Monday, May 29, 2006

disneyland 2006 pics

Magical days in the Magic Kingdom. Who says you can't be a little kid again? The full set of vacation pics are now up on Flickr.

i can do this

I've been thinking a lot about age this week - no real surprise there. A friend of mine asked if I was a member of the "30 and Proud" club and I am. No turning 29 again for me. I was thinking back to what I was doing ten years ago and I realized that for me, my 20s were a lot of upheaval, a lot of totally changing my life and wondering if I could do it.

You're going along through high school, and if you live in Ontario you're 19 when you graduate. It's time to go away to university and your whole world changes. I remember sitting in my room at my parents' house and I could almost feel it slipping away. I could always come back, but I could never GO back. Off I went to school wondering "can I do this?"

Four incredible years later it happens again. You graduate and this life that you have built for yourself is pulled apart again. You have to move, find a job, make new friends and I wondered again, "can I do this?"

Many people spend their 20s looking for someone to share their life with and some find them right away and others don't but I think in both situations people are asking themselves "can I do this?" Can I build a life with this person? Can I build a life without them?

What I'm finding now is that there's a reason to be 30 and Proud because sitting here I can say with confidence, "I can do this". I know how to build a life. I know what I need to be happy, to be healthy, to be who I am. Because I also know this, that at some point it will happen again, the world will change and I'll be ready. I can do this.

Sunday, May 28, 2006


After a rainy start the sun came out yesterday. I'm pleased to say that I passed a very pleasant birthday and I reached 30 smiling. You hear so many people who get negative about turning 30, I highly recommend a trip to Disneyland as the antidote to that. Worked very well for me.

There's a British expression that says "start as you mean to go on" so I took that to heart yesterday and began the day with chocolate covered strawberries for breakfast. Nice. Throw in some of your favorite tea and you can handle anything. (I went for my current fave -- Empire Blend #34 from the Harrod's Heritage Collection. I'm more than halfway through the tin now, I might have to ask my brother to pick me up some more.)

After that I had a quick appointment to keep and then went shopping. My parents let me pick out my own birthday present so off I went. I've worn a silver Celtic knotwork ring on my right hand for years but it broke a few weeks ago so I went to one of my favourite jewelry stores in White Rock to search out a replacement. I picked out a silver and peridot ring. Yes, technically peridot is not my birthstone, but I thought this ring was gorgeous and now it's mine. It only seemed right to get a manicure to go with it. It was my birthday afterall.

(Side note: Any guesses on why this pic is so small when I loaded it exactly the same was as the other two?)

In the evening I went out for dinner with some friends and then we headed off to see X-Men 3. Dinner was great. The waitress even gave me a second sparkler because we couldn't get a photo of the first one before it burnt out. X3 was a little disappointing. And yes, we stayed to watch the final scene but still. I know that they brought in a new Director for #3 and I think he lost his sense of story. The movie finished and all I could think was "I bet Bryan Singer is pissed." It had no compelling narrative -- yes there's a cure for mutancy and is that a good thing or not? But a good story tells itself through the characters experiencing it and this movie felt like little dioramas that we were peering in at but never actively engaged with. (Remember dioramas from grade 4?) But even with all that said, there was a lot of Hugh, so it wasn't a total loss.

After all the celebrations in Anaheim last week I felt like I had already celebrated my birthday and wasn't really expecting anything particular on the day itself. What a nice surprise to have such a great day too. Bonus. Happy birthday to me. That was fun. I think we should do it again next year.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

embrace the magic

I am a couple of days from turning 30 and in honour of this momentous occasion I headed down to California with a few good friends. I had never been to Disneyland and it seemed like a good idea to sprinkle a little pixie dust on the big 3-0.

We had an amazing time. The first afternoon we had a little extra time between flights so we took a look at the map from the rental company and decided to head up to Santa Monica pier for a few hours.

After walking the beach and riding the Ferris Wheel we found a guy flooding the pier with bubbles. There were bubbles everywhere -- huge ones and tiny ones -- it was beautiful. We danced.

Here's Amanda and I on the Ferris Wheel. You could see miles up the beach from up there. I kept thinking California looks just like it does in movies -- right down to the lifeguard stations.

Once the rest of the group arrived we headed to Anaheim. We stayed at The Lemon Tree and I'd recommend it. Decent sized rooms, each with a kitchen, a pool and hot tub outside and beautiful gardens. Some time on that first day Coli declared that the whole trip should be my birthday and so I got to hear "Happy Birthday!" at least twice a day the whole time we were there. Who gets to have a 5 day birthday? How cool is that?

The next morning we headed to Disneyland. Here's Monica, Amanda, Kendra, Coli, Shannon and I just inside the gates of Disneyland. It was crazy to be somewhere that I have only ever seen in pictures. Right off the bat, there was the Mouse and the Disney brand of perfectionism that we'd find throughout the park. You can just about see the Mickey made of flowers in this photo. Where do you get black flowers to do that?

The first ride of the morning was "it's a small world" (and yes, it's written all in lower case and yes that bothers me a little). We sang. Loudly. Some of us even attempted some of the other languages. Hilarious. We went on all the rides. We wore the ears. There are more stories to come but for now I think this photo of Coli best sums up the trip:

Good times, good times. Happy Birthday.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

bringing the indoors out

It's time to move life back outside. Time to sit close enough to smell the lilac and the cedars. Time to move from my favourite reading chair to my favourite reading hammock. It's time to be still enough to hear the windchimes, time to walk slowly enough to notice if the honeysuckle has bloomed yet. Winter has had its day. The days are growing longer and like a flower I turn toward the sun. There have been enough days indoors. It's time.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

going california

It's just two weeks now until I head off to California to celebrate getting old and being young. Good times await. I decided that if I was going south, I might as well have the hair to go with it so RuthAnn and I headed into the city to get me some highlights. This is the second time I've been blonder for the summer (at least this year I've headed off all of the post a picture comments). I am expecting to have more fun. (I'm going to Disneyland, how could I not?)

I was quite proud of myself this year for not freaking out. One of the things I have learned about myself is that the reason I don't tend to deal with change well is that I see change as loss. When things change, even when it's a good change, I feel it first as a loss and I mourn for what was. (Earth that was for the Firefly fans :) There's a line in a song from the early 90s that says "All I want is what I had before" and it runs through my head sometimes when change comes and I just want to make everything stop and go back to the way it was.

Last year when I dyed my hair I struggled a bit with the "different-ness" of the experience, this year I'm pleased that I was able to look in the mirror and say "it's different and I like it". Baby steps, baby steps. Maybe one of these days I'll actually move the furniture around in my room.

Maybe this is the real celebration of getting a little older -- that I'm better able to see the world around me with clarity. Maybe this is my gift to myself, finally believing what my brother said to me years ago -- "Change isn't always bad Claire, it's just different." Getting older might not be so bad after all. Especially if you get to go to California.

chocolate chip cheesecake


1 1/2 C Oreo cookie crumbs
2 to 3 Tbsp butter melted
3 (8-oz each) packages cream cheese, softened
1 (14-oz) can EAGLE BRAND® sweetened condensed milk
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 C mini semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided
1 tsp flour

Preheat oven to 300°F. Combine cookie crumbs and butter; press firmly on bottom of 9-inch springform pan or 13x9-inch baking pan.

In large bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy. Gradually beat in EAGLE BRAND® until smooth. Add eggs one at a time and then vanilla; mix well.

In small bowl, toss 1/2 cup chocolate chips with flour to coat. Add to mixture being careful not to dump the extra flour in with them. Stir into cream cheese mixture. Pour into prepared pan. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup chocolate chips evenly over top. Bake 55 to 60 minutes or until set. Cool. Chill.

Garnish as desired.

TIP: For best distribution of chocolate chips throughout cheesecake, do not over soften or over beat cream cheese.

I first made this cake as a student at Trinity. I knew nothing about cheesecake making but I saw the recipe on the label of a can of Eagle Brand and had to give it a try. It hasn't let me down yet. The great thing about this cake is that it doesn't require any of the usual fancy baking practices that you run into with cheesecakes. No water bath, no New York method required. Nice. Just put it in the oven and try not to burn it.

I had to put a foil collar on it about 45 minutes in as the edges of the cake were getting dark before the middle was finished. The only other thing to keep in mind with this cake is that it settles quite a bit. It comes out of the oven a good inch or two higher than it will be once it has cooled. Apparently this is perfectly normal.

The photo was taken on Wednesday when I made this cake for a work get-together. I wasnt sure what to granish it with so I put whipped cream around the edges, lined that with sliced straberries and drizzled a little chocolate over the whole thing. Doris, you asked for the recipe, I figured this was the easiest way to get it to you.