Friday, February 29, 2008

Strange Black Dots on Landscape

I'm sitting in the Ottawa airport, stranded by weather, en route to Toronto to meetings next week, and a chance to see "the kids" (or should I say, "those handsome, charming young men who are my stepsons") this weekend.

On the way down from Iqaluit, I was casually looking out the window every once in while, at the landscape. About an hour into the flight, I thought to myself, "what ARE all those funny black dots on the ice and snow?" It actually took me about 10 seconds to realize, wait a minute, those are TREES. TREES!!!! I miss trees ALMOST as much as I miss those charming, handsome stepsons. Trees and stepsons, here I come ....

Friday, February 22, 2008

Arctic Night Owl ...

[Lorraine writes] Its 11 pm on Friday night, and I'm getting ready for bed. Which means the Bird is about to get up and start his next shift.

As John has become more and more immersed in finishing off his book, his working hours have migrated deeper and deeper into the night. Now, he's usually at the computer tapping up a storm between midnight and 7 am. He comes to bed, I get up. And on days like today, he has a late evening nap to recharge his batteries for the overnight shift. So I'm creeping around quiet as a mouse, while he recharges the muse.

The book project is coming along. One great side effect that I get to enjoy (in addition to John being happy as a clam because he's 'researching' music all the time) is the constantly new and amazing music repertoire wafting through the apartment all the time because of the daily 'discoveries'.

I'll be kinda sad when this book project is done. Its been fun to reap the benefits (without having to do the crazy-making work of the writing).

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Wow, great comments on the north...

Check out the Nunavut Nonsense blog for the great comments by people reflecting on why they love living in the north:

Court weighs in cost of living up here ....

Well, now even the courts have weighed in on the ridiculously high
cost of living up here.

This was in a CBC north news story yesterday:

Judge determines cost of living in Iqaluit is 50 per cent higher than Yellowknife

A Nunavut Court judge has determined that the cost of living in Iqaluit is 50 per cent higher than it is in Yellowknife. Justice Earl Johnson made the ruling last week in a bankruptcy case. An Iqaluit family forced to declare bankruptcy disputed the calculations of their trustee, Brown and Crocker (sp). The trustee had determined that they could keep the basic household exemption as calculated for Yellowknife plus 25 per cent to reflect higher costs in Iqaluit. The Iqaluit family argued it wasn't enough and suggested they should be allowed to keep the Yellowknife amount plus 100 per cent. The judge came up with the Yellowknife exemption plus 50 per cent after reviewing some of the costs in Iqaluit. Among other things, Judge Johnson noted that Nunavut households spend 84 per cent more on household supplies than people in southern Canada and 31 per cent more on housing.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Mystery tube arrives by post

One fun thing about living up here is getting the occasional care
package from family or friends. Its always interesting to see what what "essentials" they think we are missing.

My mom has been using her care pkg skills in an ongoing effort to see
what she can send cheaply by post, how to best surprise us, etc. Being
very practical, she often sends things like cough drops and Cold FX
tablets, which is much appreciated. But today, a FANTASTIC care package arrived. IT was a small,
long poster tube filled with ....... salted black dutch licorice!!!!!
Yeah!!!!! (Ana and Jeff get big cudos for sending us some at Christmas, too :-) Thank you Dutch Toko store in Guelph ...)

I'm off to eat a bunch along with some pickled herring I
splurged on at the store this week. I better be careful or John won't come near me for days.....

Monday, February 11, 2008

5 Things I Like Best About Living in the North

[Lorraine writes] Nunavut Nonsense has a blog thread going on this topic. Here is my contribution:

Five Things I Like Best About Living in the North:

1. I went from commuting 2500 km a month for work a year ago, to 10 km a month now.

2. A bad traffic jam here is cars stacked five deep at the four-way
stop at lunch.

3. The crazy taxi drivers have "shortcuts" to avoid those "bad traffic jams".

4. My community has a genuine superhero (PolarMan) devoted to good works.

5. When I went shopping for a valentines gift for my sweetheart, I could pick up a snowmobile, or walk two paces over for chocolates.

Lorraine (Northern Chirp)

Saturday, February 9, 2008

In praise of traditional arctic clothing

[Lorraine says] Today was brutally cold: -55 with the windchill. I went out midday to go the library and to pick up a few groceries. I was reminded of just how grateful I am for the sealskin mittens John gave me at Christmas -- my hands have never been cold in them. (Here is a picture of John modelling them). It also makes me realize, again, not only how beautiful the traditional clothing is up here, but how functional.

This past week, I slipped out for a late lunch one day, and went over to the courthouse where a local fiddler and I had been asked to play music for a wedding. The bride (in her 50's) wore a stunningly beautiful handmade amauti made of raw green silk, with intricate beading, and trimmed with fox fur. Her daughters and granddaughters also all wore amautis with gorgeous detailing, and trimmed with fur. One of the granddaughters carried a pet stuffed rabbit in the baby holder of her amauti as she proudly walked up the aisle with her grandmother.

Amautis are a great example of traditional clothing that is both functional and beautiful. Most young women carry around their babies in amautis. Occasionally, you'll even see a man wearing one, if he's carrying around a baby. There is a good reason why amautis and other traditional clothes (sealskin mittens and kamiks (boots), caribou and sealskin coats, and particular types of fur trim) are so prevalent up here: they work well in this climate, and they are beautiful to boot (no pun intended).

Maybe one of my next projects will be sewing lessons for traditional clothing ...

Monday, February 4, 2008

Sticker Shock

[Lorraine writes] Well, the end of month tally is in, and the word is official. We are officially spending an OUTRAGEOUS amount of our salary on food. I knew food costs up here were expensive but this is ridiculous.

Total groceries for January for the two of us: $1215. (This is the point at which my 'real' mom Ella in Alberta and my 'honourary' mom Jack in Toronto gasp in horror while reading our blog and begin to compile the long lists of ideas for us to save $$.)

That included our one meal out all month (Chinese at the Navigator, yeah).

For all you frugal shoppers out there in the south, print off this list and see how it compares to what you are paying in your next grocery shop:

Milk: $7.35 for 2L carton
Butter: $6.99/lb
Flour: $10.49 for 2.5 kg (yes, mom #1 and mom #2, we ARE making our own bread)
Coffee: $11.99/kg
Shredded Wheat: $7.99/box
No Name Kleenex: $2.39.

We usually shop at the North Mart (the 'buy everything' store up here, where the skidoo aisle is five steps from the bread aisle). Here is our North Mart:

Sometimes we go to the other store in town, Arctic Ventures (see my Dec 19 post).

Occasionally, we bring in food by cargo or 'foodmail' (subsidized postal cargo rates for food basics). Last week, I faxed a food mail order to La Marche du Nord in Quebec, and they sent us $100 of food, which cost $89 to ship plus $6 for a taxi to carry it all). So, your basic grocery bill, doubled.

Any which way you cut it, our grocery bill is one big 'ouch'. Later this year, we'll go down to Ottawa and do a big shop for basics and have it shipped up on the annual sea lift, which will hopefully help cut costs somewhat.

But we'll still end up buying our tomatoes at $8.88/kg and apples at $8.99 for a 3 lb bag -- you can only live on dried veg and fruit so long ....