EuroCaching 2014 – By The Numbers

Posted by sasha on 15 Oct 2014 in georambles |

Caches found: fifty
Most countries cached in a single day: three
Time on the ground in Zurich before finding a cache: twenty-seven minutes

Nights out with local cachers in Luxemboug: one
Languages spoken at the dinner table: four
Friendships forged over the course of the evening: many


I {heart} Luxembourg

Depth of the Pétrusse valley, Luxembourg City: 379 metres
Number of times I hiked down into it: four
Number of times I hiked back out again: four
Number of drug deals interrupted in the process: two
Point at which I discovered there was an elevator: wait – what?
Regrets: zero


Pétrusse valley. Note that the bottom of the picture is the tops of the trees.

Longest hike for a single cache: twelve kilometres
Cache owner: Luxembourg City Tourist Office
Number of clues suffering from translation issues: several
Number of times I had to double back to the tourist office: two
Number of times I had already hiked the Pétrusse valley that day: two
Number of times I was nearly reduced to tears: two
Regrets: still zero


Clue: count the pillars on the swing. Answer: 5. #noidea

Inter-city train trips: five
Railway announcements I understood that were made in French: almost all of them
Railway announcements I understood that were made in English: almost none of them

ISIS threats against the NYC and Paris subway systems: one
Security “incidents” while riding the Paris metro: one
Distance walked home after that: far


Blisters acquired during the course of the entire trip: one
Blisters acquired while wearing technical socks: zero
Cost of technical sock collection: priceless

Sightings of Disney’s Frozen characters in the vicinity of Notre Dame Cathedral: one
Screenings of Disney’s Frozen in Ottawa during my absence: three
Live dramatic re-interpretations of same: unenumerated


Number of times stuck in a Paris Metro turnstile: one
Number of sympathetic passers-by required for extraction: three
Number of times I semi-unintentionally ripped off the Paris transit authority: one

Number of times I lost my camera bag: one
Time elapsed before I realized it was on my back: six seconds
Time shaved off my life-expectancy in the process: six years

Baguette consumed over in six days in Paris: eighty-four inches
Cost savings of eating home-packed baguette in five Paris parks: 60€
Cost savings of eating home-packed baguette in one Paris airport: 60€

Linear distance from check-in to the gate in Charles de Gaulle Airport: thirty metres
Walking distance from check-in to the gate in Charles de Gaulle Airport: two thousand six hundred and fifty-seven metres

Flight attendants that looked like Prince William: one. #happyface
Duration of flight with Wills: twenty eight minutes. #sadface

Time spent in lineups Ottawa-Toronto-Zurich, post 9-11: seven minutes
Time spent in lineups Paris-Montreal-Ottawa, post 9-11: don’t ask
Number of storks in it takes to gain entrance to a cockpit, post 9-11: two


Les Cigognes arrive in Montreal in style.

Caches found on the last day of the trip: two
Distance between caches: five thousand six hundred and sixty-one kilometres
Reason it was more important to find a cache than to get to the airport: it’s complicated

Number of blog posts I will squeeze out of this trip: TBD

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mY ThAnksgIviNG VaCAtion

Posted by sasha on 13 Oct 2014 in being mom |

On Thanksgiving Day we went for a walk. Just Meena and me.


Meena took pictures of things that interested her. Like broken trees.


I took pictures of things that interested me. Like Meena.


Meena dropped seeds for the chickadees.


Then other animals came. I took pictures of the animals.


Meena took pictures of the animals.


I took pictures of Meena taking pictures of the animals.


They let us get close.


Really, really close.


We stood there for twenty minutes, taking pictures.

Just Meena and me.




Keep Calm (or, Not Exactly Wordless Wednesday)

Posted by sasha on 27 Aug 2014 in just plain rambling |



Curtain Call

Posted by sasha on 27 Apr 2014 in being mom |

When ζach asked me what I wanted to do on my birthday, three things came to mind, but I only told him two: go geocaching together, and have a cake with leftovers that could go to the office the next day (instead of sitting on the counter calling my name for the next week).

I didn’t say “take a shower without an audience” – that’s asking the impossible.

To be fair, it’s not that I have no privacy: there is a curtain, which only occasionally gets yanked open mid-lather.  But still, it’s hard to have a nice relaxing shower while discussing pee, issuing reminders to wash hands, and refereeing arguments over whose turn it is on the step stool.

This is what I was pondering as I stepped into the spray, and sure enough, the shampoo had barely begun to foam when someone came skipping into the room and plunked herself on the toilet. With the curtain drawn, I didn’t know who was actually in there with me (although I could narrow it down to two possibilities – ζach rarely skips).

That is, until she started to sing:

Happy birthday to you!

Happy birthday to you!

Happy birthday dear Mommmeeeeee,

Happy birthday to you!

“Aw, thank you sweetie.”

“How old are you Mommy?”

“Are you ready for this?!? Forty. One.”

Meena laughed. “Oh Mommy. Nobody’s forty one.”

I peeked out of the curtain and she grinned at me, then paused –

“Are you dying?”


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This Is Wholesome

Posted by sasha on 5 Apr 2014 in just plain rambling |

You may or may not have watched that Honey Maid video, the one that responds to the wholesome-haters. If not, maybe you’ve just become jaded when it comes to viral videos that tug at the heartstrings.

Me too.

But I decided to watch this one. Not because I’ve seen the original ads – I haven’t. When I heard about them on Ottawa Morning, I vacillated between being perplexed and repulsed by all the negative attention they were garnering. I wasn’t surprised to see the haters out in full force over anything gay-positive; disgusted, of course, but not surprised. But a mixed race couple? Really? What decade is this?

It was a brilliant marketing move: people are flocking to YouTube to watch an ad. If you want to see it on the Huffington Post, you have to watch an ad just to get to the ad. And I have no doubt that Honey Maid’s goal is to sell graham crackers, not save the world. But the fact that they felt they could pull this off gives me hope. Seeing a glut of ugly, hateful messages engulfed in a sea of loving, positive ones gives me even more hope.

Because here’s the thing: there may be “One Million Moms” getting their knickers in a  knot while two dads down the block raise a daughter, but the rest of us don’t see a “gay couple”, we see Denis and Ethan, and all we’re worried about is whether you guys are going to make it to the BBQ on Saturday because the kids have been begging for Ethan’s Donald Duck impression all. week.


Image source: Logopedia
(Fair Use)


Writing by Not Writing (the one about Fimo and Foam Rollers)

Posted by sasha on 21 Mar 2014 in just plain rambling |

Brains are weird.

Ok, my brain is weird. Read more…


Do you write?

Posted by sasha on 10 Oct 2013 in just plain rambling |

Do you write?

Fiction? Poetry? Blog posts?

Witty and perceptive Facebook updates?

I like to write, whether it be crafting machine instructions into a piece of working code, or crafting words into a piece of working prose. And like many readers, I’ve always wanted to write the next Narnia series, or Harry Potter, or any other piece of fiction I’ve loved.

But fiction writing has always eluded me. Any attempt I’ve made has gotten mired in details: research, brainstorms, crafting elaborate character sketches. Somehow I never actually get very far with, you know, writing.

Part of the the problem is the process of writing fiction: you really need to start with short stories. I don’t like (most) short stories. I once forced myself to read them for months, to familiarize myself with the genre, and maybe even learn to like it. It didn’t work, and that string of literary one-night-stands is at least partly to blame for my current reading funk.

Another problem is an obsessive perfectionism, or perhaps a better word would be “achievementism”. The knowledge that I’m not going to write a best seller holds me back from doing anything at all. Even though I tell my daughters, again and again, that nobody comes to something new already knowing how to do it: you need to learn; it takes practise.

(Hands-up anyone who is actually capable of taking their own advice.)

So half-finished projects sit in Google docs: research about Lady Jane Grey and Les Filles du Roi. Brainstorms and character sketches about a little girl who can open doors that nobody else can see.

But then, I know I’m not going to be the next Bloggess, and yet here I am. There’s many a half-written blog post that has fallen victim to the same self-esteem issues, but obviously some of it gets to see the light of day.

And you know, it has occurred to me more than once that maybe I should stop worrying all that much about fiction. What’s wrong with blogging? Or non-fiction for that matter? I enjoy it, and it exercises the word-monster in my brain that demands a good romp every once in a while.

Then, the other day, a friend sent me a short story she plans to submit to a writing contest. And somewhere in the middle of writing back to her, a flood of questions inundated my brain: where does the protagonist live? What is her relationship like with her daughter? What is her husband’s name? What do they do for a living? They became real people, and I wanted to know ALL about them. So I pelted my friend with questions, and envied her being the one who gets to answer them.


I originally wrote this post last week, and it’s been languishing in my drafts folder, waiting for an ending. But damned if I could think of anything. So I took to Facebook, and definitely considered Rémi’s suggestion:


But instead, I think I may steal the ending from the ending of The Uncommon Reader; or, in effect, give the last words to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II (sorry Rémi):

But one mustn’t talk about it, or it will never get written.

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Corn Chowder with Zucchini and Cilantro

Posted by sasha on 8 Oct 2013 in cooking some |

I gave this post the title of the recipe that inspired it, but really, I should have called it “four ways to screw up a single dish”:

  1. Misread ingredient #1, “3T olive oil, divided“, then dump the whole 3 tablespoons into the pot and wonder why you need so much oil.
  2. Decide you know better than to put the cilantro in at the beginning (pro tip: cilantro doesn’t like prolonged heat), so resolve to add it at the end. Realize that you will forget, and edit the instructions right away. Forget anyway.
  3. Ignore the direction to use “good” corn, and instead use the no-name stuff that’s been sitting in the freezer. Spend 20 minutes picking bits of cob (husk? fence-post?) out of your braces.
  4. Start three hours too early. Re-heat in the microwave at dinner time. Re-discover in the microwave at bed time.

But – BUT – in spite of (because of?) all that, it still turned out pretty tasty. Honestly, if I ever spin off a food-only blog, the tag line should be “fumbling towards gastronomy” (with apologies to Sarah McLaughlan).

And – AND – it was still good after a month in the freezer. I just had some for lunch today, that was the final test before posting.

So – SO – so, um… I was on a roll there, I felt like I should keep – KEEP – rolling. (I’m not saying it was a good idea.)

So (SO!) here’s the recipe. Many thanks to Chantal for the pin, to Ben and Birdy for their adaptation, and to the Ottawa Public Library for lending me the book with the original. I’d also like to thank the Academy, my parents, and the nice girl at the Loblaws who sold me the zucchini, but even I know when to shut up and just post the recipe already.

Most times.

Zucchini Corn Chowder with Cilantro
Recipe Type: soup
Author: Sasha Ramblyn
Adaptation of a recipe from “Local Flavors”, designed to use cut-your-own corn-off-the-cob. That may be in keeping with the “eat local” philosophy of the book, but is not in keeping with the “eat soon” philosophy of my kitchen. If you look at the predecessors, you will notice that my adaptations are all about cutting corners :).
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3-4 medium-sized zucchini, diced
  • 3 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 5 cups chicken broth
  • 3 cups *good* frozen corn
  • 1 small bunch cilantro, chopped
  1. Heat the oil over medium-high heat, and sauté the onion, zucchini, cilantro, jalapeno, and garlic for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables are soft.
  2. Add the broth, salt, and corn. Bring to a boil and then simmer, uncovered, until the zucchini is completely soft (10-15 minutes). Remove from heat.
  3. Add cilantro, then puree the soup with an immersion blender, leaving it a bit chunky.
  4. Serve warm, or freeze for later.


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A Little Bedtime Reading

Posted by sasha on 16 Sep 2013 in just plain rambling |

I’m having a tough time in the reading department.

First, there was the scene in Sweetness in the Belly, during a party thrown for two little Ethiopian girls (the same age as my girls). It looks like a birthday party; the guest of honour is the midwife that delivered them. In a ritual we don’t initially understand, the midwife takes them between her legs, whips out a razor blade and slices off strips of their labia. Female genital mutilation: just the thing for bedtime. Sweetness well written: the reader feels all the shock and horror felt by the narrator, who has inadvertently sponsored the party. But it’s not really what I need at the moment.

Now I’ve started on Donna Morrissey’s The Deception of Livvy Higgs, and while it’s not exactly warm and fuzzy, I have to admit I was NOT prepared for Livvy’s father bashing her cat’s head in with a rock. Neither was Livvy. The image is bad enough, but Tabs has been her sole source of comfort since her mother died and OH MY GOD her FATHER. OH my GOD her CAT.

It takes powerful writing to evoke emotions in the reader, and I admire the writers who can do it so effectively. But after an emotional month, I’m getting tired of feeling sucker-punched by my bedtime reading. There’s enough distress in real life at the moment, thank you very much.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go curl up with a good cookbook.



Posted by sasha on 12 Sep 2013 in just plain rambling |

Dropped the clinging, crying 3yo off at daycare only to discover we’d forgotten her bag. So of course today is the day that the daycare shoes are at home in the wash.

If I go home to get her bag then I might get back to the office in time to turn around and go back to pick up Meena from school.

And I just realized there’s a Geocaching meeting tonight that I’ve been trying to check out for MONTHS and I know I need to get out more, but I have to find the missing library DVD cover that’s due today, try on everyone’s snowsuits so that I can place the Land’s End order in time for Meena’s birthday, and make the pasta sauce; all of which I failed to do yesterday because I had to pick up groceries on the way home and dinner wasn’t ready until 6:30 and so the kids were late to bed. Again.

Feeling overwhelmed. You?

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