Saturday, 28 January 2012

Big Birthday Weekend Recap!

I know this is getting a bit old, but... last night it snowed! Previously, snow had finally arrived after several tortuously arctic days of wearing pants-under-my-pants and snap-freezing my ears. But the day before yesterday was as sunny as spring, and yesterday it was so balmy Matthew was out in it without a coat! So when we opening the curtains at a very reasonable 9:30am to discover a light powdering on our neighbourhood, we were surprised and delighted that snow does not have to be accompanied by below-zero horror! Things are looking up!

Last weekend was pretty busy, so I am going to do a day-by-day.

Friday 20 January
General sleep in, then Matthew drove Tess and I to the Hillcrest centre for gym + spa/sauna. We all swept around the current-pool riding on our noodles (like long thin blue-green foam), trying to avoid the fountains, the babies, and the elderly, not always successfully.

Afterwards, we went over to Main St (boho neighbourhood, kind of like Brunswick Street but less busy) and had lunch at a cafe called 'Locus' with lovely metal floor-to-ceiling tree sculptures inside!

In the evening, we went to 'Kaneda', an amusingly-named Japanese cafe about 5 blocks from home (I have been told it used to be called 'Fish On Rice'; I don't know which I like better).
Tess and Matthew ordered 'large' size beers!
 Then into the city to a pub, ostensibly to see Matthew's colleague's husband's band, but it got too late and we knew we had an early start the next morning, so we headed off at midnight...
Matthew and me at the pub, waiting for the coverband to finish...

Saturday 21 January (My Big Bad Birthday)
Against our best-laid plans, Tess, Matthew and I totally slept in, and at an exceedingly leisurely pace finally arrived at Cypress Bowl, about 45 minutes drive North of our place. Tess had some very stylish ski gear already, from her adventures in the Victorian Alps, but Matthew and I had nothing but some charmingly pink-detailed snow-gloves. We got there at about 11am, and encountered all manner of Australian working-holidayers (and some Germans, too). We signed up for a 1pm Beginners Lesson, and then hired boots, pants, jackets, skis and poles.

Seriously, this is what we were expected to ski down. Eek!
Then, because it was only about 12midday by that time, we repaired to the pub for some Dutch courage.

When finally on skis, we were led to a secluded little flat area, and practiced the following, under instruction:
1. Skiing wearing only one ski, pushing ourselves in a big circular motion.
2. Doing same with the other ski, still singular.
3. Putting both skis on!
4. 'Snow plow' stopping.
5. Turning slowly while skiing down a small incline in the flat area.
6. Doing a little jump, lifting both skis off the ground, while turning-skiing down abovementioned small incline.

Well, blog readers, we rocked so epically at this lesson, barely stacking once, that when the two hours was up, the instructor walked us over to the nearest lift and said 'Get on up there, you champions, and when you get up there, just ski on down!'.
Me at the top of the slope, ready for action.
So I jolly well did. In a straight line. At the speed of light. Until I decided to topple gently half way down to prevent limb breakage at the bottom. Turns out that learning to stop, slow, and turn on a flat in under two hours is not the best possible immediate preparation for barreling down an actual slope, gentle as that slope may be.

I'm not going to tell you what I did next, so here are some pictures of Matthew and Tess skiing like the graceful swans they are:

So chic! Rockstar. Love the pink.
Then Tess took pity on me, and accompanied me inside to reward ourselves with hot chocolate, while Matthew went to explore a much bigger and windier run. About 20 minutes later, looking exhilarated and suffering only a strained thumb (still troubling him today, he tells me, a week later), Matthew joined us.

We drove home in the twilight, and changed out of our thermals and straight into our pyjamas. It was about 6pm at this point.

Tess kindly spread my birthday packages on the grass-green rug and we all enjoyed a wine and cheese while I opened them. Thank you so much to my family and friends who kindly sent things! Matthew, I must add, made me the most delightful pair of earrings out of his warhammer crafting putty, so clever!

Then we ordered the most huge pizza ever and ate pretty much all of it. Best day ever!

Sunday 22 January
Tess and I went to the movies during the day. We saw 'The Descendants' with George Clooney. A bit depressing, but good anyway.

In the evening, we all went to Aunty Lorraine's house for a birthday party extravaganza! All the relatives were there, and Aunty Lorraine made the most superb birthday cake: Maple Syrup and Pecan Cheesecake! Delicious! Also, there were chocolate brownies, so we were pretty full!
Blowing out my candles! (Note sugar-dusted brownies in foreground!)

Opening my presents! (Note exotic orchid in foreground! Yes, I have an orchid, thanks to my Gramma!)

Jessie, Gramma and me. Thanks so much to Tess for taking this lovely photo!
Monday 23 January
Tess and I got up in sympathy with Matthew and went to Hillcrest for the gym/spa routine. (Getting to totally love this). Then Tess and I bussed back to Granville Street (our local) and enjoyed a beautiful brunch at Cafe Barney. It was a little bittersweet, as this was by way of 'last brunch' with Tess.

We headed home and I had a stab at some homework while Tess enjoyed the last of the Vancouver sity sights. She came back at 4:30ish, just before darkness descended, and got cooking. I haven't had a chance to mention it before now, but while she was our guest, Tess made the most fabulous risotto (which I bravely tried to recreate the night before last) with simply gallons of white wine. It was HEAVEN. She also cooked us tagliatelle with fresh pasta and cheese from Granville Island (so cheap! must go again soon!), and on Monday night, she cooked us mouth-watering lasagna!

Jessie and her new friend, Jess came over and shared it with us, before we pored over a box of dark chocolates and red wine...

And then we were ready to go see Hanson at the Vogue on Granville Street (very convenient boys, come again soon!)
Jess, Jessie, Tess and me.

Enjoying a pre-show bevvy.

We were soooo close. Like, the closest I have ever been when not actually in the front row.

They were playing songs from their 'new' album (from 2010...) and we danced out hearts out. It was actually quite hot in the venue, as we were in the general admission section, and close to the stage. Also, given the intimate nature of the Seattle show, I was not expecting that many people, but the place was absolutely packed! They played all my fave tunes. Good time had by all. Can't wait to see them again... eleven shows and counting!! Thanks so much to Tess for being a total sport about coming. The back story is that I have thoroughly enjoyed myself at Taylor Swift AND Kelly Clarkson in the past couple of years, so I thought it was payback time with some Hanson... Tess, you are a Legend for coming along, and I really appreciate that you got your dance on with such spirit!

Okay, that's it for blogging today. One of these days I am going to write about my studies this semester. (Yes, I have been attending university this whole time. Assiduously.)

Final note: All the photos in this post and in the last post were taken by Tess or with Tess's camera. I am so grateful that she could come and stay with us, and I miss her like crazy already. Thanks for visiting, cooking, skiing, rocking, everything, Tess!

Monday, 16 January 2012

Seriously Snowing

Hi, friends! I am sorry it has been such a long time since last post, but things have become busy. Last week I properly returned to Uni and also, my friend Tess arrived from Melbourne. Good times! Since then, Matthew, Tess, sister Jessie and I have been adventuring like crazy...

I took Tess to the University of British Columbia West Point Grey campus (my uni) and let her loose for a couple of hours. She visited the Museum of Anthropology and the Nitobe Memorial Gardens (Japanese style). Last week the weather was bright, sunny, crisp and perfect. The next day we met up with Jessie and shopped Granville Island for Whiskey Cheddar (like Christmas on a biscuit) and fresh pasta.
Jessie and me at Granville Island
 On Friday we visited the Capilano Suspension Bridge and did the Tree Top Walk and the Cliff Walk -- it's a long way down!
Me, Matthew and Tess in the middle of the Suspension Bridge.
Then, on Friday evening, it actually snowed for the second time since we arrived (the last time, you will remember, was when our friend Judith was visiting)! Matthew, Tess and I bundled up at the crack of dawn on Saturday morning, battling the grim clouds and huge snow drifts (I exaggerate. A bit.) and caught a bus + ferry to Victoria, on Vancouver Island. It was bright and sunny in Victoria. We checked into The Empress Hotel (Victorian institution) and sat down to some High Tea (the thing to do at The Empress Hotel)... and it started snowing out the window!

Our High Tea came in adorable tiered plates, savouries to sweets in ascending order! My favourite was the Battenburg Cake. I have inspected this closely, and will be attempting to bake soon.
 We took a stroll in the late afternoon snow up Government Street (main street of Victoria) and poked into the shops, but it was dreary and chilly, so we headed back to the hotel and spa'd for an hour before dinner. Dinner was at the Bengal Lounge (because it was so cold that we didn't have the heart to leave the hotel). We were seated right beside the band all evening (soft jazz only, sadly), and we shared a really excellent cheese platter for dessert.
At the Bengal Lounge (it was much more ambiently lit than this suggests).
 The next morning the sun was out and bright. We had breakfast and took to the pretty snow-dusted streets again, but alas nothing was open, as it was a Sunday.

Then we hopped the ferry home again on Sunday afternoon.

This morning Matthew had to go back to work, poor thing, and I had a load of study to do. Tess and I got up with Matthew in solidarity and he dropped us at the Hillcrest Olympic centre, where we got our cardio on at the gym for an hour, and then spa'd and sauna'd in the warmth, watching the snow teem down outside the floor-to-ceiling windows. I have never so thoroughly appreciated being warm as I did this morning, lounging in my bathers watching that bizzardy snow.

And then, because the buses couldn't handle a little snowfall, we had to walk an hour home in it.

In other news:
1. Finally handed my other essay in, and passed both my subjects last semester with flying colours. Yay!
2. Matthew and I booked our first anniversary holiday to Las Vegas in April. Yay!
3. I officially ran 5km without a break for the first time ever. When I joined the gym in October, I couldn't run for more than three minutes without stopping. It took me 35 minutes. Yay!

Next week:
1. I'm turning 28 years old! Egad!
2. Matthew, Tess, Jessie, her new friend also called Jessie, and I are all going to ROCK OUT to Hanson when they tour Vancouver!!

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Hello, 2012!

Hi everyone, and welcome to the New Year. Matthew and I are having a very quiet one at home today, enjoying hot chocolate (thanks Gramma for this delicious Christmas gift!), novel-reading, and carefully crafting a Drop Pod. Guess who is doing which activity!

Last Wednesday Matthew had the day off, and so we met up with Jessie and Aunty Eileen, and explored Granville Street, and were treated to Cajun lunch at the local blues cafe, called 'Ouisi' (I think it is short for 'Louisiana'). Aunty Eileen ordered alligator!

On Thursday Matthew and I took my mum and dad to their Christmas present, which was lunch at the revolving restaurant (one of two in Vancouver!) at the Harbour Centre. Matthew and I had been to a revolving restaurant once before, when we holidayed in Sydney, and we both recalled the revolutions being a bit slower. This place went 360 degrees in one hour. Our meals were huge, and Matthew said it was the best steak he has had since moving to Vancouver! Big call! We decided to go at lunch time, and luckily the cloud was high up, so we had a lovely view.

On Friday evening, we met up with the Kings and David and went to Richmond for sushi and Sherlock Holmes! Lots of blockbuster fun. The screen was totally huge; it has been such a long time since we were at the movies that it was kind of awesome and overwhelming. Loved the many many moustaches in the movie.

Last night of course was New Year's Eve. Elly kindly invited us to party at the Burnaby Marine pub, and we met up with her excellent friends, and also with Carolyn and David. But we also were keen for a local cocktail, so after a couple of hours we headed back to South Granville and discovered 'West', my new favourite local place. Matthew found a very welcome SA shiraz (long and very meaningful backstory) and I had my first ever hot buttered rum. And our bartender was Australian! There were not too many folks left by midnight, but they did an obliging countdown, which was fun. We polished off a couple more and then we wandered one block home to manufactured some zeds. (This is not the euphemism that you think it is -- it is from Everything is Illuminated, narrated by a crazy Ukranian gypsy with hilarious English. It means 'sleep'.)

Coming up this week:
1. Matthew has a shift change, so he is staring down the barrel of four whole days in a row of good old-fashioned work.
2. Uni starts up again (hopefully I will have finished my bloody paper by then, but no promises).
3. UBC Girls' Book Club at our place! Reading a zombie political thriller... interesting.
4. Less food, more fitness.
5. Less whinging, more writing!