Saturday, December 27, 2008

2008 wrap up

1) What did you do in 2008 that you'd never done before? locked my keys in the car ... too prosaic? How about saw the Scottish Highlands
2) Did you keep your new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year? I don't really make New Year's resolutions, other than I always resolve to be a better person, lose weight, save money, etc. Sort of ongoing things.
3) Did anyone close to you give birth? Several dear friends.
4) Did anyone close to you die? My grandma.
5) What countries did you visit? England, Scotland
6) What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2008? nothing was lacking ... more money, maybe
7) What date from 2008 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? September 10, 2008 -- we flew to England
8) What was your biggest achievement of the year? Substantially paying down debt and getting on top of my credit card usage
9) What was your biggest failure? not losing any weight
10) Did you suffer illness or injury? nothing except the common cold
11) What was the best thing you bought? a trip to the UK
12) Whose behavior merited celebration? my sister and her husband, for having the courage to move to a new country and for the wonderful life they are building for themselves there
13) Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? various public figures
14) Where did most of your money go? travel, Christmas presents, debt reduction
15) What did you get really, really, really excited about? trip to England
17) Compared to this time last year, are you:
- happier or sadder? happier
- thinner or fatter? about the same
- richer or poorer? richer
18) What do you wish you'd done more of? saving money, weight loss
19) What do you wish you'd done less of? complaining
20) How did you spend Christmas? with the family and Serdic
21) Did you fall in love in 2008? over and over ... fortunately always with the same guy!
22) How many one-night stands? none
23) What was your favorite TV program? Dancing With the Stars /shameful admission
24) Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year? I try not to hate, but the head of the Ottawa bus drivers' union and the mayor of Ottawa are climbing the list
25) What was the best book you read? The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society
26) What was your greatest musical discovery? honestly, I have to say it was a new appreciation for some Canadian classics, like Gordon Lightfoot and Anne Murray
27) What did you want and get? To be loved
28) What did you want and not get? to be independently and fabulously wealthy
29) What was your favorite film of this year? I'm a little ashamed to admit this, but probably Mamma Mia, just for sheer fun
30) What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? spent the day with my family, went to choir, was loved and celebrated ... I was 32
31) What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? to be independently and fabulously wealthy
32) How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2008? I have a personal fashion concept?
33) What kept you sane? family, friends, love, music, faith ... all the good stuff
34) Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? Colin Firth, as always
35) What political issue stirred you the most? bus strike ... grrrrrr
36) Who did you miss? my grandma, my grandad, my sister
37) Who was the best new person you met? a new member of one of my choirs who has become a good friend
38) Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2008: patience
39) Quote a song lyric that sums up your year: Hallelujah

Monday, December 15, 2008

Deck the halls

Inspired by Kiy, I thought I'd share some photos of our Christmas decor this year. One of my favourite things about setting up my own household has been developing and expanding my collection of Christmas decorations, incorporating some favourites from my childhood and adding in some new things that are just me! The first Christmas I lived in Ottawa my "big" purchase was my tree -- growing up we always had real trees and some day I'd like to go back to that, but living in a highrise apartment on my own it didn't make sense, so for now I have an artificial one. I didn't pay a lot for my tree (I can't remember how much it was but it can't have been too expensive, as I was pretty broke that first year) but it is one of the prettiest I have ever seen. (And so easy to put together -- it's in four pieces and prelit, so all you have to do is put the trunk together and plug 'er in. Simplicity itself!) Since then I've made a big purchase every year -- my nativity scene, the Advent wreath, etc. -- and this year my new addition is a set of embroidered Christmas linens I picked up in a tiny little town in Scotland. So pretty!

I started to upload the photos to the blog, but I find I always end up fighting with Blogger for hours with formatting issues when I try to upload photos, and it was getting to be quite a lengthy post, so they are in a Flickr album for your viewing pleasure.

Maybe tomorrow I'll post the story of why I'm now CAA's biggest fan. /sheepish grin

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Weird week

So, it's not been the usual kind of week around Casa Double S. First of all, Serdic is in Texas for work (he left Monday morning), so I've been "bach"ing it for a few days, and will be until the end of next week. It's funny that before Serdic I had lived on my own for the better part of ten years and loved every minute of it, but now all I can do is count the days until he comes home and I don't have to be alone in the apartment any more. Not to say that I'm wallowing in loneliness or anything -- I have my choirs and my friends and work and all the rest of it, and I'm definitely keeping busy! -- but there's just something really fundamental missing right now. And I'm not even talking about the fact that I have to make my own coffee in the mornings and cook my own dinners! ;-)

The other big news this week, of course, is the bus drivers going on strike. Since I use the bus to commute to work, obviously this affects me greatly. At first I thought it would be ok, as with Serdic away I have the car at my disposal for the next little while, but there is absolutely no place to park it at work. We actually are a little annoyed here in general, as emails went out earlier in the week encouraging us to carpool and reminding us that we are expected to report to work as usual, but we are a) not allowed to use the email system for carpool/ride requests (understandable, as they don't want the email clogged), b) unable to use the intranet carpool site that was set up a couple of years ago when they moved us out to the godforsaken wilderness (the "functionality" of the site is "compromised at this time"), and c) not provided with any temporary accomodations for additional parking (I emailed parking and accomodations to ask if they had any suggestions for parking within walking distance and the response was, and I quote, "Not really." You could almost hear the virtual shrug echoing through cyberspace.). So carpooling sounds great in theory, but is a little shaky in execution.

I am lucky in that I have a colleague who has offered to include me in her rounds (she is picking up another colleague as well) for the duration of the strike, and she already has a parking spot here. So it's working out pretty well for me, although my colleague does start work more than an hour earlier than I usually do, so it's been some pretty early mornings for me this week. However, we get to leave earlier than I usually do, too, so I'm enjoying that. Maybe my internal clock will reset and I'll be able to keep this schedule once I go back to the buses?

And to top it all off, we got 30 cm of snow this week. Just to keep things interesting.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Come sing!

Yet another fun filled and jampacked weekend is over. I'm definitely in the Christmas spirit now! Friday night I participated in my first ever "sing a long" performance of Handel's Messiah. What an event! This is a very popular and beloved Ottawa tradition, featuring nearly a thousand singers of all abilities and levels of experience filling one of the big downtown churches and singing Messiah together. There were professional soloists and a conductor and orchestra, but the choruses were all us, baby. I've never gone before, but I said to my friend Pixie as we were leaving that I'm never missing it again. Uplifting, glorious music, and inspiring fellowship with friends and fellow lovers of music ... what could be better?

Last night Serdic and I hosted our first joint Christmas party -- I usually host one, but we didn't last year as we had just had our housewarming and a big milestone birthday party for my friend D, and we felt it was a bit of overkill to have a third party in two and a half months. But this year we really wanted to get back to the tradition. And what a party it was! We had about sixteen of our nearest and dearest pass through at one point or another in the evening, and the general consensus seemed to be that Serdic and I give good party. And the food. Oh, the food. Serdic spent two days baking and cooking and chopping and prepping and there was something to tempt every palate. A good time was had by all, I think.

Today we did some shopping and I finished addressing my Christmas cards, so I'm hoping to drop them in the mail tomorrow. And now Serdic is packing, as his work is sending him to Texas for two weeks, starting tomorrow. Miss Bella is "helping" him pack.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Stop and look around

As that modern philosopher Ferris Bueller once said, "life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." Serdic and I agreed at the beginning of November that life was moving pretty fast these days, and only going to get crazier the closer we got to Christmas, so we made a pact that the last weekend in November we would do nothing. Accept no invitations, make no plans, agree to no commitments. As all the other weekends in November and December filled up we stuck to our pact and left this one completely free (not quite true, as we went curling with Nail and his lovely wife on Friday evening and my muscles still have not recovered, but that's another story). At first we thought we might try to get away for one of our infamous minibreaks (one of our favourite things to do) but we eventually decided that that would add stress and expense to a weekend we were trying to keep lowkey.

Eventually we decided that what we would like to do was just get out of the city for the day on Saturday, and we settled on Manotick, about a twenty minute drive from downtown. I have a soft spot for Manotick, as my Grandad was minister at the United Church there for most of my childhood, so we spent a lot of holidays in this pretty little village, but I hadn't been back there in years. So we headed out late morning and spent a lovely couple of hours wandering the streets and in the shops, and then grabbed a late lunch. There was also a Christmas market going on in the old mill (see photo above) so that was a nice treat. We did a drive by of some of my childhood places, too, including Grandad's church (photo to the right) and the house my grandparents lived in on Rideau Bend. I may or may not have teared up seeing the house and remembering all the fun family holidays we spent there. A very special place. We were also blessed, as you can see from the photos, with the most beautiful day we've had in weeks -- blue skies and bright sunshine. It was a delightful treat.

Sunday we lounged about until late afternoon, when we decided we should really bring the tree in from the garage before it got dark and the forecasted winter storm hit. After dinner we put it together and spent a lovely couple of hours decorating. I had put up most of the non-tree things through this week, so the tree was the finishing touch. It's twinkling away in the corner of our living room now, and it makes me smile every time I catch sight of it. A bit early, perhaps, but I'm truly in the Christmas spirit now, and looking forward to December, even as it promises to get crazier and crazier. I tried to take some pictures of the tree and other decorations, but I haven't gotten any really nice ones yet. I'll keep trying. I love my new(ish) camera, but I'm still figuring it out!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Instead of a real update ...

Stolen from Kiy. You're supposed to bold the things on the list that you have done. Lessee.

1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band if a high school and military concert band count
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland/world
8. Climbed a mountain I've stood on the top of mountains but I've always gotten there by cable car, so I'm not sure I can bold this one
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies We call 'em Girl Guides, but it's the same thing
62. Gone whale watching
63. Gotten flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in Arlington Cemetery
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House if by this they mean seen it from the outside; I've never been inside
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox At Christmas, no less!
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Urban Encounters

I've noticed a higher than usual percentage of people in the last few days who don't understand the universal "I don't want to talk to you" signals ... namely, if I am sitting on the bus or at a bus stop and I have iPod earbuds in my ears and am reading a book, I am not interested in having a conversation with random strangers. I don't mind exchanging "good morning"s or smiles, but beyond that I'd really rather read my book. And no, talking to you about what book I'm reading is not the same thing. I must have a friendly or unthreatening face or something, because I often have people approach me for directions, information, or just to have a friendly chat, even when I'm in an unfamiliar city. Two nights ago I was waiting for my bus home after work and a lady at the bus stop struck up a conversation about how it is the time of year when the buses start getting unreliable and as soon as the snow flies you won't be able to count on anything running on time and did I know what time it was because it was getting late and so on and so forth. I smiled and nodded and commiserated and checked my watch for her, all the while watching two of the three buses that service that stop pass by, exactly on time. Then my bus, the third of three, arrived (also on time) and I got on ... and realized she was still standing at the stop. So I don't know what bus she thought she was waiting for, but I don't think the unreliability of the buses was the biggest issue.

Yesterday morning on the bus the guy sitting next to me wanted to know what music I was listening to, and did I enjoy that kind of music, and he thought he should get an iPod and would I recommend them, and did I often listen to my iPod on the bus, and wasn't it getting cold, and he felt like we were the bad kids at the back of the classroom (we were sitting in the last row of seats on the bus) and on and on and on. I smiled and nodded and made non-committal "mmmmm" noises and avoided eye contact (not able to bring myself to actually be rude to someone who was just trying to be friendly), but he didn't get the hint. Sigh.

In other news, J and I did very much enjoy the production of Midsummer Night's Dream we saw last week. It was stunning visually, with lots of acrobatics and dance and vivid costuming. I have seen the play several times and studied it in university so I wasn't worried about following the story despite large chunks performed in other languages, but J wasn't familiar with the story so I was a bit worried about her. However, she said while she missed a few of the details she had no problem following what was happening, and it was kind of like going to the opera where even if you don't understand the language the picture being painted is more important. We are lucky to have such a wide variety of theatre in Ottawa (one of the reasons I chose to move here), and I'm really glad that J and I have subscribed to this series for the last two seasons. Some plays have been duds, sure, but I'm seeing a lot of very interesting theatre, and a lot of shows I wouldn't have bought tickets to on their own, but will see as part of the package.

It was a busy weekend, what with a dinner party at S&V's Friday night (very yummy Indian dishes and a cute baby to play with -- what could be better?), a performance by one of my choirs on Saturday night, and hosting the-always-a-blast girls' night on Sunday. As always, I am reminded that we have wonderful friends and are blessed to have so many people in our lives that we enjoy spending time with.

And now J and I are just in the beginning stages of planning a "girls' trip" to visit PetDoc and Noise in April. I just finished paying off the last one!!!

I know I always say this, but never a dull moment around here. And that's the way we like it.

Oh, and that music I was listening to on my iPod that I mentioned at the beginning of this post? Christmas music. I have a sickness.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Sunday night musings

Why is it that I am 32 years old, living with the man I plan to marry, I'm working a good, stable job, I hold two university degrees, I have savings in the bank and a retirement fund ... and it's when we're making a trip to Costco that I really feel like a grown up??? So weird.

It's been a pretty quiet weekend, after the excitement of last weekend (my mom was up for a visit and we had tickets to Skate Canada which was hosted this year by fair Ottawa -- I have a blog entry half written on that subject but haven't had time to finish it yet ... hopefully this week!). Serdic and I did make our inaugural visit to the gym ... wow, I'm out of shape. And wimpy. But the first step of any journey is the hardest, right? I can report that I went shopping yesterday (I spent way too much money but I couldn't resist the cutest coat!) and am back down to my "normal" size after moving up one size a few months ago. So that's a good sign. Now the next step is to have a new "normal."

We had a fun evening on Thursday -- our last set of tickets in the Broadway series at the NAC was for Spamalot, which is described as "lovingly ripped off" from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. What a hoot. I've never seen the movie, but I have seen a (highly illegal) video of the Broadway production (don't tell anyone!), plus I own the cast recording and have listened to it countless times, so I knew we were in for a rollicking good time. And it was. Very well performed by seasoned professionals, and it's hard to go wrong with that material! I was saying to Serdic as we were leaving that men like John Cleese, Eric Idle, Michael Palin, etc. are funny enough on their own, but how lucky the world is that they found each other and were able to create the things they did together. Good times.

So now we're at the beginning of another week. This one is a little less normal than usual, as I'm off on Tuesday for Remembrance Day, and singing in a concert that night. I also have plans for every night this week, including seeing yet another play at the NAC on Thursday, this time with my friend J. Crazily enough we were supposed to it this past Thursday but, as the last paragraph states, Serdic and I already had tickets to Spamalot for that date. What are the chances that I would end up with tickets to two different productions at the NAC on the same night? Fortunately J was able to get our tickets changed. This is a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream which looks just fascinating -- it's an acting troupe from India and the performance will be in English, Hindi, Sanskrit, Bengali and several other languages. Good thing I already know the basic plot!

And after Remembrance Day we can officially start the Christmas countdown. I'd be lying if I said I hadn't started my shopping already, and just today I picked up wrapping paper and cards at Costco. Woo hoo! My favourite time of the year, coming up. I wonder if I can wait until the end of the month to break out the music and decorations???

Friday, October 24, 2008

Not dead yet

Ok, ok, so I know I've been a bad blogger. It's just really easy to slip out of the habit and hard to get back in. But here I am. Some updates and information that might possibly be of interest, in no particular order:

1) I got my Visa refund this morning for those Zoom airlines tickets I had bought for our trip. It's awfully nice to see the Visa balance back at $0.00. I have had a longstanding issue with my credit card and overspending with it, and spent nearly ten years drowning in credit card debt, so last February when I inherited the money from my grandma one of the things I was determined to do was pay off my outstanding balance and keep it under control from now on. And I was very proud of the fact that I have paid off my Visa in full every month since. So it's been strangely upsetting for me to see that couple of thousand dollars sitting there on my statement, even though I knew it wasn't my "fault" and the refund was coming. I was actually really surprised by how much it bothered me, given how long I spent with a much higher balance than that being what seemed to be permanently on my statement. I think it bodes well, though, for my financial future if I can keep that "no outstanding balance" mindset!

2) I am officially down ten pounds since the autumn started. I am pleased with this progress, although of course I'd like to take off more (that would actually involve doing something about it, instead of just cutting back on the chips a little bit and taking the stairs once in awhile!). Serdic and I have agreed that starting November 1 (that's when his membership kicks in) we are going to go to the gym together at least twice a week, which I am really hopeful will be a good step for both of us. My major problem with getting to the gym is one of convenience, and it's really easy to talk myself out of it when there's so much else going on in my life, but the only time I worked out consistently was when I had a workout partner (in my case a personal trainer who I was paying a LOT of money!), so I think knowing I'm supposed to go with Serdic will help me get my butt in gear, and will actually give us some "us" time which sometimes seems in short supply, even though we live in the same apartment. This is something we both know we need to do, so I think together we can keep motivated.

3) Autumn also marks the beginning of the choir season, and things are in full swing with both choirs, which keeps me busy! As always I don't promote all of my concerts on here, but I do want to highlight the next one coming up, a Remembrance Day concert. It's a program of all Canadian composers and arrangers, and there is some absolutely gorgeous material on the program. Here are the details:



Lest we forget.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Picture this

So, uh, I took a few pictures.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Journey's End

We have returned to Ottawa safe and sound. Also, exhausted. But I just wanted to post briefly and let everyone know that we are home. Our trip home was uneventful and straightforward, just the way we like them.

We both loved Scotland and have many stories to tell. In total (the whole trip) I took just over 1100 pictures. I will share SOME of them asap. But right now I am going to crash. I may sleep all day tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Great Scot!

Just a very quick post tonight to say that we are off to Scotland bright and early tomorrow morning. I don't think we'll have internet access while we're there, so don't worry if you don't see a post from either of us for a couple of days. We'll be back Friday evening, and then back to Ottawa on Saturday.

Today we went to Greenwich and stood on the prime meridian, one foot in the west hemisphere and one in the east. Pretty cool.

Full reports and details coming soon. Hope everyone is well.

Monday, September 15, 2008

It's a henge! Made of stone!

Today PetDoc and Noise had to go back to work (suckers!) so Serdic and I decided to get out of the city for a day, and we did a side trip to Salisbury and Stonehenge. I had been before, but not for nearly 15 years, and Serdic had never been, so we decided it would be a worthy way to spend the day. We took the train from London to Salisbury (a journey of about an hour and a half), then caught the "Stonehenge Tour" (of course) by bus to Stonehenge.

Stonehenge is a really interesting and awe-inspiring place. I know many people who say it's just a pile of rocks, but I find it endlessly fascinating. Why is it there? What were the people who built it like? What did it mean to them? They obviously put so much effort and care into building it, but what was it for? Whatever it means, it is a striking sight and we spent a lovely hour circling the stones and examining them from all angles.

We caught the next bus back to Salisbury where we found a 13th century pub for lunch, The Haunch of Venison (gotta love those Ye Olde British Pub names). We had a fantastic lunch -- I had shepherd's pie and Serdic had a chargrilled pork loin with bubble and squeak (!) and a cranberry jus. Delicious.

After lunch we wandered down High Street to Salisbury Cathedral. The cathedral is famous for having the tallest spire in the UK, and it certainly is a beautiful building, situated in a large green space that sets it off to perfection. We spent a lovely hour exploring the church, including the chapter house where one of the four original copies of the Magna Carta is displayed. Eventually we wandered back to the train station and caught a late afternoon train back to London, arriving back in time to have take away fish and chips with PetDoc (Noise had to work late). All in all it was a lovely day. We have been blessed with wonderful weather so far (knock on wood) -- sunny and warm (without being too hot) nearly every day. I even have a bit of a sunburn on my face -- funny that I had to come to England to get too much sun!

I am also told that it is my responsibility to blog about the concert we attended last night, as Serdic fears he wouldn't be able to do it justice. I think that will have to wait for my next entry, as this one is long enough, but let's just say that last night we stood in a crowd of 30,000 people and sang Happy Birthday to Andrew Lloyd Webber. It was awesome.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Buckingham stops here

I'm really kicking myself for leaving my camera cord at home, as I'm taking some really lovely photos and wish I could share them. I guess that'll just have to wait until we get home. I promise not to post more than 500 or so.

We had a lovely day today, and got to spend the whole day with PetDoc and Noise, which was of course the best part. We started with a tour of Buckingham Palace, which I thoroughly enjoyed. It was really neat to see all those places I'm familiar with through tv and photos, and to really take in the grandeur of the place. The set up for a grand state dinner was especially interesting ... PetDoc asked me how we get invited to one of those!

After leaving the palace we took the tube over to London Bridge, and walked across the bridge (Noise sang the song for us) to the south bank of the Thames. We found a fun little pub (The Bunch of Grapes) where we had DELICIOUS steak and ale pies, then wandered the Borough Market for awhile, seeing lots of fun things for sale. We also popped into Southwark Cathedral for a quick visit -- I was interested in the cathedral mostly because it's where Shakespeare attended services, but it was also a beautiful building and an oasis of quiet and peace in the middle of the very busy market.

Then we walked a ways down the south bank of the river to the Millennium Bridge, a pedestrian bridge across the Thames. We crossed the river on this bridge, giving us a stunning view of St. Paul's at the other end, and up and down the river to all the sights. The sun had come out at this point (it was grey and cool earlier) and it was just a beautiful, interesting walk. PetDoc and Noise hadn't been on the bridge either, so it was a first for them! I didn't want them to spend the whole time we were here "re-doing" stuff, so I'm glad they saved some stuff (like Buckingham Palace this morning and the Tower of London tomorrow) to do with us!

So now Serdic is cooking dinner in PetDoc and Noise's little flat, and I think we're going to eat out in the garden. So I'd better get going. Hope everyone is well!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Rule Britannia

Just a short note to say that we have arrived safely in London. Our trip was slightly more eventful than hoped, as our flight was delayed two hours leaving Ottawa and therefore late getting into London, and we had to wait in line at customs for ninety minutes, but once we collected our bags and made it out into the arrivals area where PetDoc was waiting for us, things picked up considerably. We had a quiet day yesterday, just hanging out with PetDoc and Noise, exploring their neighbourhood a little bit, and having our first meal of "pub grub" (bangers and mash).

Today Serdic and I did the big London tour, starting at Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament, and walking to St. Paul's, via Trafalgar Square. Lots of walking, lots of quintessential London sights and moments. We are a bit tired tonight, but it was a lovely day and we really feel like we're in London now.

I unfortunately forgot to bring the cord for my camera, so any photos will have to wait until we get home. But rest assured, I have taken many! :-)

Tomorrow we are touring Buckingham Palace, and then going wherever our feet take us. Hopefully it won't rain!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Counting down

Well, the countdown to our trip officially begins today -- we leave one week from tonight (and the Air Canada replacement tickets appeared on my visa statement today, so I guess we really are booked!). I am getting very excited, although I still have a lot left on my To Do list! I am most excited, of course, about seeing PetDoc and Noise. I have missed them dreadfully over the last few months and am very much looking forward to having some time with them and seeing their new "space." This will also be the first major trip Serdic and I have taken together (we have had long weekends in a variety of places, but this will be our first real vacation together) so I am very much looking forward to the experiences we are going to share in one of my favourite cities in the world.

This trip is deliberately being planned to not be planned, if that makes sense. Usually when I go on vacation I have a schedule and an itinerary mapped out for each day, and while I'm a big fan of allowing time for serendipity to take hold and going with the flow, I also like to have a basic idea of what I want to see and where I want to go in order to make the most of my (usually very limited) time in any given city. This time, though, we are planning very little in advance and instead are hoping to each day just pick an area of the city and explore. I have been to London several times and so have done all the big "touristy" stuff, and that's not the stuff that interests Serdic anyway (he much prefers getting off the beaten track and wandering) so we're hoping to really sink our teeth into the city and not be typical tourists.

We do have a couple of things booked and planned. On the Saturday morning all four of us (me, Serdic, PetDoc and Noise) are going to take a tour of Buckingham Palace. I'm a huge royalty buff (although I prefer the history, not the current lot) so I'm looking forward to this. I have, of course, seen Buckingham Palace from the outside several times, but this tour is only available a couple of months a year (usually when the Queen is elsewhere) so this is the first time I've had the chance to go inside.

I think the thing I'm most looking forward to, though, is the concert the four of us will be attending Sunday evening. There's going to be a celebration of Andrew Lloyd Webber's 60th birthday in Hyde Park, complete with performances by some of my favourite theatre people and followed by fireworks. Andrew Lloyd Webber's shows were in many way responsible for sparking my love of theatre and so I have great affection for him in all his wackiness, and the concert should be a grand time.

We also are planning a couple of nights in Edinburgh later in the week. Again we don't have a long list of "must see" items, we mostly want to just wander and get a feel for the city. We do have a day trip booked to Loch Ness ... not so much to look for the monster but because we wanted to get out of the city and see the Highlands, and this tour was an economical and interesting way to do that without renting a car. Also, Rick Steves recommended it, and anyone who has traveled with me knows that I always do what Rick tells me. So I'm really looking forward to adding a new city to my list, and I have my suspicions it will become one of my favourites.

So lots of excitement and planning going on. Given the airline drama of last week I will still worry a little until we are actually sitting on a plane somewhere over the Atlantic (and until I am actually in possession of a refund for the Zoom tickets!), but so far, it seems like everything is a go. And I can't wait!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Changing gears

So this morning my horoscope said "Sudden challenges present themselves. Be prepared to change gears at the drop of a hat." Which is funny, if you know that I spent most of yesterday afternoon dealing with the sudden and complete collapse of Zoom airlines ... the airline upon which Serdic and I had booked our flights to and from London (leaving in less than two weeks). It was a bit of a scramble, but I was eventually able to book flights on the same dates with Air Canada (for $200 more per person!) and I think we are still all systems go for our trip. I was not expecting to have to spend an extra $2000 yesterday, and I am very fortunate that between us we were able to make the snap decisions and do the financial juggling necessary to make it happen (cell phones and online banking with joint accounts -- what a world!*). It really brought home for me how much my financial situation has changed in the last year ... there was a time not so long ago when coming up with $2000 on the spur of the moment would simply not have been possible, and we would have had to cancel the trip, or at least postpone it until the refund from Zoom was processed (Visa promises me that they will get my money back, but it will have to be after the scheduled dates of travel, after Zoom "fails to provide the service," so things will be a little tight until then, but it's doable).

*On a side note I am constantly amazed by how much money passes through my bank accounts every month without ever actually physically being money. My paycheque is deposited automatically, all bills are paid online, 99% of the shopping is done with debit/credit cards, my savings accounts are all automatic contributions online. I try to imagine sometimes what life would be like if we were still bartering livestock for services rendered! Now I go whole weeks without even seeing any physical, tangible money. (If only I could go whole weeks without spending any!)

So, as always, never a dull moment. This Zoom thing is a hiccup, but it seems to be sorting itself out and we are fortunate that we are in a position where we can make alternate arrangements (and are not stranded in another city trying to get home). Many people are less fortunate than we, and I try to remember that. Even as I was cursing and throwing things yesterday.

But I sure hope no more "sudden challenges" are on the horizon.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

A picture's worth a thousand words

We've been enjoying some beautiful weather here in fair Ottawa (finally, after what has been an extremely rainy and cold summer) and Serdic and I have been trying to get out for walks as much as possible, both to take advantage of the nice weather and to get in shape for England (lots of walking!). Also, I want to play with my new camera. So here are some photos I've taken over the last couple of weeks ... click on the "all sizes" option above each photo to see it larger, and you can get a good sense of the clarity and quality of photo this camera takes. I am very pleased with it so far, and I don't even really know how it works yet!

Check them out here.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Random thoughts

So Serdic tagged me in a meme. 6 Random Things, huh? Let's see.

1) I believe in ghosts. Not to say I necessarily believe in white sheet draped creatures swooping through haunted houses, but I believe that the spirits of people who are extremely attached to a certain place for one reason or another can continue to inhabit that place after the person has died. Someday I'll have to tell the story of my own encounter with a ghost! (I keep trying to turn it into a novel, but that's still a very nebulous dream at the moment.)

2) One of the great loves of my life is musical theatre. Not as a performer (my last appearance on stage was at the age of eight, in a production of The Sound of Music) but as an audience member. There's no place on earth I'd rather be than in a theatre as the lights go down and the orchestra strikes up the overture. Heaven on earth. Next February will mark the tenth anniversary of my first trip to New York and my first Broadway show (also The Sound of Music, coincidentally) but I love theatre in all its forms, from tiny little high school productions to community theatre to professional big budget spectacles. On one trip to NYC in November 2001 my friend Stacy and I saw five shows in 48 hours (Friday 8 p.m., Saturday 2 p.m., Saturday 5 p.m., Saturday 8 p.m., and Sunday 2 p.m.) and on Saturday as we literally ran from theatre to theatre I remarked to Stacy that I thought this is probably what heaven is like. You get up from one show, run down the street to the next theatre, settle in and they perform a fantastic show for you, then you get up and run down the street to the next theatre and do it all again. I have very fond memories of that trip, and of every show I've ever seen.

3) I'm having trouble coming up with six things, so I asked Serdic what I should say. "What do you find random about me?" I asked. "Everything, dear," was the reply.

4) I can never answer those "what's your favourite book" questions. I always have sixty-two answers, depending on my mood. I have lots of old friends that I come back to time and time again, but I can never choose just one. At this time I have four books on the go, three I have never read before, and one old friend. Oh, and also the People magazine that I picked up yesterday.

5) I am a very bad packrat. I keep EVERYTHING. It is a sickness.

6) I present six random photos taken with my new camera yesterday (have I mentioned how much I love my new camera? Because I do. A lot.):


I don't think I have six people to tag, but I'll tag Cupcake, PetDoc, Noise (they share a blog but they can make separate entries!), BluffDwellers, and Charlotte. Feel free to play along if you like, and if you don't, that's ok too!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Defy gravity

Well, it's been quite a week. Thanks to everyone for their birthday wishes on Wednesday -- I had a perfect birthday and felt showered with love and good thoughts. I am very blessed to have so many wonderful people in my life, and it was a nice day to remind me of that. My parents were up for the day, as they were flying out of Ottawa that evening to visit PetDoc and Noise in London (we go in 26 days! wheee!), and my grandmother (whose birthday I am honoured to share) and my Aunt C came along as well. We had a lovely lunch out at one of my favourite restaurants, and Serdic was even able to slip away from work long enough to join us for lunch. After lunch we retired back to our apartment for cake (Serdic's famous cheesecake) and a visit, then I took the folks to the airport and saw them off to London. After dinner I went to a choir rehearsal (one of my choirs is singing at the Ottawa SuperEx next week, so we had a quick rehearsal to brush up some of last season's repertoire) and got to make music with my friends, one of my favourite things in the world to do. All in all, a great day.

I was also spoiled rotten, as usual. My big present this year was a joint effort between Serdic and my parents -- a digital SLR camera. It is quite a camera, I have to say. Definitely a huge step up from my old one, and, I'm not ashamed to admit, more than a little daunting. There are just so many dials and buttons and numbers that don't (yet) mean anything to me. Serdic decided I needed a better camera after I had those photos noticed online for the Quebec exhibition and the online travel guide. I do think, without blowing my own horn too much, that I do have a fairly good natural eye for photography, and I definitely enjoy it, and so Serdic decided it was time I had better equipment to work with. This camera is definitely that, and very intimidating, but I'm really looking forward to figuring out all the bells and whistles and learning how to take even better photographs. I'm hoping to get out and about a lot over the next few weeks so I can figure this thing out before we go to England!

I was given lots of other generous and thoughtful gifts, of course, and I am grateful for them all, but I just want to mention one other one. It is well known in my circle that Strongbow (English cider) is my drink of choice when we go out, and everytime we go to a pub where they serve it in Strongbow branded glasses, I lust after them and wonder if I can get away with smuggling them out in my purse. So my friend Pixie called around (by which I pretty sure she meant badgered and pleaded) all the pubs in Ottawa until she found one willing to sell her four. So now I have my own set of Strongbow glasses. Isn't that cool?

The festivities continued last night as Serdic and I attended a performance of Wicked at the NAC. I have wanted to see Wicked for at least five years now, so I was very excited when it was announced it was coming to Ottawa, and even more so when we got tickets for my birthday week. And the show last night did not disappoint. For those who are not familiar with it, the show is based on a novel by Gregory Maguire which presents an idea of what the Wicked Witch of the West's side of the story might be, and how she came to be "wicked." The score is one of my favourite scores written for the theatre in the recent past, and it was performed beautifully last night. All of the actors were strong and the production values were top notch. The act one finale, "Defying Gravity," was for a long time a sort of theme song for me (I particularly liked the line "And if I'm flying solo, at least I'm flying free") and last night it blew me away. The special effects in that number (I won't give it away) are stunning as well. All in all I loved it and never wanted it to end, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys theatre (it's playing here for the next two weeks).

I'll leave you with a few photos taken with my new camera, a couple of Miss Bella, and a few of the lovely flower arrangement Serdic's parents sent me for my birthday (isn't that sweet?).







Monday, August 11, 2008

Further Traffic Follies, and other adventures

Would you believe I was involved in a second fender bender last week (on Thursday)? This time I was not driving, I was on the bus, but the bus bumped the car in front of him at a red light (the bus driver appeared to think the car driver had an opportunity to turn right, and didn't take it, so he laid on the horn and then inched forward bit by bit until ... bump). The car driver was (rightfully so, I think) irritated by this (there was no damage to his car, but it is the principle of the thing) and insisted on having a supervisor and the police called, so we all had to pile off the bus and wait for the next one.

The kicker? When I got off the bus and took a good look at what was happening, I realized that the guy in the car? Was our downstairs neighbour! What are the odds? I stayed out of it at the time, and haven't seen him since, but I am dying to ask him how the situation was resolved.

I offered to stay home on Friday, as I felt it was only right for me to stay off the roads, as my traffic jinx appeared to be extending to my friends and neighbours. It was suggested here at work that we could have a new national holiday, and call it The Singer National Safety Day. Everyone stays off the roads, and we all win. Good plan, no?

In other news, thanks to everyone for their support and suggestions on my recent weight loss/get in shape resolution. I am happy to report that I have lost four pounds in the last two weeks. I realize that the first ten pounds are the easy part, with the water weight and all the rest, but it's a step in the right direction. I have been taking my lunch every day, taking the stairs at work, and making some different choices in the grocery store/restaurants. It's starting to pay off, at least a little. I am now on the hunt for suggestions for exercises I can do at home -- I bought an exercise ball and a set of resistance bands, and while they came with suggested exercises I'd like to mix it up a little bit as well. Any thoughts?

Four weeks until we leave for England! Woot!

Monday, August 4, 2008

It must be Monday

So it's been a hell of a day already, and it's not even 9:30. Sigh. Where to start? Perhaps with the cats and other beasts who kept us up all night ... not our cat, but the one(s?) from next door, who are allowed to roam free. Last night they got into it not once, not twice, but at least three times with something else (I think it was raccoons, but I'm not sure), apparently over garbage can rights (they were knocking the cans around). Every time I had just drifted off to sleep the caterwauling (what a perfect word) began again, driving our own cat crazy (she was plastered to the window for most of the night, begging us to let her out) and making us come awake with a start. Then I would just get settled back down and my heart would stop racing and I would drift off to sleep and ... again. Our next door neighbours appear to be trying to turn their backyard into some kind of nature reserve (I think it just looks overgrown and messy, but what do I know?) and they have a backyard full of wildlife, birds, and their own cats (at least two different ones I've seen, there may be more). One night recently my friend S dropped me off after a girls' night and as we sat in the car chatting we saw both a skunk and a family of raccoons waddle across the road and disappear into the wilderness of the neighbours' backyard. So, you know, enjoying nature and wildlife is not a bad thing (although I would have more respect for their efforts if they weren't doing serious damage to the earth in other ways, like the vehicles they have rusting away in their backyard, but I digress) but if you want to establish a wildlife preserve in your backyard perhaps downtown Ottawa isn't the best place for you to be living?

Anyway. So I finally rolled out of bed this morning and headed out to work. Serdic is off today (the Ontario civic holiday, but as I work in Quebec I don't get it off) so I had the rare pleasure of taking the car (driving instead of taking the bus slashes my commute by 40 minutes, so it is a nice treat). And I was enjoying my drive immensely until I was rear ended at a red light -- I was turning right, stopped to yield to oncoming traffic (since I had, you know, the red light), and the guy behind me didn't stop. Sigh. Fortunately, no damage was done to either car, or driver (although I'm feeling a bit stiff and sore now, but I imagine that's just the tension), so we just got back in our cars and went on our way.

Arrived at work still a little shaken and spent ten minutes looking for parking -- the city has been slowly chipping away all the available parking around our building. The closest municipal lot has been closed (and is being torn up), the next closest has been changed to a park and ride for the bus system, and is by monthly permit only. All of the street parking is by permit only. Our building doesn't provide any day use parking, it is all by monthly permit as well. I finally found a municipal lot a ten minute walk away, where the meter ate up all my available change (usually those things have a credit card slot, but this one didn't). Fortunately it's a nice day and I can use the exercise so the walk is not really an issue, but it was just one more frustration this morning (and one more frustration in general about working in this location, but that's a rant for another time).

So I got to my desk, called Serdic to tell him about the car (like I said, no damage, but I wanted to check in with him), and promptly burst into tears as soon as I heard his voice. Sigh. After a good cry and chat with him and another cup of coffee, though, I'm feeling a little better and ready to start work. And the best news? Is that Monday only comes once a week.

When I was little, one of my favourite books was Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Poor Alexander has a terrible day where nothing goes right, and he keeps threatening to move to Australia. At the very end of the story his mother reminds him that "some days are like that, even in Australia."

Just call me Alexander today.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Time to face the music

It started slowly. A pair of pants with a snap that wouldn't stay done up, a little tightness here, a gaping button there. I wasn't going to the gym regularly. I was eating out too much. I was snacking too much (on the wrong things) at home. I knew all these things, but I was in denial that it was actually making that big a difference. Then I went shopping with my friend D this weekend. And everything I bought had to be a size larger than the last time I went clothes shopping. And this morning, I got on the scale, for the first time in months. And had to come face to face with the knowledge that I have gained 15 pounds in the last year, and am now officially at my heaviest weight ever.

Sigh.

So I can no longer ignore or deny the facts. I know what happened and why. I know what I need to do to start fixing it (eat less, move more -- it's not rocket science). But it's easier said than done, of course. Anyone who has ever struggled with their weight knows that. One of my biggest issues with losing weight is that a lot of my identity is tied up in the weight. I'm the fat girl. It provides me with excuses, it provides me with justifications, it provides me with reasons for behaviours and attitudes. I think about it every day. It's always with me, every time I look in the mirror. I've been big for so long, I don't know who I am without the weight. So as much as I'd like to lose it, I always find myself sabotaging efforts to do so, because it's about more than the weight. It's about who I am, and who I want to be.

So we start small. Change one thing at a time, Serdic tells me. I have a couple of goals in mind -- we leave in six weeks (yay!) for our visit with PetDoc and Noise, and I want to be in better shape by then. I want to be able to climb hills in Edinburgh without needing half an hour to recover after each one (I am informed that Edinburgh is very hilly). So I am taking the stairs at work instead of the elevator, and going for a walk at lunch time. I bought some exercise equipment so I can do light work outs at home in the evenings (getting back to the gym regularly is not something that is going to happen right now, but it is in my long term plan once some other things settle down). My other more long term goal is a hypothetical totally-not-being-planned-yet happy event that might happen sometime in the not too distant future. I want to enjoy that time, and feel and look my best. I know I will no matter what weight and size I am, but it's something to think about.

I'll never be skinny. I'm not built that way, and I enjoy food too much to count every calorie that goes in my mouth. But I make a lot of unhealthy choices, and I need to make fewer of them. Break some of those habits and form new ones. That's really want it boils down to. Skinny is not my goal. Healthy is.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Random updates

As I keep saying, never a dull moment around here. As you may have read elsewhere, Serdic was offered a new job last week and has accepted it. He will finish out this month at his old place of employment and will be starting up the new job after the August long weekend. To say that we are delighted would be an understatement. I'm very proud of him -- this is something he really wanted and he went after it with determination and confidence, and he got it. It will mean some changes for us, but life would be boring without change, no? And knowing he is somewhere where he is happy and challenged and valued will make all the difference.

We were down home for a quick visit this weekend, to celebrate my Aunt C's birthday and have some time out on my parents' new (to them) boat (purchased last fall at the end of the boating season). The boat has been the source of some worry lately, as it needed some repairs and a great chunk of the summer (prime boating time!) has been lost with the boat sitting in the shop, but she's running beautifully now and my parents are making up for lost time. We had a beautiful afternoon/evening out on her on Saturday, and I even got a swim in the river (that's how I really know it's summer!).

I also discovered the joy that is skype this weekend, and got to spend some time talking to PetDoc and Noise via webcam. Wow. What a wild and wacky thing that was. We even rigged it up so that they could be part of Aunt C's birthday party, with PetDoc looming in the corner of the family room on Mom and Dad's big screen tv. Freaky. It was my first time "seeing" them since they moved, though, so it was pretty awesome. We are definitely counting the days until our trip to London (49!).

And coming back Sunday night I was attacked by a vicious cold and have been, in Serdic's words, Sicky McSickerson ever since. I'm back at work today, but moving slow and my coworkers are giving me a wide berth. Blergh.

So I think that's all the news that's fit to print. For now, anyway.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Busy weekend

This has been a great weekend. I would hesitate, however, to say it has been a relaxing one. ;-) After a long week at work, Friday night we went down to Bluesfest (Ottawa's largest annual music festival, although they really lost the "Blues" part a long time ago, so they really should look into changing the name) to hear my beloved Great Big Sea boys perform (see above -- GBS are most decidedly not "blues" -- not that I'm complaining!). This was my 5th time hearing GBS and they never fail to delight. They have so much energy and so clearly love what they do, and that translates into a wonderful experience for the audience. The thing I love the most about GBS's music is that it is always hopeful. It's not always happy, but it's never angry or unpleasant. Their message is always one of enjoying the day you've been given, counting your blessings, and taking pleasure in the simple moments in life. Sometimes life is hard, but there's always something to be grateful for and the hope that it'll get better. That's an attitude I try to have in my own life and so their music really speaks to me.

I have to admit that this was not my favourite time I've seen them ... not because of anything the boys did (other than that they were promoting their new album, so some of their songs weren't as familiar to me, but they played all the classics as well, and the new stuff is great) but just because of the set up of Bluesfest. Serdic and I both might have been overheard to remark more than once that we're too old for this. 50,000 people in a field, with beer cheap and plentiful ... not my favourite way to attend a concert. It has to be a band I really, really want to see and hear (GBS fits that criteria, obviously) but I'm not good in crowds -- I find the pushing and shoving and drunkeness very distracting, and it takes away from my enjoyment of the music. We met up with a friend who has been "Bluesfesting" all week and she said that Friday night she would be seeing her 29th, 30th and 31st bands, and all I could think was "why would anyone want to do that?" Of course, I do lots of things that I suppose other people think are crazy, so if she's enjoying it more power to her.

Saturday morning we had a bit of a late start (and I had no voice until noon!), but after a late breakfast we packed up the car and headed to Wakefield, Quebec, for a mini-getaway. SerdMom and SerdDad had stayed at the Wakefield Mill inn recently and really enjoyed it, so we decided to do the same. Wakefield is great in that it's only a 40 minute drive from downtown Ottawa, but you really feel like you've gone somewhere different. It's a little community with the usual artists and cafes and gift shops you find in a "tourist" town, in a beautiful setting right on the Gatineau river. We were only gone from Ottawa for 24 hours (we came back after lunch today) but it really feels like we went "away" for a longer time than that.

The highlight of the whole excursion was definitely dinner last night (included with our package at the inn). The dining room was lovely, overlooking the falls that used to power the mill when it was in operation, and we had a two and a half hour culinary feast. It started with an "amuse bouche" of wasabi sour cream over julienned cucumber with toasted sesame. Then as an appetizer I had cream of asparagus soup and Serdic had breaded goat cheese with a yam and roasted almond chutney. Both were yummy -- the soup was divine and I was glad Serdic ordered the goat cheese as I love it, but a little goes a long way for me (it's so rich!) and this way I could just have a couple bites. After this course they brought us a shot to cleanse the palate -- cranberry juice, coconut juice and rum. Yum. The main course was beef tenderloin with a herbed bread pudding in roasted shallot sauce for me, bison shank wrapped in endive (and we weren't sure what all else) for Serdic. The tenderloin was perfect ... I could literally pull it apart with my fork and barely needed a knife, and Serdic all but licked his plate clean so I guess he enjoyed his meal as well. ;-) Dessert was a chocolate mousse cake type thingie, with a banana rum puree, and fresh fruit. Throughout, the service and presentation were impeccable, and we thoroughly enjoyed every minute. As, it was clear, everyone else in the restaurant was doing. It's always great to sit in a room where you know everyone is enjoying themselves and their meals. It's a great atmosphere.

The room at the inn was the weak point in our stay, as it was quite small and under the sloped roof (we both hit our heads repeatedly, and neither of us is all that tall!). I would suggest to friends and family members wanting to stay at the inn to request a room on the 2nd or 3rd floor, not the 4th. However, it was the last room they had and considering we booked it on a Wednesday for the Saturday of the same week in the middle of July, we weren't expecting the best room in the house. We have stayed in nicer rooms for less money, though, so we were slightly disappointed. The dinner, and brunch this morning (also included in our package, and a fantabulous feast), made up for it, though.

So now we are back in the city, getting ready for another week at work. We are hoping to get home next weekend, to have some time with our respective parents and celebrate my Aunt C's birthday with her. Never a dull moment around here, that's for sure!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

C, eh, N, eh, D, eh!

It's official. Serdic and I throw great parties. This evening we hosted a Canada Day party for a few friends and it was a great success, if I do say so myself. I was a little worried because a lot of the people we had invited hadn't met each other before, but everyone clicked very quickly and seemed to enjoy themselves immensely. We decided to take advantage of our new BBQ and so that was the starting point for the meal -- Serdic grilled chicken, salmon, and portobello mushrooms, along with some veggie skewers. I was responsible for the "inside" portion, and made a potato salad, a broccoli salad, and tzatziki as an appetizer. Rounding out the meal were the dishes our lovely friends brought (a pasta salad, strawberries and whipped cream and chocolate chip cookies for dessert, lots of fresh veggies and fruit) and we all stuffed ourselves.

I was particularly proud of the potato salad, as it was my first time attempting such a thing. It has been a long standing family tradition that I ask for my grandmother's potato salad at any meal taking place between May and October, and it is understood that I get the first helping and have first dibs on any leftovers. So when we decided to host a barbeque I knew I had to try to carry on the tradition. I called her last night and got the recipe, and was surprised by how simple it was. I was expecting some grand secret ingredient (Serdic tells me that ingredient is "love," but he's corny like that) but it was surprisingly easy. I won't say that it was AS good as my grandmother's, but I was very pleased with it all the same. That recipe is definitely a keeper.

It was a little weird not to be downtown, in the heart of the action so to speak, for Canada Day, as I have been for the last four years. There are times when I really miss living downtown and today was one of them. Although I don't miss the crowds and the noise. But I did miss standing out on my balcony watching the fireworks. We talked about going downtown to watch them but by the time our guests left we were pooped. A long day of cooking and cleaning will do that to a person! We're definitely getting better at this dinner party thing ... we have our timing down to a science now, and we are even learning how to share the kitchen (a hard fought battle)! This was our first time actually serving dinner to this many people at once and it went surprisingly well. We're lucky in that we both enjoy entertaining and we like to share the tasks involved. It's something we do particularly well as a couple -- we were both good at it individually, and we're even better at it together.

Happy Canada Day, everyone!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

BBQ Fever

It's that time of year. All across the country BBQs are getting hauled out of storage and fired up. A friend commented recently as she arrived for movie night that our "entire neighbourhood smells like BBQ." It's one of the rituals of summer, I guess. There's just nothing that says summer quite like the smell of grilling meat and charcoal. Yum. We've certainly been invited to several parties recently that centered around food grilled on the BBQ, and thoroughly enjoyed each one. This past weekend both of my choirs had their end of season parties (fortunately on different days!), and we were particularly lucky in that the weather cleared for a couple of days. It rained every day last week and both parties were in doubt for a little while, but it was beautiful all weekend. The rain started again last night and today is grey and blah, but we had two days of sunshine, which is exactly how you like a weekend to be.

This year Serdic and I have joined the ranks of Those With Barbeques, as we inherited PetDoc and Noise's BBQ when they moved. Before we both lived in apartments where we weren't allowed to have them, but in the new place according to our landlord if we placed the BBQ in one specific corner of our deck, it met the codes and regulations. I have to say, we are enjoying it immensely. Serdic already has grand plans for all the different things he is going to try to cook on it -- I suspect our stove won't be turned on again until Thanksgiving! That is not a complaint, btw. ;-)

In other news, this past weekend would have been my Grandma's 94th birthday. I remembered her by going and getting the brightest pink plant I could find (pink is a colour I will always associate with her) and putting it in the basket that held the grandchildren's floral tribute at her funeral. It is currently brightening our dining room table and it makes me smile every time I see it and think of her. Happy Birthday, Grandma. You are missed.


Friday, June 13, 2008

Friday the 13th

So it's Friday the 13th, which didn't even occur to me until I just got an email from a friend that referenced it. I'm not all that superstitious (about this, anyway) so the date doesn't bother me. As a matter of fact, I'm kind of fond of Friday the 13ths, having been born on one. Someone told me once that people who are born on Friday the 13th are supposed to have good luck on that date instead of bad, but I can't say that my luck has been any better on Friday the 13th compared to other days -- but it hasn't been any worse, either!

I've had a couple of emails from people asking if I'm feeling better after my self-pitying down in the dumps post of last week. The answer, of course, is yes, much. It's been a nice, relaxing week. Serdic and I had date night on Tuesday and took in a movie (Prince Caspian), I got together with some friends on Wednesday for pizza and beer, and last night I sat and did absolutely nothing. It was perfect. This weekend is looking pretty relaxing, too -- only one engagement, my friend C's annual Lobsterfest on Saturday night. Considering neither Serdic nor I eat lobster it seems a little silly to be going, but there will be lots of other food to enjoy and, more importantly, great company and music and laughter.

I guess my big news since yesterday is that we booked our trip to visit PetDoc and Noise in London in September. I am so excited! We're going for ten days and I already can't wait. We've decided to sneak a side trip to Edinburgh in there in the middle, and other than that we're going to bum around London and see what there is to see. I'm particularly looking forward to getting to know PetDoc and Noise's neighbourhood, so I can picture them in it when I hear about their adventures.

So, yes, lots of good things going on. I hope everyone has something fun planned for the weekend!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Sing, Sing a Song

I am going to try this embed a video thing. Bear with me.



This is one of my choirs rehearsing a piece we recently commissioned from a very well known and respected Canadian composer. I still find it hard to believe sometimes that I am part of a group that performs at this level.

This video was taken shortly before we performed a concert on Sunday. Readers who live in Ottawa may recall how hot and humid it was in this fair city on Sunday. The church in which we were performing might charitably be termed an oven. I will refer you to the video to see our standard concert dress -- long sleeved black shirts, black skirts or slacks, closed toe black shoes. Sweltering, is the word. It's the only time I have sung in a concert where the director has said "I want you take water bottles on stage with you, and I want you to drink from them between movements."

All that said, the concert went smashingly well. We had a full house and the music was wonderful. This was a joint concert with another Ottawa choir and we were performing a Requiem that a local composer wrote for her son, who tragically passed away from cancer about a decade ago. The concert was a fundraiser for a palliative care home named after the composer's son. It was a great honour to perform with her (she played piano) and it was a good challenge for us as a choir, performing a multi-movement lengthy piece, with another choir. In the first half we performed a number of other pieces, including the one in the video linked above.

So now both choirs are done for another season. I'm looking forward to having my weeknights to myself for a little while, although I know by September I'll be chomping at the bit to get back into it. The next concert coming up for me is one I don't have to sing in -- my beloved Great Big Sea boys are coming to Ottawa in July!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Funks of June

You've heard of the Ides of March, right? Well, I feel like I'm in the Funks of June. No particular reason, really, just been in a bit of a funk lately and not sure how to get out of it. I think it's a combination of a) having to say goodbye to PetDoc and Noise last weekend (wow, that was hard, no matter how excited I am for them), b) my complete inability to say no to anything, therefore packing my weekly schedule way too tightly, and c) a few little stresses in a couple of areas (work and one of my choirs, mostly) that have come together to just make me feel exhausted and blue. I'm finding it harder and harder to get out of bed in the mornings, and most days I feel like I'm just slogging through to the end. It'll pass, it's not like it's the first time I've overextended myself and needed some down time to recover, but I'll admit to feeling a bit blah these days. Once I get through this weekend (scheduled events include a yard sale, helping my friend J move, a party for a colleague's wedding anniversary, singing in a concert, and a choir executive meeting!), things should calm down a little bit. One can hope, anyway!

There are, of course, lots of good things going on. I always kind of feel when I whine about being too busy with good things and friends and family and music and laughter and all the rest that Chandler Bing is going to pop out and say "yes, yes, your wallet doesn't hold all your fifties and your diamond shoes are too tight."

For example, we had a lovely baby shower for my friend H on Sunday. I think she was very touched and pleased and we had a great afternoon with friends. I gave her a selection of children's books, of course. *grin* My friends in general are one of my life's greatest blessings, so it was really nice to take the time to celebrate this happy event in H's life.

I guess the biggest news is PetDoc and Noise's move. They are settled in in London now, and starting to explore the city and all the adventures it holds for them. PetDoc is doing an awesome job of sharing the details on her blog, so check it out. I miss them dreadfully already, but I'm so excited for them (and, yes, more than a little jealous!). Today is also their wedding anniversary -- I can't believe it's been four years already! So happy anniversary to them. Serdic and I have to get cracking on booking our trip to visit them in September -- I think their vacancy calendar is filling up at an alarming rate!

So, as always, things are hopping around Casa Double S. It keeps us out of trouble at any rate, right?

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Anniversaries

So it has been brought to my attention that the first anniversary of this blog came and went this week. Oops. It's just been one of those crazy weeks -- out every evening and a weekend chock full of everything from errands to socializing to parental visits. There's another week just like it coming up and we've already got something on the calendar for every weekend in June. Sheesh. But I digress. Although I haven't been blogging as much as I'd like, I think the blog has been a good exercise for me, a good way to keep in touch with friends and family, and a good way to get some thoughts down and "out there," so to speak. It's been a great year, that's for sure. Eventful, happy, fulfilling, full of many of the good things life has to offer. Sure, there have been some difficult times as well, but in those days the support of my friends has given me great strength. I've really enjoyed sharing my life this way for the last year, and am looking forward to continuing the blog. Maybe I'll even post entries occasionally! *eye roll*

We had a great visit to Tremblant and the cottage (which was actually in Val-des-Lacs) last weekend. Serdic's birthday was, I like to think, well celebrated (he didn't seem to have any complaints, at least!). You can view some pictures here. Lots of quiet time, hot tub time, "us" time. It was perfect. We didn't even mind that it rained all weekend. ;-)

And, finally, I'm just putting my friends on notice. If that happy day should ever arrive where I put on the white dress and walk down the aisle and throw a big ol' kick ass party afterwards, I will be very disappointed if something like this does not happen: best toast to the bride ever. Just sayin'.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Running away for the weekend

Just a short post to update, since it's been a couple of weeks. We are off today for a few days at a rented cottage (or "chalet" as the paperwork keeps calling it) near Mont Tremblant. Hot tub, fireplace, mountains, lakes, peace and quiet ... a few days of that is just what the doctor ordered, for both of us, and we've been looking forward to it for weeks. It's also my birthday gift to Serdic, so that makes it a little extra special as well.

Other than that, things are normal around here. Busy, as usual, of course. One choir is done for the season, the other is in the home stretch (three more weeks). J and I have an NAC date next week, and Serdic and I have one the week after. Lots of good theatre. As you may have read on Serdic's blog, we also got home last weekend to see a friend play the lead in Beauty and the Beast, which was a lot of fun. I'm always happiest when I'm sitting in a theatre, listening to the orchestra tune, waiting for the lights to go down and the overture to start, so I'm excited about all the theatre I'm getting to see this month.

And finally, happy Mother's Day to my Mom and grandmother, and happy anniversary to Mom and Dad. We got to spend Mother's Day with our families (both of them, which is one of the things I love about dating someone from my hometown!) and as always it was a treat.

I hope everyone enjoys the long weekend and has something fun planned!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Sunday morning musings

Yesterday was a milestone in our relationship ... we, for the first time, made a joint purchase of something major for our home. (We've been sharing bills and groceries and that kind of thing since we moved in together, of course, but this was the first time we went out and invested a fair amount of money in something permanent for the apartment.) We bought a little bistro set for our back deck, so that we can have morning coffee and evening meals and all sorts of things out there. So cute!
This is another musical weekend for me. Last night we saw a friend and colleague of Serdic's in a performance of La Boheme. This afternoon one of my choirs is giving our spring concert, which I am very much looking forward to, as it is a selection of Canadian folk music, which is exactly the kind of music I like to sing. I have to say that I'm rapidly reaching the point I do every spring, where I am very burnt out and exhausted from the two choirs and all their demands, but the end is in sight -- this weekend and next are the two final major concerts for the season, and then I have some time off. I love my choirs, but I reach a point every spring where I've had enough and need a few months off. This year has been particularly busy, as one choir alone has had ten engagements, or averaging more than a concert a month (our season is October to June)!

In other news, Serdic and I have just started to plan our first (of many!) trip to visit PetDoc and Noise once they're settled in London. I think we'll be going for ten days in September. We're actually looking for suggestions of things to do in Edinburgh, if any of my faithful readers have been there. We're going to try to do a side trip to there from London, and we know what the guidebooks say to see, but I'm always interested in "off the beaten track" suggestions from people who have been there ... "Don't miss this!" or "We had the best meal of our lives in that restaurant" kind of things. Anyone?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Spring is in the air

Ah, yes. Spring. That lovely time of year. And you know how you can tell spring has arrived in fair Ottawa? Half the streets in the bloody city are already torn up with construction. That didn't take long.

However, I'm not complaining, as we've been enjoying absolutely gorgeous weather this week. This is exactly the time of year I love, when you can sleep with the windows open, but still snuggle under the covers. When you still need a jacket, but you don't necessarily have to do it up. The snow is finally (almost) gone, the green things are starting to bloom again, and everywhere you look you see signs of the world coming back to life. It's been a long winter this year and I'm really enjoying this glimpse of spring.

I have a busy weekend coming up -- a performance at a local retirement home with one of my choirs Saturday afternoon, then a girls' night at my friend H's house (always a great time, we get together, eat too much food, have a few drinks, play board games and gossip). Sunday I have a sectional rehearsal for my other choir, then Serdic and I are accompanying my friend Pixie (as Serdic dubbed her several months ago) to the NAC to hear Gordon Lightfoot perform. It's not every day you get a chance to hear a living Canadian legend sing. I'm very excited about it.

Tonight Serdic and I are meeting downtown after work to fulfill our Flat Stanley duties. I agreed to do a Flat Stanley adventure for a little girl in my mom's class. I'm an old hand at the Flat Stanley thing, as I had a visit from one made by my friend Cupcake's son a couple of years ago, so I know all the places to scope out. We have already had an abortive attempt at showing Stanley around Ottawa, as we went downtown on Sunday to take some pictures of him at the parliament buildings. Only to discover when we arrived there that there was this little pro-China rally going on, featuring tens of thousands of protestors. Perhaps you read about it? So although political action on the Hill is part of life in Ottawa and would have made an interesting backdrop for the pictures, we decided all in all it was better to try again when things were a little quieter. Fortunately today's weather is even nicer than Sunday's, and now that it is light until nearly 8:00 in the evenings (woot!) we'll get some nice pictures in after work.

And, finally, this is a special time of April for me, because it's bookended by the birthdays of two people who mean the world to me. My sister, PetDoc, had her birthday last Friday, and SingerDad's birthday is tomorrow. I know I talk a lot on this blog about my family and how much they mean to me, and it does start to sound like a broken record after awhile, so let me just say that my sister is my best friend, and my dad is my hero. I'm blessed to have them both. Happy birthday, youse.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Keeping up with the Joneses

It is a well established fact that Serdic is The Cook in our household. He does 90% of the cooking and every meal he has ever prepared for me has been delicious. But every once in awhile, I feel the need to prove that I can cook, too, and so I take over the kitchen for a night. The major difference in our styles, I think, is that Serdic is constantly trying new recipes or adjusting the ones he has based on what we happen to have in the fridge, whereas I have my few specialties that I do very well, and I don't tend to stray too far from them. One of these specialties is a vegetarian manicotti (although I've been known to make it with Serdic's famous spaghetti sauce as well, so it doesn't have to be vegetarian). It is the first meal I ever cooked for Serdic, back when we were first dating, and it's a dish he still requests on a regular basis. It's a bit time consuming and fussy, but the end result is definitely worth it. It also helps us with our resolution this year to take our lunches more often, as we get seven generous servings out of it, so two for dinner and then five lunches for the week ahead. I often try to make it on a weekend and then we have the leftovers in the fridge ready to go for Monday morning. You see tonight's meal pictured, along with garlic bread and a green salad.


I received the recipe as part of a fat loss program I was doing once upon a time, so it's also quite healthy. You can adjust as you like -- obviously full fat cheeses and/or sauce and such make a difference to taste and texture. I also play with the amounts of sauce and mozza, as I like my pasta very saucy and cheesy (just like me!). Of course, this has an impact on the calorie count. *sheepish grin*

The recipe is as follows:
1 box manicotti shells
1 15 oz container low-fat ricotta cheese
Whites of two large eggs
1 cup drained thawed frozen spinach or 2 cups fresh, chopped
1 cup grated peeled carrot
1 small onion
1 tbsp chopped fresh basil, or 1 tsp dried
1 tbsp minced fresh thyme, or 1 tsp dried
3 cups marinara sauce (I tend to cheat and use store bought, my favourite is Healthy Choice 'Garlic Lovers', or if there is a container of Serdic's spaghetti sauce in the freezer we'll use that)
1/2 cup part-skim mozzarella cheese, grated

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil and cook the shells for 3 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water, and put them in a bowl of room temperature water. Set aside.
2. In a bowl, combine the ricotta with the egg whites, spinach, carrot, onion, basil and thyme.
3. In a 9x14 baking dish, place about 1/2 cup of the marinara sauce, enough to cover the bottom. Drain the manicotti shells. Stuff each shell with the filling and place in the baking dish. Spoon over the remaining sauce. Cover with foil and bake 35-40 minutes, until the shells are fully cooked and the sauce is bubbling.
4. Remove the pan from the oven and uncover. Sprinkle evenly with the mozzarella and return to the oven for 10 minutes more, until the cheese is melted and slightly golden. Let rest 5 minutes before serving.
Makes 14 shells. A serving is 2 shells. 320 calories; 10 g. fat; 41 g. carbohydrates; 18 g. protein; 4 g. fibre.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Picture this

So we had our trip to Quebec City (see some photos here) last weekend. It was a great weekend in several respects -- we had a lot of R&R and great meals (we definitely highly recommend the hotel and will be staying there again), spent a lot of time just wandering the city and enjoying some quality time together, the train is a great and relaxing way to travel, and the highlight, of course, was seeing my photo in the exhibition at the museum. I had prepared myself to be disappointed, as they had told me the photo would be in the "interactive area," which I suspected meant that it would be manipulated beyond recognition or part of a collage or mosaic or cut up and put back together in a weird way, or something. But as soon as we walked into the exhibition I could see it across the room, in all its glory.



It was on a flat screen set into a display case, and part of a series of scrolling photos of different cityscapes. So while Serdic acted as my accomplice and stood between me and the guard and blocked her view, I quickly snapped off a couple of photos of my photo (how meta!). The only disappointment was that instead of using my name as the photo credit, as I had been told they would, they gave the source instead, the URL for my Flickr account. Still cool, but not *as* cool as seeing my name there would have been. But it was still a pretty awesome moment, to stand there in the museum and see my photo scroll by. Several times, of course. And then we went back to see it again before we left. *sheepish grin*

So then we came home, thinking it was a once in a lifetime event and weren't we glad we had made the effort, and so on and so forth. And two days later I got an email, via Flickr, from an editor at http://www.schmap.com/, which is an online travel guide run by Yahoo! (who, not so coincidentally, also run Flickr), asking if I would grant permission for one of the photos I took in Italy last spring to be used in their latest publication. I did, of course, and it appeared online on Friday. (Here's a screencap.) This time they used my name in the credit line. ;-)

So, interesting times. As I said before, I've always thought I took nice photos, but I never thought other people (besides friends and family) would be interested in them! It's not like I'm ready to quit my day job (hell, no one's offered to pay me for anything yet!) and take up photography as a career, but it's still been a nice little ego boost in the last few months. In both cases, interestingly, the photos selected have not been the ones I would have chosen, or ones that I would rank among the best pictures I've ever taken. But I guess in both cases they were an unusual angle and not the stereotypical "tourist" shot (I mean, I took some gorgeous photos of, for example, the Rialto Bridge in Venice, but everyone who has ever visited Venice has the same shots in her photo album!). Either way, it's been kind of fun.