Monday, March 31, 2014


I'm sure by now you've heard about the famous selfie that Ellen took during the Oscars - and how it generated $1.5 million dollars toward a charity of her choice. Ellen raised the money for Humane Society, specifically towards the end of the Canadian seal hunt, which on her site, she claims is "one of the most inhumane acts against animals allowed by any government" and also wrongly claims that baby seals as young as 3 months old are being harvested (not true, as this was outlawed many, many years ago).

Aside from the misinformation that is floating out there about the seal hunt, and stories such as this frequently mentioning the food insecurity crisis that Inuit face - I think if a person with such influence/exposure is going to make a statement, they need to get their facts straight. I love Ellen, and am a big fan of her show - and I am vehemently against the abuse of living creatures, but I truly feel that the Canadian seal hunt is one of the most unfairly depicted issues out there.

In response to the selfie, Canadians are speaking up and using social media to get their messages to Ellen:

This eloquent young lady's YouTube video addresses some of the key "issues":

This Newfoundlander created a portrait of Ellen made from a seal skin pelt.

And then, there are the #sealfies. People are taking to Twitter and posting pictures of themselves and their seal products (clothing, meat, etc.) to raise awareness. There have been hundreds of photos posted in the past few days - you can see some of them, and read more about it here and read this article here.

Just my two cents on it all.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Chillin' in the Kitchen: Chipotle Nutella Chia Seed Pudding

I am in love with chia seeds. I eat them every day - in smoothies, in oatmeal and even as part of a sweet treat. They are good for you and super versatile. Plus, unlike flax seeds, they don't need to be ground up to be enjoyed. Once they are mixed with water, they expand and create a gel-like substance, so if you have a problem with the texture (similar to tapioca) you can zip them through a blender or food processor to smooth it out.

In my search for healthier choices for sweet snacks, I discovered chia seed pudding - it makes for a great dessert or late night snack, but it's healthy enough you can eat it for breakfast. The beauty of it is once you get the base of it down (chia seed + liquid) you can add whatever you like to it to give it flavour. I've made a few different versions (peanut butter & coconut milk, maple syrup and walnut, coconut and berries, etc.) and they all turn out great. Use your favourite flavours and make it as complicated or as simple as you like!

This is our current favourite flavour - Chipotle Nutella Chia Seed Pudding. The chipotle gives it a smoky spicy kick and the Nutella gives it just the right amount of sweetness. Jeff likes it blended to smooth it out, but I prefer it whole. Either way, it's delicious!

Chipotle Nutella Chia Seed Pudding
makes 1 serving

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Produce Problems

We try to eat fairly healthy when we can - and that typically includes as much fresh fruits and vegetables as possible. Sometimes it can be difficult because the produce isn't in the greatest condition by the time it gets to us, and sometimes when the weather is bad, the shelves at the store are pretty bare with no planes flying in to drop off freight.

It is no surprise that groceries and supplies are expensive in the north. Everyone knows it, we've talked it about it numerous times - it doesn't mean that it makes it easier when you're shopping. Flyers are home sometimes have multiple pages of fresh fruits and vegetables on sale - here, in a 3 or 4 page flyer, you might have 2 or 3 *items* that are fresh produce on sale. Even then, the sale prices are still many times more than what you'd pay in the south. The lack of fresh produce in great condition is amplified in the winter months, obviously. It makes you more appreciative of a good salad or fruit that is crispy and fresh.


The kicker is that produce is supposed to be heavily subsidized under the Nutrition North program. In some cases, such as milk, the savings are noticeable (4L for about $5.09) but you can't tell me that $14.99/kg of bell peppers is subsidized. Imagine what it would be if it wasn't!

We save a bit of money buying frozen fruits and vegetables (still not overly inexpensive, but better than the condition of some of the fresh stuff), but sometimes you just really want a good salad, you know?

I keep trying to make myself feel better by saying that it's ok, summer will be here in just 4 months.
Wait...that's not close at all. Sigh.

Trying to keep the scurvy at bay,

Monday, March 24, 2014

Travel Insurance

Remember the ordeal we went through trying to get back from our trip a month ago? When we returned, I was lamenting to a friend about it, and how it was a lot of money that we weren't expecting to spend. She mentioned that some credit cards offer travel interruption/delay insurance and I should look into it. I wasn't feeling overly confident at my chances, since weather delays aren't paid for by airlines and I assume it would carry into insurance carriers, but I decided it wouldn't hurt to look into it.

When we moved here, we looked into a few different travel reward credit cards and eventually ended up with the platinum American Express Aeroplan. The annual fee is daunting when you see it, I know. BUT it comes with a 2 for 1 annual pass that allows us to fly a short-haul flight for half the points (a $3,000+ value in itself considering Baker to Winnipeg is considered short-haul) and it comes with a wide range of insurance options as well, apparently! It was a really painless process to make a claim - I called the customer service line, explained my situation, had a claim started and they sent me forms to fill out. The forms were easy and didn't take much time, so I packaged them up with my receipts, sent it ExpressPost mail (ugh, $20 for an envelope with a tracking number. That hurt.) Within 2 weeks I was mailed a cheque back for my expenses! Considering I wasn't expecting any of the money to be returned, what a nice surprise to open my mail and see it waiting for me. The only thing that the policy does not cover is transportation (car rental, gas, taxis, etc.) but everything else was covered. That almost made the frustration of a 6 day delay better. Almost.

To summarize, the moral of the story is - check to see if you have travel insurance through your credit card! If you don't, it is definitely something I would look into - especially if you're traveling in and out of the north!


Friday, March 21, 2014

Happy Birthday (+1 day), Jeff!

Although Jeff's birthday was yesterday, Pepper and I wanted to send birthday greetings for him here as well. So, to our amazing Jeff: we hope this year will be better than you can even imagine, and we hope we made your day special. This is your year. xoxo.

A few days ago I was looking at the weather forecast and predicted that a blizzard would be coming for Thursday. I'm the best wife, aren't I? I tried to control *weather* as a gift to my husband! Things were looking pretty good too, since we were under a blizzard warning - but as is typical in the north, things take a while to get here. The warning was lifted mid-day (and broke my credibility streak at predicting storms, grr!) but the forecast still reads as though there could be potential for something overnight and into tomorrow. Fingers crossed!

We also got a nice gift in the form of railings put up on our stairs, finally! That is exciting in itself, since we have been asking for them since November 2012. A safety concern that was amplified after I took a particularly nasty spill down the stairs, they are now much safer - and it only took a 1 1/3 years. Hooray!

Birthdays and other celebrations are bitter-sweet while we are up here, since it is typically an occasion for us to be reminded of how far our families and friends are. We are blessed to have made a wonderful Baker Lake family to share our special days with, and that definitely makes everything a lot easier. Next year is a big birthday for Jeff - I think it will warrant a location that will be as far away from blizzard-ready as possible. Drinks with tiny umbrellas may be on the docket as well.

The planning and plotting begins! :)

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Scientific Breakthroughs

When you stop to think about it, science is a pretty amazing subject. It has been responsible for many amazing breakthroughs, discoveries and inventions over the last half-century. Cures for diseases, technological advances, and medical triumphs are only a few of the incredible achievements we owe to the faculty of modern science endeavour.

That said, there are still a number of key mysteries that remain unsolved; mysteries that, once solved, with greatly enhance our comfort levels. One of the most important and pressing issues science needs to unlock, in my humble opinion, is how to make dog pee odourless to humans.

I realize I may have lost a few of you just now, but for those of you with dogs, you can perhaps better appreciate how difficult a struggle this can be. Pepper is a wonderful animal and both Lily and I love him dearly, but given his diminutive size and our harsh winters, he is an indoor dog for most of the year. This means using pee pads, with which he is about 80% accurate. That leaves 20% under the heading of "accidents", which tend to congregate along baseboards and furniture.

He knows he's not supposed to do this - I've caught him several times, and his ears go back and he slinks away unhappily, but for some reason, he still has these accidents. So roughly once a week, I pull out the mop and bucket and swab the deck. And I gotta tell you, dog urine has a really unpleasant smell. About the only thing that effectively counteracts it is vinegar, and that also leaves behind a potent and disturbing odour.

Look, I get it - prehistoric dogs had to mark their territory, so it makes sense that there would be a powerful smell to accompany it. But it really sucks having to clean it up. So if anyone out there knows some scientists who are working on seemingly important projects like flying cars or the fountain of youth, please tell them to put these frivolous tasks on hold and focus on something that really matters - pleasant-smelling dog pee.


Monday, March 17, 2014

You Know What Today Is?

Today is a very important day for me, for two reasons. The first and most obvious of course, is.....

Friday, March 14, 2014

Sun Transits

Lately, our normally-brutal internet has become almost unbearable for certain parts of the day. I have been SO CLOSE to throwing the laptop out the window because it is so frustrating. At first I thought it was the modem or the router, and then was reminded it was the dreaded season of sun transits.

What are sun transits you ask? Or maybe you didn't ask, but I will tell you anyway!

Twice a year, the sun aligns itself directly behind satellites for a few minutes each day. When a satellite is directly between the sun and the receiving satellite dish on earth, the sun's enormous radio frequency noise overpowers the satellite signal. This causes a brief service disruption which may take the form of noise, fading or interruptions to long distance phone calls, data, internet, television and radio services whose signals are carried via satellites. The interruption can last up to 20 minutes a day for up to 14 consecutive days.

You can imagine trying to get anything done during those periods of time. Especially when we rely so heavily on satellites to stay connected. Frustrating!

Hopefully it'll be over soon and we'll to back to just brutal connections, rather than unbearable. ;)


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

C for Customer Service

When Lily and I lived in Ontario, we used to frequent restaurants...frequently. With Lily's side hobby of being a food critic, we would often go with a fairly critical eye when we were out. Of these, there were a select few that we called favourites. To rank in our top five, a restaurant had to have a combination of excellent attributes; namely, food, and service. Atmosphere was also important, but if a restaurant lacked that but had great food and amazing customer service, we could live with that.

Fine dining has not yet found its way to the Northern locale of Baker Lake, but there are several (3!) establishments that provide regular mealtime offerings. We visited one of them today to celebrate our neighbour's birthday. To say that this eatery's interpretation of customer service met none of our needs is like saying a person in the path of a tsunami is likely to experience moisture.

There were six of us, and the dining room was sparsely populated. I asked for a clubhouse sandwich with a side caesar salad, and could they bring me the salad to start? Of course. I received my starter salad. I also received my side salad with my sandwich. I was salad-heavy at that point. One of the other guests ordered a hamburger, minus the lettuce. She got plenty of the form of two caesar salads. Another guest ordered a hamburger and asked for fried onions instead of raw. He got raw, of course. Lily ordered a grilled cheese and chef salad. She got a grilled cheese and caesar salad. There was a lot of caesar salad going on tonight. The birthday boy ordered soup and a sandwich. He received the sandwich first....long after the rest of us were finished eating, and only after reminding the staff he hadn't eaten yet. The soup arrived later. I asked for a refill on my water, and my water glass was taken away, never to be seen again. Actually, that reminds me that my plate was taken away while I was still eating the last few bites of my sandwich...table clearing is obviously a top priority.

On the plus side, the food was good, if a little expensive, but you come to appreciate that fact up here. The service was baffling, but with only a couple of restaurants to choose from, chances are good we will be back there eventually, since sadly, this is one of the better places in town. Perhaps next time I'll ask them to hold the burger - I might just end up with a double patty. :-)

Some days, I cannot wait to return to Ontario and re-acquaint myself with excellent customer service. Today is one of those.


Monday, March 10, 2014

Trouble on the Homefront

Pepper and I are not speaking to each other.

Well, that's not entirely accurate. I would be perfectly happy to continue our previous relationship, but he can be quite grouchy at times, and is known for holding grudges. Here's what went down recently that has him in a snit:

First, I got a call over the weekend from the guardhouse (loyal viewers will recall the ridiculous lengths I went through to qualify for the job) looking for extra coverage. Being that I hadn't worked there in months, I took the shift - a lovely 8pm - 4am job. It was reasonably quiet, and having walked to work, I wisely decided not to wake Lily and walked back.

That was the easy part.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Crazy Healthy

The inspiration that started it all...Lily read this and was committed...I took a bit of convincing.
The quote continued with, "The goal to live a healthier life is almost universal. Everybody feels better, worries less, and enjoys life more when they are actively improving their health. You deserve this better life. Today is your day." My wife was a goner after that; jumping back aboard the health train and she hasn't looked back.

If I had been Adam, I would have probably eaten the apple.

By this, I mean that I am fairly easy to distract with temptation, which is a problem, now that Lily has convinced me to commit to a regular workout routine and healthy diet. With cookies and ice cream and various other snacks readily available, it is very difficult to not cheat, which is kind of what Adam and Eve did, thanks in small part to a demon disguised as a snake. I guess that means Oreos are the product of the devil, and given how good they taste, it would not surprise me at all if one of Satan's monikers is Mr. Christie.

Still, the benefits of even just last week are noticeable. Working out is not as painful, and when you mute the video and play dance music, many of the exercises resemble club dancing. I should clarify though, that by club dancing, I of course mean Caucasian-style. My wife would argue that those two words do not belong together, but that response is typical of someone who is (very) secretly jealous of how good a dancer her husband is. She will almost certainly deny this, but you now know the truth.

We are eating healthier, and being better about portion control, too. Lily is even weighing and measuring our food so we can see what a proper portion looks like - and man, our portions were way off! However, the benefits of doing this together is to cheer each other on and support one another if one of us wavers.

One of the easiest excuses for eating poorly is that we are stuck in the frigid Arctic away from everyone back home. While this is true, it rankles Lily and I a bit when people say things like "Oh, it's so incredible what you're doing up there, I wish I was that brave!"

Please allow me to set the record straight. Thus far, we have not pulled anyone to safety from burning buildings, avalanches, or collapsing houses. We have not trekked longer than two hours, and that is usually in the summer. During the winter, it is rare for us to be outside longer than ten minutes at a time. We have not yet saved the world from thermo-nuclear destruction, zombie attack, or environmental catastrophe. Lastly, we have not fought in anything approaching a war to safeguard the freedom of those we love.

The above examples are indicative of "brave" behaviour. We are simply living in a small town, much further north than anyone reasonably sane would consider. Crazy is a term I can better identify with, and I know it has a negative connotation, but it is far more accurate.

So, to sum up: we are healthier, and happier, and crazy.


Wednesday, March 5, 2014


I was browsing the territory's website recently and noticed a section called "How can we help you?" Pretty standard, I suppose. However, this site offered drop-down menus based on "I am" or "I need" - and that's a little different...

I thought I'd share what comes up in the "I am" drop-down. There certainly are lots of options that I wasn't expecting! At first glance, I chuckled a bit since there are a few in there that surprised me. Then I started to think there must be a wide range of issues that need to be dealt with here for a list like that to be necessary. It certainly makes it easy to navigate if you are having a particular problem. Perhaps other territories/provinces should go the same route to make it extra accessible for people to find information/help.

What do you think? Any surprise you?


Monday, March 3, 2014

Getting Back into the Swing of Things...

I have to admit, things are pretty slow around here these days. We are just ramping up to get back into some sort of normal schedule after our adventures last week, but it looks like this week may be a full week without interruption. You have to imagine how much disruption nature can cause not only on individuals, but businesses as well! I think my office was open for a total of 10 hours last week...crazy! (I'm sad I missed it since I love blizzard days at home - it's the perfect time to be comfortable and snuggle with the dog a lot!)

Baker Lake blizzard - Feb 28, 2014

Our Friday blizzard meant that school was closed right off the bat so Jeff got to stay home all day, but I had to go in for 2 hours before our office closed. I have to say, driving home in whiteout conditions is pretty darn scary! Thankfully it's a relatively short drive so we were safe and cozy just after 11. The storm blew around until Saturday afternoon, at which point the sun came out and it was a quiet evening.

Days/weeks like this past one where the storms seem never-ending, really drive home the fact that we are pretty isolated. When you can't fly in/out of the community, and the shelves in the stores start to look really bare because planes can't drop off's a little disconcerting. Thankfully, we have warm houses and plenty of food and water (yay we didn't run out) so we don't have anything to worry about - but still, makes you appreciate the conveniences of being accessible! Just in case!

If we've said it once, we will continue to say it - we are so appreciative for all the things we tend to take for granted in the south. It truly is the simple things that make such a world of difference.