Monday, April 30, 2007

Facebook Junkie

'Hey Jul, what are you doing?' Stu asks me from the kitchen as he gets started on preparing dinner. 'Nothing,' I reply with a hint of guilt in my voice as I quickly minimise the window on my computer. That's right - I'm at Facebook again, feverishly looking for another fix of long lost friends from good times gone by. I've only been a member for a day but from the first hit I was well and truly hooked. I realise that everybody and their dog is already into this, but it was a fresh find for me and I'm delighted that so far I've found old buddies from Pioneer Camp, Caswell School, Bedford Road, Western, UBC and St Andrews!

Hehe - Don't panic - I did manage to break away from the computer this evening to go for a walk along the coast with my friend Cherie which was lovely :) Oh, and while it's not at all related to Facebook, I must also take a minute to mention that as of today smoking is officially banned in all public spaces in Northern Ireland!!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Big day out

Stuart and I caught the train bright and early this morning to Dublin. Yes, I know that we were there only last week, but there was a rare cheap deal on tickets so we jumped at the chance to hit the big city. We had a great day! It was a very chilled outing which included some touristing and lots of just plain enjoying the sunshine in the city. In the morning we toured Christ Church Cathedral which was very good - it was interesting, though not surprising, to see how the history of the cathedral (which dates from 1030 AD) was shaped by what monarch controlled Ireland when.

Later in the day we did a bit of shopping which included bookshops and clothes browsing as well as looking at ridiculously expensive things in the very posh Brown Thomas and visiting high end stationary stores to cater to Stu's new obsession with Mont Blanc pens! Eventually we felt keen to escape the mayhem of Grafton Street and happily went to the Avoca Cafe for a late lunch. Let me just say that it was seriously good (yes, I do know that my highlights usually are centred around food!) Avoca is my absolute favourite store in Dublin and I always go to look at (read covet) all the beautiful clothes/bags/housewares/kitchen stuff. But, being the thicko (as they say here) that I am I didn't know that there was a wonderful cafe on the top floor (oddly, I did know about the Avoca Cafe cookbooks - don't ask me where I thought the cafe was!) All that to say that all in all it was a lovely day :)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

In the bag

I want to share with you what I did this morning but I'm afraid it might make you think I am somewhat odd. I explained the saga to Ninny in brief in an email today and she responded, 'sounds . . . random . . .' Anyway, random though it may be, my morning adventure's good fodder for the blog so here goes . . .

Those among you who read such illustrious British publications (read celebrity gossip mags) as Heat and Grazia will be familiar with the new 'It Bag' of the year - The £5 canvas tote by Anya Hindmarsh (who usually designs £1,000 handbags) sporting the oh so earth friendly slogan 'I'm not a plastic bag' has been spotted on the arm of many a celebrity hipster this season. Anyway, a new limited edition of the bag went on sale at 8am this morning at Sainsbury's grocery stores across the UK. Sources (read the guy who answers the phone at the customer service desk) told me that each store only had thirty bags to sell and that it was recommended to come early.

Leave it to me to apsire to have one of these trendy shoppers as my own. I mean, I ask you, who amongst us would turn down an 'It Bag' for a fiver? (Me, I love a bargain.) All of this prompted me to get on my bike very early this morning (I'm not going to tell you how early because then you will just think I'm officially a full-on saddo) and peddle through the early morning rain to the grocery store.

When I arrived, well, let's just say there wasn't a massive queue (I was the only one there!) Despite feeling ever so slightly like a lunatic, I was not to be dissuaded and settled down outside the front door with my thermos of coffee, my knitting and my book, texting Stu that my chances of getting a bag were looking good.

Eventually the line built up, full of mostly women and a few husbands who had been tasked with this errand on the way to work. There we stood, all feeling slightly embarassed, assuring one another that whether in the name of fashion, environmentalism or profit, the early morning was surely worth it. (While we're on the topic of profit, I should mention that these little beauties are selling on Ebay for nearly £200. I think that I object strongly to this kind of inflation - a canvass bag's not really worth £200 is it? - but I am somewhat tempted!)

In summary, I got the bag, it's cool and I happily yawned my way through the workday . . .

Monday, April 23, 2007

Saving the planet, one sheet at a time . . .

This just in - Sheryl Crow has recently gone public with a challenge for us all - wait for it - to endeavour to use only one square of toilet paper per visit, rising to two or three the odd time for those (and I quote!) 'pesky situations' . . . Aren't you glad that I use this blog to probe the really deep questions of life? Ahem.

Anyway, things are good in our world - nothing to exciting to report. The weekend was nice (with the good combination of visiting Stu's family, going to the gym, going to church, watching DVDs and doing some cooking and baking) but as usual the days off passed a bit too quickly! Stu worked on Sunday so I was left to my own devices (read knitting and watching Grey's Anatomy!) Tonight we had a nice visit with our friend Cherie who came over for a cup of Earl Grey and a bit of a chill out. This is short and sweet as I must now go and hit the hay and so I shall leave you to mull over the 'one sheet challenge.' Good luck with that.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Broten wins!!

Exciting news from Saskatoon!! Last night my brother Cam won the nomination for the New Democratic Party in the Saskatoon Massey Place constituency! Over 300 people attended the nomination meeting and Cam won on the first ballot. Congratulations Cam! We we wish we could have been there - it was good to see that so many friends and family (camp folks, Ruth and Cam's cousins and Auntie A and K Hall to name a few!) were out to show their support. Check out all that orange gear - I am especially a fan of the pic of Ninny and her new beau Matt with Premier Lorne Calvert :)

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Dub Day

We rose and shone very early this morning - our good intentions to catch the train straight to Dublin were thwarted by a 'security threat' on the train line (welcome to NI folks - sigh) so we had to be bused to Newry where we then got the train. Accompanying our minister David, we eventually successfully arrived at the beautiful conference venue at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham where we attended a very interesting conference on reconciliation hosted by the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs.

After the conference we spent a few hours dandering around Dublin (see Stu doing some expert map reading!) It is such a busy, energetic place - the city is absolutely full of young people and there is so much going on. In the evening we enjoyed a great meal at Wagamama which is one of our favourites. If you haven't been to a Wagamama before, I recommend it if you have a chance - it's a very clever, funky variation on a noodle bar where you sit at long tables alongside other customers and they bring you your food quite quickly. In case you were wondering (as I'm sure you weren't!) I went for the chili chicken ramen (big bowl of noodle soup) and Stu had his old faithful yaki soba. Scrumptious.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


This is going to be a bit of a quick post as it's way past my bedtime and in the morning and Stu and I have to get up at an ungodly hour (as in, like, five!) to catch a train to Dublin. We're going for the day with our minister to attend a meeting/conference related to the community association that we are involved with. Should be a good and informative day, not to mention a (much needed) break away from the office for me so I'm looking forward to the excursion.

Anyway, life's been what I would describe as alright this week - I know I haven't posted for a few days. What's new you ask? Well, on Monday night we went with my dad to see Canada 's under 19 rugby team beat Georgia in the International Junior Rugby Championships - It was fun to sit midst the Canadian fans which were mostly made up of rugby parents (think hockey moms and you're getting warm.) Last night I went out for a walk along the coast of Holywood (see pic) with my friends Cherie and Rachel. It was great to get out and spend time with them while Stu went out for coffee with his friend Steven. So, that's the craic, as they say here. My mom and dad left Belfast yesterday to go on a 'dream trip' to Norway this week so that is very exciting - I am sure that they will have a wonderful time.

Oh, by the way, big congratulations to two of my blogging SK friends. Santosh and Felicia are the happy parents of a beautiful new baby girl and Poach is getting married!! Good news in the blogosphere :)

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Rathlin Island

'The brook would lose its song if we removed the rocks.'
Wallace Stegner

I had one of the best days I've had in a long time yesterday. Stuart and I and my parents packed up the car bright and early Saturday morning to head to the North Coast where we boarded a ferry to Rathlin Island. Rathlin Island is a small island which is inhabited by about eighty people. It is a famous refuge for birds (especially puffins) and is an amazing place to visit - so beautiful and quiet since there are hardly any vehicles on the island and parts of the island are designated nature reserves. We even got to watch seals sunning themselves on the rocks! Stu and I explored the hilly terrain on our bikes and my mom and dad did a big walk. I returned home last night feeling so refreshed. It was so good to get out of the city for the day and to spend all that time in the sunshine!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Around the world . . .

I read this interesting article on the BBC the other day which tells how Google Earth is bringing people's attention to the terrible situation in Sudan. The story prompted me to look up the website for the first time which of course led to me spending a good chunk of time tapping in postcodes of favourite places and seeing some amazing shots. I travelled down memory lane jumping from Saskatoon to London ON to Vancouver to Scotland and then back here to Belfast. Very cool.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Canadian Idol Fart

Need I say more? (Yes I am immature.)

Monday, April 9, 2007

Fauteuils D'Orchestre

This evening Stuart and I saw a very good French movie at our favourite cinema the Queen's Film Theatre. We watched Orchestra Seats which had endearing and intriguing characters, great dialogue and beautiful shots of Paris. The film cleverly weaves the lives of several characters together and has an uplifting take on life. To paraphrase the main character Jessica, 'Some people look at their cell phone when it rings and say, 'Who the hell is that?' while others, like me, say, 'Hey! Who could that be?' Refreshing.

Oh, and I must include a special shout out for Stu's blog! The illusive Stu has posted again for the first time in a long time. Check him out :)

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Happy Easter!

Easter greetings to everyone! I woke up this morning feeling full of energy - the spring sunshine is so wonderful. I spent the morning doing some baking (every now and then I need a little fix of measuring and mixing and have been doing quite a lot lately.) The recipes included Coconut and Almond Cake with Mango and Passion Fruit Syrup for dessert this afternoon and Wheatabix Muffins for breakfast.

While baking I listened to Steve Wright's Sunday Love Songs on BBC Radio 2. It is a very long running show full of dedications to loved ones and mostly cheesy music - while I don't really like the show, I often end up listening on Sundays while drinking a cup of tea and putzing around in the kitchen. I find the Lost Loves segment of the show very interesting - today a woman called Claire was looking to be reunited with a guy called Ken who she met in Wales on a summer fling forty years ago. Hmm - I felt curious about what Claire would hope might come out of this reunion?

Anyway, carrying on with the energy theme I went and swam at the gym which I am really enjoying lately - I love blocking out the whole world with my ear plugs and my bathing cap - refreshingly it's just me and the deep blue.

This afternoon we enjoyed some nice time with our families - Stuart's parents hosted us all for a lovely Easter dinner. Tonight Stu and I are maxin' and relaxin' (yes, that was a Fresh Prince reference) and very much enjoying the prospect of no work tomorrow! So far on the agenda, I have scheduled myself to eat a Cadbury's Cream Egg. I'll keep you posted if anymore concrete plans materialise!

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Irish BBQ

We are just in the door tonight after a great evening BBQ tonight hosted by our good friends Paul and Ruth. It was a very nice evening full of good food and lots of laughs - Unfortunately the warm and sunny day that we enjoyed earlier quickly cooled off as soon as we fired up the grill and set out the lawn chairs. Ruth lent us all extra sweaters and we managed to eat our dinner outside but eventually had to go in! April has been really lovely this year, but trying to sit out in the back yard in the evening was pushing it a bit! A fire pit would have come in very handy . . .

The rest of the day was really good and somewhat unique since this afternoon, Stu's mom Lesley, Stuart and my dad went on an hour long flight over Northern Ireland! Lesley was gifted the flight last spring for her 60th birthday and chose today to redeem the voucher and very kindly invited Stu and my dad along for the ride. They all really enjoyed it and no doubt some aerial pics of green fields will be forthcoming. While they were up in the clouds, Mom and I enjoyed wandering through posh shops on the Lisburn Road and going for coffee. Very chilled.

Friday, April 6, 2007

No work, all play

Stu and I have enjoyed a really nice day off today for Good Friday. This morning we woke up to yet another day full of sunshine and blue skies. We enjoyed walking into Belfast city centre where we met my parents at St George's Market. The big open air market was really busy - on Friday mornings the market sells mostly food along with tables and tables hocking what looks like junk to me (the phrase 'One man's trash . . . ' comes to mind!) In contrast, I would say that the Saturday morning market is a more gentrified version which, although the produce prices are rumored to be higher, I enjoy more. Anyway, the Friday morning market experience is certainly authentic as you jostle shoulder to shoulder with Irish grannies hunting for bargains.

After enjoying a morning coffee with mom and dad, Stu and I were wandering through town and spontaneously decided to go to the Mourne Seafood Bar for lunch. After some recommendations from some work friends, we've been wanting to go there for several weeks now and it certainly did not disappoint. The place has a great atmosphere and delicious food! I am sometimes disappointed with eating out in Belfast, but my linguine with seared scallops and Stu's seafood risotto were wonderful. It was also kindof quirky and interesting to find out that pubs and restaurants can't sell alcohol before five pm on Good Friday. Ooh - I have to mention that we also enjoyed starting with a plate of oysters, a treat that we haven't had since the good old days in St Andrews when my old boss Tim kindly treated us to the odd meal at The Seafood Restaurant.

The lunch out was followed by an afternoon of chilling and reading which was followed by an evening session at the gym. Lovely. The best part? It's only Friday night tonight so the whole weekend is still to come :)

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Thursday's child

I placed a bid on Ebay tonight for the first time. I bid a fairly low amount on this lovely Orla Kiely bag. Ever since my dear and very stylish friend Anne-Lise came to visit with her Orla Kiely coffee cup print bag (I couldn't find a pic but it is so gorgeous!) I have been looking for one online. Since the print was from a couple of years ago it's probably a bit of a pipe dream to think about finding one, let alone at a reasonable price, but what the heck. I surf nonetheless! Anyway, about fifteen minutes after I placed my bid my maximum price was bested, so it was an exciting but brief foray into the world of Ebaying. While I really don't need more opportunities to spend my money, I'm sure I'll be back, spurred on by my desire for the fabled coffee cup bag and yarn.

Speaking of yarn, just to update you Thermal is coming right along. Working from the bottom up I've done about three inches and so far the aptly named waffle stitch isn't driving me too crazy! I'll post a pic when there's a bit more to see. I've resolved to knit every day and to make sure I bring my knitting everywhere (bar work) so that I can seize the little moments of the day spent sitting having coffee etc. Afterall, I would love to see this sweater completed before April 2008!

Tonight I actually made some good stitching progress while watching a couple of episodes of House which we recently got from Amazon. Both Stu and I really like it - Hugh Laurie (who funnily enough is an old school comic actor from the UK) has totally reinvented himself as convincingly American, so mean and very cool. His gravelly voice doesn't hurt either.

Off to bed now to sit up late (no work tomorrow!) reading a new novel - The Interpretation of Murder by Jed Rubenfeld. While it's still early days, so far I'm really enjoying it (except the murder parts of course.) I'll let you know if I can give it a full recommendation as soon as I've finished.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

A few unrelated things . . .

It's Wednesday night of a short week! Happy days as they say here in Belfast - only one more day of work and then it's Easter weekend! Lots of colleagues will be off all of the week following the holiday weekend (I have to admit that an abundance of annual leave is one of the very good things about working in the UK.) Even so, I have resisted temptation this time around and have managed to avoid taking any extra days off since I've some travelling fun and games planned in May and June including trips to Devon, London and Paris! These wee trips are unusual for us and it's very nice to have so much to look forward to.

I have been meaning to highlight my friend Catherine's blog for several days now. By way of background, Cath is mother of Andi of McWicz fame. She's especially interested in over fifty bloggers joining her audience, so if you're a silver surfer (is that funny term still used?) be sure to check out The Clothesline where Cath's recently posted some cool mountain photos from her ski vacation.

What else is new? Oh yes, I am enjoying taking part of a group at my work that organises workplace activities that promote healthy living. For example, this week a nurse has been in giving people cardiac risk factor assessments (I'm getting my cholesterol and blood pressure taken tomorrow.) We've also recently started the second round of a 12 week Get Active health challenge which encourages participants to do 30 minutes of exercise, eat five portions of fruit and veg and drink two litres of water a day. I think it's great to inject a focus on health and a bit of fun and energy into our desk jobs! I know the challenge has motivated me already because I swam 2km at the gym tonight after work (pat self on the back here.)

Monday, April 2, 2007

C is for Cookie

Many moons ago my dad clipped a healthy oatmeal raisin cookie recipe from the lifestyle pages of the local paper. The clipping resolutely stuck to the fridge in my parent's house, a not-too-subtle hint for someone (anyone!) to make the recipe. Well, the lover of Dad's oatmeal raisin cookies (known as my dad) is now officially happy.

I had a job interview thingy all day today and so to de-stress this evening I enjoyed baking these bickies and all I can say is, who said the Star Phoenix is only good for outing my sister's new relationships? :) The recipe came up trumps with this homemade and fairly healthy rendition. If you find yourself in need a little relaxation, consider some baking. Afterall, nothin' says lovin' . . .

By the way, I am finally getting really into Arcade Fire and officially loving them. Yes, I know I'm a bit behind in waiting until they are a worldwide sensation to get on board, but better late than neaver right? Anyway, without further adieu, the cookie recipe . . .

Oatmeal Cookies
2/3 cup canola oil
2/3 cup granulated white sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tbsp apple juice
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups quick cooking rolled oats
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup raisins

In a large bowl, beat together oil and sugars until well combined and smooth. Beat in the egg, apple juice and vanilla. In a separate bowl, mix together the rolled oats, flours, soda, cinnamon and raisins, then transfer to the wet mixture and stir until well blended. Chill in the refrigerator at least one hour. Preheat oven to 350 F. Place roundish balls of the chilled dough on a cookie sheet lined with greaseproof or waxed paper. Bake cookies about 10 minutes or until lightly browned (oh yes, and my not so secret secret to chewy cookie goodness that I discovered while baking 350 cookies a day at treeplanting - undercook ever so slightly and let them finish off while cooling! Genius.)

And the best part you ask? Being able to take them over to my mom and dad's flat while still warm and enjoy them together with a cup of tea. Awwww . . .

Sunday, April 1, 2007

And little did he know . . .

This may be old news to some of you, but I'd officially like to recommend the flick Stranger than Fiction. We watched it last night and really enjoyed it - the quirky plot, the acting and the way the movie was shot were all great. Will Ferrell is excellent in a less funny role than usual and there are other great performances by favourites including Dustin Hoffman, Maggie Gyllenhaal (I generally think she's cool) and Buster from Arrested Development! In a bit of a depressing way, Harold Crick's working life as an auditor for the IRS is somewhat like mine . . . (sigh!)

It's Sunday night again after a very nice weekend with lots of highlights. Yesterday I went shopping with my Mom in a very busy Belfast yesterday (doing everyday things like shopping together are one of the sweet pleasures of having my parents nearby for a while!) This morning we woke up feeling motivated and proceeded to do some serious spring cleaning and banana bread baking. This afternoon we celebrated my father-in-law's birthday (I must give mad props to my dad aka 'The Mad Walker' who walked the ten miles to Lisburn for the birthday party!) and this evening we had friends over for coffee after church. All in all it was a good weekend bathed in sunshine. The smell of spring is officially in the air!