Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Good-ness

This photo is from my friend Dunny's webpage - she's a fab photographer. Tonight I will share with you some random good things in my life as of late:

1) Today I finished an ongoing project at work that started in September! It feels good to see something through to the bitter/sweet end.

2) I've finally ordered yarn for the thermal sweater! It's coming to me via Dunny dearest in the OC (thanks Dun! Miss you!) I've picked burgundy and am going to join a knit-a-long to see if that will spur me on. The sweater's on ridiculously skinny needles so I probably have it ready for the winter after next! I'll keep you posted.

3) I just downloaded a few good tracks tonight on Itunes. I like Mika's Grace Kelly as well as Gwen Stephani's new single The Sweet Escape (she's a bit of a blast from the past - cannot help but think of Spiderwebs playing loudly in the BRCI gym during BRIT in 1997, but maybe that's just me.)

4) Even though it was pounding rain here tonight generally speaking it's starting to feel like spring here in Belfast. Mini daffodils have started sprouting and the air is a bit warmer. Me like-y.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Dancing Nancies

We are just home after an amazing night at the Waterfront Hall listening to Dave Matthews live in concert. The show was so good - nearly three hours of Dave Matthews and his acoustic guitar with another amazing guitarist, Tim Reynolds. It was a great evening - they played lots of old favourites which brought me back to high school days when we used to listen to the DMB non-stop. I saw them once before (nearly ten years ago as Stuart reminded me tonight!) in Calgary with Andi and Santosh. Remember that road trip you guys?! Good times. Tonight Dave (as I like to call him - no, not really) talked to the crowd lots in between songs and told random and funny stories - he was very likeable and I always enjoy concerts where you get a feel for a bit of the artist's personality.

All this to say Ms Ninny, thank you so much for the tickets!! We felt very spoiled and wished that you could have joined us!! (Sadly he didn't play 'treadin' troddin' trails' though which always makes me think of Andi and I killing ourselves laughing at you when you were plagued with a stomach bug after one of your South American adventures! Yes, we were mean and yes, it was funny.) Miss you Nin! xo

Monday, February 26, 2007

God Save the Queen

One draw back to living in the UK is that the Oscar's are on in the middle of the night so I haven't watched them for a few years. That's really not the end of the world since the show is always a bit too long by the time they get to the awards that you really want to see, but still, if they were on at a decent time I would have tuned in. I made up for it by flicking to BBC online and Santosh's blog this morning to see the winners listed. Tonight I also spent a bit of time on People online (guilty pleasure) to flick through the pics of the best dressed which was kindof fun. I have yet to see Dame Helen Mirren in The Queen but the UK's all abuzz with her best actress victory. I have to say that it's certainly nice to see such a beautiful older woman honoured in a world that normally worships the thin, the young and the plastic.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

They're baa-aaack!

Good news! The 'rents have returned. They touched down safely in Belfast tonight along with J-Lo and D after three weeks of fun in the sun in Tenerife, Portugal and Malaga. What can we say? They sure get around, even managing to slip in a day in Morocco and putting over 1,400 km on the rental car in Spain alone! A major highlight of the week in Spain was a day in Jaen where they went and visited some of Nancy's friends from her sejour there last year.

Anyway, all preliminary reports are that the trip was great - Dad just needs a chance at the computer to organise his pics and then we are in for the mother of all slide shows! In other exciting news, upon their arrival tonight Mom and Dad moved into their new flat in South Belfast (please note - that's the posh part - not where we live!) so it's cool for them to have their own place here. It's great to have them back!

Friday, February 23, 2007

Sick-o

Pass the Vicks, the Kleenex and the Sudafed if you please. I am officially sick with a head cold and it is no fun. Fortunately I was able to take the day from work today and spent most of my time sleeping which was helpful. Oh, and watching abc1 of course which involved a marathon of Home Improvement episodes from the early '90s. In short, I was pretty useless - after finally mustering up the energy to go and have a shower all I felt like doing was going back to sleep! Anyway, enough whining. I am feeling somewhat better tonight and am hoping that the sneezy, stuffy-fest does not continue over the whole weekend!

On the bright side of things, Stuart's sister and her family have been over from England this week so we have had a chance to see them. Tonight, despite my less than energetic state, we watched High School Musical with the three lovely nieces (they know all the words) and ate too much junk food. It was good. And speaking of visitors, tomorrow I am hoping to see Sara C who is over from New York which is also good.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Rat Race


I was trying to think about what to post and the main thing that came to mind this rainy Wednesday night as I sit feeling like I'm on the edge of coming down with a cold is a kind of glum-ness that life gets so manic. Sad but true. It's my regular refrain when work gets super busy and starts to crowd into all the other things that make for a good quality of life like cleaning the house, seeing friends, working out and cooking good healthy food. Stu and I are both at that place tonight, feeling slightly beleagured in the middle of a busy week and I don't like it one bit. Anyway, I started crying my regular river about this and Stu told me not to be boring. Good point.

Joking aside, my feelings of being worn out bring up the interesting question of what exactly are we living for when we end up feeling stuck on the hamster wheel most of the time? Often when I try to think about how to remedy the situation I end up resolving to find more energy and time and, come hell or high water, make dang sure that all the good things happen even when work is really busy and demanding. Tonight I feel a bit less resolute though - perhaps the only answer is for Stu and I to have our own business where you might (hopefully) get really busy but at least you’re in charge of yourself. I like the sound of that. But since I have no such plans at the moment for now I shall bravely soldier on (and do my best to stop my grousing and get some more interesting subject matter to post about!)

Monday, February 19, 2007

Family Day


I'm wishing that I lived in Saskatoon today. No, I'm not especially yearning for that freezing cold temps and zero visibility feeling - It's just that it's the inaugural 'Family Day' stat holiday today and shucks, who wouldn't wish for a Monday off every now and again? I think it sounds like a great idea - I picture people doing nice things with their kids like going tobogganing or skating and then going home to hot chocolate around the fire followed by a nice home-cooked family meal together. Lovely. However people actually end up spending the time off, more power to you I say. Who among us would argue that Saskatchewanian's coping with February on the bald prairie don't deserve a break today?

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Dinner is served

We had a fun Friday night last night. Our friends Paul and Ruth had us and another couple people over for a dinner party - it was a really good night with fun conversation and great food. Paul cooked Malaysian Chicken Curry with Jasmine Rice from Gordon Ramsay's Sunday Lunch cookbook. Although I am a big fan of Gordon (yes, sailor's mouth and all - his Kitchen Nightmares show makes for some very compelling viewing - Oh no! . . . I had resolved not to talk about tv on this blog anymore! Some people were getting worried) I had never really looked at this cookbook as I assumed from the name that it was mostly roasts and such. (Not that I don't like roasts but other things get me going a bit more on the recipe front.) All that to say that Paul's curry was really good so I think I will give the book a try. (For those of you who haven't noticed, I have a bit of a thing for cookbooks - half-hearted apologies to those of you for whom this topic is yawnsville!)

Another good thing about the night was of course the company. Our friend Ruth has a very sarcastic sense of humour which I happen to find hilarious. She has a way of making fun of you where you cannot help but laugh along rather than getting offended. As a general point of interest about Northern Ireland, this kind of 'abuse' is pretty par for the course among friends here. Long ago and far away when Stuart and I were just becoming friends I asked him why he made fun of me so much. Although I didn't know that he was trying to win my affection at the time, if I had known I would have thought that he had a pretty odd way of showing it (i.e. by picking on me!) Stu replied to me that this 'banter' in NI terms means that you are liked. Hmmmm. After being married to Stuart for what is quickly turning into a fairly long time and living and working here in Belfast I can whole-heartedly authenticate this fact. I try not to be a thin-skinned Canuckian about it (oh, we Canadians are so lovely and polite - sigh!) and I manage to succeed most of the time.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Preach it

Here's a brillant party political broadcast by the social activist Reverend Billy for the Northern Ireland Green Party.

It's been street preachers all over the place for me today - As I was wandering through Belfast during my lunch break I heard some woeful hymn singing being broadcast on a megaphone. Only when I ventured closer to the city hall (the venue of choice for the street preaching types) did I see that the singer and preacher was none other than Ian Paisley, in the flesh. He must be making a concerted effort to prove he's as God fearing as ever, even despite all that talk power sharing.

On a less cynical note, Stu and I are getting active in local politics by organising an election forum for East Belfast at our church. All you NI readers spread the word - It'll be on the evening of March 1st at Willowfield Parish Church of Ireland - Stuart's been on the phone to candidates all day and so far we have had a great response.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Brainy Smurf

My brain feels officially fried tonight. I spent the day writing selection tests for the Northern Ireland civil service. I write these race-against-the-clock-logic-and-math-tests every year with the hope that someday I might just get good enough at them to beat out the many people that apply. Why you ask? (Good question she says.) Well, to cut a long story short, my current job is a fixed term contract so every now and then I feel compelled to do a bit of job hunting to better my lot in life . . . and today that meant using up some of my hard earned flexi-time to sit in an exam room all day. Vunderbar. I eventually emerged after several painstaking hours of filling in little circles, my face smudged with pencil lead and clothes covered in eraser bits. Needless to say I was feeling a bit haggard. Thankfully things started looking brighter after I spent some time de-stressing by making some yummy bolognese sauce for dinner and an apple crumble to take to my home group. When in doubt, cook.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

That's amour-ehhh . . .

Happy Valentine's Day mes amis! Yes, it's that time again. Love is in the air. I was downtown over my lunch hour and it seemed like every second person I met was carrying bunches of flowers, stuffed toys or other items wrapped in cellophane and lots of red and white ribbon. A friend at work even got a dozen lovely looking roses delivered to her desk. As for us, we tend to low-key it on the commercialised love thing (we don't need a holiday to say I love you - yawn!) but of course my Stuart is a nice one - he had a card and nice chocolates for me this morning.

I have fond memories of Valentine's Day at school - doing cards for everyone in the class (I remember getting some particularly cool Garfield ones from the Shopper's in Canarama Shopping Centre) and then spending an afternoon constructing a little pink and red heart shaped mailbox to receive all the little friendly notes and obligatory cinnamon hearts. The cardinal rule - make a card for everyone because it's a real heartbreaker for those that don't get that many. At least half the school day on the 14th is spent eating candy and opening the cards - I remember my mom making to die for red heart-shaped 'Knox Blox' (also known as Jello Jigglers) for my class. I also vaguely recall eating so many that I was sick but then that's not a very pleasant memory at all is it?

So, what did we do tonight to mark the occasion especial? After work we went to the gym for a swim and then had a Marks and Spencer Indian meal while watching the Brit Awards (I promise Cam, I really don't watch too much tv.) Of the preformances I personally really enjoyed Amy Winehouse and Corrine Bailey Rae. The Killers were fab but then they're not British. The host Russel Brand is just generally too funny - listen to his radio show on BBC Radio 2 if you have a chance and I promise, you won't be sorry.

Lots of love to you all. xo

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Ode to Scrubs

Loving it. Okay, go on. Accuse me of frivolity what with me being all about the pop culture but I thought I would take a chance just to say that I really and truly love Scrubs. We've watched seasons one to four on dvd (oh yeah, while you're at it you can accuse me of wasting time watching too much tv) and now I'm just waiting for some new episodes to come available on Amazon. I think Zach Braff is a generally a genius, Perry Cox is meanly sexy and Janitor . . . Don't even get me started on Janitor.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Hikey Hikersons


I had a lovely Sunday hiking on Black mountain which is up above West Belfast. The hike was organised as part of the Feile an Phobail 2006 West Belfast Spring Festival and I went along with a group of friends from work. It was great to be out in the sunshine and get lots of fresh air and good exercise. I had decided last night not to go because the weather was minging (read wet/cold/generally very bad) yesterday but thing brightened up considerably this morning so I put on my layers, packed my lunch and away we went. It was especially nice today to be with friends for the day as Stu was away for work speaking at a church a couple of hours away. After slogging (in an enjoyable way) through lots of very wet and boggy grass and heather, we were treated to some lovely blue sky views of Belfast. I will add this walk to places I will take any visitors that come to stay with us (Kate and Thom, you've been warned! Dad, we'll go when you get back from your sunny hols!) After the hike I was happy to get home to a hot shower and some dry socks and after chilling out a bit set to making a nice pot of Moosewood's minestrone soup. Happily Stu made it back home from his adventures in time for us to go to our church tonight and then out for coffee with friends after the service. I have to say, it's been a nice weekend all and all.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Very weird indeed

I just remembered a weird thing that I meant to put on my 'weird things about me' post a couple of days ago. It's not about me, but it's most definitely weird. I was in the changing room at my gym just packing up my bag after a workout when I noticed a woman in her late thirties getting ready to go up to the cardio suite. She was slim and wearing black capri workout trousers (I'm in an official habit of calling them trousers because here pants = panties!) and other appropriate workout gear. Nothing too remarkable about that . . . but then I noticed that she was wearing black tights under her capris - a bit unusual I thought to myself. I was just about to go when I couldn't help but notice the woman pull a role of cling film (read saran wrap!) out of her gym bag and proceed to wrap a neat layer of plastic wrap around her torso tucking it into her gym trousers and the top of her bra. She must've been trying to sweat it out - I couldn't help but think of guys from my high school wrestling team running around our gym in layers of bunnyghugs to get into their weight category. I didn't want to stare but I really was transfixed - what on earth would drive a woman to such lengths? I mean, the treadmill is already un-enjoyable enough without being wrapped in sweat-inducing plastic! I felt like telling her all that will do is de-hydrate her but maybe she's got to get into a little black dress in a hurry. See, I told you it was weird.

Last night (Friday night - yeah!) we went to see the new Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore film Music and Lyrics. I'm going to be honest and say that I really enjoyed it - I love a good rom com and even though Hugh Grant has a bit of a sordid past and is generally a grumpy guy he plays a good romantic lead and Drew Barrymore is very good as well. It's a bit of a spoof of '80s music and also of contemporary pop a la American Dreams (but not quite as much satire.) It's funny. My Stuart is very amenable and doesn't mind going to movies like this with me - the husband of one of my friends at work saw the trailer on tv and turned to her and said 'No (insert expletive here) way.' I'm lucky.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Political Animals


Announcing a project of Stu's related to his work but that might just be interesting to any of you who want to dig a little deeper into the scary world of Northern Irish politics. Visit this newly launched election blog to read a daily post from various people interested in faith and politics here in NI. It will be interesting to see what kinds of debates come up on the comments. Never mind green and orange (read Catholic and Protestant) I'm more concerned about things like recycling and affordable housing (this just in - Belfast housing prices went up the most in all of Europe this year! Eeek - just ask me how un-fun it is as a renter to have someone tell you that their less than amazing house has gone up, like half a billion £s this year. Cringe.) Anyway, due to years of unrest only scant attention has been paid by the electorate in NI to things like taxes, healthcare and education policies so hopefully this election will mark a change (not to mention actually happen) and 'real politics' can start rolling along . . . Here's hoping but if you read the comments on blogs like Slugger you can't help but find the situation slightly depressing.

On an frivolous/indulgent/unrelated note, we started watching season four of 24 on dvd tonight. It's a sure fire way to self-induce high blood pressure and difficulty getting to sleep at night (sooo stressful) but I love it. I just cannot understand why the head of CTU is always such a numptee. When will they learn that Jack is always right and will always save the world?? Oooh, and what a voice.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Who you callin' weird?


I've been properly chastised by my brother Cam who every now and again threatens to quit reading my blog. Idle threats will get you nowhere bro, but I must admit that I've been a bit of a slacker on the posting front recently and so I promise to do better! Anyhoo, I thought to myself, what better time than to respond to Kate who tagged me a while back . . . The rules? Six weird things about me. Should be easy enough - no shortage of material in that department! Oh yeah - Stu's already done this so I tag Nico, Andi and Carla. Here we go.

1) I like to eat raw broccoli and cauliflower. No, this is not weird in Canada but I get plenty of comments and strange looks in the lunch room here in the land of fish 'n chips.
2) Confession . . . I've never been baptised. I sort of missed the boat back in the CMA days and now I go to Church of Ireland where it's infant baptism. Imagine-toi - funny mental pic of our minister sprinkling water on my head.
3) I looove CSI. Vegas is best. I count Gris, Catherine, Sarah, Nick, Warick, Greg and Brass among my nearest and dearest. I've seen every episode of series one to five. (I usually don't watch the gory bits.)
4) Peach used to be my favourite colour. In my younger days my bedroom was affectionately known as the 'Peach Palace' and my eighth birthday party had a full-on 'peach' theme. Fab.
5) I worked as a cleaner in the common areas of the very grand Old Course Hotel in St Andrews, Scotland for one and a half days. Let's just say drastic action was required in order to avoid our marriage ending in divorce when it had only just begun!
6) Two words - Tommy Douglas - gotta love him. So much so that I did a speech about him as 'my hero' in grade five which featured a special section on his famous cream separator speech. Can you say indoctrination of the young? My obsession lives on - I heart Jack Bauer.

Monday, February 5, 2007

hehe

It's way past my bedtime so you've got the short and sweet me tonight. It was not a bad day all in all (for a Monday that is!) Work is busy as per usual with lots of deadlines but looking on the bright side having lots to do makes the day go quite quickly. Just now I'm feeling thoroughly chilled (not to mention tired!) after going to swim club tonight.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

We're back . . .



To anyone who noticed, many apologies for the blogging hiatus. I think this has been my longest span of not posting since I started this whole gig in November. Fear not - I wasn't intentionally ignoring my cyberfriends - I've just been offline since Friday as we've been in County Donegal on our church weekend away. All in all we had a really good time! It was great to get to know people better and it was more than a bit refreshing to get out of the city for a bit. While there wasn't much free time to explore the area this weekend, beautiful and rugged Donegal (in the Republic of Ireland but on the north-west coast) is definitely added to my list of holiday destinations.

When we came home this afternoon we thankfully still had some time to attend to the un-fun but necessary weekend duties such as laundry, cleaning and groceries. After getting the chores out of the way, we settled down and watched a movie that I've been wanting to see for a long time. Tsotsi is a South African film set in a real township built on a landfill only ten km from the centre of Johannesburg. It is a really heartbreaking and human transformation story of a 'thug' (literal translation of 'tsotsi') who nabs a baby in a car-jacking gone horribly wrong. It's hard to watch (as is one of the dvd special features which features a day in the life of some children who live in the actual township) but not to be missed. In addition to the compelling story and acting, the cinematography and music are wonderful.

Oh, by the way, for anyone tracking my parent's visit I can report that they left bright and early on Friday morning to meet J 'n D for three weeks of sunny fun in Tenerife, Spain and Portugal (nice for some!) The trip will undoubtedly include golf, lounging by the pool, more golf, good food and adventurous day trips. Did I mention golf? I did consider trying to stow away in their suitcase but no such luck - baggage limits just aren't what they used to be! Mom and Dad, if you're reading, I hope you're enjoying the trip so far! Drop us a line :)