Monday, 26 August 2013

A Day In The Life

Like the "30 Before 30" thing, I've been meaning to articulate this one for a while. My day-to-day life in Vancouver in 2013 is very very different from my day-to-day life in Vancouver in 2012. In fact, each year for the last three years, I have had a significant change in not just routine, but lifestyle.

This time in 2011, Matthew and I were newly arrived in Vancouver, setting up house together in, frankly, newly married excitement. We were doing tourist activities and reconnecting with my family, and we had no routine. It was holiday, all the time.

This time in 2012, Matthew was working hard and I was really not. Matthew had a routine created around his work ethic, and I had a routine created around Matthew getting home from work. Sad, but true. And I can say with the benefit of hindsight, that I didn't have a whole lot of work ethic going on, personally.

This week is an odd week to choose to describe my daily routine, because I'm technically out of it. Friday I experienced a bit of leg pain (okay, groin pain. TMI? Well, try living it. In fact, it's so real, I might actually write a whole post on it... consider yourself warned...) and so I was off from the gym. And today was the first day of the fall term at university, so my colleagues and I were in the office before 7am rustling papers officiously and, more importantly, personally greeting bright new sparks to the program.

But apart from those interruptions, this is what my week day looks like in 2013, as I have established over the last couple of months:

5:40am Awake and walk to the gym. Balance of cardio and weights because mitigating cake intake and also, aiming to hand-mix my own Christmas gingerbread this year!

7:30am Walk home and getting ready for work. Not much to add here except that since I have been gymming in the morning, I all of a sudden find myself eating HUUUUGE breakfasts. Which I like to take at a leisurely pace.

8:45am Walk to work...

9:00am ...At desk and working. *smugness*

5:00 - 5:30pm Wrapping up work. Lunch happens in the middle somewhere, but it's more of an organic part of a general work day, rather than a formal stepping away from duties.

5:30 - 8:00pm Depends on the evening, but in the last two weeks Matthew and I have gone out for ice cream (but not, thankfully, cocktails) with friends, met up with cousins, walked in our neighbourhood, watched bloody hours of television, kept house, played warhammer, and cooked at home.

8:00pm Herbal tea and summer fruit, except for that blackberry pie indiscretion last week. Even when we fail at the summer fruit aspect, we're still very good about the non-caffeinated aspect. High five for responsible adulthood!

9:30pm Bed, where I sleep like a baby until 5:40am. HAHAHAHAyeahright. More like, internet, tv, internet, reading, internet, brushing teeth, internet. Why is the internet so fascinating at night?

10:30pm Bed, in which I turn fitfully, but am grateful to be almost never afflicted by nightmares, until 5:40am.

It's not glamourous, but it's my life.

To add to that, I have established a new routine for Saturdays (because you will notice that Thesis Writing is utterly absent from the Monday-to-Friday routine above), which is to get up and go to uni and lock myself in the computer lab. Long may it last. I have had two very productive Saturdays, so I expect my thesis may even be finished as soon as 2015. I jest, but I also weep.

And that, for the expat record I'm keeping here, is what a day in my life in 2013 looks like.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

"30 Before 30"

29. It's a good age.
I've been trying to formulate a post on this for a while. When Jane was in town, we definitely spent some time talking about it. I have wanted to compose a long and respectable list of stuff to do before the big three oh. But I can only come up with about two.

1. Finish my degree
2. Run 10 miles

One is sensible and aspirational. The other is shallow and a bit vain.

In my smugger moments I congratulate myself (ok, us) on how we're go get 'em people who just pretty much think stuff up and then do stuff (case in point: eloping to Las Vegas, moving to Vancouver). And I don't want to include small things like "conquer a fancy recipe that I saw on Pinterest". I also don't want to include general things on the list that I want to have sorted by January, like booking our next trip to Australia, or doing my taxes. I don't need to sit around writing a list. I just need to get out there and do more stuff. Like I have been.

But Jane and I got to thinking that, if you're a do-er, perhaps the best way to think about your "30 before 30" list is as a way to give up things. Like, I'd really like to phase out dessert, and make it a special-occasion thing, rather than a twice-a-day thing. I haven't ever done this in my entire life, and I have blogged ad nauseum about my desire to limit the treats.

I would also like to give up television in the evenings. Matthew and I don't even have a tv, and yet we manage to watch upwards of 6 hours of netflix every week. What? I know. I'm shaking my head while writing this.

I would also like to start reading for pleasure again. It's been a while since I just picked up a book and read it, something that I didn't have to read for uni or book club.

But all those are long term behaviour changes, not meaningful life goals.

I imagine I will have more to say on this in the coming months.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Blackberry Pie

It's blackberry season in Vancouver. Blackberries grow wild and free all over Vancouver, by roadsides, in alleys and yards, and - best of places - along train tracks.

Last Tuesday Matthew and I were invited to inspect Cousin Carolyn's new home in Kerrisdale, a neighbourhood close to ours. We all walked over to 41st Ave for sushi and Asian cakes, and on the walk back to Carolyn's we followed the defunct trainline, picking berries and getting scratched.

Matthew and I were inspired by the modest haul, and on Friday night after work I trained to Richmond to meet Matthew. You may remember last year, when we did the same. We may have missed the peak by a couple of days, but there were still loads of blackberries to be had.

We spent half an hour systematically stripping the thickets along the train line in Richmond. Well, I was systematic. Matthew was more of a browser-and-grazer. I would meet up with him along the roadside, and ask 'have you done this bit?' and he would say 'sort of, I just go with the perfect ones.' Um, it's blackberry season. They're all perfect. So we finally called a halt to it when we had filled every makeshift receptacle we had with us: two plastic lunch boxes, a supermarket bag, and a charming and large golden tin which used to have nougat in it, which Matthew appropriated from work.

When we got home, there was lots of washing and sorting to be done. We decided to refrigerate enough for one pie, and freeze the rest. I snuck some into a bowl for dessert, with a drizzle of maple syrup.

On Saturday (after a gruelling day spent in the computer lab at UBC, where I churned out 1000 words of thesis, which is more than I've written the whole month prior) we had Martina and Stu around for some well-deserved wine and cheese. Because I'm a last-minute sort of a person, I decided that a good time to make that blackberry pie would be when they were arriving. I was fussing in my apron, swearing like a galley cook, and they were quite gracious about it. The pie crust was a humiliating reminder of how out of practice I am at shortcrust pastry. And despite cooling for half an hour on the counter (and driving me salivatingly wild with the wafting warmth of it), it still oozed all over everyone's plates.

Life lesson learned: pie is always better the next day.

This morning, after a night of boardgames, cheese, wine, and heywhynot?cocktails, Matthew and I dragged our sorry rears out of bed and around our neighbourhood on the longest run we have ever done: 9 whole miles! Our post-run post-breakfast pie had good form, great taste, and stunning interior integrity.

I mean, look at it. It's love on a plate.

A special thanks to Martina and Stu for a great night of the finer things in life, and to Cousin Carolyn for firming our resolve to pick blackberries.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

New Glasses

This post is shamelessly about me. Fair warning.

A couple of weeks after I started the new job, I grew fractious about squinting at the computer screen. I knew it had been a while since I had had my eyes tested, but I didn't know it was over three years! Of course, my prescription was never very strong, and I only really wear glasses for reading, distance and computer. Nevertheless, I discovered that my presciption had changed.

I have trouble finding glasses that fit. I have a "narrow face", whatever that means. So a couple of Saturdays ago, I dragged Matthew to the "Optical strip" on Broadway (seriously, there are about ten optometrists and glass stores within three blocks). He gave his critical opinion, I hemmed and hawed, and two days later I went back and got a sweet two-for-one deal. Well covered by our very expensive private health insurance.

Exhibit A: Tortoise shell, square, everyday glasses

Exhibit B: Black, daintier, special occasion glasses

I can't tell you how self-conscious I've been feeling lately, wearing new glasses. I know it's not something you really notice about someone, but I feel like I look different. I certainly see differently. Everything's lovely and sharp. In both eyes. And in my peripheral vision. Nice.

Last week, after about two months of eschewing the salon, I got my fringe trimmed. As you can see, it's horrendously short. With new glasses and newly short hair, I feel very on show. Matthew has been very supportive, bless him.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Vancouver Pride Parade

Last week was Vancouver Pride Week. It's an exciting time in Vancouver's annual cultural calendar, and the downtown West End is even more fun than usual. Everything on Davie Street is rainbow. Including the road.

Matthew, Jane and I made it to the Pride Parade just as it was starting. We had hoped to connect with Scott and Bill, but Davie Street was chaos, so we just did our best to stake out a grassy knoll on Pacific Boulevard and watch the glitter and dancing.

The Parade started out fairly seriously, with marching representations from established community groups, and even a Scottish pipe band. But after about 20 minutes, a two-storey green bus with loud dance music and oiled shirtless (and trouserless, let's be honest) lads rounded the corner, and it was one massive party from then on.

The WestJet blow-up aeroplane was a bit too flaccid to really fly, but it tried hard. It bounced a lot.

After the parade, we walked to the Art Gallery Cafe for a spot of lunch. Happily, ardis and Rob were wandering below and decided to text, so we invited them up.

We made an executive decision to quit downtown, and enticed everyone back to our neighbourhood for a visit to Queen Elizabeth Park and Bloedel Conservatory. Matthew and I were enchanted, I sincerely hope our guests were too! The pink pipe-cleaner tree was not in flower last time we visited, so this was a real treat. Also, they had a new flock of the most gorgeous (and gregarious) rainbow finches.

We wandered around in the late afternoon sunshine, through the ornamental gardens and the fountains with children (and adults) splashing in them, and then it was time for dinner.

We finally reconnected with Scott and Bill, who had been busy all day at the Pride Festival. We invited them over to 4th Avenue again, where, out of sheer hunger, we landed upon a tapas bar. As all the Pride festivities continued downtown, we practically had the place to ourselves. Kitsilano is rarely quiet.

We then ate, drank, and laughed the evening away. A modest end to a big day.

Lynn Canyon

Okay, on with the weekend...

So on Saturday morning Matthew and Jane and I went for vegetarian breakfast at Heirloom. For them, it meant omg!frenchtoastwithappleANDCHEDDAR and omg!quinoapancakes!!abitweird but for me, it meant avocado on toast, which is what I would have made at home anyway. I think breakfast out is wasted on me.

Afterwards, we went to Lynn Canyon. Now, Matthew and I have been to the Capilano Suspension Bridge a couple of times, but it costs an arm and a leg. The attraction of Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge for us was two-fold: we had never been there and it is free.

We were pleasantly surprised to find that it is so much more than a suspension bridge! After the bridge, which looks down over a waterfall, there is a gorgeous walk down on the riverbed to a magical (and perilous) natural swimming hole, and then back up a million stairs through the forest. It was quiet and lovely.

We spent a good two hours there. After Lynn Canyon, we drove to Deep Cove for late lunch by the water. We decided, against our better judgement, to order maple-flavoured drinks (one coffee, one spiked coffee, and one cocktail). Kind of a let down, kids.

We got home after a long day of sploring, and headed to West 4th Avenue to meet Jane's cousin Dave from New South Wales, who works at a Mexican place. While waiting for Dave to get off work, we met some new friends ardis and Rob (from Melbourne, but also from Calgary, and Buffalo, and more recently North Carolina! gosh they get around!). We went to a wine bar around the corner, then back to the Mexican place, and then onward marched to Vanier Park to watch the fireworks.

This was the view before the fireworks, over English Bay. The evening was profoundly, predictably, beautiful.

Now, as you will have noticed so far, this post has been a bit low on photos. There are some pictures of the fireworks, but meh, you all know what they look like. Also, and I hesitate to say this, but the actual fireworks were not that spectacular. And the first thing that any firework should be is spectacular, don't you think?

Anyway, we sat in Vanier Park, all in a row: Dave, Matthew, me, Jane, Rob and ardis, and watched the sun go down. That was spectacular enough.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Jane in Vancouver (Part One)

This long weekend (thanks, civic holiday!) has been so epic that, like last time, I'm going to split it up over a couple of posts. Fair warning...

On Thursday afternoon, I knocked off early and met one of our besties from Melbourne, Jane, at the airport. It was excellent and heart-warming to see someone from home, and we feel like we picked up right where we left off when we saw her in February.

Matthew met us and we drove home from the airport past the McMansions of Shaughnessy. This is funny, because in the car, Jane told us about her recent trip to Mulholland Drive, LA. Obviously, we had to display a competitive edge.

We got home, and after the longest stretch of sunny weather Vancouver has EVER SEEN, the storm clouds gathered. We drove over to Main St and had dinner at East is East, and then we went to the best ice cream shop in the world, just before the sky got really black. We didn't take any photos because we were too enthralled and ice-cream-motivated. We test-tasted wasabi, lavender, dill and lucuma flavours. Lucuma is not actually a weird flavour, it's just that we'd never heard of it. It's a Peruvian fruit. I can't remember what we actually decided on. We did not test taste garlic, curry, or corn flavours. Some things you just don't need to experience to know.

We then retired home to bed, because Matthew and I are living a healthy lifestyle now. Jane's long weekend in Vancouver was shaping up to be a relaxing and clean-living one, in true Vancouver style.

On Friday morning, Matthew dropped Jane and me at Hillcrest and we sauna'd and steamed for an hour before heading into downtown Vancouver. I very sadly had to put Jane on a bus to the Vancouver Aquarium while I skytrain'd back to work for the afternoon. Things got done, and then we rendezvoused on the home front. It was bloody pouring bloody rain all day. Thanks, Vancouver. Way to make a good impression. Jane very kindly looked upon the silver lining, since she had been in Dallas, TX for the last week in 107 degree fahrenheit temperatures. Also, ain't nothing more authentically Vancouver than a long solid day o' rain.

Matthew came home and we carefully (read: a bit obsessively) considered dinner options. We settled on French (which we flat out could not afford when we lived in Melbourne, but which is, happily, most affordable in Vancouver), and hit up Salade des Fruits on 7th Avenue. It was pretty heavenly, and in a team spirit, we all ordered fish. We also left room for tout les desserts.

We then headed over the Granville Bridge to The Moose on Nelson Street. The Moose came with a recommendation from Jane's friend who used to live in Vancouver. It used to be a tapas bar called The Loose Moose. Now it is an ear splitting rock pub. We met our good friends Scotty and Bill from Portland (featured this time last year on the blog, when we roadtripped to their 'hood for a weekend of Australian-infested fun). And we tried to exchange a year's worth of news over drinks, we really did, but we literally could not hear a thing over the 80s hair metal. So we gulped down our drinks and walked up the neon glory that is Granville Street after 10pm, and settled into a quiet pub like the pack of old farts we really are. ...And then we really got caught up.

Here's the awesome connection. Are you ready? Okay: Matthew and I met Scott in 2009(?) while he was an exchange student in Melbourne, at a house party hosted by Jane, which was Vegas-themed. Then, when Matthew and I were married in Vegas in 2011 (at which Jane was a guest), Scott and Bill were holidaying there at the same time. We were reacquainted with Scott and introduced to Bill on our wedding day, walking around the Strip in our finery. Then, because they're cool, we met up with them again in Portland last year. Serendipity! We have always lived in different countries, but somehow we're destined to be friends!

Anyway, cheers to transcontinental friendships. See you for more tales of adventures (and some photos, I promise) tomorrow...