Sunday, 22 September 2013

Autumnal Ennui

Warm hello, friends and family.

I've been experiencing a bit of the old Blogging Ennui lately, I'm afraid. And that's because Matthew and I simply have not been tearing up Vancouver town. We made an intricate plan to go to Bowen Island today, but we literally missed the boat -- there is a ferry from Granville Island to Bowen Island all summer long, and it has recently stopped until next year... because it's not summer any more, you know. *Sigh* I do wish I'd done some more research, and made a back-up plan. Even our long-run plans were shelved today because of the side-ways rain from before dawn until afternoon.

Luckily, yesterday was an Achievement Day. 1200 words of thesis written and a new recipe (lentil burgers) tackled. I also tracked down a new novel (The Book Thief, by Marcus Zusak, for book club), and started it in the many hours I had to fill today while Matthew painted. I always compare holocaust novels to Everything is Illuminated, by Jonathan Safran Foer. I can't help it. If you've read Everything is Illuminated, you'll understand why.

Speaking of Matthew painting: his blog, Heaven's Teeth, has recently been added to some hobby networks, so he's quite taking the internet by storm. I'm very proud of his commitment and aesthetic, and happy he's getting peer recognition. But not surprised. Of course Matthew was always going to be awesome at blogging!

I've been struggling a bit recently with finding my happy place. I'm not among humanity's relaxed folk, and until recently the novelty of the work/study/life balance has been enough to distract me from the void. But now I've established a routine, I find myself wanting to create new goals (beyond "actually stick to my routine", which I've totally got nailed).

Some goals I have been struggling with:

1. Want to run a half marathon. With Matthew by my side. Asap. (Reason why this is unrealistic: I can only run nine miles at most, and on the odd occasion when I've tried to push my boundaries, I've wound up injured. Also, the weather is turning nasty, so outdoor running is now a rare luxury and not a normal routine.)

2. Veganism. What more can I say? It's just so attractively resolute. (Reason why this is unrealistic: I'm not even vegetarian yet. One thing at a time, eh?)

3. Three international holidays in the next calendar year: London, Osaka, Melbourne. (Okay, this one actually is realistic, but so financially daunting, it seems like only a dream).

Okay, that's enough bleeding heart for one evening.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Home Decorating

We're not really home decorating types, Matthew and I. I mean, we have a couple of pot plants, and an awesome lawn-esque green shag rug, but we don't tend to put a lot of time and energy into cultivating our space.

Part of the reason is that before we moved to Vancouver, we lived in a cramped, drafty apartment filled with my things. And another part of the reason is because we didn't know, and still don't, how long we'll call this apartment, or this city, home. Also, I kind of love bare walls and sparse furniture. It makes me feel unstimulated and calm.

But when we went to the Chinese garden, along with the fancy tea Matthew insisted on buying a small document of "Suitable Moment for Drinking Tea". The suitable moment which won me over was "With agreeable friends and a slim concubine". Say what!?

Of course, there's no such thing anymore as just buying a poster and sticking it on your wall. We had to rearrange everything. We put up my sister Jessie's special contribution, which I rescued from my old office at UBC:

It's from the Brisbane Art Gallery. It's a photo of a mixed media collage. It's awesome. Also, I spilled a couple of drops of red wine on it, so it looks like wine-rain. I think it adds to it. (See, this is why I'm not a good decorator.)

Here's the dining corner now, with both pictures hung:

Okay, I saved the best for last. After we were married, we received the most special gift in the mail: a pair of handmade rabbits in wedding dress from my very dearest friend Akiko, who is a textiles artist. We initially had to leave these in Melbourne because of a last-minute packing crisis, but when we were back there in February, Matthew rescued them from their safe place, and we took them back to Vancouver with us.

Since then, they have lounged side-by-side all over every surface in the house. This evening, we finally found a solution... shadowbox!

Now they are forever behind glass. We hung them in the bedroom, because we already have one shamelessly personal wedding picture (a portrait of us on our wedding day) in the living room.

Thank you, Akiko, for your lovely gift. We treasure it.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Achievement Day

I was going to start off with something mellow and reflective about how still and clear and warm this evening has been, but a massive spider (like, 3cm diametre, I'm not kidding) just ran across the carpet at our feet and Matthew had to mash it a couple of times with a can of spray paint. So, I need a moment to collect myself.

I have to acknowledge that today has been an Achievement Day for a couple of reasons:

1. Matthew and I were very kindly invited to a party last night to help our friend Christina (from UBC) celebrate two milestones, one of which was handing in her MA! We drank a fair bit of very fancy sparkling wine, stayed up till past midnight, and walked home 3 kilometres in red stilettos (well, I did that last one). And then sprang out of bed at 8:30am today for brunch. I'm not saying we didn't yawn hugely over our almond lattes, but hey, we made it. Warmest thanks, Christina and Grant, for a lovely evening in Mount Pleasant.

2. I dusted up a complete draft of chapter two of my thesis and submitted it to my supervisor. Great weight lifted, as I have been carrying that thing around for over two months in my brain and in my multiple inboxes (always back up your work!!).

3. I found a recipe for felafels which doesn't require a food processor or a deep fryer. Last week we bought some cumin from the bulk spice aisle and every time I open the cupboard a hint of the Middle East wafts out at me. Every. Time. So you can imagine, my longing for felafels has grown to a fever pitch since last weekend. They were pretty successful, I think. Also, it's the first time I've tried a new dinner recipe in about six months. Housewife fail.

4. In an effort to both a) go on a date and b) be thrifty, we just got in from an excursion to Granville Island for some ice cream. I feel like this has been the Summer of Ice Cream, we've had that much of it. I'm not even a particularly ice-cream-motivated person. It has to be in a waffle cone, and at least one scoop has to be chocolate. And I don't actually make a distinction between ice cream and gelato.  That's how much of an ice cream charlatan I am. But we have covered a fair number of neighbourhood ice creameries and gelateria and even fro-yo-eries. 

Anyway, it was particularly lovely down there, so here are some gratuitous Vancouver twilit skylines for you:
The Sign.

Drooping vines.

A pleasure cruise on False Creek

Burrard Bridge and Granville Island yachts

Aquabus under Granville Bridge

Me contemplating gelato
Now I'm watching Matthew sculpt a model and sharing a cup of new fragrant tea from Sun Yat-Sen's gift shop. It's been a solid day.

Monday, 2 September 2013

Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden

It's a beautiful warm clear evening in Vancouver. I'm writing from the dining table, with a bowl of mango and strawberries beside me. Matthew and I are having a "laptop-dessert-date" so that we can fulfill our blogging goals by bedtime.

This weekend was the Labour Day long weekend. Matthew and I didn't make any plans to go away, because we have an all American roadtrip planned in a couple of weeks (more on that to follow!). Saturday I spent on campus at UBC, making good on my new study schedule by cranking out a little under one thousand words. (I know it's not much, but so help me, it's something). I was not alone in the computer lab; it was lovely to see some familiar faces, even if we all slightly had a glazed and desperate end-of-summer look.

Matthew has been online-training up a storm for his work. He took Friday off and powered through a couple of months worth of curriculum on Friday and Saturday. His work ethic has been quite inspirational.

Sunday, however, was all play. We got up an went for a run around Kitsilano. At one point we found ourselved at a gorgeous cul-de-sac off Point Grey Road, which had a friendly one-eyed fluffy grey and white cat, and a stunning view of English Bay, the West Van and the city. It was breathtaking, but we didn't have a camera, so we just stared longingly at it for a minute before jogging on. When we got home, had a leisurely breakfast in a hot sunbeam, and then made plans for the day.

Since Tess and Jessie visited in January 2012 and recommended the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden in the downtown East Side, I have been meaning to go. Even in the sparse January weather Tess had good things to say about it, so I suspected it would be well worth a look in the more verdant months. 


Matthew in front of the Yun Wei Ting (Colourful and Cloudy Pavilion)

Limestone grotto underneath the false mountain

Bonsai (strung with perfect spiderwebs)

Jade green water, symbolizing tranquility

A tranquil turtle

Han Bi Xie (Jade Water Pavilion), and a ponderous orange koi

Matthew leaning correctly on the Graceful Lady Balustrade

Our moderately successful attempt at a self-portrait (I mean, we're both in it, right?)

The garden and architecture is in a 15th century style, according to a tour guide we overheard. A specially clever feature of the garden architecture is the winding double corridor, separated by a white wall down the middle and punctuated with floral cut-out windows. This served several purposes: the corridor is winding so that you can never see your full destination, only a succession of changing landscapes while you progress; also the wall down the middle provides shelter from the sun, so that you walk down either side of the corridor at different halves of the day, and the cut-outs mean that you never miss out on a view. So much artifice!

When Matthew said that  he had only been to Gastown once, I did not believe him. I have been there more times than I can count. The last time was with Cousin Helen and my mum, when they visited in June. And then it occurred to me, I always go when we have visitors in town (Jess and Aaron, Tess, and Judith have all been dragged to Gastown on my enthusiasm). And it's always when Matthew has been at work.

Before we could get to Gastown (mere metres from Dr. Sun Yat-Sen's), we crossed the famous Keefer St, Vancouver's large (and difficult) Chinatown.

The streetlights are fancier in Chinatown.
We saw not one but two bridal parties in Gastown, while also navigating a flea market, some extreme poverty and some young affluence. Gastown is a challenging mix.

We finally grabbed a sandwich and a latte, and poked in an out of some homewares shops before calling it a day.