Thursday, December 31, 2009

Ring out the old, ring in the new

The end of the year is always a time for reflection, a time for considering what has been and our hopes for what the new year will bring. The end of this year is particularly poignant for me for a number of reasons. 2009 was one of the best, and certainly most eventful, years of my life, highlighted of course by our wedding and the beginning of the shared adventure that is married life. 2010 brings a lot of changes, some of them scary. Just this morning I said good bye to one of my closest friends at work, a woman who has been a mentor and guide for me for my whole career. She is off to a well deserved retirement, but we will miss her dreadfully and the department will have a huge hole in it that it will be hard for anyone else to fill. Early in the new year Serdic will finish up at his job and become a full time student again. An exciting path for him, to be sure, and one I wholeheartedly support him starting on, but it's a big change for us, and a scary one.

This is also a particularly interesting year to look back, as it is the end of the first decade of the millenium. It is hard to believe that ten years ago tonight we were in the throes of Y2K panic (and what a bust that turned out to be!). The last ten years of my life have taken some interesting twists and turns, and if you had told that 23 year old me then where I would be in ten years, I wouldn't have believed you. I was on the verge of graduating from Queen's (being the class of '00 was kind of fun, I will admit), with no idea where I was going or what I would be doing when I got there. I had no idea I would become a librarian, and certainly not that I would end up in Ottawa working for the most prestigious library in the country. I didn't know I would be in Ottawa at all. I definitely didn't know that ten years after leaving my hometown I would meet and marry a boy from that hometown, and find more happiness with him than I knew was possible. There were so many good things in store, not only for me but for members of my family (living in other countries, Olympic medals, trips and jobs and awards and weddings and all kinds of things) and I'm glad I didn't know they were all coming, but have been able to enjoy the ride and each surprise and celebration as it comes. The last decade has brought some amazing people into my life, not just Serdic and his family, but so many dear friends who have become so special to me.

There was loss and sadness, too. The greatest of these was of course the loss of my beloved Grandad and Grandma, and their absence is felt every day. Pets have died, friends have drifted away or moved. Things have changed and time marches on. Just yesterday I received the news that the father of a friend had died, and I will be part of the group singing at the funeral on Saturday. This is a friend who came and sang for Serdic and me at our wedding two months ago. Life and death, love and loss, happiness and grief ... at the end of the year it is appropriate to reflect on these things, and be thankful for all that we have received, and hopeful for what is to come.

I hope for more adventures for all my friends and family in 2010, and only good things and happiness for us all. Happy New Year, everyone.

Friday, December 18, 2009

2009 wrap up

Last year I did this a couple of weeks before the end of the year, and then Serdic surprised me by proposing on New Year's Eve, changing a lot of my answers to these questions! I'm assuming that this year I'm safe from that kind of surprise. :-)

1) What did you do in 2009 that you'd never done before? got married, bought a car, visited Spain and Malta
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, etc. Sort of ongoing things.
3) Did anyone close to you give birth? No
4) Did anyone close to you die? No, thankfully.
5) What countries did you visit? England, France, Spain, Italy, Malta, the United States
6) What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009? nothing was lacking ... more money, maybe
7) What date from 2009 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? October 24, 2009 -- the day I married my best friend and love of my life
8) What was your biggest achievement of the year? Planning a kick ass wedding without killing myself or anyone else
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? my car!
12) Whose behavior merited celebration? The many people who did so much to help us make our wedding so beautiful and special
13) Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? various public figures
14) Where did most of your money go? wedding and honeymoon, car payments
15) What did you get really, really, really excited about? the wedding
17) Compared to this time last year, are you:
- happier or sadder? happier
- thinner or fatter? about the same
- richer or poorer? about the same
18) What do you wish you'd done more of? weight loss
19) What do you wish you'd done less of? complaining
20) How did you spend Christmas? with the family and Serdic's family
21) Did you fall in love in 2009? over and over again ... always with the same guy!
22) How many one-night stands? none
23) What was your favorite TV program? I didn't really watch a lot of tv this year
24) Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year? Can't think of anyone
25) What was the best book you read? to tell the truth, I can't think of anything. I didn't have a lot of time for reading this year, and I revisisted some old favourites but didn't make any new discoveries
26) What was your greatest musical discovery? I Gotta Feeling, by the Black Eyed Peas
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? Up
30) What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? worked, went out for dinner with Serdic, was showered with love and affection by family and friends; I was 33
31) What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? Can't think of anything -- it was an incredibly satisfying year
32) How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2009? I'm lucky to make it out the door in the morning with my clothes on right side out and matching socks ... does that count as a 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? can't think of anything
36) Who did you miss? my grandma, my grandad, my sister
37) Who was the best new person you met? a great new family of inlaws who are warm and welcoming and fun
38) Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2009: good things come to those who wait
39) Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
Come my love, I'll tell you a tale
Of a boy and girl and their love story
And how he loved her oh so much
And all the charms she did possess
My love is like a storybook story
But it's as real as the feelings I feel
My love is like a storybook story
But it's as real as the feelings I feel
It's as real as the feelings I feel

Monday, December 7, 2009

Musical musings

The morning of my wedding, as we were getting ready at our parents' house, PetDoc and Noise decided on a "theme song" for the day, and put the Black Eyed Peas' "I Gotta Feeling" on a loop on the laptop. They and Jay sang and danced around the living room, and we must have listened to the song a dozen times over the course of the morning. Later, at the reception, Noise requested the song from the DJ and I got to dance to the song not only with my sister and brother-in-law and dear friend, but with the love of my life and all of our nearest and dearest, on the happiest day of my life. As Serdic and I toured Europe on our honeymoon we heard the song everywhere we went, up to and including in the taxi on our way home from the airport when we finally got back to Ottawa. I have since found out that this is because that song is, like, the #1 song of the year (I hardly ever listen to the radio or contemporary music, so my knowledge in this area is sadly lacking), but for me it will always be "my" song, and the minute I hear the opening phrase I think of that day, and those people, who are so, so dear to me. I know PetDoc and Noise didn't set out to give me the song as a gift, but in a way that's exactly what they did, and it was one of the best gifts I received that day, because the memories and associations it evokes will always be there, and it will always make me think of them, and that day, and the happiness and excitement and anticipation and love and celebration and all those great and beautiful things that were part of that day. It's amazing how a song can do that, isn't it? There's a lot of music that I associate with our wedding now, music that I always knew I wanted to be part of the day -- the song I came down the aisle to, our first dance, etc. -- but I never expected this one!

On another musical note (no pun intended!), I attended the annual Come Sing Messiah! on Friday night. I went last year for the first time, and swore to myself then that I would never miss it again. What an incredible evening of music. The more familiar I get with Messiah, the more I become convinced that there has never been and never will be a work written to equal it. I've sung major sections of it several times now, and I never fail to be moved by the power and beauty of the story it tells, and the glorious, glorious music. I have not been looking forward to Christmas this year, finding it more of a burden than something to be excited about, which is really upsetting to me as Christmas has always been my favourite time of year. This year I think it's just the post-wedding let down and trying to get life back on an even keel, plus we've been dealing with a number of changes since we got back to real life, and I don't handle change well (who does?). But after singing Messiah Friday night I am feeling much more in the spirit of the season, and reminded of what is important and the reason for the season, to break out an overused and worn out phrase.

Of all the things in the world that give life beauty and grace, I think the one I am most grateful for is music.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Slow down!

Ok, so, from ten weeks to ten days in the blink of an eye. Hard to believe the big day is almost here. This blog has been shamefully neglected in the last two months, but so has everything else in my life not related to the wedding. The "to do" list has been lengthy, but it seems to be under control at the moment, and everything is on track for the Best. Wedding. Ever. Gifts and cards have been pouring in, and starting on Saturday the guests will begin to arrive (yay for PetDoc and Noise!).

Things are good. Life is good. We are exceedingly blessed. Watch this space for photos and updates.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Another year older and deeper in debt

Thanks to all who sent birthday wishes in various ways yesterday. They were very much appreciated. I had a fairly low key birthday, which is not surprising given the hoopla surrounding other events this summer. Serdic took me to a lovely restaurant for dinner and we had a fantastic evening, and I was showered with love and good wishes from friends and family. We're heading to Hometown this weekend and will do some celebrating with family then as well.

Speaking of being showered with love and good wishes, we were the grateful and overwhelmed guests of honour at a wedding shower hosted by three of my dearest friends last weekend. It was really great to have so many of our friends gathered together in one place, wanting to celebrate with us, and we received some very beautiful and generous gifts. I know I say this often, but it's something that should be said often and never taken for granted -- we have wonderful friends and they are such a blessing in our lives. This is a very happy time for us, and we are really lucky to have so many people who want to share it and are happy for us.

It's been a fun week, wedding wise, in general, as the response cards are starting to arrive. Every day this week there's been a little treat in the mailbox ... it feels kind of like Christmas, when there are cards in the mail every day instead of the usual junk and bills. It's the little things, sometimes, that really brighten the day.

So the invitations are out and the countdown is really truly on. The next 10 weeks are going to be a whirlwind, but everything is falling into place and it's going to be perfect. Knock on wood.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Where did July go?

A few tidbits for your reading enjoyment:

We did have a lovely weekend in Montreal the weekend before last. We deliberately went with very little planned or on the "must see" list, we mostly just wanted to wander and be "somewhere other than here" for a couple of days. Not that there's anything wrong with "here," of course, but there are too many interesting places out there not to try and explore them all! We did do a couple of tourist-y things, including visit the Biodome and wander the old port. We also took a drive up the mountain for the obligatory photo op. And the nicest part was that we had some of the nicest weather we've had all summer -- very little rain, lots of sun and warm (without being too hot!) temperatures. There are some photos here.

The trip also gave me a chance to play with my birthday gift from Serdic (yes, a month early, but yay for birthday gifts) -- a new lens for my camera (which, you may recall, he gave me last year for my birthday ... I sense a theme). This lens has a much better zoom and is just in general that much sharper and more powerful. I love it, but I continue to be intimidated by this camera in general. I know I can get so much more out of it than I am currently managing. I am hoping to get some practice in over the summer and early fall so that I can take the best pictures on our honeymoon. I'd love to take a photography course at some point, but for obvious reasons that's not going to happen this fall!

Wedding planning continues. I've had a couple of fittings for my dress now, and I am happy to report that it is as beautiful as ever (perhaps even more so now that it actually, you know, fits me!). Both my and Serdic's wedding rings have arrived and are safely tucked away. I am hoping to get the invitations in the mail sometime next week, which will be a big job. I of course had to choose the ones that are "some assembly required," which makes it a little more daunting. Fortunately I have lots of lovely friends who have offered to help me with that task. The pre-wedding festivities are starting, too, with a shower scheduled for next weekend and another for two weeks after that. We are very blessed to have so many people who want to wish us well and be part of this happy time, so I am really looking forward to sharing the next little while with them.

I continue to love my car more than I have ever loved an inanimate object. And the 20 minute commute doesn't hurt, either.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Zoom zoom

So it's been just over a week since we picked up my new baby. I have to say I am absolutely delighted with her. She's a sweet, zippy little car, and a lot of fun. And I have shaved 30-40 minutes off my commute (for a total of over an hour each day), which means more time at home in the evenings and a lot less stress -- just not having to stand on a street corner downtown in the rain and exhaust fumes and crowds and noise for up to 20 minutes at a time, twice a day, is doing wonders for my mental health. It's taking me a little while to adjust my thinking, though -- I still find I tend to try to work out the logistics of stopping to run errands on the way home, or panicking when the clock hits that magic time when I have to leave or risk missing the bus, and I'm still in the middle of something. My brain still runs on bus schedule time a little bit, but I'm sure that will change soon enough.

So I'm zipping around the city in my shiny new car quite a lot these days. Keeping busy, as usual. It's been a nice mix lately of wedding related stuff, time with friends, and the usual day to day errands. Wedding planning continues to occupy most of my thoughts, if not my free time. I'm having a mild panic attack about being nearly three months from the big day (Serdic spent most of Saturday reminding me we have FIFTEEN WEEKS), but honestly it's for the most part under control. The big stuff is all in place, and now we need to buckle down on the smaller details.

And now I have something else to look forward to -- a spur of the moment road trip to Montreal this weekend. Toyota sent me an email survey last week and because I wanted to sing the praises of Hawkesbury Toyota, the dealership where I bought the car, I went ahead and filled it out. And at the end there was this "hey, here's a discount code for 20% off any Delta hotel in Canada!" message. We had been talking about getting out of the city for a couple of nights for awhile, and we recently had to admit that a more major trip we were tossing around for the August long weekend was not going to happen for a variety of reasons, so this is a little treat for ourselves. We got a good deal on a luxury hotel right down in the old part of the city and we're going away for a couple of days of R&R. Can't wait!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Happy Canada Day to all!

A little update on the car buying saga. I mentioned in my previous post that we got a really bad feeling from the first dealership we visited, and they didn't make it better by calling us five times in the last six days -- they never got ahold of me, so I just had a lot of messages on my machine (home and work!) full of really insincere "Just wanted to say hi" nonsense. I suppose I could have called the saleswoman back and put an end to it all, but, frankly, I've had more important things to do and I didn't feel like putting myself out. Also, I had told her we would make a decision "the end of next week" so I resented her being so pushy when I had given her a date when I would call her. But eventually she got ahold of me yesterday afternoon, and I thanked her for her time but said that we had decided to go in a different direction. She berated me for not trying to negotiate with her, and then hung up on me as I was in mid-sentence. So, you know, no second thoughts about going with the dealership we went with.

And on that note, I was approved for the financing, the car is here, and we're picking it up after work on Friday. So, so, so excited.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

You never forget your first

I decided this week that I must, despite appearances to the contrary every now and then, finally be a grown up. This realization came as we were heading back into the city, having just signed my life away (or for the next five years, anyway) to a car dealership. And earlier this week, I ordered my wedding band. A car and wedding ring, in the same week? Feels pretty grown up to me!

So, the car. I have been admiring the Toyota Matrix on the roads for a couple of months, and had pretty much decided that unless a test drive revealed major problems, it was what I wanted. Wednesday we went and test drove one at a local dealership, which shall remain nameless. We got a bad feeling about them from the start -- too smarmy -- and while I loved the car I didn't particularly want to buy it from them ... especially when the saleswoman quoted a final price $1000 higher than the figures she was adding up in front of us would indicate. Not sure if she couldn't do math or was deliberately padding the price, but either way, not something to give us great confidence in that dealership. And when I received a phone call from a "customer service representative" from the dealership not 12 hours later, pushing me to make a decision, I knew this wasn't the kind of company I wanted to deal with. Meanwhile, Serdic had been in contact with another dealership about an hour's drive out of the city, and they offered us the same car for $3000 less. We decided the $3000 was worth driving out to see them, and so yesterday morning we did.

I had a better feeling about this place right from the start, and the sales representative we were meeting with seemed to be on the up and up. I thought to myself at one point: "He's going to play fair." I did a second test drive and still loved the car, and so decided to go for it. Gulp. It's not a cheap step to take, but I have a sizable down payment and financing it over five years makes the payments manageable. Of course, now comes all the other expenses that go with owning a car -- parking and gas and insurance and all the rest of it. But this is hardly a decision I made lightly or spontaneously, so I know it'll work out. They didn't have the colour I wanted (electric blue) in stock, but one is expected in on Tuesday so they promised they'd have it ready for me Friday after work. I am SO excited, I can't even tell you. Also a little scared. But mostly excited.

It's weird to be approaching my mid-thirties and buying my first car. It feels like something I should have done by now. The financing guy at the dealership was a little taken aback that I didn't have a previous car loan on my credit report ... is it really that strange? But in a way I'm glad that this will be my first car -- exactly what I want, and something I am finally in a position financially to afford. I think this is the beginning of a long and prosperous friendship, me and my car.

Pictures to follow once the car is actually in my possession. It's going to be a long week!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Not dead yet

I know, I know, I've been a very bad blogger. It's not from a lack of things to talk about ... on the contrary, I don't know where to begin! It's been a very busy few months. Some updates are in order.

Vroom, vroom

First of all, as a follow up to my last post, I have not yet bought a car, although the decision has definitely been made to make the purchase. See above about how busy it's been ... I've been trying to find an evening or Saturday afternoon to go test drive some vehicles, but the days are slipping away from me faster than I can keep track! It's on my "to do" list for June, though.

Wedding plans

Wedding planning continues fast and furious. The dress is here (and it's GORGEOUS) (no, you can't see photos). The invitations are printed, and now need to be assembled and readied to go in the mail. We are starting to come up with a cohesive vision of what the decorations and flowers and colours will look like, although I know I am driving Aunt C crazy with my inability to articulate clearly what I want (i.e. I am being difficult by being TOO agreeable!). But I think we're on the right track now and everything's going to be beautiful.

Perhaps most exciting of all, we booked the main section of our honeymoon last week ... a 7 day Mediterranean cruise. It departs a week following the wedding from Barcelona, so at the moment the plan is to fly out the Monday after the wedding, spend three nights in Paris, then a couple of nights in Barcelona and on to the cruise, returning to Ottawa the following Monday. So we'll be gone two weeks. It's going to be awesome.

Music in the air

I was particularly busy in April and May with concerts and assorted choir stuff. I made a big step towards relieving that stress by getting myself voted off the board of directors of one of my choirs, and refusing to commit to anything for the fall (it's so easy when you have a wedding as an excuse ... all you have to do is say "well, it's going to be a busy fall" and everyone immediately says "oh, of course, you've got the wedding, don't worry about a thing, of course we couldn't expect you to commit to anything" -- give it a try some time!). I do very much enjoy my choirs and the friendships I have made there, but I'm looking forward to the summer break all the same.

Savour the moment

I read a very interesting editoral in the paper recently about the need to stop and savour the moment you are in more often, and I'm really trying to put that into practice in my own life these days. It's so easy to get bogged down in the minutiae of day to day life, and the little stresses and frustrations that crop up every time you turn around. And so often we are in a perfect moment, and we let it pass unnoticed because we're thinking/worrying/stressing about something else. So I am really trying these days to stop, take a breath, and acknowledge the little perfect moments. It's especially true with the wedding planning -- these are supposed to be such happy days, and the anticipation and excitement of planning should be part of the fun. Someday I will look back on these days and remember, for example, the day I put on my dress for the first time, or the way my hand shook a little bit when Serdic put the engagement ring on my finger. And while having those memories is important, I also want to acknowledge those moments as they happen, to fix them in my mind and savour them, and not let them pass too quickly.

And finally ...

Could someone please let Mother Nature know to check her calendar? These little glimpses of spring/summer weather, followed by multiple days of cold and wet and grey are not cutting it. Thanks.

My only hope is that if spring and summer are later getting here this year, the nice weather might hang on a bit longer into the fall? Like, say, maybe until the end of October? Wouldn't that be nice?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

There are straws, and there are camels, and there are backs

When I first moved to Ottawa, I made a conscious decision to pay more in rent and live downtown, and not buy a car. I wanted to try the "big city" lifestyle for awhile and since my shiny new apartment was mere steps from several different bus routes, including one that took me to work in less than ten minutes, a car seemed an unnecessary expense. I didn't mind taking the bus and Ottawa's public transit system was pretty reliable and got me anywhere I needed to go, and, sure, it was a pain in the ass sometimes to rely on the buses or the kindness of friends who offered me rides, and I *really* didn't enjoy carrying groceries several blocks, but I coped quite happily for five years like that.

But over those five years a number of things happened. First, I joined a couple of choirs, both of which rehearse and perform all over the city, not just in the downtown core. Then my workplace moved, to a building about 35 minutes from downtown on the bus. And then I met Serdic, and we moved in together, but we moved out of downtown and that extended my commute by another half an hour, meaning I am now spending about an hour each way on the bus to get to and from work, and that's if I make the connection downtown smoothly (which isn't as reliable as it used to be). It also means having to go into downtown to make the connection, which can sometimes be a pain given traffic congestion issues (like the 25,000 Tamil protesters on Wellington Street as we speak, for example), whereas if I was driving I could avoid downtown completely. Now, Serdic does have a car, and I'm able to use it to get to my choir and social activities, but I'm still commuting by bus.

Then we had the 53 day bus strike this winter, which eliminated a lot of good will I felt for OCTranspo, and changed things in some undefinable way. I can't really explain it, but the mood on the buses and at the bus stops is different now. People (bus drivers and passengers alike) are still angry, I guess. Plus, I got used to the 20 minute commute that came with driving (a colleague was kindly giving me rides). The buses have steadily gotten less and less reliable, and the one I take home from downtown after work regularly doesn't come.

And then this week, we encountered that proverbial straw that broke the proverbial camel's back. OCTranspo announced that they are eliminating service on the route I take from our apartment to downtown -- now I will have to get another bus to the closest transitway station and transfer to another bus to get downtown, where I will transfer to yet another bus to get to work. And I decided that I'm done with public transit (and sent a scathing email to OCTranspo to that effect, which was cathartic, I have to admit).

I had been tossing around the idea of buying a car for awhile already. For the last couple of years, to be honest, definitely since we moved to the new apartment. And after I finished paying off my last student loan last month and became (briefly, knowing me) debt free, it's now something that is financially feasible as well. I had pretty much decided to put it off until after the wedding and we buy a house, as parking two cars will be a little bit of an issue at our apartment, but the idea is becoming more and more tempting and I'm really not sure I want to wait another year.

So all that said, the real question is, what kind of car should I get???

Thursday, April 16, 2009

There's a first time for everything

So we have returned to Ottawa safe and sound. And sick. I am actually home from work today, as I have come down with a nasty cold, which is honestly not all that suprising ... I always get sick when I travel. A combination of being run down (not enough sleep, too much walking!) and being stuck on an airplane with people who have all kinds of bugs (I swear the guy behind me flying home had tuberculosis). Anyway, what follows is a list of things I did/experienced for the first time on this, my fifth, trip to London:

-- visited the National Portrait Gallery

-- visited the Temple Church, which dates from 1185 and is the church associated with the Knights Templar, the crusading knights

-- had my carry on bag inspected by a drug sniffing dog (you'll be glad to know I was cleared to continue)

-- racked myself spectacularly tripping over air on the sidewalk, stumbling for nearly half a block and finally taking out a garbage can (and narrowly missing several innocent bystanders) before crashing to the ground -- awkward!

-- found my way to the center of the maze at Hampton Court

-- took a photo of Henry VIII in the flesh

-- encountered a chatty customs agent who wanted to discuss the shopping opportunities in London (when we said we were bringing home purses, shoes, and dresses he nodded sagely and said "yes, they tell me London's where the good stuff is")

-- was on a plane where a medical emergency was declared and a doctor paged (I have no further information -- the doctor went into the first class cabin and returned about half an hour later, but that's all I got)

-- had my suitcase removed from the carousel at Heathrow on the other side from where I was standing, by a tour group who were "helping" by pulling off the suitcases of everyone on their flight, whether they were part of the tour group or not ... we stood there for ten minutes fearing my bag had been lost before the tour group leader announced their "helpful" gesture to those still waiting

-- breezed through check in and security at Heathrow in *less* time than it took us to check in and get through security at Ottawa ... I don't know where everyone was that morning, but they weren't at Heathrow!

-- went shopping on Oxford Street

-- had "typical" London weather ... grey and rainy, all except one day

-- touched an actual genuine Louis Vuitton bag (PetDoc's bday gift from Noise)

Photos are here. There aren't all that many, as this wasn't a sightseeing trip as much as it was a visit with PetDoc and Noise, but we did go to Hampton Court on Monday, which is where most of the photos are from. It was a great trip, mostly because I did get to spend so much time with PetDoc and Noise ... they were both off work most of the time we were there and we had a blast bumming around the city. When do I get to go back???

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Mind the gap

So we are at about the mid way point of our visit to London. It has been most successful so far. Perhaps the best news is that we accomplished our main goal for this visit, which was to find bridesmaids' dresses for PetDoc and J. Not only did we find the style we wanted (strapless, tea length, simple and classic), in the colour I wanted (chocolate brown), we bought off the rack (no having to figure out how to order one in London and one in Ottawa) *and* we paid 80 pounds (about $150 Canadian) for each dress. So I got both dresses for less than I was dreading having to pay for one! The girls also found the cutest shoes to match and we are all set. The girls' dresses were a big part of the puzzle, design-wise, so now that we know the colour we can start choosing flowers and other decorating elements to complement them.

But wedding planning isn't all we're doing, of course. Not in one of the greatest cities in the world. J and I had a fairly uneventful flight over, although the turbulence was quite bad at times (bad in the "flight attendants please strap in" sense, as that announcement was made more than once). We had sweet seats, though -- first row of economy, lots of leg room, room to stand and stretch without being in the aisle, and fed first! I'm spoiled now. We have the same seats on the way back, too! Our arrival was also easy as pie -- not like when Serdic and I arrived in September and spent three hours in the customs hall. This time we landed exactly on time and within half an hour we were through customs, had collected our luggage, and were heading out into the arrivals area where PetDoc was waiting. A slight hiccup on the way out, as we managed to leave J standing on the tube station platform when she got her luggage caught and didn't make it on the train, but we got off at the next station and waited, and she was on the next train, so crisis averted.

Thursday we did some basic sightseeing, taking the train to Westminster and walking up Whitehall to Trafalgar Square, then down the Strand to St. Paul's. A walk I have taken several times now, but J hadn't seen any of those places so it was a good way to really feel like we were in London. We were quite proud of ourselves, as we were operating on less than an hour's sleep in two days, but the travel adrenaline was flowing, I guess. We crashed pretty early, though!

Friday was our shopping day. We had set the whole day aside because we really had no idea what to expect or how long it would take, or even if we could find what we were looking for at all. But as I said above, we had great (and quick!) success and were able to spend the rest of the afternoon wandering the shops Oxford St (I got a gorgeous new purse!). Friday night's dinner was at one of our favourite spots in PetDoc and Noise's neighbourhood -- bangers and mash at The Old Suffolk Punch. Yum.

Today I had the great fortune to meet up with RJA and his friend K, who happen to be visiting London this weekend as well. RJA is a friend from home, but he has been living and working in Germany since the fall and so it was really good to see him and have a chance to catch up. We lunched in the cafe in the crypt under St. Martin in the Fields, and then retired to a local Starbucks for coffee and to continue our visit. We also decided to raise the cultural level a bit and made a quick visit to the National Portrait Gallery. It was a fascinating trip through British history, but unfortunately I had to bow out after just over an hour (we spent too much time visiting!), to head back to PetDoc and Noise's flat, so we could celebrate PetDoc's birthday. Dinner is pizza and champagne, and then the rumour is we are going to play some Wii. Sounds like a great evening to me!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

On the road again

Not much posting these days, for which I apologize. Basically it's been a whirlwind of Serdic being away, Serdic coming home, car trouble, work, wedding planning and preparing for today ... the day my dear friend J and I fly across the Atlantic to visit PetDoc and Noise. All of PetDoc's special requests "from home" are packed (I have to take a bigger suitcase than I normally would for a six day visit!), confirmation emails are printed out, passport has been located, and I think I am ready to go.

This is going to be a fun trip for several reasons. The biggest, of course, is seeing PetDoc and Noise. Add in that we're going to one of my favourite cities, and one of my best friends in the world is going to be there too. What could be better? Oh, and PetDoc and J are my bridesmaids, so we're going to shop 'til we drop finding something that will make both of them look gorgeous on the big day (not that that'll be hard, since they're both of the "gorgeous in a paper bag" variety).

Watch this space, hopefully I'll have lots of pictures and stories in a week's time. Until then!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The time has come, the walrus said, to talk of many things ...

Money Matters

Debt free. Two little, simple words, but loaded with meaning nonetheless. And as of yesterday morning, they are two words that apply to me. Three years ago I was drowning in approximately $15,000 of debt, much of it from my student days, but I have to be honest with myself and admit that a great deal of it was simply my own poor spending choices. I sat down with a financial advisor and got myself on a repayment plan, and have diligently made payments and cut credit card use ever since. I've been helped along by three unforseen (at the time of the plan making) events -- an inheritance from my grandmother, moving in with Serdic and splitting bills/expenses and having money available to make larger than "minimum amount due" payments, and then this month my bargaining group at work signed a new contract with a slight pay increase, and as the increase is retroactive to the end of the last contract, 18 months ago, I got a nice chunk of change in the form of backpay. I only had the one debt left, a student line of credit that I was aggressively paying down and planning to have gone by the wedding, and the amount of the backpay cheque was miraculously almost exactly what I had left on that line of credit. So I went into the bank yesterday morning and wrote a cheque for the entire amount. And just like that, I am debt free. It seemed so hopeless not so long ago, and with patience and diligence and a little bit of sacrifice, here I am. And it feels good.

Road trip (with a slight wedding planning update)!

Serdic and I made a flying trip home yesterday, mostly to meet with a photographer I had a lead on for the wedding. We had just enough time to have lunch with his parents and tea with my grandmother and Aunt C (my parents being on a Caribbean cruise, the lucky buggers, and therefore not available for visiting), and then we met with the photographer. I had really been taken with his work when I had looked at samples of it online and we got a really good feeling about him in general ... he seems like he'd be good to work with and has a similar philosophy to mine about what this day means and what we want to get out of it with the pictures, so I think we'll be quite happy with him. So that is booked and a load off my mind. Things are really falling into place!

Unfortunately, our return trip to Ottawa was not as smooth as one would have hoped, as about half way home the car seemed to be threatening to give up the ghost. We got pulled over in a rest area and Serdic called the wonderful and life saving SerDad, who headed out in the dark and cold to our rescue. He brought some tools and jugs and various things, and the two of them popped the hood and muttered and poured things into various slots and paced and, eventually, got us back on the road. I, obviously, understand only the very basics of how cars work and what happened, but she seems to be running just fine now and I am told the car had gotten low on "coolant." We are up and running again now, though, and the car is behaving normally, so I'm glad it was that easily fixed and all it cost us was a couple of hours sitting on the side of the highway.

The Bachelorette

Serdic left this morning for two more weeks in Texas (you may remember he was there for two weeks before Christmas). So I am bach-ing it for a little while again. Last time he was away I found I got really lazy about meal preparation and eating properly, so I am hoping to not make that mistake again. We'll see how it goes. Other than that I've got a lot planned for the next little while so I'm hoping the two weeks will fly by and he'll be back before I know it. And then he's back for four days before I'm off to London for a week to visit PetDoc and Noise! Woo hoo!

Monday, March 9, 2009

This and that

Not enough on any one thing to make a substantial blog post, so instead a few tidbits in no particular order.

Mother Nature giveth, and Mother Nature taketh away. After a weekend of beautiful, balmy, spring-like weather, we woke up this morning to snow. It was a double whammy, because with the clocks going ahead this weekend it was dark again as I waited for the bus -- I had just been getting used to leaving for work in the light and coming home in the light. So we got a couple of days of spring, and then wham. Back into the dark and cold and snow. Sigh.

Speaking of the weekend, the Wii had a nasty little feature where it will tell you how many hours you've spent playing on any given day. The total time spent playing Tomb Raider in the last two days? Approximately 14 hours. Oops. We had great intentions for this weekend, for things like running errands and going to the gym and getting out and enjoying the sunshine. Instead we took turns running Lara Croft off cliffs. The worst part is that with the Wii you have to actually make Lara do the actions, like throwing a grappling hook or punching a bad guy. My arms are sore today. How pathetic is that?

But oh my goodness, we had fun.

Wedding planning is coming along. My thanks to those who have emailed with suggestions and support. I know I haven't replied to all the emails yet, but that has nothing to do with not welcoming the suggestions and everything to do with there not being enough hours in the days. (Of course, the 14 hours spent playing Tomb Raider might have something to do with that, she said sheepishly.) There are no big developments to report, just turning a lot of ideas around in my head. Serdic did rebel last night when I sat down with pen and paper and wanted to draw up a preliminary seating chart. I think the fact that no one has actually been invited to this wedding yet, so there is no one to "seat," was tripping him up. He's such a boy. :-)

And, finally, happy birthday to SingerMom!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Yes Wii Can

So Serdic wandered into the living room shortly before dinner this evening and announced "I'm bored." This was followed up with "Let's go buy a Wii." Five minutes later we were in the car headed for Future Shop, and within the hour we were the proud owners of a brand spanking new Wii gaming console. Plus an extra controller (we don't share very well), some fun games, and all the rest of the paraphernalia one needs to be a true Wii expert.

This was not quite as out of the blue as it sounds. I've been saying for ages I'd like to get a Wii, and Serdic has been making noises about a new gaming system for awhile, although he's been talking about an XBox360. I hauled out the old school Playstation (not even a Playstation 2 -- a Playstation 1!) this afternoon to play some Tomb Raider and I think that decided him that we needed to upgrade. But it was still a pretty spur of the moment decision.

But, oh my, was it the right one. We have had a blast this evening, and I have kicked his ass in a number of sports. He'll tell you he was the one doing the ass kicking, but he's lying. My arms are sore now, though!

Anyone out there have a Wii? What games can we simply not live without?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

My funny valentine

So we are inundated with Valentine's Day stuff, right? Everywhere you turn, cards, flowers, candy, hearts, chocolate, etc. So what do you suppose are the chances that on two separate nights in two different locations, Serdic and I would independently choose the same card for each other?

Greater than you'd think, apparently.

And since it was obviously a sentiment that spoke to both of us, I'm going to put it here as my Valentine's entry, instead of writing a bunch of other goopy stuff about how much I love him and how much I'm looking forward to spending my life with him.

A chance meeting
became a smile
became a conversation
became a touch
became a kiss
became a knowing
became destiny
I'm so glad we found each other

And here are a few photos of the floral arrangement that was just delivered. My boy has good taste, I will say that. Happy V-Day to all my loved ones, family and friends alike.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Random mid-week updates

I've had a series of interesting "customer service" encounters this week.

1) A couple of weeks ago my cell phone died -- it simply would not turn on. So I took it into the fine folks at Telus, where they tried the same things I had, with the same result. Pronouncing herself "stumped," the girl working at Telus said she had to send it out for repair (and when she gave me the repair request to sign, I was delighted to see that under the description of the problem she had used the phrase "but to no avail," making me a fan of hers for life). They gave me a loaner phone in the meantime (one that, interestingly, hadn't been cleared of the contacts and text messages of the last person to use it before me -- I made sure to wipe it clean myself before I returned it!) and life continued as normal. Monday afternoon I got a call on said loaner phone, that went something like this:

"TheSinger, how are you today?"
"Uh, fine, thank you. And this is?"
"This is *mumble* from Telus. Your phone is back from repair."
"Oh, great. Thanks very much."
"So, uh, when are you coming in to pick it up?"

And I know it's hard to express tone on the interwebs, but this was said as if I had left it there to linger for six months and it was taking up all their storage space. So I kind of fumbled around and said I thought I could come in that evening but I wasn't sure, and suddenly he was all "Oh, whenever you can is good, just wanted to let you know it was here." Very weird.

2) My problem with making phone calls is documented in other entries, but to sum up briefly -- I hate making phone calls, and find it very stressful to the point where I will work myself up into severe anxiety and put off calls that need to be made for weeks (which, of course, feeds back into the anxiety because then I have guilt about not taking care of something, which makes me want to put it off even further, etc. etc. etc.). However, Tuesday I gave myself a stern talking to and determined I was being silly, and picked up the phone to call the medical clinic I use in order to book my annual check up, which I have put off for as long as possible but now needs to be done. After waiting on hold for ten minutes I got a real live person. I asked if I could book said check up and she said "We don't do bookings over the phone. You have to go to the website and do an online booking request," and hung up. I rolled my eyes, but headed over to the website and dutifully made the online request. Yesterday I got home from work to a message on the machine, "Yes, this is Medical Clinic, please give us a call." So I give myself a stern talking to and screw up my courage, and call. They would like to book my appointment. Over the phone. Me: "Um, I called yesterday and was told you don't do phone bookings." Them: "No, you have to do it online." Me: "But I'm talking to you now, am I not?"

And you know, fine, whatever, I have an appointment for next week and it's all good, and my phone issues are not their fault or problem, but I was just left shaking my head at the end of it.

In other, more exciting, less rambling and weird news, I have a couple of wedding updates. The biggest and best is that I ordered my dress on Saturday. I still have trouble comprehending that statement -- I ordered a wedding dress. For the wedding I am having. Because I am getting married. It's pretty damn cool. The dress is gorgeous and I knew right away that it was The Dress, and I can't wait to wear it. No, you can't see pictures. It's a secret. :-)

Other bookings include the DJ for dinner music and dancing, and PetDoc and Noise have booked their flights to come home for the wedding. Woo hoo! I went and looked at invitations last week and while we haven't ordered them yet (still tweaking the wording) I think I have a style picked out. We still haven't done anything about a photographer, which is the next big thing on my list and something we have to do asap. If anyone out there reading this has a suggestion for either an Ottawa or Kingston based photographer they can recommend, I'm all ears. I'd really like to get that taken care of in the next week.

And the list goes on. 36 weeks to go!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Here Comes the Bridezilla

I made a promise to myself, back when it first became apparent that Serdic and I would likely be heading down the aisle together, that I would not be The Bride for the whole year leading up to our wedding. I don't want to be The Bride who can only talk about The Wedding, who can only think about The Wedding, who expects every person in her life to make their lives revolve around The Wedding for the next year. I told my friend (and bridesmaid!) J this recently and she said "Yeah, every bride says she's not going to be The Bride. Good luck with that." And honestly, the fact of the matter is I'm getting married in less than nine months (eek!) and it is a Big Deal for me. But I am trying very hard not to insist that it be a Big Deal for everyone else. So I was going to try to keep wedding blogging to a minimum.

That, of course, means I haven't blogged in weeks, because about all I think and talk about is wedding stuff! So much for that resolution!

The planning is well underway. Serdic and I spent this past weekend in Hometown, where the big day will take place, meeting with our reception venue and various other interested parties. I have the music for the ceremony well in hand -- anyone who knows me will not be surprised that I have very definite ideas about what I do (and don't!) want, particularly when it comes to music, and we have some very generous and talented friends who have offered to share their gifts with us and our guests, which I am really excited about. I am particularly blessed to have my Aunt C, who has a wonderful eye for the more creative side of things (something I don't have AT ALL), and she is hard at work designing floral arrangements and organizing the multitude of little creative details that we have all come up with. We all have the ideas, Aunt C is the one who actually brings them into being. She was the unofficial wedding planner and decorator for PetDoc and Noise's wedding, and it was seriously the most beautiful wedding I've ever been to (no, I'm not biased, why do you ask?). We are very lucky and grateful that she is willing to take on this gigantic task again for us.

Let's see, what else? Preliminary guest list is drawn up. Church and reception venue are booked. Wedding party has been asked and all have accepted (well, in fact, I don't think I ever asked PetDoc ... I think it's just assumed!) -- it'll actually be a nice parallel, as Serdic and I are both having one sibling and one close friend stand up with us. Nice symmetry there, and nice symbolism of having both our friends and family there to support us.

There are a couple of major things that need to be crossed off the list in the very near future -- top of that list is my gown. My mom and a few other important women in my life are going to accompany me on a dress hunting expedition this weekend -- I can't wait! I've done some preliminary looking online and I definitely have a few dresses in mind, but of course until you start trying things on it's hard to tell what will work. So that will definitely be very exciting.

J and I will also be crossing the Atlantic soon, to have a bridesmaid dress shopping adventure in London with PetDoc. So I am very much looking forward to that. It is strange to be planning a wedding without my sister here, and while of course I can keep her involved through this wild and wonderful thing called the internet (email is a beautiful thing) it's not quite the same. So I'm really looking forward to some "in person" time with her in April, to share everything we've been working on.

So that's where the wedding planning stands for now. Lots of lists, lots of decisions to make, lots of planning still to come. I promise to blog about other things between now and October, though!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Six things

Kiy tagged me in this meme, wherein I am supposed to list six things that make me happy, and then tag six other people to do the same. I don't really tag people when it comes to these things, but if anyone out there is reading and would like to play along on their own blog, let me know you did so in the comments!

So, here we go. There are, of course, a lot more than six things that make me happy, and I decided to try to go with very specific moments and things, instead of the more overarching concepts ("family," "friends," etc.).

1) Sitting in a theatre as the lights go down and the orchestra strikes up the overture.

2) A lazy Saturday morning snuggled in bed with Serdic, followed by coffee and breakfast sammiches and not having to go anywhere or do anything for a few hours.

3) A big family dinner, with everyone gathered around the table and good food, good conversation and lots of love circling around.

4) Reading the last chapter of a really fabulous book, trying to stretch the last few words out as long as possible because you just don't want it to be over.

5) Making music in my two choirs with many of my dearest friends.

6) Getting on a plane and going somewhere, anywhere, for a new adventure.

And a bonus number 7) talking about, thinking about, planning a special event coming up in October! :-)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Addendum to 2008 wrap up

Last week when I posted my 2008 wrap up Serdic said "but the year's not over yet ... what if something else happens?" Little did I know when I laughed him off that he was planning to make New Year's Eve the most special night of the year, and possibly of my life (so far!). So consider some of my answers to the questions in the previous post adjusted to take into account this little development:

Happy New Year to all my dear friends. We have been showered with good wishes today and I'm feeling very humbled and blessed by the love we feel from so many. 2009 promises to hold many good things for us, and I hope for all of you as well.