Saturday, December 29, 2007

Another year over ...

So I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas. If yours was even half as wonderful as mine, you're doing well. I commented to someone this week that I'm not sure I could claim that this was the best Christmas ever, as there have been lots of fabulous Christmases in my life, and the absence of someone still sorely missed and never far from my heart does make itself felt, but it certainly ranks in the top five. Good family time, good food, time to remember once again the gift that is Christmas and all it means. A lot of it, of course, has to do with Serdic and sharing our first Christmas together, but it was a wonderful holiday in so many ways. And, of course, I was spoiled rotten. Which is as it should be.

So now Christmas is over, and so, nearly, is 2007. As always, this is a time for reflection. 2007 brought a lot of changes and growth for me. I grew as a singer, as my confidence and skill improved in both choirs and I found my place in the "musical community" of Ottawa. I visited Italy for the first time, and saw things and places I have dreamed about my whole life. I took a photograph that will be displayed in an exhibition in the Museum of Civilization in Quebec City next month. I moved to a new neighbourhood. I tried General Tao's Chicken for the first time and (much to Serdic's chagrin, as now he has to share it!) discovered I love it. I became the trainER, not the trainEE, at work over the summer. I found a whole new circle of friends who have welcomed me with open arms. I started blogging.

And on top of all that, I have had the joy of finding someone to share it all with. Obviously, that is my biggest story of 2007 and the thing that shapes most of my memories and experiences of the past year. I have so many blessings in my life, a loving and supportive family, many precious friends, a job I love and am good at and which allows me to support myself, music, laughter, books, faith, travel, and many opportunities too many women around the world are denied. But for several years I have felt like one piece of the puzzle was missing. Now the puzzle is complete, and I couldn't be happier. Life was good in 2007, and I have no reason to think it won't be even better in 2008.

Wishing you all health and happiness and good fortune.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Our back deck, December 3:


Our back deck, December 16:

Sunday, December 16, 2007

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

So we're in the home stretch now. Shopping is done, wrapping is on the list to be done today, I believe Serdic is planning to do some baking today as well. Sadly, the Christmas concert I was supposed to sing in this afternoon, which I have been looking forward to for ages and which was going to be extremely awesome, especially when we sang the Hallelujah Chorus with the brass ensemble, has been cancelled due to weather (we are currently under a Severe Weather Warning and it is pretty nasty out there).

So instead I bring you the Christmas survey I just received by email. Feel free to play along in the comments or on your own blogs.

Wrapping paper or gift bags? For Christmas, I prefer wrapped gifts. I'm usually a gift bag girl, and I haaaaaate wrapping, but the gifts under the tree need to be wrapped.
Real or Artificial tree? I prefer a real tree, but I currently have an artificial one. Living in an apartment on my own (up until this year!) there was no way I was going to be able to maneuver a real tree in and out and artificial ones have a lot of pluses, but I still prefer the look, feel and smell of a real one. We always had real ones growing up and if/when I have kids I'd like to go back to having a real tree.
When do you put up the tree? Usually the first weekend of Advent. This year it went up the weekend before that.
When do you take the tree down? Sometime in early January.
Do you like eggnog? Yes.
Favorite gift you received as a child? I don't think I could come up with just one. Probably Joey, the doll my mom made for me when I was very young (2 or 3, maybe?) and who I still have, and who has moved with me to every new place I've lived (yes, he is here in the new apartment, although I think he might still be in a suitcase somewhere)
Do you have a nativity scene? Yes. It is from Willow Tree and I love it
Hardest person to buy for? Probably my Grandma and Grandpa. They are just at a stage in their lives (they're both in their 90s and still live in their own home!) where they don't need anything (everytime I visit them they are trying to give stuff away). I love them dearly but I find them very hard to shop for!
What was the worst Christmas gift ever received? I don't really have an answer for this one, either -- my family and friends are generally really really good about gifts. Maybe the year I received a pen with a calculator in the end of it from a distant relative -- the idea was sound, but the calculator was too small to be any good. The funny part of the story was that my sister received a similar box, but hers was empty (we believe that to be the fault of the store, not the relative who gave us the gifts!). After she saw what was in my box she just tucked hers away and thanked the relative for thinking of her.
Christmas Cards? Love them. Love sending, love receiving.
Favorite Christmas movie? Probably the original Grinch (the cartoon). Or Charlie Brown Christmas -- it chokes me up every time. More recently I love Love, Actually or The Polar Express.
When do you start shopping for Christmas? Early November, generally.
Have you ever 'recycled' a Christmas present? I don't think so.
Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? My maternal grandmother's turkey dinner.
Clear lights or colored on the tree? Coloured.
Favorite Christmas Song? Too many to list. I can't pick just one. I prefer the triumphant carols, like O Come All Ye Faithful and Hark the Herald Angels Sing. Quieter ones I love include Do You Hear What I Hear? and I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day. O Holy Night and Silent Night have special significance as well.
Travel at Christmas or Stay Home? Fortunately don't have to travel too far, just about 90 minutes down the road. Will be going to my parents'. When we were kids my parents had a very strict rule that we woke up Christmas morning in our own beds in our own home, and any travelling could be done after that. I intend to institute the same rule for my own children, but for now I go home to my parents.
Can you name Santa's Reindeer? Of course. Can't everyone?
Do you have an Angel or a Star on top of your tree? An angel.
Open the Presents Christmas Eve or Morning? Christmas morning. Stockings right away when we get up, then breakfast and clean up, then tree gifts. Tradition dictates this very firmly.
Most annoying thing about this time of the year? The commercialism and the fact that Christmas has become very "in your face." Why do stores need to start decorating the day after Hallowe'en? Also the fact that the weather can play havoc with your plans.
Shopping...Mall or online? I love the convenience of online shopping, but there's nothing like wandering a mall with your hands full of bags. A lot of my shopping is impulse, too, especially for stockings, so the mall is better for wandering and being struck with the right idea.
Do you decorate outside for Christmas or just inside? Just inside right now, as we're in an apartment building. When I have a house there will be lights outside as well.
Favorite Christmas cookie? my grandmother's marshmallow squares. Not that I ever get to eat any, as they're also my mother's favourite.
Do you own Christmassy clothing or jewelry? A few red sweaters and a Santa hat.
Do you believe in Santa?
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Still alive

So we have been poked, virtually speaking, by various people wanting to know if we are still among the living. The answer is a resounding yes, but unfortunately we have been keeping such a hectic schedule lately that it leaves little time for either of us to blog. I am also hampered by a new "acceptable use" internet policy at work, which is where I did the majority of my blogging (hence the need for an "acceptable use" policy -- fear not, I see the irony). So I need to blog from home, but this is the first evening I've had at home with nothing to do in weeks.

Since last we spoke, Serdic and I have, separately and collectively:

-- hosted a 40th birthday party for my dear friend D (who is in no small way responsible for Serdic and I finding each other again, as she told me about plentyoffish.com)
-- decorated the apartment for Christmas -- I will try to get some pictures up this weekend, but rest assured it looks awesome, and we really enjoyed putting the tree up together for the first time
-- had a 10 month anniversary dinner at a fabulous restaurant (called Isaac's -- unfortunately they have no website) where I had what I would rate one of the top five dinners out (beef tenderloin in a balsamic cream reduction, roasted potatoes and veggies) of my life -- Serdic made all the arrangements and would tell me nothing more than "dress up" and "our reservation is at 8," which made the anticipation of the evening that much more enjoyable, and the final result did not disappoint (not that I was worried it would!)
-- attended a wonderful Christmas party hosted by my sister, Doc, and her husband, Numbers (I'm trying out new nicknames, but I'm not sure these will stick), which meant meeting some cool new people and getting into the Christmas spirit. It was nice for me to meet some of my sister and brother-in-law's friends and colleagues, and put some faces to the names I hear so often
-- hosted game night, which was a new experience for me, although my role consisted mostly of serving some kick ass garlic bread (if I do say so myself) and then staying the hell out of the way
-- been snowed in (neither of us worked on Monday, as I knew I wouldn't be able to get to work on the bus and Serdic was not sure it was safe for him to be driving either, so we had a snuggle at home day instead -- "I'm going back to bed, are you coming?" are some of the sweetest words in the English language)
-- had more than one hellish commute this week, not related to the weather but related to the stupidity of both companies that provide public transit to the "National Capital Region" -- those rants are pretty much a blog entry in and of themselves, so perhaps that will be elaborated on later in the weekend
-- lost my good winter hat, the only hat I have ever owned that looked (dare I say it?) cute on me, during one of the aforementioned hellish commutes. Serdic and I are going to go to the STO headquarters tomorrow to see if it has turned up in their lost and found, but I do not hold out great hope. Sigh. I loved that hat.
-- cursed the snow that has fallen EVERY FREAKING DAY for the last two weeks. I love snow, I love Christmas, snow gets me into the Christmas mood, but we passed "too much of a good thing" about five days ago. Enough already.

Add to that the usual weekly rounds of choir rehearsals, chores, work, and all the rest, and you find me one busy beaver. And the rest of the month will just get crazier. Four more parties, I'm singing in two concerts (concert pimping to follow in separate post), Christmas lunches at work, trying to get my shopping finished (Doc and I have a blitz planned for Sunday -- I pretty much know what I'm getting for everyone, I just have to track everything down) ... the list feels endless. However, I'm really looking forward to everything, and this is my favourite time of year. I'm also really looking forward to getting home and spending some good quality time with my family. I am very blessed to be able to see time with my family as one of the highlights of the holiday season, not one of the reasons to dread it, and I fully intend to celebrate every minute of that. Plus this is my first Christmas with Serdic. I can't wait.

The heavens ring, while the angels sing
Peace on earth and goodwill to men
They are singing of God's gift of love
It is Christmas in Bethlehem

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Urban Observations

What is it about the first snowfall of the year that turns people into such idiots? Have they forgotten how to drive in snow between last winter and this one? The same thing happens every year around this time, people. It's not a difficult concept.

J and I went to a play at the NAC the other night, and I arrived a bit early so I got to hang out in the lobby for awhile waiting for her. Our appointed meeting place was near the box office, which is right at the main doors, so nearly everyone who arrived for the play came in right past me. After awhile I noticed just how many of the new arrivals were bickering as they came in. I have known couples who bicker a lot, and as much as you tell yourself that it's just their way of communicating and they don't mean anything by it, it always makes me a little uncomfortable. I just thought it was sad how many people would get dressed up and come out for an evening of great theatre, and spend it bickering.

Btw, the play? Very well done, and we enjoyed it very much. It also had possibly the weirdest final ten minutes I've ever seen on stage. As we were leaving J said to me "I'll let you know tomorrow whether I liked it or not; right now I need time to digest it" and I thought that pretty much summed it up.

There has been a bit of a kerfuffle here in Ottawa lately over the failure of the bus drivers to announce upcoming stops on their routes -- it's getting a lot of publicity right now because of a blind passenger who asked to have his stop called out and was ignored, and therefore ended up lost in a different part of the city and unable to make his transfer. OCTranspo's proposed solution was a multi-million dollar automated system that would announce the stops, and they wanted the city to pay for it. As budgets are being slashed around the city and transit fares are already among the highest in the country, the reaction of just about everyone else was "or, you know, the drivers could use the already installed microphones or even, shockingly enough, raise their voices to call out the stops." OCTranspo has promised to try this. So in my very scientific survey of the bus routes I ride regularly, I have discovered that just like every other time when you require a group of people to do something, some drivers are refusing to do it, some are doing it grudgingly, some are doing it half assedly, some are doing it cheerfully. And some are doing it with their own ... shall we say "unique" style? I encountered one such driver one night this week on my way home. He was providing a running commentary much like you might receive on a tour bus, announcing each upcoming stop and also providing information about the services, landmarks, and stores you might find around each stop. The twist was, he was delivering it all in the most Eeyore like monotone I've ever heard. A sample: "Next stop, Bay and Albert. Last chance to transfer to the transitway. If you want. I certainly don't care. It makes no never mind to me. I'll just be driving the bus. It's up to you. Transfer if you like. Also, you might want to stop into the Quickie and pick up a Krispy Kreme donut. They're carbalicious. If you like donuts, that is." Later he provided a "weather" report ("Currently, it is dark. It will remain dark for several hours, at which point it will likely not be so dark. Until it gets dark again."), commentary on other routes ("Here you can transfer to the #2 to Bayshore. The long way to Bayshore. Bring a book." Anyone who has ridden the #2 will know how true that comment is!), and helpful reminders ("Please remember to take all your belongings with you, hats, scarves, purses, small children, packages, etc."). It started out amusing, quickly circled around to irritating, and by the time we reached my stop it had cycled all the way back around to amusing again.

City living, b'y. Nothing like it.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A Short Play, in one act

The scene: A dark, quiet bedroom in a cozy little apartment somewhere in the frigid Northern tundra (a.k.a Canada)
The time: 6:45 a.m.

The alarm goes off. A weather report on the radio echoes through the bedroom.

A woman, still half asleep: Did he just say 'snow'?
A man, looking out the window: No.
The woman: You're lying to me, aren't you.
The man, after a pause: Yes.

End scene.





Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Too hot to Handel

A couple of weeks ago Serdic said to me, "You like Handel, right?" When I answered in the affirmative he said "there's some kind of Handel recital or something going on in a couple of weeks ... would you like me to get tickets?" I needed a bit more information than that so we turned to my trusty friend Google, and with the information Serdic had we were able to figure out that one of the Anglican churches downtown was presenting Handel's Messiah. So the answer to "would you like me to get tickets" was a most definite "yes!" Messiah is, for me, one of the most glorious works ever written, and it has been years since I've heard the whole thing performed live.

So Sunday night, we went. And I am still speechless, and riding the high that only such glorious and well performed music can give me (see the quotation from Plato that sits at the top of this page -- the man was smart). It was breathtakingly beautiful from beginning to end, the soloists were all in top form and the chorus had a full, rich sound that just soared. And that music! There is a reason the Hallelujah Chorus still brings people to their feet, no matter what their faith or belief system, 250 years after it was written. It is quite simply one of the most incredible pieces of choral music ever written.

As the daughter of a church organist and choir director, music has always been a huge part of worship for me. My favourite part of all the different seasons (Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, etc.) is the hymns and music, and I feel closest to God when I am lifting my voice in praise. So this performance of Messiah was also a very moving experience for me, as the glorious music told the story and made it fresh and new again. It was a great way to prepare my heart and soul for Advent, which is just around the corner.

And, you know, it was just some kick ass music. I'm always in favour of some kick ass music.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Blow-vember

Among a certain group of my friends, this month is often referred to as "Blow-vember." The idea being that November, well, blows. The weather turns cold and nasty, the days get unbearably short (it was dark before 4 p.m. here the other day), we're not close enough to Christmas yet but we're past the lovely part of autumn, and it just generally is a month with not much to recommend it. I know I've certainly been in what one could term a Blow-vember slump for the last couple of weeks. In my case one of the major symptoms is an absolute inability to haul my arse out of bed in the morning (it doesn't help that I now have someone else who is consistently getting up, making the coffee, and bringing me a cup in bed ... what incentive do I have to leave my cozy little nest???). I didn't even hear the alarm this morning, that's how dead to the world I was. I am sleeping later, making a later bus, which means a later transfer downtown, which means getting to work later, taking longer to get settled and productive at work ... blah blah blah.

I'm not complaining, really. Life is still pretty damn good. I've just not been feeling 100% lately, and I think I'm mostly just run down. Serdic and I decided to stay in last Saturday with pizza and a movie, and when we started really thinking about it we couldn't remember the last Saturday night we were both home with no plans ... I think we had to go back to July to find one. So that's definitely part of it. Good things are happening, but sometimes it's too much of a good thing. So I think we're planning to spend this weekend laying low and recharging the batteries, and then before we know it we'll be fully into the swing of Christmas. I've always loved Christmas, but this one is going to be particularly special, as our first Christmas together, so I'm really looking forward to it.

But I need to get some sleep first.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Catching up

Yeah, so, it's been awhile since I posted, eh? There's really no reason -- it's not like I have a lack of things going on in my life to talk about! I guess it's mostly that so much has been going on recently that every time I sit down to blog I don't know where to start and get rambling. So here, in bullet form, is what's been going on with me recently, and then I'll be all caught up and can (theoretically) start blogging regularly again.

-- had a lovely weekend in Pennsylvania with assorted members of my family, watching a cousin pursue her athletic endeavours (she did very well). A SingerFamily road trip is always a riot -- lots of laughter and good family time, and never a dull moment.

-- my dear friend T and her new husband R were married in a beautiful Renaissance themed wedding last weekend, complete with swords and costumes and the whole nine yards. What I loved about the entire day was that it was so T and R. Everything was obviously exactly as they wanted it, and they didn't have anything because her mom wanted it this way or "everyone says" it has to be done that way. It was also, on a personal note, a nice evening for me, as it was the first big formal event Serdic and I have attended together, and it was so nice to have someone to share the evening with. Someone to take turns getting drinks and food with, someone to help me with my wrap (and go get the car and pick me up at the door when I couldn't walk any further in my new shoes *blush*), someone to hold hands with during the ceremony. And, of course, someone to dance the slow dances with. :-)

-- one of my choirs had our first big concert of the season this past Friday night. It had a couple of hiccups, but for the most part I think it went quite well. I love making music, that's for damn sure.

-- started my Christmas shopping on the weekend. Did what I do every year, and took care of the people who are always the easiest to shop for on my list. Every year I claim I'm going to get a head start and not leave it all until the last minute, and every year I end up running around on Christmas Eve saying "does anyone have any ideas for ____?" I love Christmas, though, and can't wait to get our new hall decked. It's a bit early yet, right? (I will never forget the look on Serdic's face on our first morning in our new place, surrounded by boxes and unassembled furniture, when I asked him where he thought we should put the Christmas tree. I think he nearly decided to abort the entire project right then and there.)

-- had one of my bestest friends J and her boyfriend D in for dinner Sunday night. So nice to see them -- J and I don't get nearly enough time together these days. Serdic did a pork roast and potatoes, I did the veggies and appetizers. J brought a strawberry rhubarb crisp for dessert. Much wine was consumed, and the total lack of leftovers seems to imply that everyone enjoyed their meal. Yum.

-- speaking of food, I have lost six pounds since moving into the new place. What a difference actually sharing the preparation of balanced meals with someone else can make, eh?

I think that covers the highlights. Like I said, not that I don't have anything to blog about, more that I have too much to blog about! Never a dull moment at Casa Double S. And that's the way we like it.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Contentment

Yet another lovely and busy weekend has passed. Serdic commented on his blog last night about how time is flying by, and he's absolutely right. I don't know where the summer went, and it does not seem possible that we are into late October. Life has been a whirlwind in 2007, that's for sure, and while it's been wonderful and I've never been happier, I'm hoping to find some time to catch my breath!

We had a wonderful housewarming on Saturday ... I think when we added it up we had a total of 27 guests pass through over the course of the evening. Everyone was extremely generous -- I had avoided calling it a "housewarming" in the invitations because I didn't want people to feel that they needed to bring gifts, but most people brought at least a token (and some brought much more than that -- I am definitely going to enjoy spending the Pier 1 gift certificate!) or a card, and we felt very loved (we also have at least twice as much alcohol as we started the night with, so we'll probably be planning a wine and cheese or something in the near future!). It was clear that our friends are very happy for us and excited about the new place, and we were reminded yet again what great friends we have. We are very blessed.

So yesterday morning we slept in a bit, then got ready and headed out to our favourite spot for breakfast. As we were driving along the canal on the beautiful fall morning, admiring the trees as the leaves turn, off to enjoy breakfast, still basking in the glow of a successful party and our awesome friends, knowing that we have started to build a lovely home and life together, I was struck by just how wonderful and precious life is. And the word that came to mind was "content." Which seems a bit bland to describe how full of happiness my heart is these days, but it also really sums it up. There's a song in the stage version of Beauty and the Beast (bear with me) where Belle sings about the changes in her life, and one line keeps running through my head these days: "For now I love the world I see, I'm who and where I want to be."

I'm who and where I want to be. And I am content.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Food, friends and fun

We finally have internet at home. Woo to the hoo. Serdic will understand when I tell him I kissed the Rogers guy after he hooked the modem up, right?

We hosted our first joint dinner party in our new home Saturday night. A good time was had by all, I think. The Greek and You Look Like A Nail and their lovely wives were our guests (thanks for coming out, you guys!) and they were gracious enough to ignore the still unpacked boxes stacked in the dining room and elsewhere, and we all enjoyed the evening. Serdic and I were especially relieved to discover that we can share a kitchen and work together to have all the dishes ready and on the table at the same time, without killing each other. So that was a good sign. I made a glazed ham, which is apparently quickly becoming my specialty, and also made some tzatziki as an appetizer. Serdic contributed scalloped potatoes, asparagus, carrots, and a caramel flan with fresh berries for dessert.

I have been asked to post the recipes, so here they are (you'll have to wait for Serdic to post the recipe for the potatoes):

Tzatziki

2 1/2 - 3 cups plain yogurt
1 firm cucumber
salt
3 cloves garlic
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1-2 tbsp olive oil

Place a coffee filter in a sieve. Spoon in the yogurt, and set it in the sink to drain.

Peel the cucumber, grate it coarsely, and put it in a bowl. Mix in 1 tsp salt and let it stand for 10 minutes to draw out some of the liquid. Transfer the cucumber to a colander and with a spoon press out as much liquid as possible. Mix it with the drained yogurt in a bowl.

Peel the garlic, push it through a garlic press, and add it to the other ingredients in the bowl. Stir in the vinegar and oil, and add more salt to taste. Optional: add chopped mint leaves to taste.

Baked Ham with Marmalade Mustard Glaze

8 lb semi-boneless ham
1 cup Madeira, port wine or white wine
2 cups orange juice

1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup orange marmalade
2 tbsp dijon or grainy mustard
1 tsp low-sodium soy sauce

Remove skin and fat from ham and place fat side up in roasting pan. In saucepan bring wine and orange juice to a simmer; pour over ham. Bake in 325 degree oven, basting occasionally, for 1 hour and 45 minutes for fully cooked ham, or 2 hours and 15 minutes for cook-before-eating ham.

In small bowl combine sugar, marmalade, mustard and soy sauce. Brush one-third of the glaze over the ham. Cook for 45 minutes longer, brushing with remaining thirds of glaze every 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand for 10 minutes before slicing.

Friday, October 12, 2007

TGIF

Scenes from a relationship
Serdic and I are cuddled on the couch watching The Office last night. On the show, Jim and Pam are bantering about something, eventually deciding that their disagreement ends in a tie. Pam: "Tie always goes to the girlfriend."

Serdic: "Oh shit."

Best Boyfriend Ever
Arrived home from work last night. Serdic is in the kitchen and says to me all serious-like, "I think there's something wrong with your computer. Can you have a look?"

I stomp over to the computer, ready to cry, as it's been a very long day. Sit down and see a request to accept the registration for the new iTunes. Look up, and Serdic is watching me with a shit-eating grin. "There's nothing wrong with your computer. I burned the new iTunes to CD and installed it for you so you can sync your new iPod."

Is it any wonder I love that boy?

And in case you were wondering, the new iPod? Is the best thing EVER. Love.

An Open Letter to Elections Ontario
To whom it may concern,

I consider voting one of the most important things I can do as a citizen. I take my responsibility to vote seriously and appreciate that it is a privilege many people in the world do not share. So please do not make it any harder for me than it absolutely has to be. I knew it would take me a bit longer than usual this time since I have just moved to this riding and needed to register and so forth. I did not anticipate that the lovely lady working my polling station (who I am sure is a delightful lady otherwise) would be a) elderly, b) senile, and c) so tired from working all day that her hands were shaking so badly she couldn't write my name on the voters list. There were four polls at my polling station ... the one I had to use had a line up of about 12 people at it, while all the others were operating as normal (walk up, get your ballot, mark it, drop it in the box ... total time: 45 seconds). I stood in line for well over half an hour to vote, and while I wouldn't mind doing that if it was necessary, this was so, so, so unnecessary. I understand it's hard to find people willing to volunteer at these things and I appreciate the hard work of all the volunteers who make this very essential part of our democratic process work, but when people are walking out without voting because of a situation like this that is so very fixable? Not good. Offer the poor lady a cup of tea and a break, and get someone else in there. Maybe one of the ten other people sitting around doing nothing.

Sign me,
A Disgruntled Voter (who also thinks you blew the referendum by failing to get the necessary information out there about what, exactly, we were voting on, but that's for another post)

Running Away for the weekend
We really enjoyed our little getaway to Merrickville last weekend. It was only for one night, but it was just the right thing to recharge the batteries. And get away from the still unpacked (gah) boxes for a night. The inn was lovely (yay for jacuzzi bathtubs!), we really enjoyed dinner in the dining room, and we got to get out and do some wandering and shopping and just enjoy each other's company and the quiet small town feel of Merrickville. I would highly recommend the inn, and especially their getaway package, for anyone wanting a night or two away.

Then we continued on home for Thanksgiving, our first shared holiday. As long as shared holidays continue to mean I get twice the turkey dinners and twice the family time, I'm good. It still blows my mind sometimes that I ended up with someone from my hometown, but it is especially nice for the holidays. My family has been spoiled for so long because my sister's husband's parents also live in the same town, so we've never had to go without them at major holidays as they can split their time very easily, and I think there's always been this fear in the back of my mind (and probably my mother's) that I would end up with someone whose parents lived in British Columbia or somewhere, and we would always have to choose where to spend the holidays. Just another sign that it was meant to be, maybe.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

A little internet is a dangerous thing

Yesterday morning when I came into work I had "1 missed call" on my phone, but no message. Now, I rarely get phone calls at work, and even more rarely are they from someone I don't know or am not expecting, so I was really surprised to see this random call from a number in the 709 area code. Something about the 709 area code niggled in the back of my brain all morning, and I finally was curious enough to google it to figure out where I knew 709 from. Turns out 709 is the area code for Newfoundland and Labrador, which is, of course, why it was familiar. As my mom grew up in St. John's and we still have lots of family in NL, it was not inconceivable ("I do not think it means what you think it means") that someone in the family would have tried to call my work number, so that got me curious.

So I did a reverse phone number look up on Canada411, and got two hits, both for names and addresses in St. John's. Neither name was familiar to me, so I googled them both. The first turned out to be an apparently fairly well known folk singer in St. John's (but not someone I had ever heard of). The second name was even more curious, as it appeared to be of Russian extraction, which is not all that common in St. John's, b'y. That google search turned up a bed and breakfast in downtown St. John's, run by this Russian gentleman (who I am sure is quite lovely, but is still not someone I know). I googlemapped the two addresses and they are only a few streets apart, but don't appear to have any connection.

Neither of these people would have any reason that I know of to be contacting me in my work capacity, and my number is not exactly the primary number for the library, and neither is someone I know in my personal life. So now I am more curious than ever. I know it's just a wrong number or misdialed or something equally mundane, but I'm still extremely curious.

And that, me son, is today's lesson on how sometimes the internet makes things worse. *eye roll*

Monday, October 8, 2007

Giving thanks

I bumped into someone on the elevator at work last week who I hadn't seen in some time. "How are things?" he asked me. "Oh, pretty good," I replied. "No complaints." "Oh, surely if you thought about it long enough you'd be able to come up with some," he said.

I got off the elevator then so my response was just a "oh, you're probably right" over my shoulder and a wave, but I kept thinking about that exchange. Because, really, why should I come up with some complaints? Shouldn't I be grateful that I am at a place in my life where my first response to the "how are you?" question is a genuine "wonderful"??? Yeah, sure, his point is valid ... there is no shortage of little irritants in my life that I could bitch about (and I do, on a regular basis, on this very blog). But I really like being in a place where those are secondary, where in all things that matter life is good.

I started keeping a gratitude journal a few years ago. I don't do it every day, and I don't do it as often as I used to, but the idea was to just end every day by writing down three things I was grateful for that day. Some days it was really hard to come up with three meaningful ones. Other days it was hard to pick just three. But I found over time that it really did, corny as it sounds, change my outlook on life. I have really been trying in the last couple of years to focus on my blessings, and to be grateful for them. It is so easy to get caught up in endless rounds of bemoaning what we don't have, what we want, what we think we have been denied. We always want more than what we have, that's just human nature. Taking time at the end of each day to remind myself of all I have to be grateful for instead of focusing on what I was lacking really helped me to be more at peace with myself and be in a more positive state of mind in general.

This weekend is a time when traditionally we are supposed to give thanks for our blessings. And I have so many, it overwhelms me with gratitude sometimes. My beautiful, beloved family and the love and support they have always shown me. My dear friends who surround me with laughter and music and all things good and fun every day. The fact that I work at a job I love, where every day I feel useful and challenged and supported, and where I get to do something I really enjoy with people I really like. I have a roof over my head, clothes on my back, and food in my stomach. I have never truly known want or hunger. I have access to clean drinking water. I live in a country where I can vote for my representatives, practice my religion openly, and walk the streets freely and without fear. So many of those things, particularly the later ones on the list, I too often take for granted and forget that the vast majority of the world's population can not say the same.

And this year I have a new blessing to add to my list. If you had told me last Thanksgiving, or even last Christmas, that by this Thanksgiving I would be living with a partner, someone who every day I became more sure I was going to spend the rest of my life with him, I would have thought you were crazy. But yet here he is, and the love and support and humour and so many other things he shares with me every day are among my greatest blessings.

The answer to the question "how are you?" is clear. My answer is, and always should be, "Blessed." Or, perhaps, "Grateful." For I am both.

Friday, October 5, 2007

This and that

Went to Future Shop last night to have a couple copies of this photo made. Total anticipated expenditure: 43 cents.

Actual expenditure at Future Shop last night? $324. I may or may not be the proud owner of a brand new shiny green iPod Nano, with accessories. I larve it. It's so tiny! I promised myself when we moved and my commute was lengthened that I would buy a new iPod to make up for it, as my old one is not all that fond of holding a battery charge for much longer than thirty minutes any more. And so when we happened to be in Future Shop last night, and they happened to have the Nano on sale, well, fate cannot be denied.

I, apparently, can be denied, however, as when we got home and I went to update it I discovered that it wouldn't interact with my outdated version of iTunes. And as we still don't have internet at home (Serdic promises me it will be this weekend), I was unable to update my iTunes. D'oh. So the shiny new Nano sits silently on my desk, mocking me.

In other news, I renewed my online subscription to one of my favourite sites this morning, and the cost was $30 US. The last time I renewed that worked out to be about $45 CDN. This morning? $30.70 CDN. Wow.

Busy month coming up, what with Thanksgiving this weekend (happy turkey day to those who live on this side of the border), a choir concert next weekend, our housewarming the weekend after that, and then a trip to Pennsylvania with my family to round out the month. Lots of good stuff. Oh, yeah, and we might want to unpack the rest of the apartment at some point. (I hear Serdic saying "What mean 'we'?" right now, as he's being doing a lot of the heavy lifting this week while I've been gallavanting around to choir rehearsals and such.)

Having someone to come home to is one of the nicest things in the world. Life is good.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

We're in!

So we are in the new place. Yesterday was a very long day. (Made bearable and fun by our lovely family and friends who did so, so, so much to help out. Thanks, guys!)

We have snuck into Serdic's work so that we can both satisfy our internet addiction ... having no internet in the new apartment for a few days is going to be a trial. Although it's not like we don't have enough to do in the apartment ... being without internet means we might actually get it done before we go back to work on Tuesday!

Leaving my old place was very hard (there may or may not have been tears). I have been extremely happy in that apartment for nearly five years, and I've grown a lot and figured out a lot about myself. I think I truly for the first time became a happy person, comfortable in my own skin, while living in that apartment. So it was hard to leave. And I'm going to miss Serdic's apartment, too -- a lot of my favourite memories of the beginning of our relationship are in that apartment. But onward and upward ... the new place is gorgeous and spacious, and I think we're going to be really happy there. It's feeling a bit claustrophobic at the moment, with the piles of boxes and nothing where it's supposed to be, but the potential is there to make a really lovely home. We're really excited about that part, and hopefully by this time tomorrow we'll have made a good start at it. This is the fun part!

Friday, September 28, 2007

T Minus Nine Hours

Packing is nearly finished (we are nose deep in my shit belongings). Moving about to commence.


Pray for us, faithful readers.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Odds and ends

T minus 2 and a half days until The Move. Gah.

We received the new editions of the Library of Congress Subject Headings yesterday (this is perhaps my most frequently used daily tool in my job). Perhaps you have to be a librarian (or a cataloguer?) to understand how exciting that is. But everyone can understand the delicious smell of new books, fresh off the press. Yay. And I didn't even spill coffee on my copy on the first day which is, you know, unusual for me.

Saw a production of The Penelopiad at the NAC last night. Adapted from a story by Margaret Atwood, one of Canada's greatest and brightest literary lights, The Penelopiad tells the story of what Penelope and her twelve doomed maids were doing while they waited for Odysseus to come home from his Odyssey. Not exactly an uplifting story, which is par for the course with Greek myths, but beautifully presented and performed, with clever, inventive and moving story telling, capped off by a brilliant performance from the leading lady. Highly, highly, highly recommended. It plays at the NAC through next weekend, I believe.

People who are on my nerves today, in no particular order, include but are not limited to:

1) The lady who, during "rush hour" lunch time in the coffee shop, took several minutes to decide which biscuit she wanted to go with her soup, and had to be told the choices six times. They're biscuits, lady. Five minutes after you eat it you won't even remember what flavour you chose. Get on with it, or let the rest of us go ahead while you debate your options.

2) The bus driver who insisted on having the heat on high this morning, for some reason known only to him, as it was approximately 30 degrees (celcius, which translates to "too damn hot for the end of September" for my American friends) outside. Meaning a) I couldn't rest my leg against the side of the bus because the heat was burning right through my pant leg, so I had to sit in an uncomfortable position for the entire ride, and b) people started opening the windows, even though it was raining, which meant everyone got wet.

3) Gatineau's urban planners.

4) The lady who just got on the elevator with me who tapped her foot, chomped her gum, and obsessively pushed the button for her floor over and over and over. I get it, lady. You're in a hurry. You are very busy and important. Bully for you.

On a better note, the people I love today include but are not limited to:

1) Serdic, who while I was at the play hauled load after load of garbage and recycling out of my apartment. And for a multitude of other reasons.

2) My friend J, with whom I went to the play last night. I always love spending time with her.

3) My favourite coffee shop girl, who remembered I don't like tomato and so picked it all out of my tossed salad, making sure I got lots of peppers and cucumber instead.

4) All of our family and friends who are going to help us with The Move. We are very blessed when it comes to friends.

So it all balances out.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Pack Rats Anonymous

So I've started packing and, uh, I'm screwed. I packed all day yesterday (except for the two hour mid-afternoon nap Serdic and I took, which we both agreed was one of the Top Five Best Naps of All Time) and feel like I haven't made a dent. I know I must have, because there's a huge stack of boxes in my living room, but I've been doing the easy stuff first -- books, CDs, DVDs ... stuff that's coming off shelves and fits nicely into rows in the boxes. So all the shelves are empty, but all the big stuff remains. I did empty out the drawers of my desk last night, which was interesting. When I moved to Ottawa from London (Ontario, not England, sadly enough) I was in classes right up until a couple of days before I moved, so I just threw everything in boxes and didn't do much of a purge at all, so there is some stuff in this apartment that I haven't looked at since I was in London, and it's just gotten buried under other stuff. I came across all kinds of neat things, and all kinds of garbage.

It's interesting in general to sort through the last five years of my life as I get ready to move. To decide what I want to keep and what I don't need any longer (I am a pack rat so the second list is very long indeed). Sometimes it's bittersweet, like the moment last night when I stumbled across a birthday card from a couple of years ago from my grandparents, where my grandad had written his own message inside. That's unusual -- my grandmother usually just signed both of their names to any card they sent me. But for whatever reason (I suspect this card was the one I received the summer he was undergoing chemo and was quite ill), on this card he wrote a lengthy message of his own about how much he loved me and how proud he was to call me granddaughter. Something that was lovely at the time but got tucked in a drawer and forgotten is now a treasure beyond rubies.

It's also interesting to have someone else to share the chore. Serdic has been so good to me, hauling garbage and recycling down to the basement, cleaning and scrubbing and moving boxes, helping me figure out a plan of attack, and when things become overwhelming keeping me focused on the end goal, which is being snug as two bugs in a rug in our new place in less than a week.

Today, I tackle my front hall and bedroom closets. Pray for me, faithful readers.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

What he said

I was all ready to post a moving update this morning, but Serdic has it covered. Yay for firm moving in dates! Yay for building a home together! Boo for everything I have to do in the next ten days.

I will add a couple of things. One of my major responsibilities here has been that we are going to use my phone, cable, and utilities accounts (Serdic not having cable, his utilities included with his current abode, and us not needing two phone lines) and so I needed to make the arrangements to transfer them over. Serdic has taken care of so many of the arrangements to this point, being the one to do all of the phoning around, booking viewings of apartments, connecting with our future landlord for lease signings and move dates, so this is the least I could do. But there is a reason I have let him handle all of that ... I hate making phone calls. I don't know why, I just have this irrational hatred of picking up that phone and dialing. I don't mind talking on the phone (as those who have spent hours on the phone with me know all too well) but I hardly ever initiate the call. Serdic says one of the ways he knew I loved him was when I started phoning him, and I still don't do it all that often, preferring to drop an email if I can. Which is just silly. I'm the same way with just about everyone I know, up to and including my grandparents, sister, and closest friends. I think it stems from my insecurities and lack of self-confidence ... I'm always worried I'll be bothering/interrupting/annoying the person I'm trying to call. Which, again, is just silly. But there it is.

But. These accounts are in my name, therefore Serdic can't make these phone calls for me. (He would if he could, because he's just that damn awesome.) So I have been putting it off. And it has gotten into a vicious cycle, as now I feel guilty about putting it off, so I continue to put it off because I don't want to deal with it because I feel guilty. I felt like I was letting Serdic down, and I was mad at myself because I just had to do this one little thing and why was I being so stupid about it? Unfortunately, hoping something like this will go away hardly ever works, so today I sucked it up and called Bell to transfer my phone service and find out our new phone number (which we need to provide to other people).

And of course it was fine, and no problem, and the customer service agent was terrific (I actually dropped Bell an email -- see? -- to compliment her, because I think we are all so quick to complain but we don't take time out often enough to say "well done, you") and we are all good to go. I figured out how to transfer my utilities online, and also set up a mail forwarding account with Canada Post for the next six months. So now I just need to call Rogers to deal with the cable, and that's the major bills dealt with (already changed my address online with bank last week). Just doing something about it has made me feel so much better, as of course is so often the case.

And while I have been doing all that, my beloved has been doing this.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Musings from a bus

In theory, I am a firm supporter of public transit. I think it's good to reduce the number of cars on the road, public transit for me is definitely cheaper than maintaining a car, I don't have to worry about weather or traffic and can just settle in with a book and my iPod, and I am willing most of the time to deal with the increased inconvenience of not having a car in order to be a good citizen and save money. But there are definitely times when I hate, hate, HAAAAATE taking the bus. And as I think about it, I realize that 90% of that is because of the other idiots who take public transit as well. And I'm not even talking about people like the ladies I overheard last year talking about how they refused to take the #2 bus anymore because of all the, and I quote, "coloured people" who ride that route nowadays (the girl sitting next to me and I exchanged the most perfect raised eyebrow "Whaaaaaaa?" look when we heard that), but just your general garden variety urban assholes.

I have long thought these Urban Asshole Notification Cards were inspired, and wished I had the guts to order a pack or two and use them. But I think we need to make up ones specifically for users of public transit. Violations would include:

1) Getting on an empty bus with only one other person and sitting down directly beside that other person. Sure, just like sitting next to the only other person in a movie theatre, there is nothing specifically rude or wrong about sitting where you want to sit, but why bypass all the other empty seats in order to be in someone else's personal space?

1b) Taking up more than your allotted space when you do sit next to someone. Now, I'm a big girl, I realize this, but when I am sharing a seat on the bus with someone I make every effort to make myself as small as possible and not intrude on my seatmate. And that includes making sure my purse and any other bags stay on my side of the dividing line. Men who sit with their legs spread and slouched down in their seats? That doesn't make your penis any bigger, sorry.

2) Conversely, the bus is packed and people are standing in the aisles, and yet somehow your backpack still needs its own seat. There better be an original of the Magna Carta in that backpack, because otherwise I'm not understanding what, exactly, is so special about it. Move it, asshole, and let someone sit down.

3) Getting on the bus and standing in the aisle directly behind the driver, instead of moving further back. Forcing everyone who wants to get on or off the bus to squeeze past you.

4) Wearing a backpack while standing in the aisle ... you are guaranteed to be smacking someone who is seated in the head with that backpack every time you move.

5) Waiting until you are on the bus to start looking for your pass/fare. You have been standing at the bus stop for ten minutes, putz. Why do you now need to hold up a line of people waiting to get on the bus while you fumble through every last pocket (and they are invariably wearing cargo pants with eleventy billion pockets)? Minus an extra ten points if you do this on a rainy day, making everyone else behind you wait in the rain.

6) Carrying on a loud conversation, either with a companion or on your cell phone. Nobody cares, nobody wants to hear it. Keep your voice down.

7) Testing all the different ring tones on your cell phone. Yes, faithful readers, I have seen this more than once. Sure, it's something to do to occupy yourself on a long bus ride. Too bad you're going to burn in hell.

8) Plopping down in one of the priority seats at the front of the bus, pulling out a book and studiously ignoring the elderly, disabled or pregnant riders who get on after you. You're able bodied and healthy -- be thankful for that and let someone who needs it have the seat.

9) Carrying on a lengthy conversation with the driver about anything other than the route or what stop you need. He or she is doing a very difficult job, and has the lives of many other people in his or her hands. No one cares what movie you saw last night or your thoughts on the current political climate in Ontario. Let the driver do his or her job without distraction or irritation.

In short, sit in your seat, keep quiet, don't intrude on other people and be courteous to those around you. You wouldn't really think it would be that hard, eh?

Tune in next week when we continue our lessons in how not to be an urban asshole, with sessions on elevator ettiquette and "Sidewalks: For walking, not gawking ... or biking."

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Blergh

Things I will not miss about living in a highrise, part 1:

3 a.m. fire alarms. In the rain.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Something's cooking

So after my two long and apparently tear jerking posts last week, let's lighten things up a little bit. I've posted two recipes I've tried recently ... I admit to not being that great, or adventurous, a cook, but being with Serdic (who is a FABULOUS cook ... girls, you should be extremely jealous of the catch I have made, and not only because he knows his way around a kitchen) has forced me to step things up a bit and try to bring my "A-game" on a more regular basis. My personal trainer turned me on to a website called Spark People, which is a great resource for health and fitness, and I have been checking out some of their recipes. What follows is two of my new favourites, both of which I highly recommend ... you can eat healthily without sacrificing flavour. I have to keep telling myself this. *eye roll*

In other news, we officially signed the lease on the new apartment this weekend. We move in three weeks. Eeek.

Baked Honey Mustard Chicken

I made this recipe for the first time last week and we agreed that we both loved it. The chicken turns out really moist and juicy, and the sauce is great over rice. I used dijon mustard and thought it was a bit too tangy ... I would try using something a little softer next time, but all in all two thumbs up. It was crazy easy to put together.

Ingredients
1 1/4 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast
1/2 c. honey
1/2 c. yellow mustard (or dijon for a different flavor)
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. dried parsley

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 F.Place chicken in a lightly greased 9x13inch baking dish.In a small bowl, combine the honey, mustard, basil, paprika, and parsley. Mix well. Pour 1/2 of this mixture over the chicken, and brush to cover.Bake in the preheated oven for 30 min. Turn chicken pieces over and brush with the remaining 1/2 of the honey mustard mixture. Bake for an additional 10 to 15 min, or until chicken is no longer pink and juices run clear. Let cool 10 min before serving.

Curried Mango Pork Chops

I've made this recipe several times now, and we both love it. I put the mango and coconut in the pan to heat them through with the other toppings, which I think helps the flavours blend a little better. It's a pretty easy recipe and goes really well with rice and some kind of green vegetable.

Ingredients
4 boneless pork chops, 3/4-inch thick
2 teaspoons curry powder
1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
4 sliced green onions
1/4 cup raisins
1/3 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 fresh mango, peeled, seeded and diced
2 tablespoons flaked coconut

Directions
Season chops with curry powder and seasoned salt. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Brown chops on both sides, turning once, for a total of 7-8 minutes. Remove chops from pan, reserve. In small bowl stir cornstarch well into chicken broth. Add onions, raisins, and chicken broth mixture into skillet; cook and stir until slightly thickened. Return chops to pan; heat through. Serve chops garnished with mango and coconut. Makes 4 servings (3 oz cooked pork per serving.)

Recipe courtesy of National Pork Board

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Happy Birthday, Grandad

Yes, this will make two very long and rambling posts back to back this week. Hopefully you'll bear with me. Obviously I'm feeling a bit introspective these days.

I've been thinking about my Grandad a lot lately, as it would have been both his 78th birthday and his and my grandmother's 56th anniversary this week. We lost him to cancer on December 28th, 2005, a date that I think will always stand out as a turning point in my life. Up until his death I had never had to deal with loss, had never really truly mourned. Sure, I had been to funerals, I had dealt with the loss of family pets, but this was the first time I had really had to come to terms, as an adult with the full understanding of what it meant, with the loss of a beloved family member. I realize how lucky that makes me, that I would be within sight of my 30th birthday with all four grandparents alive and well and active forces in my life. But it also made the moment all that more shattering when it came.

My Grandad was much more to me than a kindly old man I visited on school holidays or a shadowy figure who sent annual birthday presents, the way I hear some of my friends describe their grandparents. He was very present in my life, an inspiration, a source of laughter and comfort, in every way that matters a hero to me, and to all who knew him. He was a minister in the United Church of Canada and his quiet, unshakable, simple (in the best sense of the word) faith shaped my understanding not only of God but of the world in general. My cousin L said in his portion of the eulogy that Grandad was one of the few people who truly believed that it's not whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game, and he demonstrated that to us every day, simply by living as faithfully and as well as he could. His loss has left a huge hole in our lives and our family, one that will never really be filled. I think of him, and miss him, every single day.

What follows is a portion of my eulogy from his funeral ... I don't think I could say it any better than I did that day to honour him.

How do we mourn someone who lived so well and died so loved? Love is the first word that came to mind when I started to think about what I wanted to say today. Love, for me, is what defined Grandad, and certainly love is what I will remember most about him. His family, his God, his Newfoundland home, his St. Lawrence river … his love for all these things and many more just shone out of him and shaped every day of his life. As a grandchild I felt the full force of that unconditional, unending, unlimited love. I will never forget how his face would light up whenever one of us would come into the room – even the last time I saw him. I walked into his hospital room and he turned and smiled at me and said “Good morning, honey.” His relationship with his grandchildren was most decidedly a mutual admiration society.

He had a store of love that just expanded exponentially to encompass every new thing and person who crossed his path. I always knew how much he loved me and how much his family adored him, but what has really struck me in the last few days is how much every person who ever met him treasured him. The messages that have poured in from people who knew him 40, 50, 60 years ago have humbled and awed me. My Grandad, the man who once dropped his pants in the middle of Christmas dinner to show us his new Christmas boxer shorts, is the same man who inspired such love and respect from all these people? Not that I didn’t believe him worthy of such accolades, but my focus tended to be more narrow, more concerned with what he meant to me personally. To realize he meant so much to so many people has made me prouder than ever to call myself his granddaughter, and I know it is something I will carry with me all my life.

There are no words I can think of that will do justice to all he was and all he meant, and continues to mean, to me. His humour, his smile, his faith, his stories, and above all his unceasing, boundless, overwhelming love. All these things I will carry with me, and all these things will give me strength and comfort in the days to come and for the rest of my life.

A card I was given recently puts it best, I think. “A remarkable man is gone now, and this world seems a little lessened somehow because he is not a part of it. A little less wise and great, a little less good and brave.”


Wednesday, September 5, 2007

In good company

I first became seriously involved with the "online world" sometime in the summer or fall of 1995. I don't remember the exact details of the timeline, but I spent the school year of 1994-1995 in Denmark on an exchange, and when I returned my parents had just set up a connection (dial up! ugh!) and were starting to explore what was out there. I knew about email and the internet before that, of course, but this was my first real exposure to what was available. So I sat down at the computer one sunny afternoon in late 1995 and typed "Andrew Lloyd Webber" into a search engine (I was, and remain, a huge musical theatre geek, and his name was the first thing that came to mind). I stumbled across a discussion forum devoted to his works, which led me to a discussion forum about theatre in general, both of which were populated by many of the same posters.

And a new world dawned.

Hard as it may be for you to believe, I did not fit in in high school (shocking, I know). Bullied, brainy, unattractive (or so I thought at the time), more interested in books and plays than boy bands or makeup, growing up in a small town where I had been labelled many years before as "not one of the cool kids" (and you know how labels stick in a small town), I had a lot of trouble finding my place. Denmark helped, big time, by letting me start over in a way, with people who didn't know me from before and who, gasp, seemed to like me just fine. I grew a lot that year. Coming back to the same small town and the same people from before was backsliding in a lot of ways. And then I found people online who were just like me. People who loved to debate the minute details of musical theatre, who had read all the same books, who didn't care about New Kids on the Block, who, like me, were struggling to find their place, who didn't fit in in their small towns or schools. I never knew there were so many people like me out there.

I formed some friendships in those early days that lasted the better part of ten years (although I am no longer in touch with anyone from those days, as we grew apart and lost touch, I still read one of the forums daily, and it is still going strong although, of course, many of the posters have changed). I had trips to New York City and Toronto, and other places, to see shows, I met some of my favourite actors and performers, I spent hours in chat rooms and on email, trading stories and song lyrics and planning our next get together. I was well liked, I fit in, I was part of a community of friends in a way I had never really been before. I had found "my people."

After I finished university I struggled again to find my place. I had my shiny new BA in English, but I didn't know what I wanted to be now that I was grown up. I was waitressing (not a total loss, in retrospect, as that was where I met Serdic for the first time ... boy, life is funny), half heartedly applying for jobs that sounded interesting, but with no real idea of what direction I wanted to take. Somehow I discovered the actor Colin Firth, developed a massive (although harmless!) crush on him, and got involved with a couple of online communities devoted to discussing him and his work. I even ended up moderating one group for awhile, and devoting a lot of work to keeping it going day to day. It gave me something to focus on, a bright spot in what was at that point a fairly dreary existence (yes, I do realize in the grand scheme of things I had it pretty good, but it's not a period of my life I look back on with great fondness), and there was a lot of laughter and excitement. Again, it led to field trips to meet other members of the list, and even a brief, although thrilling, sighting of the man himself in Toronto one year at the film festival. Things I never would have done or experienced on my own, made possible by these people I would never have met if it weren't for the interwebs.

I went back to school to do my masters, and eventually got too busy to moderate the list anymore, although I still remain a (mostly lurking) member of another list. But one friendship I developed out of those days still survives, and Cupcake remains one of my dearest friends. She talked me through a lot of hard times, a lot of self doubt and questioning, but also has been there in the happy times, always one of the first to send her best wishes and love and I know she's always cheering me on. Someone I've never "met," never even talked to on the phone. And yet she means the world to me.

I'm going to skip over the online long distance relationship that dragged on for two years, because, really, who wants to rehash that? ;-) I will say, however, that that relationship did a lot to prepare me for the relationship I have now, as I learned a lot about myself and what I do and don't want, and what I am and am not willing to compromise on/put up with. Would I have been ready for Serdic and what we're building together if I hadn't had that experience? Probably not. All things happen for a reason, right?

Currently I spend most of my online time with my group of about 30 friends who came together through, of all things, a message board dedicated to The Bachelor (ah, yes, my guilty pleasure reality tv secret is exposed). Within that board there was a thread where we were allowed to blather on about off topic things, and a core group of us developed a friendship. When that board was closed we moved, eventually, to our own private board, and the privacy of the new board (password protected, by invitation only, etc.) allowed us the freedom to talk a lot more openly about our lives. We're all over North America, but every couple of months two or more people from the board meet up for one reason or another ... although I have not met everyone on the board (I've met more than half of them) everyone on the board has met someone else on the board, which really strengthens our sense of community. I check in daily for the hilarity and gossip, but more than that they are usually the first people I turn to for advice, for comfort, to share good news or just a silly story about something that happened at work. We have done virtual baby showers for each other, and when my grandfather died I was showered with cards and gifts from them. We have gone through weddings, break ups, births, deaths, financial struggles, good fortune, and all of the ups and downs of life together. I cannot say enough about the support and love this group has shown me over the past few years, and how they have helped me find my place as a well adjusted, happy, productive member of society.

All this to say that I sat at my desk yesterday and cried tears of joy and thanksgiving for someone I have never met. Someone I do not know very well, but who I know is vitally important to Serdic (which makes her vitally important to me), and who has provided him with a lot of the things my online friends have given me (as detailed ad nauseum in the preceeding paragraphs!). Kiy and her husband have just, after years of waiting, been matched with a little girl, and they will soon be off to China to bring their new daughter home. It still blows my mind sometimes that the internet allows me to meet people all over the world, people I would never have been able to connect with otherwise, and share in their lives, their joys and their sorrows, and have them share in mine. For a girl who grew up believing she was weird, believing she would never really quite fit in, the realization that there are so many people out there "just like" me was a staggering one.

What a world.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Misty water-coloured memories ...

So my bright idea this year for my grandmother's birthday was to make her a memory book, consisting of photos of her with her grandchildren throughout the years. To accomplish this I had to enlist the help of the rest of the family, as it was my parents and aunts and uncles who had the old photos. The results were better than I had hoped and the book was a huge success. And it kickstarted a project for my dad, as once he had dug out all the old photo albums and slides, he decided he wanted to digitize and preserve the photos. He bought an attachment for his digital camera on e-bay that creates digital images of slides and has been merrily snapping away ever since.

You can see some of the best here.

The photos are really interesting to me, for a lot of reasons. I hadn't seen a lot of them before, or at least I don't remember seeing them. Some bring back memories, sometimes very specific as to time and place, other times just a vague recollection. Others just make me smile or laugh, either because of the goofy outfits (it was the 70s, after all!) or just because they are a snapshot of a beautiful and happy moment in the family history. Others make me teary, as they remind me of those no longer with us. It's been quite a trip, to use the 70s lingo.
Things are looking up around Casa Singer. I'm feeling much better (thanks to all who expressed their concern!) and am back in the saddle, so to speak. I'm in the middle at my first 5 day work week all month ... Since the last week of July I have taken either the Friday or the Monday off each week to make a series of long weekends throughout August. First for our trip to Quebec, then for my birthday, then for the concert last weekend ... add to that my sick days last week and I'm not sure I can work five whole days in a row! Yes, yes, somebody call the waaaaaaahmbulance. If that's the worst thing I can find to complain about, I'm doing pretty well, no? (Especially since this upcoming weekend is a long weekend as well.)

And yes, it is true, my life is particularly full of blessings right now. I am most grateful, and trying very hard every day not to take them for granted.

Unfortunately, that makes for some pretty boring blog entries. Just don't have a lot to report, and simply gushing about how wonderful my life is gets pretty tiresome (for readers, at least! :-). We are tightening up arrangements on our new apartment, which is very exciting. We're hoping to have a lease signed by the end of the week just to make it official (and have something in writing!), but unofficially everything is a go. As excited as I am both about the new apartment and about taking this next step with Serdic, I have to admit to feeling slightly overwhelmed by everything that has to be done between now and then. I am not a fan of packing, or cleaning, or hauling heavy things around, and there's going to be a hell of a lot of all three over the next six or so weeks. Sigh. It's a good thing the end result is going to be building a home with my love. I'm trying to focus on that and not the four years' worth of crap I have to clean out of my old apartment.

I've got some fun things to look forward to in the next couple of months besides the move ... a mini getaway with Serdic, a family trip to Pennsylvania, both choirs starting up again, an opportunity to humiliate myself weekly when we take up curling, Thanksgiving (always great family time) and so forth. Yeah, life is good at Casa Singer these days. Soon to be Casa Double S.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Some updates

So we're all full up with illness here at Casa Singer ... I've been flat on my back for two days with a rotten, rotten cold. I used to get these colds all the time, but as I've been improving my overall health and fitness over the last couple of years they have become much more rare. However, every once in awhile one sneaks through my defenses and knocks me out. Blergh.

I'm not surprised I'm sick, honestly, given the pace we've been keeping through August. Away every weekend, trying to apartment hunt while we're here, the worry of that (will we be homeless October 2?), my birthday celebrations, and so forth. So I took yesterday and today as sick days and am trying to lay low and sleep it off. So far the cold is winning, but I am continuing to do battle.

We had a great time on Sunday. Faithful readers may remember from a previous post that my dad is a genuine rock star. He and some friends started a band, The Coachmen, in high school back in the 60s (so, you know, they're old now!) and they were incredibly popular, playing all the local dances and, apparently, getting all the chicks. They broke up after high school, as these things go, but about 15 years ago were asked to reunite for a high school reunion. They did and it was a massive success ... nostalgia is a very powerful thing and, hey, these guys can rock! Building on that they played a couple more concerts to raise money for the town, resulting in some improvements to the recreation centre and so forth, and had a street named after them in town for their efforts. Then they packed away their equipment and went on about their lives. A few years ago they were asked to reunite again, this time for the annual summer music festival that our hometown puts on. Again, a huge success. Two years ago they played on the same roster as Great Big Sea (different nights -- although what a double bill that would have been!), and there were nearly as many people out for the Coachmen as there were for GBS. Each time The Coachmen have donated the money they would have been paid for playing to a cause in town, this year it was a music lending library that the Rotary Club is setting up to allow students access to instruments and music if they want to take music lessons but can't afford to buy an instrument.

So that's how you know they're good guys, as well as incredible musicians.

So they get together and they play and they have a blast, and the audience has a blast, and money is raised for a good cause. What could be better?

Oh, I know what could be better. If at the concert they held a 50/50 draw, and my mother sold tickets. And if she refused to tell Serdic where I was when he arrived until he bought ten tickets. And if he then subsequently won the big prize. Which was a substantial amount of money. That was pretty exciting, too.

On another note, although neither of us wants to jinx it until we have something signed, it looks like we may not be homeless on October 2 after all. You all are, of course, invited to the housewarming. ;-)


Just for fun

As seen on A Truth Universally Acknowledged:

What color is your soul painted?

Yellow

Your soul is painted the color yellow, which embodies the characteristics of joy, happiness, optimism, idealism, gold, hope, liberalism, sociability, friendship, death, courage, intellect, confidence, communication, travel, movement, attraction, persuasion, and charm. Yellow is the color of the element Air, and symbolizes the sun, grain, and the power of thought.

Personality Test Results

Click Here to Take This Quiz

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Quizzes and Personality Tests

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


So Monday was my birthday. And a great celebration it was. We went home on Saturday and the major family party was Sunday evening. My mom went all out and put on a great bash, with more food than any family can eat in a week, let alone one night. Serdic's contribution was his famous cheesecake for dessert and it went over very well, indeed. I think every time my family spends time with him they get closer to deciding that if we break up they'll keep him instead!

I was very spoiled by everyone, and at the end of the day felt very blessed and very loved.

I am particularly blessed because I get to share my birthday with my maternal grandmother. My grandmother is one of my favourite people in the world, and knowing that every year I get to celebrate with her makes our birthday extra special. There's no way to write about my grandmother without sounding like the cheesiest of Hallmark cards, but she truly is the heart and soul of our family and a constant source of strength and comfort for me.

So now I'm another year older. Funny, I don't feel any different than I did a few days ago. But Serdic told me I look "pretty good for an old woman," so I guess I'm doing ok. ;-)


Friday, August 10, 2007

So here's a short Friday afternoon story from Quebec City.

Scene: Serdic and I are standing outside the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, the Anglican church in the old part of the city. I am reading from my guidebook about the church.

Me: It says the organ has 3,058 pipes. That's a big organ.
Serdic: Well, then of course we have to go in and see that, and take a picture for your dad. (Note: my father is an organist.)

We go inside the church. The organ is indeed impressive. A lovely gentleman in full 18th century costume comes up and starts talking to us, telling us all about the church. I ask if it's ok for me to take a picture of the organ (some churches won't allow photography inside). He says "of course."

I take my picture and we wander away a little bit. Lovely gentleman follows us. "Now that I've let you take your picture," he says, "you have to guess how many pipes the organ has."

"3,058." I reply promptly. (And a bit, I must admit, smugly.)

I have never seen a person's face fall so quickly. Poor guy.

Serdic and I laughed about it all weekend, though.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Vive le Quebec!

Yeah. Way too tired to make a coherent blog entry. Instead I present a weekend in photos. I'll just say we had an awesome time and we can't wait to go back. Stories to follow this week.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Me want

So, rumour has it I'm a library geek. So it should come as a shock to no one that I would like to have this t-shirt, please.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

And now, for something completely different ...

So the next thing to look forward to on my busy summer schedule is the long weekend Serdic and I have planned in Québec City, coming up in a scant ten days. I'm really excited about this trip, both because I'm looking forward to getting away somewhere new for a few days, and also because it'll be the first trip we've taken together.

So my question to my faithful readers is this: what should we do while we're there? Has anyone out there been to Québec City? Got any tips for things we MUST see and/or do there? Cool restaurants to try? Lemme know in the comments section!

I'll just be over here packing and re-packing my suitcase, and taking entirely too much stuff for a long weekend. I always take too many outfits, but a girl needs options, right? How am I supposed to know when I pack what I'll feel like wearing on any given day?

Monday, July 23, 2007

The end of an era

So Harry Potter weekend has come and gone. All the anticipation, the speculation, the excitement, and, in the final days, the desperate attempts to avoid spoilers ... all over. I know it seems like a lot of "sound and fury, signifying nothing" to those who are not HP fans, and it's kind of hard to explain if you don't already "get it." I guess the closest I can come is the article I posted last week. I don't know, really, why these books have caught my imagination, and the imaginations of so many others, so fiercely. It's that rare blend of good and careful storytelling, a group of characters people can fall in love with for a variety of reasons, and, as much as anything, the book being in the right place at the right time. Who's to say why JK Rowling succeeded in such a staggering way when so many authors, many of whom may indeed be better writers than her, have not been able to do so? Magic, maybe. All I know is this story has been part of my consciousness for the better part of a decade, and it has all been building towards the release of this final book, towards us finally getting to find out what happened, what all the clues were and what all the different events meant. It was like a big jigsaw puzzle, and the final pieces, after a decade of trying to put them all together, were in this last book.

And it didn't disappoint.

We made a bit of an event of getting the book, which I've never done before. Serdic and I, along with my sister and her husband, decided to do a midnight release at a nearby drugstore. We thought this would be a little less crowded than the bookstores, most of which were planning huge release parties, but to our surprise when we arrived there was already a massive line stretching the length of the store and starting to double back again. Resigned, we got in line and settled ourselves in for what seemed like a lengthy wait. Imagine our surprise when at 12:01 they simply brought out a huge box of the books and just dumped it in the middle of the store. Literally at the feet of my brother-in-law, who had wandered away from the line to browse the magazines. He grabbed two copies and we were in line to pay faster than you can say "wingardium leviosa." Total time in the store: less than half an hour.

We winged our way home as fast as Serdic's little car would carry us, and I read the first 100 pages before my eyes and brain began to protest and I had to admit defeat and get a few hours of sleep. Saturday morning I picked it up again and plowed right through, stopping only when Serdic insisted I eat something mid-afternoon (he was very patient and understanding about the whole thing, dear boy, if a bit bemused), and I finished around 4:00. At one point I was very close to turning to the epilogue to spoil myself and make sure certain characters made it through all right, but I resisted and in the end I was glad I did, and I just got to watch the story unfold with no idea what was coming next.

I wouldn't say the book was flawless, of course -- it dragged more than a little through the middle third. But the final section was breathtaking as it all came together. Old friends appeared from the previous books, plot points that seemed superfluous at the time turned out to be essential, and in the end it was a fitting and perfect finale to the series.

And now I'm going to go back and start at the very beginning of the series and fall in love all over again.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Long live Harry Potter

I really enjoyed this article on the CBC's website about what, exactly, it is about Harry Potter that I love. It's like the author looked inside my own head and put it into better words than I could.

A few choice quotes:

"... what turned Harry Potter into a global phenomenon was Rowling’s canny decision to unspool this tale in closely guarded instalments doled out every few years. There’s no real reason why the narrative arc needs to span seven novels, but, oh, what delicious anticipation was created each time a new book was released ... the Harry Potter series helped readers rediscover the pleasure of being part of a collective holding of breath, of an impatient worldwide wait to discover what will come next."

"How old-fashioned to line up at midnight for our copies of the new Harry Potter, the way we all tuned in for Princess Di’s wedding or the final episode of M*A*S*H. It feels hopeful, too: if readers from Harlem to Tokyo can be united in their joy and worry over Harry, maybe there’s more common ground in our post-9/11 world than we suspected."

"Time will decide whether the Harry Potter series is a classic or just a passing fad. Whatever the outcome, this weekend, there will be some real Muggle magic at work. Millions of us will stay up long past our bedtimes, ignore our loved ones and forget to eat. We’re about to find out the fate of a lonely, orphaned boy we’ve watched find true friendship, fight dragons, fall in love, learn to perform a Patronus spell, lose two of his father figures and discover that the future of the world rests on his skinny, adolescent shoulders. The end is nigh. Long live Harry Potter."

Not long now. Long live Harry Potter, indeed.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Catching up ...

First off, huge congrats to Null and Britgal. Great news!

Welcome to the blogging world, Kiy! I look forward to reading your thoughts and following your journey!

I haven't blogged much lately because there isn't a lot to say. Things continue on as normal in all areas. Life is good, work is good, all is good. When I turned 30 last summer I told myself that I spent my 20s figuring out who I was, and I intended to spend my 30s enjoying being that person. And it's turning out even better than I hoped. So far, at least. Perhaps I should knock on wood or something. ;-) So now I'm gearing up for my 31st birthday in just a few short weeks, and something tells me it'll be the start of an even better year.

Right now a part of my world is consumed with a) anticipating the final Harry Potter novel and b) trying to avoid the dipshits online who have already gotten their hands on a copy and want to ruin the fun for the rest of us. Only three more days! And if you know how it ends, DON'T TELL ME.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


Three guesses what I'm doing tonight. Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! That is all.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Go to your happy place

Everyone has a happy place, right? The place where they love to be above all other places, the place that soothes the soul and recharges the batteries. For me that place is generally wherever my family is, but more specifically it's on the water. I grew up on the St. Lawrence river (see the view from my bedroom window at right) and we spent our summers with definitely more time on (and in) the river than off. Other families camp or go on road trips, we boat. (Although there were lots of family camping and road trips as well, I have to admit.)


So every couple of years when my parents bring their boat up the Rideau Canal from Kingston to Ottawa (and back again), it's a highlight of the summer for everyone. They take just under two weeks to make the trip one way, ending up tied up downtown Ottawa near the National Arts Centre and the Parliament buildings for a couple of days. And every year my sister and I make arrangements to take a couple of days off and join them somewhere along the route for a long weekend.

This year it was in Portland, about an hour's drive south of Ottawa. My brother-in-law (who I love dearly) was away for the weekend and couldn't join us so it was just the four of us, which hasn't happened for a long time. (Although Serdic did join us on Saturday for the day, which was a nice treat.) Unfortunately the weather didn't cooperate, and it poured rain most of the weekend, but that didn't stop us from taking advantage of the family time and being in our collective happy place.


Thursday, July 5, 2007

The weekend past and the weekend to come

Another Canada Day has come and gone, and I finally managed to throw a successful fireworks watching party! This was my third try at it, and after the first two were spectacular failures (less than four guests each time) I nearly gave up, but this weekend we had a great turn out. I have a perfect view of the parliament buildings and the fireworks from my apartment balcony, and it's a great place to hang out and enjoy without having to deal with the million people who descend on the Hill every year. This one was also special because it was the first time Serdic and I were bringing our friends together for something. I have met a lot of his friends and he has met a lot of mine, but this was our first attempt at having our friends meet each other. I think it went swimmingly, and if anyone else feels differently they aren't telling me! I have been blessed with some very special and wonderful friends in my life, and they mean the world to me. And as I am getting to know Serdic's friends I realize that they are another blessing, a whole new group of wonderful people to be part of my life. I keep teasing Serdic that I'm going to keep his friends when we break up, and while that's an idle threat because I don't plan on going anywhere without him anytime soon, I have to say it would be very tempting to try and steal them.

So thanks to everyone who came out and celebrated Canada Day with us. It was a blast! (No pun intended. ;-)

And now I'm gearing up for another long weekend, as I'm taking tomorrow off to spend the weekend with my folks on their boat. Every couple of summers they take a few weeks and bring the boat the length of the Rideau Canal from Kingston to Ottawa and back again, and they are on their way up the canal as we speak. My sister and I are heading down to meet them half way tomorrow and we'll spend the weekend chilling on the boat. I can't think of a better way to spend a weekend, frankly! Unfortunately the forecast is not ideal, but family time is always A Good Thing. Which is another blessing.

And somewhere along the line I will ponder how it possibly got to be July already. Where is the time going? The past six months have just flown by, and while I am not in any way complaining about how the last six months have gone, I am still a little gobsmacked by the speed at which time is passing. How can it be July? Wasn't it March a couple of days ago?