Wednesday, January 28, 2015


Some of my loveliest colleagues took me out for lunch today determined to advance my education in Asian food which has been stalled for a while. 

They were dismayed when the restaurant they were taking me to was one I had already been to.  

Score one for the white girl! 

They ordered all my favourites as well as one new dish.

It was a little seasame covered turnip cake with veggies and pork inside... So so tasty and an easy entry to my top 27 favourite Asian foods. 

Ok so that is every Asian food minus hot pot.

The food was delicious but what I really enjoyed was hearing the three of them talk about their memories of food and cooking with their moms or aunties and how they wanted their kids to have those memories too but in a culture of so much eating out and such readily available and affordable Asian food .... Home cooking of dim sum is happening less and less.

We chatted as we ate our way through some very peanutty saucy dan dan noodles, spicy green beans, perfect XLB's , Shanghai noodles and green onion pancake.... All so very yummy!

And then like the Canadians we are we went to Starbucks and had Flat Whites... The newest drink obsession here (or is that just me?) which is so expensive it makes me shake my head. It's a great brew and on any day I can justify it in my head I will likely get one but on many days it'll be my usual tall long Americano at half the price.

And then.... Then they gifted me with the top gift of this past holiday season.... The selfie stick... Oh the havoc I am about to wreck on all those around me! 

As ever I am grateful to have colleagues who are so lovely and generous and who love to eat! 

Thanks ladies xoxo


Sunday, January 25, 2015

Mrs B

"Mrs B...... Oh sorry, its Mrs Byres right?  You aren't a teacher are you? Because then we could call you Mrs B but because you are just Mr. B's wife we'll call you Mrs. Byres. Ok?"

Just one of the random comments from the 14 year old boys I spent a great deal of time with this weekend.

They made me laugh.  They drove me batty.  They spoke without drawing breath. For hours.

Hard at times to believe these monkeys will grow up to be smart men.

 Because they are smart.  Young and cocky and naive but the smarts are there.

Allan had the older and more serious boys in his car.  I had the 3 grade 9's and David.

Drive. Ferry, Drive . Dinner. Competition. Drive. Ferry. Drive.

My 3 did not have a working robot they proudly proclaimed on the way there.

Having been to many of these events I knew this would be highly anxiety producing and could see we'd be up late as they hurried to get it done.

Turns out I know nothing.

These 3 were cool as cucumbers.

They kept smiling and shrugging their shoulders and adding elastic bands to every moving part of the robot to keep it together.  David, Mr. B and some other team mates pitched in to try and help in the one hour they had on Friday night to get it ready.

At most of the other team tables heads were bowed and a very serious air prevailed.

At our team table there was more hilarity than I have ever seen at a robotics competition.  The robot arm fell off - they died laughing.  The robot moved two inches they cheered as if they had won the top prize.  All around them amazing machines were moving and picking things up and playing the game.

While my lot kept adding rubber bands.  And killing themselves laughing,

They cheerfully left the robot behind when we went back to the hotel for dinner.

No angst. No begging Mr. B for more time.

These three has come last at their last competition so in their mind they were definitely going to do better.  I bet them a dime they would do better than last time....quite frankly feeling my dime was pretty safe.

Their self chosen team name......they thought was HILARIOUS

I felt even more sure when I arrived at the competition mid morning on Saturday and saw they had abandoned the arm....they just a square with 4 wheels.... they essentially could not play the game.

And boy where they ecstatic.

They rushed over to tell me they were doing super well.  They had lucked out and every game they had been paired with an excellent partner who had "carried" them and they were in the top 10.

And as the day wore on they ended in 7th.  With a robot that did very little.

To the dismay of the other McMath teams who worked so hard and had bad luck and finished further down.

Allan had to explain how playoffs worked to these bouncing boys whose grins were literally ear to ear.

They went out in the quarter finals but they may as well have won the world championships.

They whooped and hollered and jumped all over that gym.

I handed over my dime.

It was a fluke but it couldn't have happened to a nicer bunch.....sometimes good things happen for those who just chill and go with the flow.

And they had a much better time than the stressed out guys and gals who never cracked a smile all day.

They taught me something.  They made me laugh. And they reminded me why a classroom full of them would drive me around the bend.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

It's coming

These last few rainless days I have noticed a most exciting thing.

I have noticed that at my usual departure-to-work time of 7am, which for the last several months has been in the dark, pitch dark.... something is different.

I have been attentively trying to find this thing to notice.


As I leave the front door each morning my eyes look to the east.


And folks, I can tell you, I can confirm with no shadow of doubt that....

At 7am on the eastern horizon.......

There is LIGHT.

At first is was barely perceptible....a faint line of lighter sky.... but I knew

I knew that faint line of light meant the days are waking up earlier..... Staying up longer.

They are waking from their long sleeps and stretching themselves...a little longer each day.

And soon....soon at 7am dawn will be breaking.

And so will begin my 2-3 weeks of being late for work as I embrace the dawn down by the river....

It's coming...... Spring is coming....


Sunday, January 18, 2015

Process vs product

 Just when you might be thinking "Those Byres must be done with that reno"..... Well.... This

And this

And this 

What the heck! 

Carpet cleaning tomorrow ... Oh the irony ... We rip out miles of carpet, put in delicious hardwood and.... Thanks to the days of raining dust and having to sequester the hound in the carpeted areas.... We need the carpets cleaned.

We deserve an A for making our own lives complicated.

In other reno related news we did accomplish several jobs on the "please-dear-Lord-finish-this-job" list.... Like sanding and painting and repainting baseboards and bannister trim, door trim...and staining a certain handrail. Also one last finicky floor board was finally installed in a doorway with above average swearing.

The upper bannister is close and then it's just the family room back wall left to attend to. 

We are getting there! 

I spent maximum effort in the kitchen this weekend. We are trying to get a handle on groceries and meal planning on the weekends so we can have unstressful meal prep on busy week nights. 

I guess, for me, the jury is out on whether      cooking and shopping all weekend (ok not ALL weekend) pays off? Maybe because for me the kitchen just isn't my happy place or my de-stress activity... it seems like work..... Anyhoo....we have three meals cooked and a dozen muffins and I put a very mediocre roast dinner on the table for dinner.


This is the stuff of life I guess.... Trying to find a way to work it out. 

I hope you all have happy and productive weeks ... I leave you with this carpet cleaning/curtain life hack (gasp)


Wednesday, January 14, 2015


5 years ago I drove past a sign I had driven by many many times.

This time I stopped and wrote down the telephone number.

My impending 40th birthday had everything to do with it.

The ever-welcoming Janice called me back and I laced up my runners and went.

To Jazzercise.

I had never found any gym or class or regime I liked enough or found effective enough to keep wanting to go back. 

And here I am 5 years later. 3 sizes smaller, much fitter and still loving the workouts.  

I have watched many people come and start and then leave. 

I have "suffered" behind many a new comer going in wrong directions.

I have made many friends.

Been inspired by some remarkable women.

It's so easy to let my personal fitness slide when life gets jam packed with other things but I am over beating myself up when I miss a class.... I just get back as soon as I can... And carry on.

I feel lucky to have found a thing I love to do that helps me stay in shape.... It's a lovely gift in my life.

So I am toasting me, my jazzer instructor friend Janice and all the lovely ladies who work it out on the dance floor day after day. 

We rock!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Life Smack

You must have seen those Buzzfeed lists of life hacks that people post to Facebook...... Yes?

If no - see links below with apologies for wasting your time.

They annoy me.

Half of the "hacks", the suggested ways to make your life smoother and somehow better and more beautiful.....are nothing more that common sense things people have been doing forever.

Ok we may not have made a teepee out a sheet and two broom sticks but we made an awesome fort throwing a sheet over the dining room table.  Same difference.

Most of us use the plastic tags on the bread to actually keep the bread fresh and not to colour code the cords in the media cabinet.  We feel its a win to remember to recycle the tag when the bread runs out let alone reuse it in 18 different  projects.

And really people if you cut a pool noodle and put it on the door so the children don't slam their fingers you are starting a lifetime of dependency......are you going to put a pool noodle on the car door?  Put one in their backpack for the classroom door?  One slammed finger in a door and 3 hours in Emergency is a childhood rite of passage..... or is that just our family?

And then there are the so called "life hacks' which are nothing more than architect millionaires showing off some nifty project they charged their clients an arm and a leg for.

Really.... I am almost 45 and I have seen exactly one door disguised as a bookcase in my life and that was so the property inspectors didn't know their house was twice the size basically tax evasion.... and there was the Ann Frank situation but really most of just need somewhere to put our books.

And I suppose if you have an extra few thousand it makes total sense to paint your bathroom floor to look like your in mid you a legitimate reason to use the loo I guess?

These elaborate built ins and other projects should be left to the Pinterest people and not put on a list of life hacks that makes the regular folk out here feel like somehow they missed the life hack class at college and are out of the life hack club forever......unless we start saving our bread clips PDQ.

So don't feel bad my are already hacking life very well in your own clever ways.... Buzzfeed just hasn't found you keep going....and if you invent something you think I need to know to make my life easier and better I trust you'll let me know.


Unbelievably stupid life hacks

Maybe #24 ... Maybe

Sunday, January 11, 2015

A cut above

We were back to the reno after a very long first week back at school and work. It wasn't too hard to get back into the groove, the motivation is still there and the falling down the stairs nightmares continue. 

The Bannister.... A job with a gagillion angles and complexities ... And a job we have had no experience with.

So clearly it was a job for Allan.

My job was to nod and smile and make food and encouraging noises and occasionally hold things and check them with the level ( the greatest extent if me technical skillz).

Our reno lunch is always baguette and ham... With tea.

I cannot tell you how very grateful I am Allan is such a careful and meticulous handyman. 

He carefully thought through all the pieces that need to come together in a bannister.... 6 different cuts of wood in very specific placements, all varying sizes.  He did lots of math, did a full mock up before cutting the good wood (all those painted spindles!).

By early afternoon the bottom bannister was in! 
I could not be happier! 
What a change!

You may notice the second bannister is ... Incomplete..... Yes... Well... Into every huge reno project one should expect... No matter how much thinking and planning has been done .... 

One wrong angle cut. 

After almost 10 hours of work on the tricky handrail on the second floor ...

And with one.more.cut needed..... Yup... Wrong direction..... and the handrail doesn't work.

I was on a soccer field in North Van watching David when I got Allan's text which had several sad face emoticons.

He was so disappointed and frustrated but as soon as the new handrail gets here it will all come together fast.  

It felt like a setback but we shrugged it off... It's fixable.... And in the grand scheme of this reno.... Just one wrong cut.... No.Big.Deal.

In other reno news... We now have a new 50" TV.... which works with the new surround sound..... Loudly.   This room has quite a bit of work still to be done...and we need to find a new mantle!

We spent some time today cleaning up and sorting out and recycling. I think I am about to come into my own with this reno as we reach the "organize and decorate" phase. Today we started trying to figure out where to hang our art.... We have our eye on a carpet and a new piece of furniture for the front hall...and I think we have finally figured out the best way to clean the new floors! 

Robotics is now competing with the Reno for Allans time but we are hosting a dinner party January 31 so we have to be done! The carpet cleaners are booked! 

So there you have it.... A proper set of before and after photos to come later. 

We can see the end .... There is light... And we are loving how it's all looking.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Time to talk

Of course we had a big project to do over the break and we were all committed to working on it together,

And we did.

We worked hard but we were also given the gift of being together for almost 2 weeks - in a fairly confined space and lots of time to chat.

As a mom of two teens I feel the ever present tick tock of time as a family all living at home running out.......and so this time to be together and do something together was precious.

We are not a retiring bunch so there was plenty to talk about and we had some engaging discussions about:

1.  What to eat and when and who was cooking....... our favourite answer was Bacon, now and Lindsay.

2.  We discussed music a lot..... certain lyrics (Hozier etc) and the meaning of certain songs.  It was interesting to hear from the kids how social media has made artists intentions explicit (just check out their music videos, podcasts and instagram to know what their point is)..... no need to drag the needle backwards across the vinyl anymore it seems.

3.  We discussed school a lot - as we do in this house.  I am always fascinated about what the kids perceive about their teachers, their courses and their learning.  And boy they make us laugh imitating funny.

4.  We talked about Lindsay graduating and my lack of readiness for this which, it seems, is irrelevant to her.  As it should be I guess. Sniff.

5.  We dreamed about and discussed Lindsay and my trip to New York City at Spring Break and I marveled at the speed at which she and David can do research on their phones - all hail the Google!

6.  We talked about church and life and friends and family and world politics and movies......

7. We encouraged one another, we told jokes and delivered some great zingers - we are a family of sharp wit and tongues that sometimes have to be reminded to be gentle and kind.

8.  Of course we discussed the merits of DIY vs hiring experts.......more than once.....

We may be more weary than we should be after a "break" but we had precious time in fellowship with one another.......some families might do that on a beach in the tropics......we do while flooring and painting.....either way I am grateful for the time I had to talk with my family.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Times up

Tools down... Times up.... 

Renocation is over and just like that our winter "break" is done.

And we came oh so close to actually being done!

The floors are in, all baseboards, edging strips, transition strips are in.

The walls, trim and bannister pieces are all painted, stained and finished.

All that is left to do is install the bannister.

Which is good because my falling down the stairs nightmares will compel us to do it sooner rather than later.

Or I could up my sleep meds? 

We have worked hard.
We have worked together.

We laughed, we swore, we encouraged each other, got on each other's nerves at times.

We ate lots of good food..... I am going to miss eating three meals a day together... Eating cinnamon buns and pretzels for lunch....

We listened to so much music from 80's pop to reggae to Sam Smith, Hozier, Ella Eyre and Mat Kearny and Dixie Chicks! We sang along and sometimes we danced.

It was hard work but we did it together and we had fun along the way.

It's was a crazy plan and those wishing to send an "I told you so" our way... We accept.

But we won't soon forget this winter break.... We made some great memories.  We have some new stories to tell... My damaged calf is coming along nicely... Thanks for asking! 

So tonight we took the Byres Reno Company "We're so crazy we floored ourselves!" out to dinner to celebrate that we are still married and have all our children living at home (and our dog didn't run away) as well as all our fingers and toes! 

We wanted to take a company photo but taking family selfies in public is asking for just too much...which after this week says a lot!

So here is half the company!

Thanks to those who cheered us on, brought us food, checked on us, exclaimed at our progress..... You're our peeps! 

The company is sadly now in bankruptcy and therefore unavailable for any renovation assignments. 


Except for the bannister.

And the upstairs bathrooms.....

Kidding! I am kidding. Mostly.


Saturday, January 3, 2015


I got into bed at 7pm tonight, in part, due to accumulation of the following moments over the last 24-48 hours.

1. That moment when you paint ALL 4 sides of the gazillion staircase spindles .. You straighten you back and pry your hand off the paintbrush only to walk into the kitchen and find.... One.more.spindle.

2. We (and by we I mean Allan) purchase and install a much dreamed of surround sound system for the media/family room. "We" hang the TV where those bricks used to be... And with the small exception of what to do with the dangling cords... The system is set! 

Allan is a very happy man!

Until as we are watching a movie (loudly).. The top two inches of the plasma screen goes... As in the top two inches of the screen are useless... Pixelated ..

We all just sat there and silently watched the movie of now partially headed people because we were too stunned that this could be happening.

Eventually Lindsay wondered out loud what we might have done to piss off the ancestors? 

So yesterday we bought a new TV.  

Ka ching.

We just needed to move on. 

3. The moment I wake at midnight last night from a dead sleep to hear Allan throwing up. Handyman Allan has fallen victim to a stomach virus that laid him flat out on the couch today watching netflix (loudly).

4.  The above turn of events meant a little surprise we had planned for the kids for this morning didn't happen so I got up with the alarm and painted all day, unplugged the upstairs toilet, got Norman the Christmas tree dropped off to be chipped (sorry Norman), made lunch, drove Lindsay to and from work, worked with David to sort put the wrapping paper/gift bag "situation", picked up Spanner food and came home.  

I was so beat so we ordered take out which I went back out in the cold and rain to pick up and was much looking forward to enjoying with a glass of wine ... Only to find we are out of white wine!

(Insert very mad very tired face) 

So that's that.... I surrendered to my bed and cozied under the duvet with my book.

I may never come out.


Friday, January 2, 2015

New Year. Same Reno

Happy new year friends. 

We took a couple hours off the painting, staining, baseboard installing to remember there is a world outside our home ( other than Home Depot and Benjamin Moore).

We went to the Van Dusen Festival of Lights with my parents and strolled around on a very chilly New Years Eve evening with a hot choc in hand.... It was a lovely break. 

We then came home and had a movie marathon and "feast food".... A tradition with our kids since they were little...

Yup .... we eat kale salad and smoked salmon at our movie feasts! 

And soon enough midnight came, 2015 slipped in without much fanfare.

2014 had much to be grateful for and some things to be happily left behind. 

I don't have big hopes and dreams for 2015... I know some big things are coming.... I may be in some sort of denial  about some of them.... Like my daughter graduating highschool and going off to University... Maybe far away.

Like opening another new centre and reopening the one that flooded...... I was tired when we opened one... The thought of two makes my stomach flip... And not in a good way. 

I have some personal goals and a new little word that will be a tall order but those are for my Feb 1 birthday reboot. 

That would be the other thing I am in denial about... This birthday seems to me to be a very big number... 

Anyway....... Moving along....

The reno continues..... With no end in sight .... And above average swearing. Also wildly over budget.

But on we go! The devil is in all the finishing details. And I do mean THE devil. Whatever you normal people pay to have someone else do your renos.... It's worth every penny.  One small job leads to 5 more... Every piece of trim is attached to another... The final fitting of boards takes painstaking, sweary hours. 

My hand is permanently deformed into "paintbrush grip". No surface in the house is clear.

And our "renocation" is fast running out time wise....and this strikes fear into our hearts. 

Because here's the thing.... We are not the poster children for "finishing well".  Very soon (if not already - don't look behind the sofa) we say " Its good enough" "It's fine... No one will notice" "We'll do it next weekend".

No we won't. 

Or we won't for a long time. 

We suck at finishing so we are pressing on right now to get as far as we can so we don't leave ourselves in the "almost done" limbo.

One more coat of paint on those dastardly 4 sided staircase spindles and then to bed with my deformed hand.