Monday, 28 May 2012

Weekend in Keywords

It's Monday morning (only just!) and I'm at the old computer wondering how I got here. It's like we blinked and missed the weekend. Here's what went down, in no particular order:

Cocktails @ West
Work (Matthew)
Writing (Zoe)
Book club
Diablo III (not Zoe!)

This week is going to be super quiet, because I am staring down the barrel of my last deadline for the academic year. And. It. Is. Killing. Me. I have four days, and I need approx 2500 words. That maths sux, trust me. Matthew is being an adorable mix of supportive and cajoling, which is both overwhelmingly helpful and occasionally not.

Matthew has been crafting at the dining table, making intricate miniature Mini cars for a diorama at his work. They are each perched on nails which are stabbed into wine corks, awaiting final touches like paint and varnish.

We have long since given up clearing off the table every night for dinner. Instead we just pile everything to one side and pretend it's not there for the duration of the meal. This means I have to try very hard to ignore a foot-high pile of academic library books with titles like 'The Sense of Sex' and 'Evolutionary Aesthetics of Human Ethics in Hardy's Tragic Narratives' at my elbow. Also, Matthew has a habit of staring fixedly at his works-in-progress with a crafty look on his face. Still, it's better than eating on our laps in front of the computer.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Victoria Day long weekend and Sechelt Beach Holiday

Howdy all!

Victoria Day

Last Saturday Matthew and I went to the new local tea shop, the Tracy Stern Tea Salon. I think we will not go again soon. We discovered it is one of a chain of tea shops, named and branded after a very bimbo-esque person, and apparently endorsed by Oprah. I'm sure that sort of tea shop has its place, but I'm not sure our place is in it. For an example of how Not Really Us this tea shop turned out to be, here is a quotation from the website: 'Tracy's passion for tea goes back to her days as a small child when she accompanied her parents on antique buying excursions to Europe'. Um, okay, Tracy.

Sechelt, the Sunshine Coast, and Skookumchuck Rapids

On Monday, Matthew drove us to Sechelt. We went to Horseshoe Bay and caught the ferry to Langdale, at the beginning of the Sunshine coast, North-West of Vancouver. It was about another 30 minute drive after the ferry from Langdale to Sechelt, where we stayed. 'Sechelt' literally means 'land between two waters', and this is because Sechelt is located between the ocean and a lake. Matthew and I have not been to many Bed & Breakfasts before, and this one was a real treat. The room had a stunning and clear view of the ocean, and there were no other guests. The hot tub on the balcony was amazing after a long day of adventuring! The first night we were there a smoke detector decided it needed a new battery in the middle of the night, but apart from that our stay was very peaceful. (Between 2am and 3am Matthew and I were beyond exhausted and furious from the smoke detector's obnoxious beeping... but it seemed a lot less dramatically awful by the light of Tuesday morning).

On Tuesday we had the most enormous breakfast delivered, and fueled up for some serious 'sploring. We walked from the B&B into Sechelt along the incredibly large rocky beach, past the most curious gravel conveyer belt which was delivering gravel to a barge. It was about 2 kilometres from the accomm into town, and we were very ready for a cup of tea at that point. We then did the many op shops and nearly purchased a Louis XVI chair upholstered in glorious golden brocade. Luckily we resisted, because we so do not need that cluttering up our excellently sparse apartment. It was a close call though.

The view from our B&B. The ocean off the Sunshine Coast is crowded with tiny little Gulf Islands, in between the mainland and Vancouver Island.

The walk along the rocky beach into Sechelt proper was desolate, with huge old very run-down houses and these sad little boats.

Where the gravel goes.

How the gravel goes. (We were fascinated by this, and stood looking for minutes.)

After walking back to the accomm along the road (much more practical than the beach, where the largeness of the rocks made every step a perilous task), we hopped in the car and drove for an hour along the Sunshine Coast to Skookumchuck Rapids.

Skookumchuck Rapids

Okay, this is so cool I've decided to give it its own subheading. Skookumchuck Provincial Park is a beautiful and relatively easy walking track of about 4 kilometres through the rainforest which ends in a lookout point overlooking the meeting of three rivers. When the rivers meet, and they do so with force, this creates an amazing rapids and whirlpool effect. There were many daring kayakers, and a very sweet-natured Staffordshire Bull Terrier to keep us amused at the lookout.

Turtles are a rare sight, we didn't manage to see any.

We did however manage to see a red coloured snail. Red!!

A hearty slug. Yes it is black, and yes it is spiny.
Some excellent fungi

Me overlooking the Skookumchuck Rapids

More rapids, with Kayakers

So bold!

A particularly hoary tree in the rainforest.
After walking back another 4 kilometres through the rainforest, we drove back to Sechelt to the pub on the pier and had some fish and chips, a requirement on all beach holidays. After that, we returned to the accomm, and to the serious business of relaxing in the hot tub.

Our view upon the lake, from the Sechelt pub window.

The next day, we got to the ferry terminal waaayyy early, so Matthew parked the car in the empty queue and we had a tea picnic in the sun, and Matthew read James Bond aloud to me. This is a picture of how hilariously early we were. By the time we were ready to board the ferry, this queuing station was almost full.

Some photos which are not related to anything, but awesome and blog-worthy nonetheless

This is the steaming hot swimming pool in the apartment gardens down the street from us. We are plotting to jump the fence for a clandestine dip one day soon.

The best yellow apartment-sized bar ever, found in an antique store on the Sunshine Coast, and desperately wanted not only by me, but by Matthew as well.

Friday, by which I mean, Today

Poor old Matthew is back at work, and his neck is better but not 100% so I hope he has been Taking It Easy today in the workshop. I met up with Cousin Sophie and we explored UBC and had lunch at the totally twee Artisan Fromagerie on 10th Ave. We enjoyed our paninis in the warm late spring sun, and it was a delight. An early and excellent start to the weekend. Hasn't this whole week felt like one big weekend?

When Matthew gets home this evening I am going to try out our new Julienne-slicer (just learning this term today, apparently this means 'to make things into strands', eg. carrots, etc.) to make spaghetti bolognese out of... wait for it... zucchini! so clever! and then we will watch that 1990s Vancouver television institution, The X Files, while eating strawberries. Today life is stuffed with simple pleasures.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Friday Five

1. Home made bread with sesame on top. I am fairly starving since gutsing all my bourgeois muesli early in the week. As we discovered in the supermarket last week, 'Muesli' and 'Granola' are not the same. Granola is sugar-coated muesli. So we got all excited in the bulk food aisle (my favourite aisle) and I made muesli to my own liking at home. But it was so awesomely stuffed with delicious date pieces that I inhaled it in about 4 days. Hence the bread. I was too busy making it to take a photo of it, so here is one from Pinterest:
It will be out in about 30 minutes, and then I will attack it with some peanut butter. Can. Not. Wait. (no really, I'm eating date pieces and sunflower seeds while I type this, I'm that hungry).

2. On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection (first published in 1859, but the edition I am working from is the 6th and 'definitive' edition of 1872, with all the stuff about 'survival of the fittest' and 'struggle for existence'). I heart Project Gutenberg. If you ever need a bit of 19th century (or any other century for that matter) literature in the middle of a working day, you can just click on over to PG and get reading for free. I recently read half of Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens when Chapters (Canadian equivalent of Borders) was late with my book order.

I also read somewhere recently (in connection with my reading about Foxe's Book of Martyrs) that the idea of internet reading, or hopping from page to page, dipping in and out of text at random, is totally not that new. In fact, continuous reading only really came into fashion around the time of the novel, or just before. Continuous Reading is not the natural or best way at all. (I was also reading about the Naturalistic Fallacy, but I'm not ready to talk about that yet).

3. Beautiful Burnaby
Burnaby (in the red) is the next suburb over from Vancouver. My family lives there. This evening I will be exploring a new Skytrain line that I have never been on, on my way to Lake City (near Simon Fraser University, which is on a mountain, so cool). Matthew and I have kindly been invited to dinner by some friends of the family, it should be a great night!

4. Portal 2
Matthew has put a real kink in his neck, so he is off work today and sitting very still. To while away the hours he is playing Portal 2, in which two computers (pictured) with very distinct accents try to talk him out of every move he makes. It is uber distracting and also a bit menacing (The computer is telling him that 'this level you are in is full of asbestos so watch out for shortness of breath'. See what I mean? Menacing.)

5. Sorry team, I got nothing. I've been trolling the internet for the last ten minutes trying to invent something, but really I should just post this and get back to my essay. Have a good weekend, and send Matthew's neck your best wishes. xoxo

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Forming Good Habits

Recently I decided to change my gym visits to the morning. When my friend Tess visited Vancouver in January we went in the morning, and when Matthew is not at work we go in the morning. I thought that the only thing holding me back was a sense of willpower and not having a team to go with. I haven't googled how long it takes to form a good habit, but this is Day Three of Week Two and here is an early assessment:

  • If not at the gym, between 7:30 and 9:00 am I would otherwise be lying in bed or long-breakfasting in front of the internets.
  • It gives me a small sense of, if not actual achievement, then at least organisation.
  • We usually eat dinner late, so I am always 'still full' when I wake up.
  • In solidarity with Matthew, whose early get-ups are not a matter of choice, because he is breadwinning.
  • Much less instances of 'I don't have time to gym'. Um, I'm unemployed. Of course I have time.
  • Every morning is a Psychological Struggle to get out the door. This is a way bigger PS than the one just to get out of bed.
  • Running is always hard, but especially hard when you just woke up ten minutes ago.
  • I use up all my energy and willpower early in the day, leaving nothing in reserve for the actual uni work I have to do all day when I finish gym.
Yesterday was still Matthew's weekend, so we wandered over to Main St to buy some paints from the Warhammer shop, and then stopped at BierCraft 'beer cafe' (fancy word for pub) on Cambie for lunch. It was an excellent day to be outdoors and not sunburnt.

The sun in Vancouver is not as searing as in Melbourne, but the breezes are also not as icy. Hanging out in the midday sun is one of our new favourite activities, mostly because it is so taboo in Melbourne. We found some nice bourgeois sunscreen (like sunscreen but with a cosmetic company label) and it is totally wearable and not too eye-stingy.

And finally, next weekend is a long weekend in BC. That doesn't mean much for us (see earlier point re unemployment and also Matthew always has long weekends), but I think we should celebrate accordingly. 'Victoria Day' is the last Monday before May 25th, according to Wikipedia. It's a bit like the Queen's birthday holiday I guess, except it's in honour of a different queen. And it's in summer. Holidays are always the best when they are in summer. ...There's a new tea shop that has just opened near our place; don't you think tea and cake is a good way to celebrate? Let's see about making that happen.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Canadian Wildlife

I forgot to mention that I saw my first coyote last week! It was near the UBC Gardens, at a bus stop, milling around like it owned the place.
This wasn't the exact one I saw, but you can understand that I was a bit alarmed at the thought of something so wild so close to campus. When I updated my facebook status immediately upon seeing the coyote, my friend from uni Corey wrote back that he had seen one recently just outside Buchanan Tower, the building where all my study is. They're everywhere, man!

Today when Matthew and I went to Granville Island for some fish and an ice cream (fish for dinner, ice cream to tide us over), we came upon two Canada Geese and their brood of goslings trying to cross the road.
(Again, stock photo for effect.)The goslings were running everywhere, stopping traffic, getting lost, peeping plaintively. Some kind people picked them up and tossed them on the right side of the fence, back towards their pond. Those Canada Goose parents were hopeless, they had no idea how to get their goslings across the road or back again.

Also, since it is coming on summer, the skunks are out in force again. We have only seen one skunk once, crossing the road late at night, but we know they are everywhere because the suburbs just reek.
Here is a cute, unnecessary picture of a skunk and a kitten, because the internet is full of that stuff:

Since we have been in Vancouver, we have also seen bears and squirrels. We have yet to see a moose or a cougar, but they are both super dangerous, so we are not in a hurry.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Friday Five

1. Matthew's bitchin' Warhammer motorbike. See what I mean about the non-metallic metal details? Very impressive. For scale, this is about 7cm long and about 4cm tall. Tiny!!

2. Lentil Nachos. There are no pictures of nachos on the internet that look remotely appetising. This is going to be our Friday Night Junkfood and I am soooo looking forward to it. Avocados are plentiful here at the moment, but you know how it goes, you buy like three that are all rock hard, and they all ripen at exactly the same time, and then all of a sudden you have to eat loads of avocados all in one day. That day is today, my friends. (This is a picture of Lentils, obviously. Not avocados.)
3. My new argyle jumper. Matthew patiently waited with his hands full of shopping while I dithered over this jumper in Las Vegas. So glad I got it. It was like 75% off, and I am now one step closer to argyle-ifying my life. Unreasonable appreciation of argyle, I have. Not sorry. It goes really well with my argyle socks. It goes without saying that Matthew totally hates argyle.

4. The below stern figure (with an admittedly impressive mustache) is Thomas Hardy. He wrote The Woodlanders, an essay on which will occupy me gainfully for the next 3ish weeks. From the time I was sixteen to last February, a solid 12 years, I gave everyone in my life the impression that Hardy was Not For Me. But I have changed my tune. Yes, he has an unfortunately heightened sense for the needlessly tragic. And yes, his novels crop up on university reading lists and pretty much nowhere else because they are that unfashionable. But since becoming research-oriented on the theme of 'Dead Things in The Woodlanders', I have experienced a renewed appreciation for his extremely deliberate writing. Every bloody word is just waiting to be interpreted. By me. In the next three weeks.

5. It's Mother's Day on Sunday, and our mums are pretty far away. Below is a picture of my mum at her birthday party earlier this year, in her garden. The totally fab pink feather boa is a gift from Matthew's mum. Warmest wishes and lots of love to Kathleen and Hilary, our excellent mums. We miss you and we can't wait to talk to you soon. Happy Mother's Day!

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Two Down, One To Go!

Today I write a celebratory blog post because I have just submitted paper 2 of total 3. I have cracked out 12000 of my total 18000 words, and I am on schedule. To celebrate I will:
  1. First, eat some lunch. I have been promising myself since 11am that if only I finish my bibliography, that bagel will be MINE.
  2. Later, make spaghetti bolognese because it's total comfort food. Matthew and I will be enjoying this with some Langmeil 'Valley Floor' 2009 (from SA) that we lucked upon at a local bottle-o. Typing that made me think of my bibliography... I wonder what is the correct format for referencing makers and vintages of wine? Not curious enough to Google it yet.
  3. Tomorrow, have a lovely long brunch with my friend from uni, Rebecca. We'll meeting at the library, wander the rose garden, source a cake and coffee, and gossip like girls. It's been ages since I've caught up with anyone from uni properly, because I write most efficiently in solitude, and who could be bothered catching the bus and packing a lunch and all that when you could just write at home at the dining table, sometimes even in your pyjamas. No, I'm not sorry, because the work has so far Got Done, and On Schedule.
On an unrelated note, Matthew has bought three new Warhammer bikes and has been helping me with my studies on his days off by sitting beside me and painting like the Artiste he is. They look so intricate! His new skill is non-metallic metal, which means creating gold, silver and chrome details with ordinary primary colours. I'm really proud of the work he's done, but I need to ask permission before posting any photos of them... hopefully you will see some soon!

One last thing. Finally, just when we thought Vancouver couldn't get any greener, all the leaves on the trees are back in our neighbourhood! Not just blossoms, but actual leaves! It looks like a whole new suburb. I never experienced allergies when we lived in Melbourne, but I am like one continuous sneeze at the moment. Small price to pay. Vancouver looks like it went to the salon and got a make-over. It's beautiful out there.

(P.S. I would celebrate finishing my essay by going out in the lovely weather for a walk, but honestly I killed it this morning at the women's gym and don't think I can walk much past the kitchen... Again, not sorry. Structure and routine is the BEST!!)

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Struggletown Saturday

Hope this post will be low on the whinge. But I've got a bit on my mind.

1. Last night Matthew and I went to Gramma's house for the most delicious roast pork dinner. Cousins Sophie and Carolyn were both there, and they were also both recently chilled out since securing awesome summer jobs and generally not letting moss grow on their rolling stones. Good on them! Gramma was well, and we are all plotting a Mothers' Day Luncheon at the Gold Club next weekend.

2. Matthew is at work again. Like for the fifth day in a row. So three of those days were training and let us sleep in and do evening activities like walks and baking. But five days! Goodness. He must be stuffed. I know I am. When he gets home this evening I am inflicting a new internet dinner recipe on him, because in terms of food we have half a broccoli, a capsicum, a can of tuna and some cornflakes in out house and that is pretty much all. Wish me luck. We will also finish the last half of whatever James Bond movie we are currently in the middle of. I don't know whether our attention spans are shortening, whether it's cultural, or what, but one hour of tv just seems like long enough for one sitting. Can't keep still anymore.

3. I am only 3850 words into my probably 6000-ish word paper. It's such hard going. Not much more I can say except that if I drop off the blogosphere, it's because I have to vomit some serious word-count in a short amount of time. And it's only paper number two of three. The real work is still in front of me!

4. Since we got back from holiday, where I definitely stacked on some 'pounds' as they say in America, I tried to hit the gym pretty seriously. And I got to four days in a row and totally crashed. My legs are such jelly that walking to the elevator is hard. And getting up from in front of my computer is hard. And pouring a second cup of tea is hard. I'm ready for a nap just from all this strenuous typing.

5. That is all. ...zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Friday, 4 May 2012

Friday Five!

Good morning! After a week of sleeping in, we are finally back to regular get-ups. Since Tuesday Matthew had training which meant fully catered, very short working days. I have enjoyed having him around more often than usual, and I find his studious presence beside me at the table really helps to focus my essay writing. So here goes, this week's Friday Five...

1. Hycroft is a Stately Home close to where we live. It is now in use as the 'University Women's Club' of Vancouver, and when we moved here I though, hey that's me... but then I looked at their anual membership fees and spent it on two years of membership to women's gym down the road instead... a better deal, I think. On Wednesday evening, Matthew was home so early that we went for a walk while it was still light and admired this, and many other local Homes Most Stately.

2. Yesterday we baked Banana and Walnut Cake. No, this is not our photo, but ours looks almost like this! I haven't baked anything since Easter, and before that, since Matthew's birthday. So although it took twice as long in the oven as the recipe stated (Grrr. Srsly, I had essay to write and dinner to make at the same time. When you say 35 minutes I expect a little variation, but not a full hour!!) Happy to report it is delicious.

3. Bit of a change of mood here, I know. This is a coloured print from an edition of Foxe's Book of Martyrs circa 1780s. The first Book of Martyrs was written back in the 16th century, but the Georgians and the Victorians had a real mania for martyrs, so it got a bit of a makeover. The paper that I am currently struggling to write is about the Guernsey Women Martyrs, who were burnt at the stake for no real reason at all, since they weren't actually heretics. What's special about this story (of all the billions of martyr stories that make up the Book of Martyrs is that one of the women allegedly gave spontaneous birth while she was being burnt. The baby would have survived, but the story goes that the 'Herodian' (I should say so!) prosecutors decided to throw the baby back in the fire, just to be sure. Stirring stuff.

4. Continuing with the theme of Martyrdom, this is a picture (also from the Victorian era) of Lady Jane Grey, the 'Nine-Days Queen' being prepared for the chopping block. Again from Foxe's Book, Lady Jane is the least known of the Tudors. What we do know of her comes from Foxe, and as you can imagine it's not the most reliable source. Unlike the mostly silent Guernsey women, according to Foxe Jane was something of a firecracker. She spent her months in the Tower of London before her death writing furious letters to her husband, sister, and dad, and telling the Catholic men who tried to convert her to get stuffed. I like her.

5. Matthew and I have decided that we are going to take advantage of the lovely improvement in climate since Spring by taking off once a month in the car and exploring BC. Soon we will be exploring Sechelt, a beautiful little beach town on the Sunshine Coast (North-West of Vancouver). This is a photo of our accommodation, the Beach Hideaway, with our own private hot tub and ocean view. Can. Not. Wait.

Have a lovely weekend!

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Vegas Photopost

Indoor gardens at Bellagio

World's largest chocolate fountain at Jean Michele Patisserie
Patisserie cakes, where we went for breakfast every morning
Matthew eating a 'Bloomin' Onion'. Yes they are gross.

View of the Fountains and Tower from the hotel by day.

Bellagio swimming pools. One of the best things about the hotel.

Morning tea at the Patisserie overlooking the pool gardens.

'The Sharks at Mandalay Bay' Aquarium... A real crocodile! There was also a Komodo Dragon... it looked dead.
City Centre plaza. The lit up stairs are made out of real cross sections of pretty rocks!
We were so full of holiday food that we didn't end up sampling these... but... mint!!
As you know I am not an enthusiastic photographer. But it always strikes me when we return from a holiday or outing that there are not enough pictures of Matthew.

Till next time xoxo