Friday, 28 December 2012

That lonely gap between Christmas and New Year

I'm just posting this by way of getting back into blogging after a little break. Limbering up, I guess. Today there's a light on the Eastern horizon in the view from our apartment that makes it look like sunset all day. It's only 2pm, and the light has been there since 11am when I sat down to breakfast.

This morning I finally finished Love in the Time of Cholera, the pleasure of which was interrupted some weeks ago by an offensive Age editorial that Matthew shared with me on social media. Some elderly private school teacher in the Melbourne suburbs thinks this excellent literary novel should be removed from the school curriculum in Victoria because the hero is a pedophilic rapist. Um. That's exactly why it should be on the list, so that it gets teenagers learning to recognise and criticise these things. *sigh*

This morning I also started Catch-22 which is on the list for our January book club, which will be held Chez Beavis. The promise of this future baking opportunity is allaying the fractiousness and desolation I experienced on Boxing Day evening after it dawned on me that another year of Christmas baking is firmly over. Also, one of my kindred (literally and spiritually) cousins gave me some beautiful baking supplies, so I'm looking forward to putting them to good use.

Matthew is back at work. After the four days we had over the weekend + Christmas (he had Chr. Eve off), it was a bit of a blow to see him off to work on Boxing Day. I hit the gym an hour earlier than usual in solidarity with his work ethic, and then braved the Boxing Day Sales at Metrotown. Scored some hot pink jeans (ie. definitely not raspberry but not quite highlighter either) which make me feel a wide spectrum from plump to mutton-dressed-as-lamb, to inexplicably fabulous. High-five to you if you also own age-inappropriate clothing.

I will work my way up to a proper Christmas recap with photos etc in the next little while. Until then I will be plowing through my stack of voluntarily and involuntarily selected fiction (because the holiday is over on Wednesday) and getting ready for Gogol Bordello tonight at the Commodore!

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Snow Day

Stop the press! Yesterday Vancouver experienced a bona fide SNOW STORM! All buses were delayed, UBC closed up shop, and it began to feel a lot like the Christmases you see in movies.

Matthew had to go to work. Here are his shots of the day:

Matthew did finally make it home, with all his fingers and toes still attached, about an hour later than usual.

My day was rather less arduous. But I had an appointment at Granville Island to keep, and I sussed out that that infamous fromagerie was actually quite close by, so I decided to put my big girl boots on and go for a 'splore.

But first, for posterity, I shall record some Realities of Walking in the Snow:

1. Slippery as sin
2. Umbrella is useless
3. Gloves are useless (TMI: I once got chilblains (one winter in Harcourt, ironically), so in the nippy weather I always have a real fear that I will get them again. Whenever I start to lose feeling in my fingers and toes I get a bit panicky and high-strung. No chilblains yesterday though. *sigh of relief*)

Random bear on 2nd Ave

A lone worm, stretching desperately across the frozen footpath

All the buses lined up South Granville St (there were 4 buses in this queue, all going nowhere)

Picturesque Holly tree

Our street

Our building

My excellent houndstooth check snow boots. Best $40 EVER SPENT

Around the neighbourhood I spotted some excellent snowmen:
Exhibit A could not have been more than 3 hours old, and about 2 ft tall.
Exhibit B is a day old and about 3.5 ft tall.
Confession: I took this photo this morning, after a considerable rainfall had affected exhibit C here. Would have stood 3.5 feet in his heyday (yesterday).

When I got back indoors at about midday, the snow was not nearly done. It continued whirly and fearsome until about 3pm, and then it all turned to rain. Here are some shots from the warmth (all 27 degrees, yeeeeaaah) of our apartment:

Okay so please don't judge my (lack of) housekeeping, but this windowsill has snow on it (and mould *weep*)! Amazing! And funny because we actually have Christmas decals on the bottom corner of the other window to simulate this very natural effect!
Snow build-up on the balcony ledge.
When Matthew came home we got stuck into some very interesting new cheese, which tasted all the sweeter because of the adventure involved in procurement, and traded Snow Day Stories. It's nice to be warm.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

The Great Cookie Swap

This weekend was a big one in the kitchen.

Serious Cheese Party, Chez Beavis

Friday evening our friends Martina and Stuart came over and brought with them, I kid you not, six different cheeses: Brie, Camembert, Blue, Goat, Cheddar, Haravti. We had some Stilton, so that made it a round seven. Martina and Stuart have a Cheese Guy, which Matthew and I agree is the coolest thing ever, and we want one too. I will keep you posted on our efforts.

We were all a bit pooped from a long week at work/study, so we got to business pretty much straight away. We cracked a champagne, and then a white, and then a red. (Sadly we did not get to the rum and eggnog.) After about 3 hours we were feeling a bit cheesed out. It was the most awesome, fromage-ical evening ever. 

Second Annual Gingerbread Baking Day

Saturday morning was bright and sunny. Matthew and I planned to get out in it asap, but there was one enormous commitment we had to fulfill first: festive cookie dough.

Matthew helped me mix up some gingerbread while the sun was high. Although I have been attending the gym on the regular, I'm afraid I lack the upper body strength to really integrate the ingredients thoroughly. Humbling, if not to say humiliating. Thankfully I was able to mix the shortbread myself. Our apartment reeked of molasses and orange zest.

We set it to chill and realised that as we had been at our kitchen industry, the sun had quite gone. Nevertheless, we rugged up and faced the day.

We bussed into town, grabbed a bite of lunch at starbucks *ahem*, and wended our way to West Georgia via the Fairmont lobby (the next closest thing to Vegas after the River Rock Casino), and also via the Urban Fare on Alberni. We went into Urban Fare initially because during the walk we were discussing the game plan for decorating all the as-yet-unbaked cookies at home, and it emerged that we needed some piping bags for the Royal Icing. After a quick survey of Michaels Craft Store, in which we literally 'hemmed and hawed' over piping bags and nozzles, we decided that the humble ziplock bag was a less cost prohibitive choice. While similarly 'hemming and hawing' over the exact type of ziplock bag (my god, how many different sorts are there!?) it dawned on both Matthew and me at the same time that instead of buying plastic bags, what we really needed was to appropriate some free bags from the bulk food section. Done and done.

We continued out of Urban Fare, past all the mouthwateringly visual merchandised fruit, chocolate, hampers and charcuterie, and all the way to the edge of Stanley Park at Denman St (to procure a Christmas present).

By this time the sun was actually down. We knew we needed to high-tail it home because Carolyn had offered her services from 5pm for the Decorating Phase, and at 4:30 not only were the cookies not yet baked but we were still in town. So we raced home on the bus, via the always-closing-down-since-forever secondhand bookstore. Charles Dickens Collection Christmas Stories, don't mind if I do!

We got back in the nick of time, Carolyn arrived, we got started on the Rum, and rolled out the dough to the tune of Matthew's Christmas Mix.

Me, Matthew and our new owl (I'll explain later)

A Jolly Old Chap

Eight Jolly Old Chaps

Belly detail

The thought is what counts. Not gonna lie, I melted a little inside when I saw this.

Brandon Flowers, with a K for Killers on his chest.

Rank and File

Macro rank and file

...and again, because how impressive?!!

The owl

The actual owl, surveying the hoard of gingerbread people

 Cookie Exchange Party

Late on Saturday evening I toasted the last tray of cookies because we were watching an action movie and I got so into it that I ignored the oven timer.

So that ruined my calculations for filling 4 boxes with a dozen each. *shame*

So this morning I went to the corner shop and bought some more flour and baking powder, and whipped up a batch of not-so-exciting Chocolate Chip cookies with a Hint of Winter Orange (ie. the leftover zest from the Winter Orange Shortbreads yesterday). Just to be clear, everything that is Orange in our house has been renamed 'Winter Orange' for the festive season.

By midday, we had achieved four dozen cookies, boxed and ready to exchange. (also pictured, our beautiful new poinsettia and precious Christmas cards from friends and family!)

Alison and Martina arrived at our place, and Matthew very kindly drove us to Burnaby to Danika's house (bookclub ladies, one and all). At Danika's house was an amazing ceiling-tall Christmas tree, and more cookies and snacks than you could shake a stick at, ...including a baked brie (Martina and I were still in recovery from the baked brie on Friday night...urgh soooo muuuuch cheeeese).

Danika is petsitting the most amazing dog: a french/english bulldog puppy called Josephine. Josephine's mum Alana was there and we asked her approximately a million questions about the puppy and she let us play with her. All that snorting! So funny.

At last we got to the cookie decorating part of the party. We sat down with the best intentions and the best equipment. Danika had made beautiful shortbread and gingerbread cut-outs. There was icing in 6 different colours. See below my personal decorating efforts.

Now scroll back up to Matthew's beautiful minimalist precision work. Compare and weep.

We chatted, laughed, decorated, exchanged, and snacked for a couple of hours. Then Matthew and Stuart picked us up (I know, we are princesses to be chauffeured there and back, but you have to understand, it was 5 degrees and raining, and we were each of us carrying four dozen fragile cookies). We dropped everyone home and returned to the nest by 6:45ish, loaded up with cookies and ready to lie low for the evening. Apart from the four dozen from the exchange, here is what didn't make it to the party this afternoon:

Sooo Maaaany Coooookiiiiies
Cookie party at our house! Everyone's invited!

Thank you to Martina and Stuart for bringing the party on Friday
Thank you to Matthew for driving us everywhere
And thank you to Danika for beautiful catering and a lovely afternoon!

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

The Killers!!!omg!!1! at Pacific Coliseum

Monday night was pouring rain. That didn't stop us from rocking out.

After our midweek hockey adventures in East Van we were super familiar with the venue, but when we stepped inside it had been transformed into a rock stadium spectacle! The crowd was very all ages. A couple of distinguished gents behind us in GA were reminiscing about how they saw Led Zeppelin in the Pacific Coliseum in 1973. And they really did.

Being a short person, I was challenged to see anything, and a large person in front of me very offensively lit up a joint. Inside. Thanks bro. Long story: Since Matthew and I can now say that we have been to pub, club, opne-air, theatre, and stadium gigs in Vancouver, we were a bit miffed to learn that there was (totally illegal and yet totally unpoliced) smoking inside. Especially when the security guard took the time to shove through the crowd and tell a short girl hop off her man's shoulders (word to my short sister) because that was apparently a more offensive misdemeanor than smoking inside. Smoking inside!! Like what is this, 1995? Also did I mention that we got patted down for knives on our way in? This is Vancouver. There's no knives. There's only drugs and lots of them.

Anyway. Support act Tegan and Sarah rocked. Very Killers-esque aesthetic.

I can't really write truthfully about The Killers in the same way as I can't really write truthfully about Matthew and my relationship. All I can say is that this is the third time Matthew and I have seen them. The first time was at Big Day Out in 2007. Instead of dancing I leaned back against Matthew because the sunburn on my ankles from Williamstown Beach the day before was so intense I had to take the next four days off work. We had been dating for 4 months and the week before he had just met my mum for the first time. The second time was later that year in November 2007. That was a good year.

Brandon Flowers released his solo album Flamingo the same month Matthew and I decided to elope. That album is full of songs about Vegas and marriage so you could say it was inspiring.

And also I gave Matthew the new Killers album for our 6 year (dating) anniversary (Yes. That's a thing.) a couple of months ago.

Suffice to say we love Brandon and we love The Killers.

Here are some awesome videos Matthew took, mostly of Brandon being charming.

'Miss Atomic Bomb' (my new favourite song... remind me to write about this another time)


'Heart of a Girl'

'The Way it Was'

*Sigh* Such an excellent evening.

The next morning we sat down to breakfast (Matthew also had Tuesday off!) and Matthew, looking awesome in his new Battle Born band t-shirt, dug some awesome ticker tape out of his pocket. The memories...

Till next time, Killers. xoxo

A Sunday before Christmas

On Sunday we were meant to meet Eleanor and co at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre at a bit before 1:30 for Pirates of Penzance. Due to a lot of stuffing around Matthew and I didn't leave the house with plenty of time to spare, and despite being forewarned of this eventuality, the Annual Santa Parade slowed our progress into town.

This, like the chaos butterfly, resulted in us being a mere 10 minutes too late for the curtain, so we were rejected from the theatre and told to come back in an hour. If there was any time for a sadface emoticon, it was now.

Making the best of it, if not necessarily keeping a stiff upper lip, we sallied next door to the Vancouver (German) Christmas Market at Queen Elizabeth Square. The outdoor part of the market was composed of rows of little wooden portables with peaked roofs and verandas. Each mini-house was a stall selling mostly German-inspired foods (waffles, sausages, spatzle, gluhwein, etc), but also wooden tree ornaments, maple candies, Polish ceramics and of course commemorative beer steins.

I was in a dreadfully unfestive and uncommemorative mood (poor Matthew!) so we didn't take any pictures.

The rain held off for most of the 45 minutes we killed there. After we refueled with waffles and sausage soup, we headed back into the theatre just in time to meet the ladies at intermission. The ladies being: Elly (and bf Bryerton), Carolyn, Aunty Lorraine, Gramma, Emily, Sophie and Shannon! (Not a gender-balanced family, this one).

The second half of the show was good fun and just as we remembered. There were surtitles which is funny because it's in English but also helpful because opera is hard to understand in any language. The set was spectacularly pretty, sort of Tintern Abbey-esque with lots of romantic ruination for the pirates and the police to hide in and around comically.

After the show we hopped the skytrain to Richmond, and when we got there we realised we were half an hour early. So naturally we hopped off at the River Rock Casino, which doesn't require any outdoor adventuring to access from the skytrain station. How Convenient!

It was as empty as an airport after hours. And I really mean that, because between the station and the casino lobby is a long desolate corridor with advertising screens and a travelator. You read right, a travelator. A little bit of Vegas in our own backyard! Who knew?

We ordered a glass of  excessively sweet wine each and cooled our heels for the remaining minutes, then travelated back to the skytrain. (Just kidding, we didn't really use the travelator.)

Ok I know this is a stupid picture. But it was exciting to ride at the front of the skytrain! There's no driver! It's like being on a fair ride but without the terror for your life!
Matthew's work Christmas party was at an airport hotel so we actually went to YVR to get an airport shuttle there. The party had an 'ugly sweater' theme, which we failed to interpret as a 'Chistmas ugly sweater' theme. There were some true beauties, including several light-up jobs and one quite revealing muscle-top (ie. man singlet) on an employee of 25 years. There was a charity drive and the most amazing prize givaway I have ever witnessed. It was like wheel of fortune. There was a digital camera, an oven, and a tablet, among others. The next day, Matthew told me that I said the words 'corporate waste' about eleventy billion times during the evening.

On every table were 6-inch tall gingerbread men decorated with the company's monogram. Since not everyone loves gingerbread, Matthew and I were not too proud to stockpile for the forthcoming week's desserts.
Matthew combating corporate waste by Saving The Gingerbread.
There was also a photobooth where Matthew and I snapped ourselves groping like teens (too much info?).

The food was pretty impressive, with roast turkey, pork, chicken and a million salads. I personally was most impressed by the generous cheese platters at dessert. (Which fellow guests generally eschewed in favour of the 12 cakes! More for me!) We sat with some guys from Matthew's team and their lovely WAGs. Fun time had by all.

We taxi'd homeward and napped for a solid 12. Matthew had the day off on Monday and we lounged and wrote Christmas cards until our evening adventures... (coming soon)

Monday, 3 December 2012

Ice Hockey

This past week Matthew and I decided we had reached that time of year when we were culturally compelled to take in a hockey game. For our friends and family back home, let me give you the Long Story.

Matthew played ice hockey when he was a child in Bendigo when there was still a rink. Coincidentally, he played during the same years Jessie and I took figure skating lessons at that same rink.

We didn't quite get our act together this season to register Matthew in a local hockey league (it's not just a matter of signing up; you also need to seriously gear up). So although hockey was at the top of our Must Do list this Fall (<= see what I did there?! Local lingo in action), we never actually got around to it.

The state of things: 'NHL Lockout 2012'
Okay, get this: due to a union dispute the hockey has been cancelled. That's 422 games, not played. That's $100 million, not made. If you want to know more about it, google it. I'm not informed about it, but just image the football being cancelled. Like, just imagine.

Wednesday night
The good news is that this is Canada, so there's always some hockey to be had. And we could never afford the big league tickets anyway (more expensive than AFL tickets, for example). There's college and provincial leagues, and also a lot of local city leagues. Earlier this year Matthew and I saw the Vancouver Giants vs Everett Silvertips at Pacific Coliseum on Hastings in East Van. We got free tickets from Matthew's work about half an hour before the game, and decided, like, why not? This time, there was a bit more planning involved.

We chose Giants vs Moose Jaw Warriors because it was on a convenient night for all. We got in touch with our friends Mike and Laura, fellow expat who like to take in games. They have recently become PRs, so we knew we needed to celebrate in an appropriately Canadian way.

Our seats were SO CLOSE to the action! And action there was. The players hit the plexiglass at high speeds which makes the whole barrier crack loudly, and the puck really does come over the top!

Red is Giants, white is Moose Jaw.

The prize blimp, remote controlled, flies around the crowd and drops prizes.
At half time (or two-thirds time I guess) there is a big blow-up globe that two random audience members get in one at a time and race across the ice. This time there was an Australian and a New Zealander. The MC thought this was hilarious.
I'm going to break up the next couple of posts because we have actually been having a bit of a busy time. Coming soon:
Vancouver Winter Market
Christmas Party #1