Wednesday, 29 January 2014

On Hair

Since I left Melbourne, and my close friend and favourite hair stylist Jane, I have totally hated having my hair cut. It's actually got to the point where I'm a bit phobic of it. Here's what's changed about my hair since July 2011:

...Got bangs (Love 'em. Bangs for evs.)
...Given up colour, growing it out slowly and unflatteringly
...I've got natural curls! Who knew?
...Reduced from 4 x a year haircuts to twice yearly
...Reduced twice yearly haircuts to once yearly

This was the result:

 Egad, but it's long! And mighty orange in places!

So it was with some trepidation that I visited the local bourgeois salon (we live in a fancy neighbourhood full of these establishments, none of which I frequent). And I totally hated the first result (last Thursday). I lost a good five or six inches, but had no shape. I looked like Grug.

 And so this evening I went back for a second chop, free of charge this time, and here's what I've come home with:

As you can see, I still have a lot of growing to do before I will have all natural colour, but I think by this time next year I will be nearly there.

I do miss the security (and Poor Romance) of having epically long hair. But I don't fear+loathe hair-washing day anymore.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Harrison Hot Springs

Matthew took me to Harrison Hot Springs this weekend, for my birthday, but also because it's so nice to escape the city once in a while. We left on Friday night, from our place (avoiding tolls) to Harrison it took about 2 and a half hours. To be honest, the first 45 minutes of that was getting from 16th Avenue to 70th Avenue!! Friday night traffic...

It was pitch black when we rolled into Harrison, and we were tickled to discover that there were still town Christmas lights up, and a Christmas tree in the main square! So picturesque, if a bit inappropriate. Because we didn't check in to the hotel until 8:30pm, we were keen to explore dinner options asap, as there is not a lot of night life in the countryside. We located the famed Black Forest Schnitzel Haus at exactly 8:50pm, which was a stroke of luck, as the place closes at 9pm! Matthew had a German beer, pork schnitzel and bratwurst, and I had a vegetarian schnitzel. Yes, such things exist.

Random life-size bear.

Matthew and a hard-earned thirst.

Me with a very large Bavarian-inspired meal.
We stayed at the Ramada, because it was very cheap, cheerful, and central. It was not fancy, but it was comfy enough. In the morning we awoke (late) to the most glorious streaming sunshine. It was warm (an almost-tropical 10 degrees celsius), sunny and not very windy the whole time we were there.We got breakfast at a diner which was like pretty crumby but we didn't get food poisoning so that's a plus. And they toasted my bagel so it was warm, and that's also a plus. After breakfast we did some gift-shop 'sploring in and out of the sunshine.

The view from our hotel room.
By far the most magical shop was the nut shop. It was more like an open produce stand. Out front were lawn chairs, fruit boxes, and large carved garden ornaments. Inside were roasted hazelnuts, flavoured honeys, and nut butters. The shopkeeper gave us free samples of everything and in return, we bought most things. Harrison and surrounds is a hazelnut farming area, so on the drive back out of town today, we noticed field upon field planted with large, naked (it's winter time), hazelnut trees. They were very tasty, especially the twice-roasted nuts, and the homemade hazelnut brittle. Actually we didn't have lunch on Saturday, we were too busy eating hazelnuts.

We retired to the hotel at about 2pm, lounged until 3, and then hit the hot-tub and steam-room. It wasn't very busy, so we mostly had the place to ourselves. The view from the hot-tub was lovely: blue sky and pine-forested mountainside. We parboiled and steamed ourselves for approximately an hour, and when I had achieved a singular lobster shade, we hopped out and cooled off.

By that time, it was cocktail hour, so we fined-up (dress and shirt, but not much more effort than that), and located the bar in the fancy hotel around the corner (the one we couldn't actually afford to stay at). We had some very delicious martinis, and stayed a goodly distance away from the unromance of the hockey screens. It was civilised.

Then we arrived at dinner, on The Esplanade, at Morgan's Bistro. It was really delightful. The service was attentive, the food was interesting, and the atmosphere was clean and cozy. I had the only vegetarian option on the menue, eggplant, for which I am eternally grateful. It was silken heaven. Matthew had Duck Two Ways. Yep. And we both had a lovely local pinot noir/merlot.

Sorry about the demonic red eyes.
Because it is the countryside, we were all done with dinner by 9pm. There wasn't much to do, since we had already been to the bar before dinner, so we returned to the hotel room, and ate ginger chocolates straight from the box (a very welcome birthday gift from Gramma). (We also explored the hotel's cable TV, however it was across-the-board appalling, so I'm just including this info in here to remind myself to avoid in all futures.)

This morning (Sunday), we buffet-breakfasted overlooking Harrison Lake, a most splendid view. We then went for a walk the beach and out to the end of the pier (into the Sea Plane Zone! but there were no landings).

"Matthew, there's a plug in the lake!" (I'm a moron, as Matthew gently informed me, this is to stabalise the jetty...)
 After our walk, we zero'd in on the only antique shop in Harrison. The owner was an Australian gent who had experienced great woes. We couldn't stay long because we had to check out of the hotel, and we received the best of all recommendations from the hotel staff to check out a local cheese factory! It was brilliant. There was a large window into the cheesemaking room, and we got some yoghurt, a stilton-like blue, and a fragrant and rind-y gruyere.

 On the quiet road to the cheese shop we passed an open field with two huge bald eagles, just chillin'. One was eating a carcas, and the other was looking on. They were a good distance from the road, but they were so large. It was a very special sight.

We had intended to explore the neighbouring village of Agassiz, but it was all closed on a Sunday (Boooo Agassiz. Shame on you!!) so instead we antiques our little hearts out. Rusty's antiques, at the junction between Harrison and Agassiz, was named after a petite ginger cat. She let us pat her, and we bought two wine glasses and a curiosity cabinet (for select pieces in Matthew's Warhammer collection). 

New bff.
We headed to Mission, and likewise it was pretty closed and sleepy. We got to the end of the main street, and were just about to drive off into the sunset, when we noticed an antique shop. We pulled over hastily, and made a thorough exploration. We narrowly avoided buying a large Venetian(-style) tapestry and some pastel-coloured pyrex kitchenware. It was very tempting.

Looking down the main street of Mission.

Yet more antiques. (Note little chihuahua seated on the antique chair out front. Very friendly.)
 The drive between Harrison and Maple Ridge was breathtakingly beautiful, but sadly too difficult to capture with the camera. There were local green hills and further-away snow-covered mountains in every direction, and the most picturesque winding rivers full of logs, swans, and rippling wavelets. It is really quality countryside.

At Maple Ridge we decided it was coffee-time, so out of desperation we pulled into a mall Starbucks. We were then inspired to do our shopping, because you know when you've been away and you get home and all you have left is a piece of moldy bread and some off cheese?

At home this evening we got stuck into the new cheese with a generously proportioned ploughman's platter for dinner (read: neither of us could be bothered cooking).

I am proud of the modest success of our weekend away. We didn't go far, and we didn't spend much, and yet we had a really relaxing time, saw some brilliant countryside and tasted some interesting food. My warmest and most heartfelt gratitude to Matthew, who so always instinctively knows how to show me a good time, for driving, antiquing, and spoiling me all weekend. I love you.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

I Turned 30

Yesterday was my 30th birthday. I had to work, but my colleagues made the very best of it for us all, by taking me out for a very long lunch at the Banana Leaf on Broadway. It was delicious and relaxing, and I'm glad I could share the cheer. Everyone needs a long lunch once in a while.

In the evening, I skyped with my Mum (and Dad briefly) while Matthew arranged my beautiful flowers.

Lilies from Matthew and Tulips from Gramma
Then Carolyn, Sophie, Aunty Eileen, Aunty Lorraine and Gramma all came over and we had Indian food and the most amazing selection of fancy cakes.

Gramma and Eileen

Lorraine and Gramma

The cake selection

Getting ready to blow out the candles (with my curry breath).

The Gluttony.
After dinner I unwrapped birthday gifts. I feel amazed and touched by how well people know me; the gifts were personal, useful, and thoughtful.

Mum let me know on the phone that I was to expect something precious in my package from them, but I could hardly imagine how precious... it is a garnet necklace (my birthstone) with diamonds. This is the only picture I have of it (yet... I'm never taking it off), and as you can see, I'm in my pyjamas. *no shame* It actually perfectly matches a garnet ring I was given by my Great Aunty Barb when I was about twelve, and which I still wear to this day.

The birthday celebrations continue on Friday evening, when Matthew is whisking me away for a Romantic weekend in the countryside. It will be nice to escape from the city; we haven't been to the countryside since we were in Australia last February!

Full disclosure: I approached my birthday with much trepidation this year, because it is a big round number, and because it was on a Tuesday (who has time for a birthday on a work day? Totally incongruous). Matthew did a lot of soothing talking, hand-holding, and plan-B-making in the week leading up to it.

Thanks to my family, here and in Melbourne, who thought of me, helped me celebrate, and treated me with such perfect gifts. Thanks to Matthew, who literally made the day happen by coaxing me out the door to work and back home again afterwards. And warmest birthday wishes to Matthew's mum, Hilary, who is also celebrating this week! We miss you, and we are thinking of you.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

The Finer Things in Life

This weekend was an all-out, decadent, luxury-fest from beginning to end. Matthew and I are back at the old dining table, hobbying and writing (well, working up to the thesis. Blogging is writing too, you know). We're feeling tired, full, and not a little impoverished after living pretty lavishly these past days.

Scotch-Widows Wine Night (chez Beavis)

Yesterday in the evening Matthew was off to Stu and Martina's place for a blokey Scotch-tasting. He assured me there were more than twelves scotches, and a whole table covered in home-made food. Not to mention gambling, boardgaming, and hockey-watching.

All the ladies who were not invited to Scotch night (that is, all the ladies including Martina; it was a chaps-only affair) came over to our place and we got stuck into some sparkly and other wine. I met and got to know better some really lovely women, who just made themselves at home here for the evening. I'm so grateful for the good company, and for the generosity and hilarity of these people. Cheers and laughs all night.

And the food. And the drink. Oh my word. We stocked up on a reasonable selection of cheeses, because a) all cheese is good and b) who really knows what exactly pairs with wines? And just when we were feeling full to bursting with cheese, there were cream-filled chou pastry puffs. As one after the other of us bit into these little balls of heaven, we each discovered how projectile the cream was... Lots of giggles.

I farewell'd the last of the ladies out the door at a bit after 1am, and was in bed a bit before 2am. Matthew tumbled in before 3am.

Dim Sum Brunch at City Square

Guys, give us a gold star, because after the debauchery of the Scotch and Wine Sex Segregated Festivities, Matthew and I actually hauled out of the house and walked to our Dim Sum date by 11:10am! (Only 10 minutes late).

We were joined by Matthew's work posse and significant others, all of whom are super friendly and kind people I've met a couple of times before. There were seven of us at brunch in total, and we ordered nearly everything on the menu. At least, it felt like it.

We were seated in an anteroom with a view out onto an enclosed garden. The restaurant, Kirin, is on the roof of City Square (opposite City Hall, as close to the centre point of the city of Vancouver as it's possible to be). Out the windows was the most stunning and clear view of downtown and the mountains. And it was a mild and sunny day. Perfect walking-to-brunch, forget-yo'-worries weather.

The two "fancy" menu items that we ordered were Leather Jacket Fish (look and texture of wings but actually fish, and glazed with a sweet sauce - very delicious) and Chicken Feet (don't think I have to describe this one, do I?). Matthew had both, but I only tried the fish.

My favourite is still the taro dumpling. You have to try this. Here's a picture I found randomly on the web because we were too busy eating to take pictures; ask for it when you next do Dim Sum:

Brunch was bittersweet, because last Thursday Matthew's work had a team restructure, so all the men at the table today will no longer be working so closely together come February. They'll still be colleagues, but the band has definitely broken up, as it were. I feel like Dim Sum was the right balance of relaxed and fancy to commemorate the moment.

Bargain hunting the January Sales

Would you believe, our afternoon didn't even end there? Matthew and I are both in need of some very basic things (some of my clothing actually shredded in the washing machine the other day, because it was so old *sadface*). So we hopped on the Skytrain and headed into town for a bit of January Sale chaos.

Matthew's actually an excellent shopper. He has a lot more luck with these things than I do. He picked up a dark green lambswool jumper, some blue chinos, and a belt. I picked up a fancy new hairbrush (omg I need to do a whole blog post just on my hair... it's my primary concern) and a navy work dress.

We will be having left over cheese, bread and vegetable sticks for dinner, and I will not be having any more wine for the foreseeable future.

Heartfelt thanks to our good friends and new friends, who made our weekend amazing!

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Beer Tasting at Beavis HQ

For Christmas, all the cousins gratefully received local craft beers from Aunty Eileen. Immediately I thought: beer tasting.

So yesterday evening, all cousins piled around to our place, each carrying a fine bottle. Matthew got out the Google and made an info sheet on each, and we made a game plan to taste them in order from least to most hoppy.

There was a great variety of taste. I'm afraid I didn't have the time to do a proper study sesh on how to taste beer and what to look out for, but we all paused after each variety and notes the ...bitterness? fruitiness? acidity? There were some really interesting ones, some were smooth and drinkable, and others wanted to be noticed and dwelt-upon from the very first sip.

Carolyn and I helped, but overwhelmingly Matthew was the head chef of the evening, with soft and hard vegetarian and beef tacos. There was a little trouble with the salsa (store-bought) being a little on the warm and spicy side, and therefore interfering with the true taste sensations of the beer, however I think we all learned that lesson for ourselves at varying points through the evening, and moderated our salsa-beer ratio accordingly.

Because it was a "craft beer tasting evening", and not a party (because I am old *weep*), we were all done and dusted by midnight-ish. We actually got through a staggering amount, judging by the glass recycling we generated. However I think we conducted our tasting in the true spirit of curiosity. It also helped that some cousins have career experience with the beverages, so were able to provide more detailed notes on what tastes to expect and the different brewing techniques.

Warm thank you to the Cousinhood (Carolyn, Eleanor, Sophie, Emily, Bryerton and honorary guest Kelsey) for accompanying us on this tasting journey. We still have a couple of bottles left, so we might have to schedule a sequel in the near future...

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

2014: Get into it.

How I feel. Not how I look, obvs.
Good morning, friends and family. I am happy to report that 2014 has arrived in the Pacific North West, possible nearly the last part of the world. We enjoyed hearing New Year Well Wishes from friends and family a good 20 hours in advance. We also enjoyed a nice long (written) chat with my sister, Jessie, and a video skype with Matthew's mum, Hilary.

Also, we enjoyed some champagne.

Matthew wearing the best tie ever, pink with palm trees and hula girls. His choice, not mine.

Me trying to stay awake at 10pm.
I don't want to crowd up this poor little blog with a list of self-reflection and resolutions and stuff. However, I would like to put two things out there:

1. Must. Finish. Degree.
2. Stay strong and on-track with the vegetarianism.

2014, come at me.