Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Bottle Man

I gotta say, I live in a great community. Its not fancy or remotely upscale but that doesn't matter. The building I call home was built in the late 60s and even though its well maintained, its slowly falling apart. Despite issues with the hot water system, water pouring into the elevator shaft from heaven-knows-where, and a mysterious but unavoidable odor that has permeated the hallway (my nose tells me its a combination of curry, burnt sugar, weed and stale cigarette smoke...), I couldn't love this place more.

There's 30 units in this building, each with their own share of problems. My tub leaks, my stove and fridge are from the dark ages and my carpet is in sorry shape. But it doesn't bother me because I know that in the other 29 units above and beside me there are at least 60 other lives that are being lived out. Those lives include the guy who rips out of our parking lot on his motorcycle with a deafening exhaust, the lady who takes her license plate off her car for fear it'll be stolen and the students above me who play poker on their balcony til all hours. And ya know, they're all so darn friendly.

Most of us are considered 'low-income' but the fact that we're below the poverty line doesn't stop the acts of kindness I see almost every day. Whether its the lady upstairs loaned me a cup of icing sugar (which I paid back with a batch of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies - to her delight) or the guy in the unit beside me who asked to borrow my house phone so he could find his misplaced cell phone, we're all part of a community.

But my favourite neighbour by far is a fellow who lives in the apartment complex behind my building. His name is Manfred and he collects pop bottles. He's been retired for a number of years and has taken on this mission - to seek and collect pop bottles from the four corners of our neighbourhood. And gosh, the friends he's made - myself included! Manfred starts his rounds at 9am and I often see him returning home as late as 8pm. He keeps a grocery cart at a house just two doors down from my building where he stores all those bottles and cans, fills that cart and treks over to the bottle depot, a 30 to 45 minute walk. Every. Freaking. Day. Including Saturday. Rain or Shine. Snow or Sleet. He's out there, collecting bottles.

I met Manfred about two years ago. I was accosted by him, this elderly man with a garbage picker-upper who was searching through the garbage and recycling bins behind my building on this self-imposed mission. He wanted to know if I had any pop bottles in the garbage I was about to throw out. I didn't but in my storage room, I had two garbage bags full! Against my policy of never allowing strangers in my unit, I let Manfred come in and collect those recyclables. I figured I could take him if he tried any funny business!

Manfred and I now have a policy. As I collect bottles and cans from family and friends, I leave them in in plastic bags on my ground-floor balcony. And just now, Manfred has come to collect another bag of recyclables courtesy of my parents. I can only guess at how much money Manfred has raised, all for Samaritans Purse. They do a lot of good work in developing countries and certainly benefit from Manfred's tireless fundraising.

I'm blessed to live in a neighbourhood, that though lacking in monetary wealth, is so rich in friendships and community. Every time I think of moving, I'm reminded of the lives being lived out around me and how much I would miss my daily interaction with this cast of unusual characters! I'm blessed, indeed!

Moving Forward with Joy.

Sunday, June 3, 2012


Hello folks!

An accomplishment in my life: 

I spent months looking at webpage after webpage of crate-shelving inspiration and over those months I nabbed eight wooden crates. Two wine crates from the liquor store for free, three old cranberry crates from Cannor Nurseries, an apple crate from a friend and three very old coca-cola crates from my dad... I set out to make my vision come to life. After much searching, planning and dad's cordless drill and stud finder, this is what we put together:

It isn't the layout I'd originally planned on but this was dad's suggestion based on where the studs in the wall were. And ya know, I'm pretty happy with the final product! 

I'm not done dressing up these shelves but am slowly getting there. I'm planning on purchasing more clear Tupperware tubs for flour and sugar as they're currently in their original 25lbs bags inside that beige/brown Rubbermaid bin in the bottom right of the picture. And I want to put more of my special cookbooks on display as well as a few of my nicer tea cups and saucers in the coming days. One thing at a time, right?

Not pictured here are the two wine crates that we screwed to the wall above my sewing/crafting desk in my bedroom (which is a room unfit for cameras at this point!) and I stacked two crates to put my printer on beside my computer desk. The bonus: I no longer have to stand on my desk to scan documents/pictures. Safety first, folks.

Moving Forward with Joy.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Hello folks.

It has occurred to me that I've been up to an awful lot lately and that only my Facebook friends know about my many adventures and creations. Such a shame!

Today we'll catch up on my crocheted creations. This is just a selection of what I've branched out into making over the last year.

Play Food:

 Milk, chicken drumsticks, cookies, carrot, apple

Grapes, Pickles and a Banana (with removable peel)

Fried Eggs, beet root and leaves, donut and corn (with removable husk)

A dozen cupcake

Close up of said cupcakes

Stuffed Toys:


(I found inspiration from A Morning Cup of Joe but made up my own pattern)


 Granny Square-style toque 

 Viking Toque
(Found inspiration from Snorg Tees)

Brown Bear Toque

Have made dozens of these. These suckers are top sellers!

Odds and Ends:

 A tea cozy

 A baby photography prop - turtle

A sweater for my little niece

Each piece has its own story but for the most part they were experiments. A few of them were requests/commissions (the play food, for example) but have now made several of each with the exception of the pink sweater and the turtle prop. Crocheting things for profit has been a good way to earn a few extra pennies, I won't lie, but I still do it for the same reason - for a love of all the craft!

Until Next Time,

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Six months.

I realize its been six months since I blogged here. I think occasionally about this space and how to best sum up the last six months of my life and since I didn't have words to do that, I've stayed away from here.

My life became very difficult in about April (despite what my perky blog posts would seem to reflect) when I begged my doctors to change one of the medications that I'm on. Zyprexa had been a good drug for me, mentally. I've had stable moods for nearly seven years, but it wasn't so good for the rest of me - weight gain, the beginning of metabolic syndrome (high cholesterol and high blood sugars) and teetering on the edge of diabetes. There were two new drugs that came on the market and I bent my doctors' arms into letting me try them out. Neither Abilify or Zeldox (Geodon) were what we'd hoped they'd be which was incredibly hard as my moods raged out of control. It was five months of sky-highs and soul crushing lows and in September I went back on Zyprexa. It didn't take long for me to go back to being stable.

Even though Zyprexa evens out my moods, it can be a frustrating medication in other respects. Not just the physical things (weight gain, etc) but also how sedated it makes me. If there was one amazing thing about my time off Zyprexa, it was that I could think with crystal clarity! I haven't thought that clearly in years and giving that up, no matter how hard the mood swings were, was a very hard decision. It was nice to be able to spar verbally with dad and Jill and to engage in meaningful conversation and debate with other people in my life. Unfortunately the extremes that my moods went to made going back to the world of 'stoned indifference' the only option. As hard as it is to be foggy and to not be able to concentrate or read for pleasure (or learning, for that matter), I decided that it was more important to be stable and reliable than it was to argue passionately.

Some would say that sharing my medication woes and deep truths about what its like to have a mood disorder isn't appropriate. They've said I should just mind my P's and Q's and keep this sort of information quiet except to the closest people in my life but ya know, I'm tired of living like that. I'm not ashamed that I've got a mental illness. Its just a piece of what makes a whole and its not shameful by any stretch of the imagination. Unfortunately some think that mental illness is best kept quiet. I wonder if they really understand what keeping this kind of thing secret is really like and if they know how it only compounds the problem. I refuse to let my mood instability be something people whisper about behind my back. I welcome questions and curiosity!

But the good news is that my life is back on track, thanks in part to my old medication but also because I've got amazing family and friends who stand by me no matter what my moods do. I'm grateful.

Moving Forward with Joy.

Friday, July 1, 2011


I trust this finds you all well.

Things here are getting busier and busier! We're gearing up for our family reunion in a little over two weeks! Gosh, we can't believe how quick this is coming upon us... mom and dad in particular have been busiest. They've done lots of yard work - no more than normal, actually, but it has a special feeling about it now because we're expecting 85 of our closest relatives for three days. Gotta make the place shine! This is dad's side of the family that we're expecting and we couldn't be happier. We're only hoping now for good weather. We've had an incredibly wet spring in the Fraser Valley and we're praying for at least one sunny weekend - namely the weekend of July 15th!

And in that vein, we took a family trip to Costco yesterday. I've been there only once or twice as a young child so its still very exciting to me. I'm certainly not in the market for hardwood flooring or bulk flatwear but I picked up a few good deals on olives, toilet paper and peach cups (in apple juice of course, not syrup - 15g of carbs in each cup and less if you don't drink the juice! yay.). Also found a deal on canned cat food that I'm sure Georgina will appreciate and even managed to find the world largest bag of chocolate chips - 5 pounds! Ok, I'm sure there are bigger bags but its the biggest I've seen! It was a great experience and as a birthday gift to me, Mike bought me $40 of my groceries. So kind!

Mom and dad got some good deals, too. Plastic cutlery, ketchup, and pickles... and who knows what else. It'll all be well used for the reunion.

I'm doubly excited about this reunion as I wasn't originally intending to go. My seizures are triggered by camera flashes so large gatherings have been completely out of the question for the last eight years. But my dear friend Michelle has been teaching me mobility skills for the blind and even bought me my own cane. So I'll be at the reunion, just in an adapted, Deedee-safe, sorta way! I have my sleepshade and my cane and will be getting a funky pair of sunglasses to go over top of said sleepshade... and voila - Deedee can go to the family reunion! I know its rather unorthodox but it would be more of a shame for me to miss the whole shin-dig then for me to have to come 'blind'. I'm excited to see everyone and hug the life out of my aunts from Alberta. Plus we're having a pig roast on Friday evening and I'll be damned if I'm going to miss that! lol. I think its a good way to have both me there as well as all the pictures people want to take. Best of both worlds, in my opinion.

Am just on my way out the door to mom and dad's for supper. Homemade pizza. YUM!

Moving foward with Joy!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Hello folks.

As you can see, I've given this blog a facelift. It needed some lovin' and a new Spring look! Let me know if you have any strong view on the new colours and fonts.

Mom and dad spent the afternoon here, helping me with a few things. Dad fixed all my screen windows as well as my hide-a-bed that was broken ages ago. We got lots accomplished and even started on the adapter for my patio window, where the air conditioner will hook up. (Its previously been attached to my kitchen window but its no long practical to have it there). We finished with supper, which mom made for us while dad and I worked away, fixing things. It was strange to have someone else cook in my kitchen but the meal was delightful.

I've had two major excitements in the last two days.

One of them is this:

I have a 'pest' problem. I live on the ground-floor of my apartment block and there are squirrels and cats galore who enjoyed using my planters as both a place to store their treasures (nuts and the like) as well as using it as a convenient bathroom. It was a major pain in the neck for me... as soon as I'd get anything growing, the squirrels and cats would dig it up. BUT this contraption should fix that problem. It was originally a habitat for raising hamsters and guinea pigs. Dad found it abandoned downtown by the old court house and immediately saw potential in it. It was in really really sad shape but after a few weeks, its been reinforced, repainted and re-fibre glassed and is lookin' pretty spiffy! I've planted my 'garden' in it, beans, carrots, spinich, dill. And I'm looking forward to being able to enjoy some of those veggies this year! yay!

The other most major excitement of my last couple days is the arrival of Georgina:

Sorry the picture is a bit blurry. She's 7 weeks old and weighs in at 1 pound! And she's about as big as a brick of butter, too. So adorable. She's currently confined to the bathroom... now that I know she's figured out the litter box, I've been letting her explore her surroundings a bit more - adventures in the living room, kitchen and dining room. I think I'll keep her in the bathroom at night for a few more days but she seems to be settling in very nicely. We have a new apartment manager who doesn't mind us having pets, so I've paid the pet deposit and now Georgina has a home with me.

There's been plenty of other things going on, most notably preparing for the reunion next month. Golly, I can't believe how fast its creeping up on us! I've been baking lots for it... every 10 days I've been making a different kind of Amish bread and then freeze both loaves. They freeze and thaw well plus it means that I'll get my baking done while its still cool out. I found this site. Its got TONS of new amish bread recipes. I've got the Apple Streusel Amish Bread in the oven right now. Lookin' pretty good and smells even better! I'm looking forward to trying the coconut cream one next. I split my starter this time, so I've got three other starters. I'm gong to freeze two so that if I kill my starter again I won't have to pester my patient Aunt for some of her sourdough starter! And the remaining starter (besides the one I'll keep to make even more bread!) will make the coconut cream one tomorrow after I go grocery shopping. There'll be over 90 people at the reunion - I'm sure they'll eat all the Amish Bread I can make! haha.

Blessings for all of you out there as you go about your days.

Moving Forward with Joy

Friday, May 27, 2011

Egg-Free Breakfasts


Its interesting what can happen in a month's time, isn't it?

My month has mostly centered on medication changes. It hasn't been easy but I think we've got a keeper. I'm pleased to report this, as my month has seen highs and lows. I'm not out of the woods yet by any means since these drug changes (adding a new drug, taking away another) won't be finished for another month or two. There's a light at the end of my tunnel, I'm happy to say.

This new drug of mine has to be taken with a meal ("not a snack" as the pharmacist and doctor have told me time and time again) so I've actually had to start eating breakfast and supper at the same time each day. That might not sound so bad but it truly is a pain in the rump! Working nights doesn't help but I think I've found a system, thank goodness.

Breakfast is the biggest challenge as I'm badly allergic to eggs and eggs happen to be one of the quickest and easiest breakfasts out there. So, I've turned to oatmeal. Porridge, granola, and the newest addition to my diet, baked oatmeal. I had to go searching the web for new things to do with oats and came across a recipe for it on a vegan website (vegan = no eggs or dairy). I've had some success with the recipe and have made a few tweaks to it, taking into consideration my many other allergies. And all the while, still counting carbs.

Vegan Baked Oatmeal

2 cups oats (I use rolled oats)
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup apple sauce
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup milk (I used coconut but the recipe actually calls for rice)
1/2 cup frozen blueberries

Mix wet ingredients with dry then pour into a greased 8x8 pan.
Bake at 350*F for 25 to 30 minutes
Let set 5 to 10 minutes before serving

1/6 of the pan = one serving = 33g carbs

I was short on cow's milk this last time but I happened to have canned coconut milk. I don't use it very often and I always forget to shake it well before opening the can! I did some fancy work with a wisk and then went from there.

The baked oatmeal turns out great and freezes well. I freeze single-servings and then throw it in the fridge to thaw at night, then heat in the microwave in the morning for quick breakfasts. Top with milk (think: porridge) or yogurt and you're good to go.

If anyone out there has egg-free breakfast ideas, please pass them on!

Bed is calling but I hope this finds you well.

Moving forward, as ever, with Joy.