Monday, 27 February 2012

Blue Green Ugly

Hi everyone! This is just a quick post to let you know that I am still kicking, and so is Matthew. Yesterday was Matthew's one day off in many, because he has a shift change, so we made the most of it by going out to breakfast at the local crepe cafe! Matthew had strawberries AND strawberry ice-cream, and I had good old-fashioned Nutella. It made me think about the University of Melbourne crepe stand, and how we used to trek down there on a Friday at elevenses for a sugar fix. Good times.

Matthew has made a habit of Sunday afternoon gaming at Strategies Warhammer shop on Main Street every Sunday afternoon. Since we arrived in Vancouver he has acquired two armies and fully painted one-and-a-half of them! Such meticulous work! He says he played three games, and was pretty pleased with his form. He's off at work today and I can't remember the particulars. Perhaps my ridiculous vagueness on this blog will stir him to actually write a post himself... will let you know ;)

I am just coming off Reading Break, which is one week without any university classes, and golly I am glad of it. Last week I treated myself to some new stationery, and took myself to a cafe on Main Street (while Matthew was gaming nearby) and I wrote seven letters! I hope to do more soon, but since last Wednesday I have been trying super hard to do homework everyday.

Friday was the exception; Carolyn and I went into the city (in the blizzardly snow!) to meet Aunty Eileen for lunch at her office. I haven't done that since I was about 15! We had a lovely long leisurely lunch, and then sent Eileen back to work. Carolyn and I had thought of wandering the city doing some shopping but after about five minutes of being blizzard-beaten, we hightailed it to my place and made some Interesting red velvet cupcakes.

I had never heard of red velvet cake until I came to Vancouver, but then again, I never really went to the specialty cupcake stores that were cropping up in Melbourne. Perhaps it's a worldwide thing. Anyway, I had been dying to try one, and I had the perfect excuse since we had all that red food colouring left over from Christmas baking. I say 'Interesting', because we used goat butter instead of regular cow butter. It was very white in colour, even whiter than yoghurt. And it melted strangely (especially after we added the food colour... urgh!). But they tasted ok. Carolyn is a champion in the kitchen, so after we cranked out about eighteen lovely little cupcakes, we sat down to a well-earned test-taste. Pretty good. Although afterwards I checked the internet, and all the pictures have white icing. We made red velvet icing, to match the cupcakes, but the day after, the icing just looked kind of dull brown, and a different colour from the actual cake underneath. Oh well, next time.

On Friday evening it was Eleanor's birthday, so we went over to the Kings' house and played with their sweet pets and ate gorgeous black forest birthday cake and played dominos. Well, they played dominos and I acted as Matthew's game consultant (because you know how I don't play games). Lovely evening!

The title of this post refers to my stupid ankle. As you know I have been faithfully exercising like the Little Engine That Could, pretty much since November. But two weeks ago I felt a little bit of a twinge in my ankle and ignored the hell out of it. Then one week ago, the twinge felt a bit worse, but I thought 'I'm tough'. Then on Thursday it wasn't funny any more, and I was limping and it was swelled up and bruised and things pretty much haven't changed since then. So I have been lying low and feeling a bit sorry for myself. I think it's sprained. Boo. Hiss.

Tomorrow I have a presentation on The Woodlanders. I have read this book to find out what happens so that you don't have to. It is depressing. Women get treated badly (hardly surprising in a Victorian novel) and good men die out in the cold. There is no happy ending, and even the man trap that the jealous husband sets to trap the philandering moron and shred his legs and give him tetanus doesn't even catch him, so there's not even the benefit of a grusome shock ending. Missed opportunity, I think.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Hi folks. It's about 9:30am on Thursday and I'm having my first cup of tea, admiring my tulips, listening to the rain on the windows, and trying to remember what Matthew and I have been up to since last I wrote.
Valentine's Day gift from Matthew
Friday Night Hockey

Last Friday evening I was frantically doing some study (on a Friday. Evening. I know.) and Matthew phoned to say that he had scored free tickets to the minor league ice hockey from his work. Woohoo! We hopped in the white wagon and drove over to Far East Vancouver, which is the home stadium of the Vancouver Giants. They were playing the Everett Silvertips. (You must look up Everett in Wikipedia, it is the funniest/saddest entry for a city ever. The photos alone are enough to make you well up.) Everett is where they make the Boeing 747s. We arrived about 20 minutes late, and the Giants had already scored two goals and Everett one. The game went pretty slowly after that (one more goal for each team over the course of the next two hours), but it was surprisingly warm inside the stadium, despite the ice. It was very family-friendly, no swearing or shoving, and lots of free stuff giveaways and long breaks between play. There were some nasty punch-ons on the ice (this is cultural, just read this piece of quality journalism Matthew spotted in Melbourne's the age). The puck flew into the crowd several times.
When we first arrived, I thought this sign was a bit over-dramatic. But it turned out it was actually very sensible advice.

Some exciting play.

Matthew getting into the spirit.

The half time Little League boys, very cute.
All in all a rad Friday night. And the Giants totally toasted the Silvertips, natch.

Visitor from Australia!

Matthew's aunt Catherine was in Vancouver last week on business, so on Sunday we were very excited to met her at the Vancouver Art Gallery for afternoon tea and then dinner at her gorgeous hotel in the city! We had delicious local wine and of course, fish. The pianist in the corner played some very vigorous Whitney Houston tributes in the corner.

It was excellent to see Sass after such a long time (since June!), and she shared lots of good new from the Beavis family in Melbourne. Seeing her made us feel more than a little homesick, but also reminded us how close we are since we have email, skype, blog, etc.

To our family and friends in Melbourne (and elsewhere in the world!): if you can find a reason to visit, we would love to see you. We miss you dearly!

Valentine's Day

Okay, so as you know from North American movies and tv, Valentine's Day is huge here.  On Sunday I went to my friend Chelsea's house for book club in the morning, and we had lovely cakes and Valentine's themed chocolate and candy.

And then, on Monday, Matthew and I thought we were being super clever by booking dinner the day before Valentine's Day. No such luck, Valentine's Day is more like a week-long celebration here. Our dinner was at Seasons at the Park, which is a restaurant on top of Little Mountain, not too far from our house, and very near to where my Mum grew up. I have explored Little Mountain lots of times, but never been to the restaurant. The interior is all wooden, very tea-house-y , and there are windows on all sides. The view of the Vancouver downtown area at night time was stunning. We could see for miles!

We kicked off the evening with Kir Royales. I had lobster bisque for the first time ever, and Matthew had a totally massive steak. It was very dimly lit and romantic-themed. I do think, though, that my days of putting away three-course meals without a care are behind me. We practically rolled out the door. We had such a beautiful meal, and it was all thanks to the Kings, who gave us this dinner as a wedding gift when we arrived in Vancouver in July. We had been saving it for a special occasion, and I think we picked the best one! Thank you, Aunty Lorraine!

Dreaded University, and sundry

One of the reasons why I have not blogged before now (because clearly there has been much to report on!) is because I have been mired in the studies. Tomorrow is the first day of my Reading Break, which will last until the Monday after next. So I have been seriously under the pump. This term I have three courses (I am overloading with courses because I am not teaching), and in those three courses are, wait for it...

6 oral presentation
5 writing exercises
4 short essays
3 major research papers...and other regular weekly requirements.

Just to put that in perspective, the above mean I have to crank out 27000 words (you read right, twenty seven thousand words) by the end of April. So that's why I haven't been blogging as much as I had hoped. I have given two presentations, written two exercises, and submitted 2 short essays so far. And the term is about half way done. Next week I am going to be reading The Woodlanders by Thomas Hardy. I was reminiscing with a woman in my class yesterday about the terrors of Tess of the D'Urbervilles, and that has got me all anxious about it. Wish me luck.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Hard at it

Since November, when the last uni term finished, it has been major Struggle Town every morning to get out of bed. I'm talking earliest start was 8am and even that hurt. Even on days when I had to go to uni. In the morning. All the motivation to face the day was gone. As the uni term is nearly half-way through, I knew I had to change, but I couldn't bring myself to make it happen.

(The lowest point was last Wednesday morning. The day before, I met some lovely girls from my course for after-class coffee and we chatted for about an hour. One of them is a super organised get-up-at-5am type, who does dawn spin classes and has double my workload and still manages everything. It is fair to say that although I enjoyed chatting with the girls, and hope to do so again soon, I felt like a total slacker afterwards and spent all evening and most of the night thinking 'what am I doing wrong? Why don't I get up at 5, or at least when Matthew gets up at 6:30? That would be productive, that would make the most of our Vancouver experience, that would show solidarity with Matthew, my Best Bread Winning Husband...)

So last Thursday, Matthew had to set my alarm for me and give me twice as many hugs before going to work, just so that I would feel guilty enough about his efforts to actually bother getting up. Then, on Friday, an amazing thing happened... Matthew again set the alarm, but I didn't need it! I sprang out of bed at 7:20am (I know, still a lazy-bones sleep in compared to all those mornings for all those years in Brunswick), showered, cleaned the bathroom, and breakfasted, all before 8:30am! Ready to sit down to a full day's study.

On Saturday and Sunday I didn't fare too well. But now it is Monday, and I am up and (admittedly right now taking a break from) reading Book Of Revelation for my homework at 8am! I actually woke up without the alarm and got out of bed all by myself, no groaning or fussing like a schoolchild!

Of course, it helps that we have had five straight days of blissful clear blue skies and not a drop of rain or touch of frost to be found. But I hope this is the start of a new era of getting up at a reasonable hour. Otherwise there are never going to be enough hours in the day to do all the study and all the fitness and... well, that's all the responsibilities at the moment. Doesn't sound like too much to handle, does it?

Friday, 3 February 2012

Friday Five

Thanks to my new twitter/blogging friend, Tracy at Honey and Nutmeg, I have been 'tagged' for the first time ever! This could not be more timely, as I am in desperate need of some 'blogspiration' since the mega-fun adventuring has slowed. It reminds me that the idea behind starting this blog was to document and reflect upon our (my and Matthew's) experience in Vancouver, and our experience has not all been holidays. Quite the opposite, the larger part of it has been work and study. So I have to find a way to make it interesting... challenge. The 'Friday Five' concept, which appears in many of the blogs (by young North American women, some of whom are also living abroad), is a short list of things I crave today.

#5 Maple Syrup

Since we arrived in Vancouver and my family gave us a lovely kitchen hamper with all-you-need-to-make-pancakes set, Matthew and I have made weekend pancake feasts a regular habit. It is a luxuriously Canadian feeling to keeping pouring the maple syrup long after we should stop. Also, we sit at table for this ritual, which is also more luxurious than at home, because we didn't have a table in Brunswick. It's a way that we can slow down and remind ourselves that despite the work/study, this is really supposed to be a long holiday.

#4 iPod Nano
Matthew and I had been collecting frequent flyer points since our round the world trip in 2008, so naturally, I had just enough points to get the smallest possible electronic gadget. As you know, I have never been an 'iPerson', and am the proud user of a smartphone that is not iAnything. But hey, this is free. I decided to cash in my mean little store of ff points because, as I reported in an earlier entry, I finally broke through the 5 km barrier in my running (not once but TWICE!). So this is a reward and a motivation. It is an attractive green colour (I think) and it arrives in the post very soon!

#3 UBC Girls Book Club

When UBC offered me a place, they set up a forum for international and inter-provincial new-starting grad students to connect online before making the trek to Vancouver. On that forum, I met some really nice girls and with the organisational powers of one, Martina, we formed a book club. There have been four meetings so far, and February's book is The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht (my own choice!) I haven't really got stuck into it yet, but I have a couple of days to polish it off, and regardless, it is always lovely to visit someone's house, eat cheese and cakes, and gossip about books and other things.

#2 Mirage Hammam spa

For my birthday, mum and dad gave me a Turkish Spa gift certificate; I am saving it for when I am supertense, which I predict will be in about four weeks. The spa is on Granville Street, only about 7 blocks from home. How convenient! I have never had a Turkish Spa experience before, so I am intrigued!

#1 Fabulous LAS VEGAS

Matthew and I are counting down the moments until we hop on that plane and revisit our old stomping wedding ground, Las Vegas, Nevada. In early January, when the bank account was pretty wounded from the festive season, and our girths were pretty bloated from all the eating (and let's be honest, drinking), and the sun hadn't shown itself for a fortnight, and we were generally Feeling The Misery, we decided to take advantage of the good Australian dollar. In April, when my first year of Uni is over, we will be staying at the Bellagio, getting side-by-side couples spa treatments, and sipping alco-pops in the pool. It will be awesome.