Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Going public

Training officially starts next week for the Dublin marathon on the 29th October 2007! In an effort to motivate myself and make sure the training starts in earnest I'm boldly announcing our goal here on Always Paddle. What can I say - nothing like fear of looking like a slacker to the readership to get me going out on those long Sunday runs! We loved doing the Dublin marathon last year - over 12,000 runners, a very friendly atmosphere and a great course in coolio Dublin . . . anyone fancy joining us?!

Monday, June 25, 2007

The end of an era

Well, after six months of good times and happy travels, the parentals are on their way to home sweet home tomorrow morning. Queue the crumpled faces and make sure plenty of Kleenex is on hand for the airport (I'm definitely not joking!) Ah well . . . on the bright side we had a lovely evening tonight out for a nice Chinese meal for Mom's birthday tomorrow. Even as parting is such sweet sorrow yada yada, they are looking forward to getting home for a lovely Saskatchewan summer after some amazing travels, lots of chilling out and good times together - I hope those of you in Saskatoon are primed and ready for the mother of all slide shows as the mad-walker-happy-snapper (as he's known in these parts) has many great pics! As they say in Belfast, 'safe home' . . .

Friday, June 22, 2007

You can't do that on television

Don't even pretend you don't remember this!! Ode to a Canadian kids tv classic . . . I was originally looking for a clip of the locker dialogue . . .

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Happy solstice!

Oh, how I love the longest day! Hope everyone's doing something sunny today and enjoying the thought that summer has officially started . . . being a dweller of the land of winter greyness, I suppose I do find it slightly depressing though that from here on out the days get shorter but now's not the time to think about that!

I am going to a potluck tonight with my home group from church - we are celebrating the arrival of our friends Paul and Ruth's little boy Joe only six days ago. We went to visit them yesterday and it was really fun to see such a tiny newborn - only days old - the mind boggles! I went to pick up Joe and Stu helpfully admonished me to 'be careful.' Uh, yeah, thanks.

I was trying to think of what to make for tonight and to me the summer potluck is all about the pasta salad. I turned to Moosewood (where else - the best salad-y cookbook eva) and enjoyed de-stressing tonight after work while making this very yummy Greek Pasta Salad. Go on, you know you want some . . .

Greek Pasta Salad
1/2 lb pasta shells
1/4 c olive oil
1 medium aubergine/eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 tsp salt
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
juice of one lemon
2 tbsp water
1 red bell pepper, diced
5 artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
1 cucumber, diced
2 tomatoes, diced
1 celery stalk, sliced
2 scallions, chopped
2 tbsp chopped fresh dill (2 tbsp dried)
1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano (1 tbsp dried)
salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 c crumbled feta cheese
Greek olives

Bring a large covered pot of water to a rapid boil. Cook the pasta, uncovered, until al dente, and then drain. Rinse under cold water until cool and drain again.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the eggplant. Cover and cook for three minutes on medium heat. Stir in the salt, garlic, lemon juice and water. Cover and simmer for 6-8 minutes, until the eggplant is almost tender. Add the diced red bell peppers, and if you are using dried herbs, add the dill and oregano. Simmer a few minutes more, until the peppers are cooked but still have some crunch.

While the eggplant and peppers are cooking, place the artichoke hearts, cucumbers, tomatoes, celery, scallions, fresh dill and fresh oregano in a large salad bowl. Add the cooked eggplant and peppers. Stir in the pasta and toss well. Add salt and pepper and more lemon juice or olive oil to taste. Serve at room temperature topped with the feta and some olives.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Thermal update!

Looking on the bright side of all this rainy wintry weather in June, the cold has prompted me to get my knit on in a serious way. The good news?! The body of Thermal is done . . . believe it or not in just under three months I've gotten there! I am really pleased with the shape, fit and beautiful flexibility of the waffle stitch (she says now that it's done!) I even posted on the Knit-A-Long - what a professional knitter am I! All I've left to do before you're graced with a smiling pic of me sporting the finished product is the sleeves and finishing which includes the neckline and buttonholes . . . Just give me three more months :)

Friday, June 15, 2007

We salute you

When we were in London a few weeks ago we saw a very elderly man out for an afternoon walk wearing a red military uniform near St Paul's cathedral. My companions Stu, Dunc and Chris informed me that he was a Chelsea Pensioner. I didn't know what this meant so the boys graciously elaborated, explaining that the pensioners are an iconic group in UK culture dating back to 1689. These veterans (who obviously themselves do not date back quite that far) live at the Royal Hospital in Chelsea in London.

For this reason, I was loving it when Chris sent me the link to this story about the White Stripes playing a private gig for the pensioners! According to the article one pensioner said, 'I thought it was excellent. It's not my scene really because it's a different type of music altogether but I thought they were very very good' while another commented, 'It was nice but I wouldn't go out of my way to listen to them.' Rock on. Must be a red thing.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Welcome to my world . . .

Have you seen this man?? Please post a comment if you've spotted this man (aka The Mad Walker) wearing a backpack and quite possibly a beret, daringly jay-walking the streets of major European cities . . . please help us find him - his flight home to Sask-world is fast approaching! (. . . Okay, there you go Ninners and Kate - here at APYOC we always work to make our loyal readers' special requests come true!!)

Right, moving onto something slightly more highbrow, I have to recommend the book I'm reading right now. Suite Francaise by Irene NĂ©mirovsky is absolutely brillant. Written by a Jewish novelist in 1942 who was killed later that year in Auschwitz, the manuscript detailing the story of France living under German occupation was preserved by the author's daughter until being published this year. I'm halfway through, and I have to say that the characters and style of story telling are compelling and at times delightful (despite the war-time setting.)

I was just thinking that there's not too much new to report and then I thought of yesterday's flash floods in East Belfast. Fifteen minutes of torrential rain in the afternoon (after a weekend of plus 25C!) resulted in several areas of East Belfast being flooded with up to four feet of water. Apparently the sewers backed up (can you say gross?) and many people's homes were flooded. I managed to be oblivious to the storm (can you say chained to my computer at work?) but walked through EB to my friend's for dinner who lives near some of the most badly affected area. Our house is a bit higher up so we were fine although the drain in our back yard/porch area spewed mud all over the floor. I think I'll save that clean up job for the S-dawg!

The only other thing that requires my comment is the finale of the Apprentice that was on tonight!! Ahhh, Sir Alan, what are we all going to do without you and your band of arrogant chancers completely devoid of common sense? . . . What good TV . . . I hereby re-cant all previous disparaging comments that I've made about British reality shows! I heart Nick and Margaret and I'm not afraid to say it!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

La belle Paris

What a wonderful four days! I'm just back from a lovely time away in Paris with my mom and dad. Unfortunately Stu had to stay home and work (afterall, somebody's got to fund my adventures!) We left early Wednesday morning and arrived in a hot and sunny Paris by lunch time. After finding our way to our hotel (we were surprised to get a whole self-catering suite!) near the Eiffel Tower we set out for our first day of exploring, taking a boat cruise on the Sienne river and visiting the Cathedrale Notre Dame. At the end of a hot and satisfying day we treated ourselves to raspberry rose iced cream (rumored to be the best in Paris) at Berthillon. In the evening we enjoyed the lovely weather, eating our dinner at an outdoor cafe which we ended up doing every night of the holiday!

Every arrondissement of Paris by law has to have an open air market so on Thursday morning we visited the Saxe-Breteuil market which I had seen recommended on the Edible Paris website. I loved walking through the market surveying the fresh produce, clothes and jewellry (my twin passions for cheese and accessories!) and getting a chance to prove to myself and my parents that I can indeed speak some level of French as I chatted with the vendors! I ended up getting some great bargains on a new chunky ring, a necklace, a pashmina and a set of funky espresso cups. After the market we wandered through the 7th arrondissement toward the Eiffel Tower taking lots of photos along the way. We carried on walking (miles!) along the river and eventually found ourselves a the stunning Musee d'Orsay. We all got audio guides and had a great time going through the museum that is a stunningly restored train station. Of course the third floor which features the Impressionists was the highlight as we saw works by artists including Monet, Manet, Degas and Cezanne. As my mom said, it is amazing to see originals of paintings that you are accustomed to seeing prints of in Zellers! In the evening we got royally ripped off at an outdoor cafe as our simple meal ended up costing a serious amount of Canadian bucks, but c'est la vie as they say!

On Friday we did yet more walking, heading to the Trocadero, the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs Elysee. After a picnic in a park, we caught the metro up to Montmartre and climbed our way through the arty, windy streets to the Basilique du Sacre Coeur. The view from the top of the hill was not amazing because the weather was fairly overcast, but all in all we didn't mind because if the sun had been blazing it would have been almost too hot to walk and see as much as we did! Later in the afternoon we had enough time to head back to Notre Dame and explore the posh shops of the Isle St Louis. After a leisurely dinner we headed back to the Eiffel Tower to see it lit up in the darkness. Unknowingly we timed our arrival perfectly because at 10pm the tower lights up with extra sparkly lights. It was a special ending to a very special trip.

Okay, I hope I haven't gone on too much, but I really want to convey what a great time we had! It was so exciting to travel with my mom and dad and to experience such a beautiful and elegant city together. I will always remember this trip.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Dancing politicos - could we ask for anything else?

I spent a long time last night trying to post a game from the extraordinary time waster Miniclip on my blog. I pretended I was a techy blogger (which, in case you're wondering, I'm not) and pasted in the html code like I was an old pro. In the end it didn't work (there was no music and a game without music is just no fun.) Frustrated and sleepy, I finally shut down the Mac and went to bed with no post at all.

I had wanted to import to APOYC some fairly funny political games. Alas, I shall settle for a link instead . . . I personally like Dancing Hillary and Dancing Blair (in honour of his very long and not cheap farewell world tour . . . )

The sun is shining, it's early Tuesday morning and I'm going to Paris tomorrow! Let's just say I'm in a good mood :) This is a short and sweet blog about, well, nothing really. Must run and get to work . . .

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Lazy Sunday

Is it boring to use a post just to randomly list what I did today? Well, I can't think of a topical topic, so here goes with the Sunday rundown . . .

I woke up to the sound of pouring rain - very soothing and nice, especially if you don't have to get up and off to work! The heavy rain continued throughout the day which was a bit of a downer, especially since sunshine is forecast for tomorrow (I must be settled in here in Northern Ireland because, similar to Saskatchewan, complaining about the weather is a national past-time!) We went to a communion service at our church in the morning. It was a bit different because we usually go to the evening service. We love our church and it's so nice to feel a part of the community and see good friends there. After church Stu and I went out for lunch, did a bit of grocery shopping and saw my parents for a bit. In the afternoon I avoided the responsible things I was supposed to be doing (especially cleaning!) and drank hot chocolate while watching episodes of House on DVD instead! Time well spent, as far as I'm concerned. Oh yes, this evening we went to the gym and eventually I did get around to some of those pesky chores. So, that's the weekend run down - thanks for reading! What did you do??

Saturday, June 2, 2007

In the navy . . .

Stu and I had an interesting experience this afternoon. We read in the newspaper that a Canadian naval ship the HMCS St John's was to be docked in Belfast this weekend and that people could come on board for a tour. While I'm not generally into warships as a matter of course ;) I am always on the lookout for Canadians, so after a lazy morning we went down this afternoon and had a look around. The event was sponsored by Nova Scotia tourism with the hope of attracting more Northern Irish folk as the low-cost airline Zoom is about to launch a new direct flight from Belfast to Halifax. It was interesting to walk around the ship and there were a few Nova Scotia bands playing.

While standing around listening to the music I started talking to one of the crew members and asked about their living quarters. It turned out that he was the chief cook on the ship and he very kindly took us down into the lower decks of the ship to give us a full tour! It was an eye opener to see their bunks (stacked three high and some cabins have as many as 27 people living together - compact!) and to see their kitchens and mess halls. Our tour guide was a lovely Newfoundlander and he was so hospitable, even treating us to a drink in the ship's pub! Of course I used this positive experience to expound later to Stu about the friendliness of us Canucks.

Moving from Canadians to Parisians, I must mention a great French movie we saw tonight at our favourite local independent cinema. My Best Friend was a lovely movie - a funny and profound discussion of friendship. Both Stu and I thought the story and characters were wonderful and it also got me very excited for my trip to Paris this week (yes, more holidays!) with my mom and dad.

Friday, June 1, 2007

It's not easy being ginger . . .

When I was growing up I was frequently asked by nice old ladies, 'Dear, where did you get your beautiful hair?' I became ever so slightly vain, thinking of my red hair as a unique and positive trait. Well the good old Anne of Green Gables bubble officially burst as I came to live in Northern Ireland and I was recently reminded while overhearing a good-natured conversation about ginger-ness at work. Click here to get a taste of how ginga's are viewed in the UK (check out the FAQ because even I as a ginger kid think it's funny . . . I particularly like the belief that we don't have souls! You be the judge.) Now, to be fair, I think the shade of red which is most reviled by Brits is a bit more orange than me, but it's pretty safe to say that we're all tarred with the same 'copper-top/carrot-top' brush. The agony!

It's been a bit of a mad week and I am certainly having that TGIF feeling tonight. It's been full of job interview prep (more on that later . . . ) and the regular grind of work. Tonight I had a quick visit with my parents before they went off to see the one and only Elton John in concert! Belfast will be crocodile rocking tonight!