Category Archives: Family

A Little Fun: Dark Dining

It was my sister’s 27th birthday this week, and with the way that plans panned out, she ended up with an entire week of celebrations. My family always celebrate birthdays with a family dinner that everyone attends, but my father was off scuba diving in Hawaii this week. So we went as a family a week early to a restaurant in Vancouver called Dark Table.

Dark Table

My family outside the restaurant, from left: Dad, Mum, Andrew, me, Kelsey

This was no ordinary restaurant – this was a concept called dark or blind dining. Have you heard of this before? It was a fascinating and unique experience. You’ll notice the graphics on the wall behind us have Braille lettering. You eat in pitch blackness and it simulates blindness for the course of your meal. You read the menu and order your meal before even entering the restaurant, because once you’re inside there is no reading taking place. You can’t see ANYTHING.

Our “guide-server” Rose was blind (as are all the servers), and she told us that working in this environment was the first time since losing her sight that she felt in control of her surroundings. When we entered the restaurant, we were taken into a vestibule. The door to the outside and the door from the vestibule into the restaurant were never opened at the same time, thus keeping out all light in the dining area. Once the door to the outside shut, we were instructed to form a “conga line” by placing our left hand on the left shoulder of the person in front of us. The first person in line placed their hand on Rose’s shoulder, and then Rose led us into the darkness and to our table.

I’ve never been anywhere so dark in my life. I had my eyes open the whole time and all I could see was utter blackness. No electronic devices were allowed inside, so there was not even any illumination from cell phone screens. My dad even had a watch face that glowed in the darkness and he had to take it off! The purpose of all this, of course, is to eliminate vision and learn to use your other senses in a safe environment. Of course, it’s something truly special to do this for an experience as sensory as eating.

When our drinks arrived, we were instructed to place our glass in the right corner just above our plate at our place setting. Afterwards it was always easy to find our glasses by touch alone. When the bread basket arrived, we could smell it coming from two long table lengths away, and it was divine. And then came our first real challenge: we had to butter our bread without seeing what we were doing. It was… messy. But we managed!

When our appetizers and entrees arrived, we were ready for a really interesting experience. My brother (later) tweeted a pic of his meal:

ISN’T HE HILARIOUS? Ha. The appetizer was a spinach salad with goat cheese, strawberries and other goodies. It was interesting to take bites of salad and try to identify what components you were tasting and feeling in your mouth. I figured out strawberries by texture before I identified the flavour! The entrees were all simple dishes, designed to make it possible to identify the flavours without seeing your food. The chefs did a great job of anticipating diner’s needs; for example, they had de-tailed my garlic prawns so I didn’t need to fiddle with them in the dark. They had sliced the chicken orders into smaller pieces so that diners wouldn’t be spearing an entire chicken breast into their mouths with their fork!

Despite these measures, it was pretty funny… we all had some success and learned to use our cutlery passably without seeing what we were doing, but all of us ended up hunching over close to our plates and scooping the food into our mouths to minimize dropping food in our laps! Most of us also found that we accidentally knocked some bits of our food onto our place mats, and my sister even used her fingers to pick food up off the plate after awhile. (Why not? Nobody could see her terrible manners!)

The experience was eye-opening (pardon the pun!) We had the most delicious meal of our lives… not necessarily because it was the most delicious that had ever been cooked (although the food was very tasty!) but because we’d never paid so much attention to the smell and taste. We had fun playing a Would You Rather game of choosing between losing one of two senses. It gave me new respect for what those who don’t have the benefit of vision go through every day of their lives. We felt utterly at the mercy of Rose, and it’s lucky she was so lovely and trustworthy! I also was a little shocked to discover how heavily I rely on watching people’s lips move to understand what they’re saying when they’re speaking to me. (I am not deaf! I definitely don’t have the best hearing in the world, but I didn’t realize I did so much lip-reading to filter out distracting background noise)

If you have a dark dining restaurant in your area, I strongly encourage everyone to try this experience. It’s a very unique, memorable and fun way to enjoy a meal.

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A New Outlook on my Biggest Dream

I love goal-setting and resolutions, but I didn’t want to make too many this year. I think it’s better to focus hard on a handful of things that I’d really like to accomplish, rather than spread my efforts too thin and end up with a mostly unfinished to-do list by the end of 2013. So, I asked myself what I wanted the most right now, and one of my answers surprised me so much, I made a huge change to a couple of the things I’ve always been working towards and dreaming about. I decided to forgo an annual resolution list and came up with a 5-year plan instead. My surprising wish was this:

I want to be free of feeling that I’m on a deadline to find the love of my life.

Whoa, right? This is big. I feel like I’m on a deadline because more than anything else in the world, I want to have children. I don’t need to have them right now, but I need to feel that it’s going to happen for me in my lifetime, and I’ve been feeling a rising panic that I’m running out of time. I’m not too old yet, but this feeling is not crazy. I’m nearly 33 years old and I’m single. If I met my perfect man tomorrow, we’re not realistically going to be trying for kids for at least a couple of years, and that’s with pretty swift procreation plans! That puts me at 35 before I am likely to start trying at the earliest: the very age that we’ve all been warned is the time that a woman’s fertility begins significantly declining.

I don’t like dating with this mindset. It makes me feel like I’m just in it for the sperm donor, though I do also want to find love. I am sick and tired of dating in general, as a matter of fact. I miss sex and the comfort of a loving partner, but I haven’t made an effort to meet any new guys in months and I do not  miss going out on worknights to spend an hour or more in awful conversation with a guy 5 years and 30 pounds over what his profile claims, when I knew 30 seconds in that it wasn’t going to work out. I do not miss wasting money on dates with guys that I don’t care about much or at all. I like putting that money towards saving for a new car instead, and spending my time reading new books or laughing with my besties.

But how to be free of that fertility deadline? I still hope that I might be blessed with the experience of pregnancy, childbirth, and having my own biological child one day. But more than that, I want to be a mother. That kid doesn’t need to look like me or share my genes in order to give me the experience of parenting.

I’ve decided to work toward the goal of taking in one or two foster children within the next five years, and let go of the goal of finding a partner who would ultimately the future father of my children. I can do this on my own, and there are many children in awful foster and family situations who need someone stable and caring to give them love. I would like to do this with the idea of eventually adopting children and being their forever home, but I have a lot of research and preparation ahead of me for the next several years in order to make this possible.

So the real steps that need to be taken to make this a reality for me are:

  • Increase my income to a level where I can afford to rent a 2 bedroom property on my own, without the help of a roommate or fostering income.
  • Increase my emergency fund savings to $20,000 without compromising any other aspect of my financial plan.
  • Research the foster care system and possibilities for fostering to adopt in BC. Read about parenting on an ongoing basis. Spend lots of time with my friends’ children and ask other parents about the day to day reality of caring for children.

I’m really enthusiastic about the freedom and stress relief I’ve created in my life by shifting my perspective on what it means to be a parent and how that should happen. This has lifted a big weight off my shoulders and made room for a new possible future that has my heart singing right now.

The Night Before Christmas

This Christmas Eve, like every year, I will be attending church with my family this evening (despite not being a believer, it’s very meaningful to my mum to have the whole family join her for Christmas Eve mass, so we all join her) followed by a reading of The Polar Express at midnight. I’ll be sleeping over at my parents’ house, like old times, and waking up to open stockings in my jammies and having first breakfast of whatever chocolates we can find. Then second (REAL) breakfast of my dad’s homemade Eggs Benedict, served with mimosas. For most people, the big meal is Christmas turkey dinner, and we do that too, but if I had to pick just one Christmas tradition, it would be my dad’s Eggs Benedict Christmas breakfast. He’s ruined me for all other Eggs bennies, and there’s just something so wonderful about seeing my dad (who generally doesn’t cook and stays out of any kitchen prep work) being the hub of all the meal prep action, timing everything down to a T and assigning tasks to the rest of us to get everything on the table at the same time. Eggs Benny is one thing that has to be eaten super fresh and hot – it doesn’t wait, doesn’t care if you wanted to take a family photo first or the English muffins weren’t ready when the sauce was done!

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night! Wishing you a belly full of your favourite holiday treats that don’t end up on your hips, quality time with those you love the most, and a prosperous New Year. What’s your favourite holiday tradition?

This post was inspired by the Sisters Share It All blog series written by sisters Janssen, Landen and Merrick where they wrote about their favourite Christmas traditions.

For My Grandmother

My amazing maternal grandmother finally passed away about three weeks ago at the age of 101 – yes, she lived over a century and even got a card from the Queen on her 100th birthday (and champagne in her nursing home bed!) This is what I wrote to be read at her memorial service, which happened last Wednesday:

Growing up in Canada, thousands of miles away from my grandmother, I wasn’t able to get to know her well, as many here today will have. This is a sadness for me, but has also been an unexpected blessing in that the rare times I have spent with her have taken on a magical and very special quality. You appreciate with a certain awe the lovely things in your life that you know are rare and precious, and that became the way I treasured time and memories with my Granny.
I’ve sifted through the special memories I have of my Granny in preparation for today, thinking which I could share. There’s the memory of the warm closet where she kept her towels, so at age 5 when I was visiting at her house, she would always have a perfectly warm towel for me when I got out of the bath. I remember how much I loved that simple pleasure.
We don’t have clotted cream in Canada, where I live and grew up, so I remember her going out of her way to serve it with dessert whenever we were visiting, and the ensuing adventure of one particular container of clotted cream as my brother Andrew tried to smuggle it back home on the plane!
There was the time when I was 12 years old and had a crush on a boy for the first time, and I remember thinking that maybe I shouldn’t tell her about him because she might think it was inappropriate or I was too young (even though it was all very innocent!) But when Granny heard that I liked a boy she got quite a sparkle in her eye and wanted all the good gossip! We talked for what seemed like hours that day, sitting in lounge chairs in her back garden.
I saw my Granny for the last time when I came over to travel through Europe for a few months four years ago. She was 97 years old, but still a force to be reckoned with. My uncle and I had afternoon tea with her at her house, and I tried to help out with the food and some light cleaning, but she wouldn’t have any of it – she was still running her own house and very proud of it at that time! I have nothing but admiration for my amazing gran.
More than anything, I’ve always held up my Granny & Grandpa’s relationship as a shining example of what real love looks like. I didn’t get to witness much of it in person, but through stories and my Granny’s actions and words, I knew that what they had was something special. I know that she’s been without the love of her life for 22 years now and she’s been looking forward to seeing him again, and now I’m sure they are together again at last. I only hope to be as lucky as they have been.

I’m not sure I can convey how or why these memories mean so much to me… they are but small, everyday moments in my Granny’s life. But each one shows a snippet of the love, kindness, humour, and tenacious spirit that were all such defining parts of who she was, and that is the woman I hold in my heart as my grandmother. 

I lost my Grandpa on my mother’s side when I was just 10 (the husband of my 101-year old granny who just passed) – he was actually born in 1899 if you would believe it! But I had the rest of my grandparents until last year, and all three of them seem to have gone in fairly quick succession. My Granddad on my father’s side in January 2011 to lung cancer that progressed and took him very quickly, and then my Grandma (his wife)’s body just about collapsed a few months later… I reckon she died of a broken heart later last year. And now that my Granny is also gone, I no longer have any living grandparents. Last year I was still blessed with three.

The realization hit me full force today for some reason, and by chance my aunt came into the office with a ring that had belonged to my Grandma. I already have one from my Granny. Now I have one from both of my grandmothers. I love it!

From my Instagram feed