Saturday, 30 May 2015

Volunteering, and Running For A Cause

Since November 2014 (after I finished my degree), I have been volunteering with Friends of the Vancouver Public Library. At the time, I was looking for an activity to fill my potentially empty post-thesis weekends. And since I spent most weekends of last summer staring glumly out the window to the VPL, I thought to myself, "It's time to give back".

Funny story: the most tortuous of those long summer library weekends was the Gay Pride Weekend. I was stationed at a desk on the 5th floor, facing West-South-West onto the Westin Grand, where there was a hot gay pool party happening all afternoon. Lovely handsome shirtless young men lounging, dancing and living la dolce vita. And me, in my private thesis hell, one building (+ whole universe) away.

But I digress.

I continue to be impressed by the Vancouver Public Library. To the Vancouver newcomer, the VPL Central Branch is a really architecturally groovy building right downtown, easily accessible and with long opening hours. It's warm in winter, has a simply HUGE collection of all media, inclusive atmosphere (children, immigrants, people of all and no wealth, students, elderly, me), and best of all (as libraries should be)... IT'S FREE. I love that there still exists a community space of such large scale with a focus on education and accessibility which is also TOTALLY FREE. Can't overstate the importance of that.

In December I on-boarded by taking part in the Friends of the VPL Big Christmas Used Book Sale, at the main branch. It was a great way to spend a rainy winter afternoon, I met some interesting and kindred people and got to talk about books, and we all helped raise funds for the Library.

In January (having only volunteered once) I was invited to attend the annual Volunteer Appreciation Brunch. This was an especially memorable occasion for me, because I arrived to discover my good friends and fellow bilbiophiles, Adriana and Ann (both from UBC) in attendance. Turns out, they also knew each other! See what I mean about kindred spirits?

Fast forward to May. Adriana is coordinating the next book sale, Ann and I are board members, and we successfully attracted fellow UBC English Alum, Rebecca, onto the board. It is the highest privilege to be able to work with these excellent women.

Last Saturday I worked the Big Spring Used Book Sale all day. My voice was hoarse by the end of it, and I couldn't tell a quarter from a nickel (I was on the till for 5 hours). We sold simply THOUSANDS of books. I saw some excellent literary fiction cross my counter. Good time had by all.

Photo borrowed from Twitter, taken by @LundgrenVanessa

The other activity I have committed to in support of the Vancouver Public Library, is running the Scotiabank Charity Challenge Half Marathon in June. I am attempting to raise $200. Please assist me by clicking on the link! All donors will receive my eternal gratitude and a home-baked pie, or equivalent.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

The Second Key Lime Pie

You know you've been blogging for a long time when you start looping back on yourself. On the Victoria Day long weekend (16-18 May), Matthew and I experienced a shared and sudden yearning for Key Lime Pie. We consulted our records, and it had been almost three years since our last pie of this type.

We had a pretty strict budget for our long weekend, and the pie turned out to be a flash of genius. Why? Because it involved:

1. Planning and executing a trip to our favourite local food store, Meinhardt, for all supplies. While Key Lime Pie does not have a lot of ingredients, those it does have are not on regular rotation in our kitchen. For example: lime juice, lime, graham cracker crumbs, condensed milk, Devon cream. All delicious, but rare.

2. Entertaining! My good friend Maddie guided me in a short bike ride around the local abandoned schoolyard (not as creepy as it sounds.) Maddie is teaching me to ride, because I do not know how to ride a bike. Hashtag adult learner, hashtag never too old to learn, hashtag childhood fail. In return I could offer her a cup of tea and a piece of pie. The next day, Cousin Elly and her beau Bryerton popped round for a bottle of champagne and a slice of same pie. Double party! By the way, you know what goes with champagne? EVERYTHING.

3. A sense of achievement (me) and living on the edge (Matthew). This is probably a sad tale of our oldness and boringness, but Matthew is of course allergic to lime. And so partly the reason why I haven't baked this favourite of all his desserts is because it's actually really self-destructive for him to eat it. But we thought, once in 3 years, can't be that bad for him. He doesn't smoke, drinks modestly, keeps fit, saves his pay cheque, phones his mum... in general he lives an orderly life. So if the man wants a Key Lime Pie once in 3 years, by god let him have it.

Isn't it pretty? Disclaimer: in the Spirit of Thrift (and also because Granville Island was just a bit too far away at the time we hatched this plot), we used bog ordinary lime, not Key lime. This means the pie is much tarter, but I like that about it. And seriously, next time you have Key Lime (or Bog Ordinary Lime) Pie, consider serving it with a flute of sparkles. You will be pleasantly rewarded.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Working Life (Part 2)

Back in March, I blogged about working life, and the struggle to be grateful for the small pleasures we can afford in the time we have together. Since then, our professional outlooks have both changed, pretty dramatically.

First of all, Matthew celebrated his PR by promptly getting a SWEET new job in Kitsilano. Excellent move, my love! Among other perks, Matthew is now able to walk to work for the first time in 10 years!

Secondly, the mat leave replacement position I have been doing since August came to an end on Friday, and I am transitioning back to my previous role. It is hard to feel self-congratulatory about this move, since it is technically a step down, but I am grateful for the following things: I can now walk to work again, every day. No more waiting in the rain for the bus while juggling shoes, computer and lunch. No more frantic Sunday afternoon emailing to prepare for Monday mornings. My old office has a friend AND a window (bliss!).

So Matthew and I are now fellow early risers and pedestrian commuters, and will be home by 6pm every day! Well, most days.

But that feeling of exhaustion has not left. I wonder whether it ever will. I have been working two jobs (because I have occasional casual weekend work) and volunteering (I will write another post about that another day), and we have both been training for our second half-marathon coming up at the end of June. I thought after I finished my degree in October/November that I would all of a sudden have all this free time. And really, I do. We slept in till 9:30 today. I'm sitting at the dining table typing out blog posts in between loads of laundry, and not working. That IS free time, in adulthood.

Sunday, 24 May 2015


Welcome back! We are enjoying another warm (albeit a bit grey) spring afternoon Chez Beavis. I have been on holiday from blogging, but not from life! Catching you up to speed:

1. I am so proud (and relieved) to announce that Matthew is now a Canadian Permanent Resident! Congratulations, Matthew. What this means for us is a new found freedom to do things which we had been putting off, like...

2. We are going to New York! (This was literally the second thing we did after finding out Matthew's PR... bookings tickets to leave Canada. The irony.) Our DEAREST friends Nyssa and Neil are tying the knot in an internationally romantic ceremony in Central Park in September. We are simply longing to see them, other Melbourne besties, and some new friends who we have not yet met, for some Manhattan adventuring! And September is the prettiest time of year in New York, we hear.

3. My poor Mum, Kath, is in hospital with a bad back. We have been skyping as regularly as possible, but I really feel for her, stuck there. She and Dad were scheduled to visit on June 4th, but this plan has been shelved. So I'm sending a heartfelt #sadface out to the internet.Get well soon, Mum!

There is lots more on the go currently, but I wanted to just outline the state of things. The moments of this spring that we have been able to enjoy (i.e. when not at work) have been very rewarding. The flowers are out, the sun has been unseasonably reliable (very few showers thusfar). And Matthew and I generally trying to recapture the feeling on freedom that we experienced when we first moved here - the world is our oyster! we are here because we choose to be! - which his recent PR has given us. (While also trying to maintain our New Year pledges of thrift and healthy living. Sigh. It's a balance.)