal but I do plan on making Apple Pie Steel-Cut Oats for Saturday morning as a treat

Lunches: Quesadillas (beans, cheese, salsa, corn, peppers, baked), eggs, shaved ham with cheese and bread, leftovers, canned beans (these are all things Eden will eat usually)

Suppers:

S: Pulled Pork Sandwiches and Garden Salad

M: Leftover Pulled Pork (make yogurt over night)

T: Supper with friends

W: CrockPot Mac and Cheese with Frozen Peas (Eden loves frozen peas and corn, she’ll eat them when they’re still frozen for a snack!)

T: Supper with friends

F: Left over Mac and Cheese (make Apple Pie Steel-Cut Oats over night)

S: Homemade Pizza (clean out fridge meal)

S: CrockPot Pesto Fish, Rice, and Frozen Veg

M:Leftovers

Tim doesn’t return until Wednesday night but I think I’m going to leave the last 2 days for now because I’m not really sure what I’m going to have left in the fridge. I don’t want to waste food and we’ll definitely go through a lot less with him gone.

So there you have it, enough meals to feed us until Tim gets home Wednesday evening! Hopefully nothing unforeseen will happen, like me going into early labour while he’s away. I’m really nervous about him leaving for that long but I’ve been trying to stay positive about it. It’s definitely going to be a test for me, especially since I’ve been so tired lately with the whole pregnancy thing. Please keep us all in your thoughts and prayers this week. We would love to hear from you via comments or phone calls so feel free to touch base, but don’t forget about the 12 hour time difference if you’re calling from Canada’s East Coast… And please don’t feel offended if I can’t talk for long, life is unpredictable with a toddler and I like to nap when she does:)

Our First Australia Day

Yesterday was our first time celebrating Australia Day here in Perth.  We managed to get a half decent video of the fireworks show, which happened to occur in the middle of some pretty impressive lightning.  It was just far enough away not to get too nervous about the lightning!

We went swimming at a friend’s pool in the morning, and then to the beach in the afternoon/evening, which helped keep us cool in the 40 degree heat.  Our friends Edith and Nic bought Eden a cute little Australia shirt:

Eden seriously examining a stick she found

Eden and I (Tim) both couldn’t get enough of the water.  I wanted to swim around a bit, but Eden wanted to hold my hands and jump over and over and over… since it kept her entertained for a while, I let her have her way.

Jumping and splashing in the warm (and murky) waters of Matilda Bay

Lastly, I just wanted to share another photo of a sign I find funny.  Back home, you would only use the term ‘Beware’ when you were referring to serious danger, or perhaps in jest.  Here, it seems like the word beware indicates a mild level of caution ought to be exercised, as evidenced by this – seemingly very stern, to a Canadian – sign in the trains, and on buses.  The Gap is generally a space about 2 cm wide between the platform and the train.

Beware The Gap!

Every time I look at it I feel like I’m in danger of being sucked into an inescapable vortex of pain and suffering.  And maybe I am.

So happy Australia Day.

On Monday I head up north to begin my first FIFO swing (get used to the term FIFO, because I don’t intend to define it in every single blog post: it means Fly In/Fly Out).  Things are going to be different, and probably quite difficult for a while.  Thankfully, Kathryn’s sister Heather is coming over for a few months to help out with the new baby and Eden, so that’ll be great for Kathryn (and for Heather, I bet).

I’m not going to miss sitting in front of a computer in the office all day, but I will definitely miss Eden and Kathryn.  Today I was getting ready for work and Eden asked me to colour with her.  I told her I had to go to work, and after suppressing a trembling lip she put her hand on my leg and said, “Be back? be back?” until I assured her that I would be home for supper.  Talk about breaking my heart…

So keep us in your prayers and sign in to Skype.  Send Kathryn letters and give her a ring (a phone call, but jewelry might help too).  I will have internet up north, so chances are I’ll be blogging a bit from there, and Kathryn may be blogging from here too, to help pass the evenings.

A la prochaine.

Menu Planning and Crafty Things

I’ve gotten back into menu planning the past few weeks. I haven’t been sharing them with you because I forget and then it’s too late. Anyway, I’m not going to bore you with the whole menu this week but I thought I’d let you know that I’m back at it and it makes a huge difference in our lives, especially being able to start prep in the morning when it’s not too hot yet, and Eden’s not too cranky, and I”m not too tired to stand in the kitchen.

I did make these for supper tonight and they were delish! Got the idea off Pinterest…my newest obsession.

I recently did some crafty projects too! I bought a few large frames at an op shop (second hand store) and fixed them up to be functional. I didn’t really get before pictures but we have a few to share.

Painting the Ballet Bears

Cut up paint chips and glued them to the back, painted the frame, and put it back together

The finished product!

We're using it as a white board - currently for meal planning!

Painting the back of another frame with chalkboard paint

Also painted the frame, put it back together and hung!

and can we really have a blog post without a cute picture of Eden?

And that’s it. I’m off to bed. For all you Aussies out there stay cool, for all you Canadians stay warm and drink a hot drink for me, preferable in front of a fire!

2011 – A year end review

I received a beautiful Christmas letter from some Lab City friends recently and it inspired me to get my act together and work on this blog post. I love receiving Christmas letters from people I don’t keep in close contact with, because it’s a great way to keep connected and share the highlights and important events of the year. Writing is also a great way to reflect on the past year and plan for the one to come.  My plan was to use our blog archives to spark my memory as to what happened in early 2011…but apparently we didn’t blog much in early 2011 (not one post in January!), so we’ll see how this goes.

January 1 I ran a 5km race after training for a few months with the Running Room. I had decided in September 2010 that I needed a fitness goal if I was going to lose any baby weight and found out I really enjoyed running! It was a great way to start off the year!

Crossing the finish line (I'm the one in the middle)

Throughout 2011 we focused a lot on nutrition in our household. Since moving to Australia, we’ve kind of fallen off the bandwagon (for a number of reasons), but hopefully we’ll be back on track soon. I did a lot of reading on portion sizes, altering recipes, and healthier alternatives to much-loved treats, and we actually implemented a lot of those in our everyday lives. I discovered Chia seed and used it as an oil substitute in many recipes. I really enjoy baking, so this was a great way to experiment! Tim didn’t complain about it, and usually ate even the things that didn’t turn out as planned.

One of the habits we implemented that seemed to be most effective in helping us eat healthy foods was to create a meal plan every week.  For a while I was doing really well at it, sitting down every Sunday evening or Monday morning and writing out a plan for the week, along with a grocery list. I was trying new recipes and new foods, and eating (and cooking) became one of my greatest pleasures. With the recent move, things have become really disorganized, which has had an impact on what we eat.  The fact that I still don’t have any of my own kitchen supplies doesn’t help either. Hopefully over the next few weeks I can pull it together and resume consistently writing meal plans at least!

Eden was involved in a program called Roots Of Empathy where once a month we visited a local school and the grade 3/4 class learned all about her development.

Eden surrounded by her students!

Tim had an interview for MUN med school in January, finally arriving in St. John’s after several days of being storm-stayed in Halifax. Thankfully, we have wonderful friends who live close to the Halifax airport and visited him during that frustrating episode. He finally ended up having his interview after several cancelled flights and just 4 hours of sleep; needless to say, he didn’t get offered a seat there.  He did, however, end up getting waitlisted for Dal med school later in the year; a hope we held on to for months afterwards, to no avail.

Skating on our local outdoor rink on a mild February day.

Tim continued working for Radian6, where he really enjoyed his job and his colleagues.  After about 8 months of working a mix of days and nights (weekend nights, every weekend!), he even managed to get into an all day shifts schedule.  That was a big improvement, since he had been missing many hours of sleep each week due to irregular hours.

Eden grew a couple of teeth in February, and we also welcomed a new niece to the family! We made it down to Moncton to meet Awna early in March, which was great.  It’s pretty cool to think that Eden and her are so close in age, so if we happen to live close by again someday they may get along well.  We spent heaps of time every week with Charlotte and Lila, Pamela and Tim’s girls, and it was such a blessing to have that family tie in Fredericton. We – including Eden – definitely miss them daily and look forward to the next time we can play/chat together.

Amy, Awna, Kathryn and Eden at Awna's baby shower

Eden and Lila playing together

One of my most favourite pictures of Charlotte and Lila taken at Eden's birthday

[Tim is taking over the writing now…]

March 1 was the day we moved from our “little house” in New Maryland to the “big house”, on the same property.  Those of you who visited us there will recall that it was basically a mansion.  It had 4 large bedrooms, a massive kitchen and living area, a two-car garage, a huge barn, heaps of land, a beautiful back deck with perfect anchor points for my hammock… it was pretty luxurious, but having lived there and done that, we learned early in life that having a big house is more of a hassle than anything.  It was great for hosting events, but for daily living it just seemed like so much to clean all the time!  We found ourselves visiting smaller, 3-bedroom bungalows – the kind of house we’re living in now – and thinking, “now this is nice!”

It was during our stay in the big house that a few important events unfolded.  First of all, in the month of May, I was offered a seat at a medical school in the Caribbean called St James School of Medicine.  Like most Caribbean schools, this one conducts their first two years of classes on an island – I had applied to the Bonaire campus – then 2 years of clinicals in the United States – this school had affiliations mainly with hospitals in Chicago – which is where most students go on to do Residency.  Students end up writing the same qualifying exams as American/Canadian grads, so in the end have virtually the same knowledge and capabilities, although word on the street (i.e. forums) is that you don’t have quite the same level of support at most “carib” schools as you would at home, so you need to put a lot of effort into supplemental studying if you want to ace the exams.  But it can definitely be done, and I was more than excited about the opportunity.  Kathryn and I were stoked about the prospect of overseas adventure (as always), and I was going to fulfill my long-held desire to study medicine!

Thanksgiving at the Crosses!

Alas, when it came down to it, I couldn’t come up with the funding.  I was going to require a pretty astronomical loan, which we couldn’t secure on the income of a stay-at-home-mom, so I had to turn the seat down.  I should have foreseen this, but even so, it was really… just… depressing.  The day I called up the admissions rep to tell her I couldn’t accept the offer, I spent a lot of time brooding.  Kathryn and I went for a drive out to the country, just to take our mind off things a bit, and we ended up talking and praying about the future.  I confronted God about why the door to international opportunity always seemed to open just enough for us to get excited, only to slam in our faces.  Did he want us to stay in Canada forever, even though that wasn’t our hearts’ desire?  Nothing against Canada, there’s just so much to see and do around the world, and we’d been talking about travel and life overseas since we started dating!

The very next day I got an email, followed shortly by a phone call, from a friend and former IOC colleague, currently living in Australia.  I hadn’t even spoken to this guy in at least a year, and he knew nothing about our recent events.

“Look, I don’t know if you’d be interested, but we’ve got a few vacancies for geologists based out of Perth, if you want to think about it and let me know”

Needless to say, we thought about it, and acted on it, and this time around it all came together.  The second half of 2011 was dominated by the application/screening process, then the visas, then the move itself.  We also found out we were expecting our second baby around the same time – interesting timing, to say the least (refer to this post for more info), but we decided that pregnancy wasn’t going to stop us from an international adventure this time.

Nickerson Family Reunion, July 2011 - The Jamieson Clan and Gramp

Eden had heaps of milestones along the way, of course, being at that age in which new skills are acquired almost daily.  She learned to bumscoot, we weaned her from nursing – there’s no way I could have anticipated how much of an improvement this led to in her sleeping habits – she turned 1, and then one day she just started walking like it was no big deal!  It was so exciting.  I love her.

Birthday Girl

Watching Eden grow has been incredible.  I mean, it’s not like one should expect otherwise, but it is so awe-inspiring.  To think that this kid simply did not exist before, and is a unique combination of you and your lover, and just figures stuff out all time on her own, and has a unique personality, and is so unbearably cute.  Ahhh, being a dad is the best unplanned thing that ever happened to me.  In fact, I think I never could have made a plan so good!  Sorry to steal your line, Tim and Melissa Winsor, but as you said in your Christmas letter, “no matter how the day goes, looking at her asleep at the end of the night makes everything right.”

Eden’s taken the move to Australia pretty casually.  For all she knows, we’ve gone back across the driveway from the big house to the little house, and it just got really hot.  She’s been sleeping in a single bed (actually, a trundle bed from underneath a single bed), which sometimes results in hilarious sleeping postures, as some of you have seen on facebook.  My favourite is when I get up in the morning and find her sprawled out completely flat on the floor.  She comes to breakfast shortly after with nice carpet textures on her face.

Snoozing on one of the many flights

For all of us, moving here has been a great experience so far.  There have been days where it’s hard to be so far away, especially for Kathryn, but the seemingly endless sunshine and mostly pleasant temperatures help.  My colleagues at Rio Tinto and the people from the church have welcomed us so well, and there are lots of playmates for Eden.  She always has a great time when other kids are around, and she’s been asking to go to the beach more and more, which is great considering she wouldn’t put her feet down on the sand on her first visit!

Testing out the water temperature

Our Christmas could best be described as low-key.  It’s hard to get into the Christmas spirit when it’s hot and sunny, and family is on the opposite side of the world.  We actually didn’t even get each other a single present, so on Christmas day the only gift we opened was Kathryn’s “sister gift” from Charlotte.  That was it!  Many nice cards and even some gifts have trickled in via mail since then, so thanks to all of you who’ve had a part in that.  We’ve been spending so much money getting settled in, the thought of Christmas shopping was just a burden!  We did, however, enjoy a wonderful, three michelin star Christmas dinner at one of the church leader’s homes, which helped us feel a bit of holiday spirit.  The host even lit a few candles in the fireplace to make us feel at home 🙂

So that’s basically it, a summary of 2011.  The big move has been exciting, but to be honest I have to suppress a feeling much like grief every day, when I think about the fact that I’ve set my desire to study medicine aside for a time.  I’m trusting God that it’s the right thing to do, and trying to believe people who tell me I’m still young.

On the 30th of January I fly up north for my first full roster (10 days) in the field.  It will be the start of a new season for us; one in which Kathryn has to basically fulfill the role of a single mom for almost 9 months of the year (field season goes until end of October, tentatively).  We’re grateful for the friends we’ve made here and the many resources available to FIFO (fly in fly out) families, but I’m sure your prayers, skype calls, encouragement, emails, letters, and blog comments will remind her of all the support she has all over the world.

Thank you for keeping up with our blog, especially to all of you who’ve been engaged so much lately in commenting!  It is a huge motivator to keep on blogging, and even to make an extra effort to experience the life Perth has to offer – we want to keep our content interesting, after all.  Good on you for getting through such a long post, and I hope you feel the love and best wishes for 2012 that we’re sending your way.

Christmas Day 2011

A Crisis of Trust

I think most people go through phases in which they question fundamental aspects of their beliefs.  Some people don’t experience this at all, and just go on blissfully believing what they were taught in Sunday School all their lives; oh, how I wish I was one of them (sometimes).  When questions arise, I’m the kind of person who tends to tackle them head on, but at the same time I’m very hesitant to commit to any particular answer.  It can be exhausting, sitting on a fence all the time.

Let’s see… where to begin?

I guess I began to question certain aspects of my religion around the time I realised that women were beautiful (approximately grade 1?).  Or maybe it was when I realized that not everyone believed what I believed, which might have been even earlier.  Either way, my questioning “phase” hasn’t stopped since.  I haven’t flat-out abandoned my faith, which is actually somewhat miraculous, but I’m about as skeptical as they come within the church.  The thing is, when it comes down to it, I want to be a part of the church and to believe what I believe.  And I have a pretty strong conviction that just about everyone actually just believes what they want to in the end, and backs up their position by selectively drawing from literature of a similar persuasion.

When I first learned the details of evolutionary theory (the origin of species by means of natural selection) in first-year university, I was unexpectedly impressed by its thoroughness.  I thought it was going to be some shaky nonsense that would be easy to refute, but as I read through my textbooks I found it quite well presented, consistent, and even believable.  This initiated a bit of a crisis of faith for me, since I found myself actually enjoying the study of evolution/geology, and more or less believing the content.

This experience led to a practically ongoing phase in which I’ve tried to reconcile belief in God/Jesus with belief in evolution, which the well-known atheistic evangelist Richard Dawkins has claimed is not genuinely possible, since the latter is fundamentally corrosive to the former.  The more I think about it, the more I’m tending to agree with him.  The problem is, at the same time, I’m not entirely convinced that I can accept 6-day creation (thus abandoning mainstream science).

It’s not that there aren’t enormous, physics- and biochemistry-defying holes even in the fundamental aspects of evolutionary theory.  It’s actually too easy to identify them.  It’s just that I empathize with both sides of the argument.  I understand the odd sort of comfort that could be found in this life being all there is to it, no strings attached to a non-existent soul.  But at the same time I find the evidence for the truth of the Bible (taken in context) and Jesus’ claims/actions to be stronger than what I’ve seen for an entirely naturalistic view of life.  So what’s making me hesitate to hop off the fence and fully onto conservative Christian terrain?

Basically, it’s Hell. H, E, double hockey sticks.

This is the crux of my crisis of trust (to use a religious metaphor/semi-pun).

It’s not a crisis of faith, because to be honest I don’t have any difficulty believing in God.  I think the evidence is abundant, in the existence of everything (anything), in my personal experience and that of friends and fellow believers, and in the fact that so many things in life are just so wonderful to experience without offering any conceivable survival advantage (granted, my mind may not be creative enough to conceive of the advantages…).

But I recently read this book on hell by Francis Chan, which was basically a rebuttal to Rob Bell’s latest book that stopped just short of stating that everybody goes to Heaven in the end, no matter what (apparently, although I haven’t read it since I couldn’t get into Bell’s earlier books).  I think the book was designed to strengthen Christians’ faith or something like that, but it only left me convinced of one thing: if you want to believe the words of Jesus, you also have to accept his stance on hell, which is pretty clear; that it’s not just a destination for Hitler and priests who molest children, but for any individual who doesn’t accept that Jesus is the literal incarnation of God, who died on humanity’s behalf to justify us before God, and was raised from the dead to demonstrate his authority.  Nobody else is exempt, even those who have never heard of him, or who are “good” people, or who go to church every Sunday out of habit/tradition but have never personally acknowledged him.

That is a tough pill to swallow, and that is why I’m having a crisis of trust.  The thing is, I honestly think Jesus is fantastic.  I love to read the accounts of his life (i.e. the biblical books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) and the things he said.  I love the way he stood up for the disadvantaged, dished out relentless, scathing criticism on the selfish and overtly ‘religious’, and laid down his life out of love for his friends.  He was amazing, really, a top notch kind of guy.

But why did he have to go along with the whole hell thing?  Couldn’t he have clarified that it was symbolic?  Does it really have to be this way?  Perhaps worst of all, do I even WANT to believe in a God who is just letting this happen?  I know there are answers (e.g. he’s letting it happen because his holy nature doesn’t allow him to be in the presence of sinners, so as a result hell exists.  And people need to be allowed the choice to love or reject God freely, because love that isn’t a choice isn’t genuine, etc.), but I just don’t know if I want to trust him on this.  I’ve been feeling like a victim of the holocaust who’s been offered an opportunity to operate the gas chamber his family and friends will be in.  I’d say “No, I don’t want to be part of your exclusive group that’s been set apart – I’d rather die with the ones I love”.  Kind of harsh maybe, but surely the holocaust is a mild analogy for hell!

If you’ve read all the way through this, I’m guessing you may have had similar questions.  Have you got resources to share on the topic?  Do you understand how I feel/think?   Like I said, if only I could be one of those people who cruise through life on faith!  Alas, it seems that personality trait just wasn’t in my genes…