Monday, 26 December 2011

Christmas recap

Well, that was fun!

On Christmas morning, Matthew and I had nary a sleep-in before bundling in the car to Gramma's house for family brunch and giftgiving.
There were many delicious platters, including papaya and fresh dates, and home made mince tarts and gingerbread men. This brunch was also a once-in-12-years photo opportunity for all the Gray cousins:
L-R: Emily, Jessie, me, Eleanor, Sophie and Carolyn
After some serious unwrapping, Matthew and I retired home for a (new) cup of spiced chai tea in our beautiful (new) elephant teapot and more gift opening under our own tree. Thank you so much to our lovely Australian family for such gorgeous, thoughtful and fun presents! We thought of you with a big pang as we sat in the mid afternoon sun amongst all the paper and ribbons.

In the evening we drove to New Westminster for Christmas dinner with the Gray family in their newly-renovated kitchen. We were greeted with pomegranate martinis!

Turkey and all the trimmings were so perfect we had second helpings, and then, as if that weren't enough, Aunty Leslie brought out white chocolate and raspberry trifle! Matthew had three helpings and then vowed never to eat again.

 The cousins retired to the living room to play the piano and sing some carols:

Jessie and Matthew puzzled over their bonbon trinkets:

Also there was a dance party in the kitchen (yes, Hanson's 'Snowed In' featured) and Uncle Dan did his magic leg-disappearing trick. I laughed so hard I actually fell off my chair, much to everyone's consternation and amusement. I also have to include this adorable picture of Matthew, at the end of the evening, sneaking his third trifle helping and making friends with the neighbour's dog:

After a generous Boxing Day Sleep-In (finest tradition), Matthew and I headed out to Burnaby this morning for brunch at the Kings' house and played with their new kitten, Molly:

Since it was such a rare occasion to have all the family in one room, we took a stack of group shots:

Jessie gave Matthew and I the most excellent t-shirts for Christmas, which we are proudly modelling below:

And when we got home this evening, after a long weekend of festivities, I enjoyed a glass of Californian red in our stunning new crystal wine glasses, a generous gift from my mum and dad:

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Merry Christmas!

To our friends and family in Australia, we hope you are enjoying a fabulous day of excellent weather and delicious food. We miss you! Sending lots of love and festive wishes your way. Thank you for the lovely Christmas cards we have received, it has brightened our evenings to come home to little stacks of mail with Australian stamps!

It is still Chistrmas Eve in Vancouver, so Matthew is at work until 2pm, and I am doing some last minute baking. Last night we smashed out Gingerbread Men V.3 which were a lot less gaudy and over-decorated (and hence a lot less fun!) but they look superb. I am very pleased with Matthew's exquisite decorating, and I look forward to eating them in large quantities tomorrow!

On Tuesday evening we headed over to the Kings' house for 'Crackertown' which is like gingerbread house making, but with everything in the cupboard! Biscuits, pretzels, coke balls (don't ask), twizzlers, Lego-shaped-lollies, etc. The King cousins were old hands, and knew that the trick was to make lots of small houses. We did not cotton on to this, so our large 'house in the suburbs' was at risk of caving in on itself for a good part of the evening. We left it at the Kings' house (lucky them!) so that the icing could set... I'm not sure it will ever be edible though!

On Thursday evening we met up with the Gray Family Ladies (well, eight of them) and look a turn around VanDusen Gardens, which is the local botanical gardens. All the plants are dead for the winter, but at night the entire garden is decorated with lights! Very festive: Christmas carols piping from loudspeakers, and the pervasive aroma of doughnuts (very puzzling, until we discovered the doughnut stand). I took a couple of pictures, but it doesn't really do it justice. Also, there were lots of little 'Mistletoe Moments' in gazebos, grottos, and in one case, a whole 'Mistletoe Monster' (like a huge faun)... perfectly romantic!

Disappointingly, I did not manage to complete all my essay writing before Christmas (well, I'm going to have a bit of a crack at it after I upload this). So I will be one of those suckers working between Christmas and New Year. But I will not be alone, as Matthew is also working from 27th onwards.

Have a lovely Christmas and New Year's Eve, everyone. We are thinking of you! xoxo

Monday, 12 December 2011

Gingerbread men!

After an evening of baking Canadian Home Living gingerbread men (very dark! very crunchy!) I was about to cry with frustration when Matthew stepped up and offered to decorate my finely cut men.
...And what a meticulous job he did! I knew all that Warhammer painting would come in handy!

We were very tempted to eat them immediately, but we needed to let the icing set. It was so hard to just leave them there...

Any resemblance?

Bring on Christmas!

Monday, 5 December 2011

Season's Greetings!

This is our first real Christmas tree! Yesterday afternoon the cousins, Jessie, Aunt and Gramma all came over to visit. I popped into the kitchen to sort out drinks for everyone, and when I came back out again, there was a fully decked Christmas tree in the living room! Didn't even have to lift a finger!

Matthew and I had a real blitz on Christmas cards this past weekend, so if you haven't received one by the twenty-fourth, blame Canada post. Matthew had a perfect craft production line happening with potato-stamps and paint from here to infinity!

On Wednesday Mum and Dad are arriving, which will be good. They are spending a little time with their good friends, Corinne and Patrick, who happen to live just down the hill from us, so they will be very close for visiting.

I am getting all my tasks out of the way to clear headspace (and remove possible procrastination objects) for the 8000ish words I have to write, and 30 papers I have to mark, before 20 December. A bit daunting, but totally do-able. In grad school, they have this grown up approach to deadlines which goes 'There are no official due dates for these papers. Hey, if you want to ruin your Christmas writing and researching, that's totally your business'. And that's supposed to provoke us to 'prove them wrong' and get them done in good time. Well, we'll see. I don't want to spend the holidays fretting about papers but.... we'll see. Certainly blogging inane details of my personal life isn't helping my cause.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Congratulations Matthew

Today was Matthew's first day as a fully fledged member of mechanic staff at the dealership! He has had such a learning experience in the last three months, and it is really excellent to know that he is valued for his work there. He has recently changed to shift work, so that means four days on and three days off for the short term. I think he has found it a bit of an adjustment having to work on a Saturday, but having Sunday, Monday and Tuesday free to be a lord of leisure more than makes up for it.

Last Sunday Judith was still with us, and we were also expecting my sister Jessie to arrive. Her flight was appallingly delayed. Poor thing spent light years in the Los Angeles Airport. She missed out on Aunty Lorraine's meticulously organised, delicious dinner on Sunday evening because it was also Aunty Leslie's birthday and Cousin Sophie's going-away party -- lots to commemorate! Finally, at 11:30pm Matthew, Judith and I met Jessie (sans luggage -- bloody United Airlines lost that, not that we were expecting any different by that late stage) and took her to Gramma's house.

On Monday morning my lecture was cancelled, so I had a day away from uni. I still did a ton of reading, but it was refreshing not to set foot on campus on a business day... almost felt naughty! Matthew drove Judith and I to Hillcrest Olympic centre and we all went iceskating!

Judith attempting to skate backwards and me beside her, not attempting any such thing.

Us looking pleased as punch that we didn't fall over once!

Matthew holding me up. Ice skating is very romantic.
Then we went to Main Street for a little poke in the sweet vintage clothing stores. And then we all declared that we were too cold, wet and tired to walk another block, so we piled in the car and headed home again for some lunch. I spent the rest of the rainy afternoon frantically reading the last 100 pages of The Italian by Anne Radcliffe.

In the evening we went down to the corner of 14th and Granville to Luke's Corner Bar, our local pub. We ate yam fries (very Vancouvery of us!) and chipotle dipping sauce. I can't really explain chipotle -- think orange-coloured mayonnaise with a spicey bit of a bite to it.

On Tuesday it was Judith's last day, so we had a late breakfast of pancakes and raspberries, and headed for the airport. It has been excellent having Judith stay, and such a relief to see a friendly face from home! Although we did feel twinges of homesickness, we also got to explore Vancouver like tourists in a way we never had time to do when we first arrived. We wish Judith the best on her very exciting continued journey to Texas, and then to Switzerland!

(Tomorrow Jessie and I are getting twin mani-pedis at Metrotown which is a really huge suburban shopping mall... don't judge.)

Sunday, 20 November 2011

A Day (Or Two) In The Snow

Monday: Grouse Mountain and Capilano Suspension Bridge
Over the Lions Gate Bridge to North Vancouver
Judith and me at the foot of Grouse Mountain.
Matthew frolicking in the snow

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We were very close to the bears! They were making their winter mattresses from branches.

Look at him! Adorable

Matthew licking an icicle.

All of us at the Capilano Suspension Bridge

Judith on the cliff walk. It was suspended very very high over the canyon!

Judith and I got up very early and walked to the Hillcrest olympic swimming centre in the perfect morning sunshine and took a steam and sauna. Then we came home and Matthew was awake so we made buttermilk pancakes with maple syrup for breakfast. Afterwards I went to UBC and Matthew took Judith to Michael's Craft Store, Granville Island, the False Creek Ferry to Scienceworld and back, and then to Whole Foods to get some Bison!

In the evening we went to Shuraku, a Japanese restaurant on Granville Street in the city, and had dinner with Quinn and Dave, and their friends, Lynne and Paul. Quinn and Dave are from Victoria (on Vancouver Island) and they were in town for a couple of days before setting off to Thailand for three months! Lynne and Paul have just moved to Vancouver, so it was good to compare notes on the whole settling-in experience. The sushi was presented very artistically; Dave ordered a 'Volcano' sushi, and it came in the shape of a volcano with red sauce drizzling down the sides! 


I spent all day at UBC, and Matthew at work, so Judith had an at-home day, because the rain had set in. In the evening Judith made beautiful tender Bison Spaghetti Bolognese for dinner. For dessert we ate handmade maple and peanut-butter fudge from the Capilano Suspension Bridge giftshop.


After I stayed up until midnight on Wednesday marking student papers (eyeballs falling out of my head) Judith and I went to university in early Thursday morning and had cake and tea at an Artisan Bread and Cheese cafe in West Point Grey.

After my seminar, Judith and I went to Gastown and did the tourist strip. We tasted Rogers Raspberry Victoria Creams (and were so impressed that we bought some, and also Eggnog and Maple flavours as well). We were starving so we popped into a sushi place and ordered local themed sushi (picture lots of different variations on salmon).

Then we found a very cute paper shop, and the best shoestore in the world: local Vancouver designer John Fluevog. Google it; these shoes are art. We also visited the OK Boot Corral, where I got my hot made-in-Canada deerskin boots last year. We touched stingray, cayman, ostrich, and of course, deerskin.

It was feeling pretty nippy as we headed back to the apartment, and lo and behold, as soon as we got in, it started snowing like crazy! It snowed all night and most of the next day!

Out our front door on Friday morning
Matthew and I were up and out at the crack on Friday, hurrying into the bloody slushy melty disruptive snow. There was about three inches! The main road to UBC was snowed in, so my bus detoured down Millionaire's Row, and the mansions looked like American Christmas movie stereotypes, just heavy with picturesqueness. The UBC forest, last week bare-branched and bleak, was transformed into a pretty white landscape. UBC itself was one giant slippery blizzardy mess, and I got thoroughly soaked before making it to work. Although I swore snowboots were a wussy accessory, I have changed my mind completely. They are next on my list of cold weather necessities.

Speaking of shopping, Judith works at Savers in Brunswick, so we were very keen to explore Value Village, which is the Canadian equivalent. We shopped for over two hours! Judith was very properly restrained, but I am afraid I came away with:
1 x blue floral shirt
1 x black work trousers
1 x gorgeous angora rabbit jumper with diamente buttons
1 x gold sneakers. That's right, gold!

This is my sister's name! Shirt was cute, but didn't fit.
After a hard day's shopping, we headed home to thaw out, and I baked my first ever Pumpkin Pie!
Best dessert ever, and aged well overnight. Matthew had some for second-breakfast this morning, bless him.
Matthew left for work in the dark, again, poor thing. I got up very soon after for yoga. It was another bright and sunny day, and most of the pesky snow had melted.

Later Judith and I took the bus down Granville Street, to Waterfront Station, and hopped on a Seabus to Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver. We sniffed handcream and tea until our noses didn't know what was what, and stocked up on even more maple fudge. In the late afternoon we came home and had a tea party with the beautiful gold-rimmed teapot a very kind friend, Jenny for UBC, gave me. The tea was Raspberry Chocolate, which to be honest was a bit overkill with the maple fudge. But it had to be tried, right?

Even though it was dark, we experienced a sudden burst of motivation and walked to Cambie to stock up on bulk baking ingredients. When we came home, Judith swanned into the kitchen and whipped up a perfectly peach-coloured pavlova!

I can't believe that I forgot to mention this, but on Thursday evening when we accidentally suddenly ran out of shop-bought eggnog (whoops!) Judith made home-made eggnog! Thank goodness for Judith and her amazing kitchen skills...

Rum and Eggnog: Succulent before-dinner and after-dinner treat, very festive, very traditional.
...And that brings us up to now, Saturday evening, chilling in the apartment, looking forward to a big Sunday of ice-skating, picking Sister Jessie up from YVR, trip to Gramma's house, dinner at Aunty Lorraine's house, and probably a whole lot of other stuff too...

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Friend has arrived!

This morning Matthew and I were beside ourselves with excitement to pick up Judith from YVR. Judith is visiting from Melbourne for the next ten days, and we are dropping everything (except work and uni, pesky commitments!) and becoming Tourists In Our Own Town!

After we got her settled into Chez Beavis, we launched a roadtrip to the local Whole Foods Market, and got some self-grind peanut butter. We saw:
7 different kinds of rice (four of which were Wild!)
Bison mince
Bison burgers
Pomelo (an Asian fruit. We bought this.)
Stout flavoured marble cheese (We also bought this)

...And loads of other weird and wonderful things. It really took Judith and me back to when we were in Japan, marveling at the local supermarket stuffed with delicacies that we wouldn't find at home.

We then headed home with our goods, and out again to the local bottle-o for some Granville Island Winter Ale. It came with a Movember Mustache! Not that Matthew needed it, of course. It was just getting dark as we wandered home (at 4:55pm -- a bit early for total darkness! *sigh*). We plated the Stout Cheese and poured a round of rum and eggnog and have been carousing ever since. Matthew also seared us a delicious 2-inch-think Calgary Steak for dinner, so as you can see we are living the high life!

Tomorrow we are hopping in the trusty white wagon and adventuring over the Lionsgate Bridge to Grouse Mountain for the day. Grouse is the closest mountain to the city. You can only get to Grouse via a cablecar, which I recall sways alarmingly, so hopefully it's not too windy tomorrow. The condition report says 5cm of snow in the last 24 hours, and a brisk -1 degrees Celsius.

We will let you know how it goes! xoxo

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Good Weekend

Hi readers! I just had a really lovely weekend. Today I went to my new friend Kate's house for book club with the UBC girls. The book was 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night', but we didn't talk about it for very long. I spent all day Saturday frantically reading the book cover-to-cover in preparation. Good book, I recommend. Everyone had baked, so we shared delicious angel confetti cake, cranberry muffins and "snickerdoodles" (this is a new word for me; it just means large moist chewy cookies lightly dusted with cinnamon and sugar).

It was another unseasonably gorgeous day, so I walked home from Kate's house and it took me less time than google maps told me it would, so there, google maps! This is the view from 16th Avenue, just down from Dunbar Street. It was actually a lot brighter:

Matthew is enjoying his Sunday night more than ever, because he is celebrating successfully making it through probation at work! Congrats, Matthew! And what's even better: because of a change in shifts, Matthew now has a further two days off! Tomorrow after I finish uni at 10am (I know, early right?), I have promised to meet him for a coffee out, which is rare for us, so I am very much looking forward to it. I think I will encourage Matthew to have a ridiculous festive drink such as an Eggnog Latte:

Yesterday it was my cousin Carolyn's birthday, so we went to her house in the evening and had the most succulent home make silken tofu chocolate cake. It was dense and sticky like cheesecake. Carolyn is a chocolate fiend much like myself.

This week at uni we are finally tackling 'Tristram Shandy'. It has been so long since the summer that I have to revisit it! But before that, I am required to read 'Open: Man and Animal' by Georgio Agamben which is a very strange short book about... not quite sure yet. And in the class that I am teaching, we are finally moving into poetry, so we have some Margaret Atwood to look at this week as well. This week will be a shorter one, since Canadians take Remembrance Day as a holiday, not just a short silence. More days lounging around with Matthew! I am trying to encourage him to write a guest post here... stay tuned.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Post-Halloween recap

Hi everyone! I am trying to be more diligent about blogging, even when I don't have any photos to share with you.

Last weekend was Halloween weekend. Halloween is a huge deal here. Last Thursday I went to the Purdy's Chocolates on Granville Street (a mere four blocks from home! hold me back!) and stocked up on chocolates. At 9am on Friday I had to give a very stern talk to my class about Academic Integrity and Avoiding Plagiarism, and so I distributed the chocolates to make the experience slightly less painful for them.

On Friday night I went to Aunty Lorraine's house for dinner and pumpkin carving. Because I was sans Matthew (he wasn't feeling excellent, but he is better now) I had to take the bus and the skytrain, and boy were there some costumes! Definitely an over-representation of pirates and vampires.

When I got to Aunty Lorraine's house, I was a bit slow to the pumpkin carving, mostly because I'm not very artistic and also because I have cut myself quite often in our new kitchen, and so I was generally experiencing a lack of confidence. By the time I had summoned the pluck (and poured a second cup of tea) Cousin Carolyn and Honorary Cousin David had already snaffled the very cut mini pumpkins and carved super dextrous scary faces. All that was left was a super huge pumpkin (about as big as a 1990s computer monitor)... I did my best, but eventually Cousin Eleanor took over and made some improvements. It certainly was hideously scary, so I'm counting it as a win.

On Saturday I got up bright and early and went into town for a bit of a shopping spree. When we left Melbourne, I left behind my grandmother Joan's old coat which I had been wearing every winter since I was 14 years old. So I was on the look-out for a winter coat. I went into H&M and they were having a coat sale, 50% off! It is camel-coloured with Sherlock Holmes buttons and epaulettes. I love epaulettes!! And high wool-to-manmade-materials ratio, very important. I am sure photos will appear in this blog before long, as the winter is less that one month away!

Sunday was a do-nothing day, so Matthew lounged and I read about 18th century aesthetics (I think Gilpin is actually stalking me... how many times must I read about the Pictureque in one semester?) and we both ate more cupcakes.

Monday was actual Halloween day, and when I went to the bank, all the employees were dressed up! My teller had a scarecrow costume, and there were some cats and witches as well. Matthew and I went to Uncle Dan's in the evening and we ate Chinese food and gave candy to the local trick-or-treaters. It was lots of fun admiring the tiny little costumes. There was an abundance of emergency services costumes, lots of police and firemen, and a spectacular dragon/dinosaur! Cousins Emily and Sophie had outdone themselves with the pumpkin carving and fake cobwebs, so the house looked truly scary! We had so many visitors we ran out of candy by 8:30pm!

I am proud and relieved to have enjoyed Halloween having eaten a minimum of junk food and having escaped dressing up. Looking forward to next year!

Saturday, 29 October 2011


Matthew's beautiful gift to me when we celebrated 6 months of being married.

Matthew painted the flowers, and today we had it framed and hung it in a sunny corner of our apartment.

Matthew and I in Whister; a bit brisk!

Vanilla and Cinnamon teacupcakes in gingham paper. This evening Matthew and I ate two each and shared a fifth.

Look how big the cheese is in the supermarket here!

And the avocados (exhibit A)! My god! The size of my head!