Let it snow (and our wedding video)

Yes, I’ve seen snow, and true, it has already snowed this past month, but today it came down like nobody’s business. Very grateful we’re not living in Buffalo as they’ve had 6 feet of snow (with more on the way) and there have been at least seven snow-related deaths. In Toronto it came floating, actually, not floating, more like shooting sideways most of the day, and quite heavily too. By the evening there was a thick blanket covering the sidewalks.

I spent the morning inside, working on my book. I had a bit of panic last night while I was trying to get to sleep. I wasn’t sure the ending I had planned was going to work. I turned it over a few times in my head, then worked out something else, wrote it down in my iPhone and then went to bed. This morning I read my notes, figured they made sense, and decided to go with the new direction. I plodded along, words were coming out ok, but it wasn’t until I was working on a chapter this evening that I really got excited about what was happening. I’m going to push myself to see if I can finish it tomorrow. If not, there’s Friday, and then it should be done. Coincidentally I got an email from my publisher asking when it would be ready because they want to schedule the book in May (my original date) as opposed to later in the year. This all hinges on me sending them something workable by 7 December. Easy peasy, right?

I had a chiropractor appointment in midtown today. Went well. My back feels a lot better. My fingers froze as I tried to read an ebook on my phone while waiting for the bus. I had to stop reading it was so cold. I went to the gym in the afternoon. In the evening I made a disastrous soup that had to be thrown out because it looked and tasted horrible. Can’t win ‘em all. Glen went to do some extra work at the hospital, came home, and then we went for pizza with Julian. The best part? Having a snowball fight along the way. We only got to do it once last year. Hopefully we’ll do it more than once this year too.

Julian and I then investigated holiday options for New Year’s Eve. Cuba was on the cards, but then we took it off as we couldn’t get a two-room place, or book two rooms for three people. So we looked into Fort Lauderdale. Everything was looking great. I remembered you could go snorkelling with manatees so I was keen to go. Then there are the Everglades to check out, some fun parties for New Year’s and a beach. We found a place to stay but then investigated flights and they were some ridiculous cost (about $1800). Bang went that plan. We couldn’t find anything reasonable, even if we left from Buffalo or flew into other cities in Florida. Stupid time of year to fly, I know, but come on. That price is beyond belief. Who’d pay that?

So now we’re going to look at Cuba again and we’ll see if there’s a way they can give us a room for one. Otherwise we might just have to stay in Toronto for the week of New Year’s. Seems a bit of a waste of annual leave to be honest.

Oh, and here’s the video from our wedding:

Food with the neighbours, food with the husband

I’m getting really bad at updating this thing. I haven’t posted since Thursday! So, what have I been up to?

Thursday evening Julian lent Alastair and me his car so we could drive somewhere in midtown to check out a sale happening on old stock of base layers, ski jackets and various other wintery things. It was a small shop in one of those big warehouse/office buildings, attractive because the rent must be very cheap. Plenty of people were there to get a bargain, and the line was pretty long throughout the hour we were there. I chose a couple of merino shirts (one long-sleeved and one short), that I can wear while skiing. I picked up various other items, all the while messaging Glen so he could act as my ‘buyer’s conscience’ and tell me what was reasonable and what wasn’t. I refrained from buying about three shell jackets, but I did pick up a pair of comfy pyjama-type pants that have fast become my new favourite thing to wear around the house. Alastair got a couple of shirts too, and some ski socks. Surprisingly I talked him into waiting to buy a new ski jacket.

We got back to the apartment building at about 6:30 or so. We were meant to be going to a restaurant with the neighbours that night but various people weren’t feeling the best, and we didn’t want to spend $45 on a meal we weren’t really psyched about having. Instead, Alastair, Julian, Glen and I went to Oja, picked up some Japanese for us, Pete and Royden, then went back to Pete and Royden’s to eat and watch a couple of episodes of Archer. You can really see how much that show developed, and how it improved from the first few episodes. We then had an early night.

Friday night we invited Antony over for dinner. Dave and Josh are in Australia so we thought of Antony home alone and pining for his family. I made a chicken pie, then steamed lemon puddings. We caught up on what’s been happening with his ophthalmology fellowship and what’s to come in the year ahead. We then watched a couple of episodes of Mindy and called it a night at about 10:30.

Saturday Julian invited the neighbours around for breakfast. Each of us brought something for the table, but Julian prepared the most by far. There were waffles, gluten free pancakes, tater tots/potato gems, two types of bacon, scrambled eggs and fruit. He’d also bought some thick cream in a tin as us Aussies had been complaining there wasn’t any thickened cream in the stores here. I didn’t try any so I don’t know if it was comparable. It looked it though. It was a lovely way to spend the morning, and of course we stuffed our faces with so much food. Having friends living so close, on top of each other in fact, is such a treat.

Glen went to work in the afternoon for a couple of hours. I stayed at home and edited. In the afternoon we went to the gym with Julian, and then in the evening Glen and I stayed home, and watched tv like an old married couple. I did get a bit of FOMO as I wondered what else we could be doing. It was a pretty cold night so it didn’t last long, and I was probably in bed by 11.

Sunday Glen went to work in the morning for a couple of hours, and then we went for lunch at the Eaton Centre. We also went shopping. Glen was keen to buy a onesie from Abercrombie and Fitch, so we checked out what was on sale. The onesies were still full price but we found other things that were on sale. I bought two pairs of jeans (so hopefully I won’t have to buy any for the next five years at least) that were 50% off, and Glen bought some track pants and a zipped up jacket for around the house.

We then met Julian at the movies to watch Big Hero 6, the new Disney animation. We weren’t the only kid-free adults in the audience. I’d wanted to see the film ever since I’d seen the preview where Hero (the main character) is trying to fit the suit of armour to the inflatable robot. I wasn’t expecting the movie to be as sad as it was, yet luckily it wasn’t completely Bambi maudlin. The storyline was good, not too sappy and stupid. We left on a high.

In the evening it was Pete and Royden’s turn to host the Sunday roast. Pete prepared dates wrapped in bacon, homemade spanokoppita and cheese-koppita, then there was a big bit of beef (he cooked chicken for me as an alternative), garlic mash and carrots. For dessert there were Greek pastries. We watched Elf, that god awful Will Farrell movie, and filled our faces. An enjoyable evening for sure, and this Sunday it’s our turn. I have no idea what I’m going to make yet.

Monday was fairly quiet. I’m aiming to finish the latest draft of my book this week so it can go to Nikki for feedback. At the same time I’ll be going through it again to tidy it up even more. I would really like to get it finished by Tuesday evening, which is when Julian and I fly off to New York. Not sure it’s likely though. In the evening I made a chicken and leek risotto (I had some leftover leeks from a potato and leek soup I made on Saturday night), which – shock horror – Glen liked. He even had a second helping. This doesn’t happen very often, not because my cooking is bad, but because Glen’s tastes are so particular. I might be the no-red-meat-or-pork pain in the arse, but he’s much more pernickety than I am. I’ve been given permission to cook it again. It also snowed a lot on Monday. It was magical.

Tuesday has been more of the same. Editing in the morning. I got up at 6am as I’m trying to be a bit more regular in when I wake up in the hope that I can get more done in the day but I didn’t start until about 8 and then I felt tired. I still got over 3000 words written today so that’s not bad. I’m just hoping I can get to the end and it still all make sense. I went to the gym in the afternoon and hopefully haven’t put my back out again. (I did legs and for some reason I’m injuring myself or pinging something.)

Glen and I went on a date night in the evening to Los Colibris, a restaurant Glen had seen reviewed online in the Globe & Mail. He’d seen a photo of a chicken breast with crispy skin and pomegranate and wanted that. We’d tried to go on Saturday but there were no seatings at a reasonable time. Tonight we made a reservation for 8pm, later than we usually eat but it meant Glen could stay at work and do some overtime. I met him at the General and we walked down University Ave in the freezing wind to King St. It was nice going for a walk together but it’s now getting to the point where you can’t feel your face if you stay outside for too long.

We got to the restaurant, removed our oversized-yet-warm winter coats and sat down. Unfortunately the chicken thing Glen had seen wasn’t on the menu so we had to choose something else. We ordered a ceviche, empanadas and guacamole to start, all of which tasted fresh and flavourful. The mains were ok, but not amazing. We shared a baked halibut – the fish was perfectly cooked but the accompanying flavours didn’t suit our tastes – and a chicken roll – which unfortunately had capsicum in it so Glen didn’t like it. We then shared a chocolate flan for dessert.  We then caught the train home.

Phew! We do a lot more than I think we do.

Friends, editing and a bad back

Another week has slipped almost slipped away without me blogging about it. I know you’re all desperate to know what we’ve been up to. Saturday was our first day since the wedding sans guests. It felt a little strange not to be wondering what we were going to do to entertain people with during the day. As a complete come down from the past busy week, we spent the day at home. Glen ironed shirts while listening to a webcast of a conference he didn’t have to attend in person. I’m not sure what I did all do. Something obviously.

In the afternoon we went to the gym with Julian, which is where I laid the seeds for my later crippling. It was legs day for me and all went fine, or at least I thought it did. We went home and later that night went to Ur and Israel’s for dinner. We got there a little late to see all the kids, but managed to sneak a hello to Etye. Liad was still up when we arrived so that was good. We ate a wonderful home cooked meal, had some drinks, then played what seemed like endless rounds of Cards Against Humanity. Israel trounced the lot of us, though Ur and Julian did pretty well. I called bed at about 11:20 and then went to stand. My back instantly pinged. Oh no. Not good. The drive home did an even bigger number on my lower back and by the time we got home I was already off-centre. I looked like I had severe scoliosis.

Sunday

Because of my bad back, my plans to join the boys in a visit to Costco were scuppered. Alas I was not there to curtail Glen’s spending, but, surprisingly, I didn’t need to. He came home with a sensible amount of groceries and no giant box of sugar-coated cereal. I was so proud. I spent the day on the couch, just capable enough of working on laying out a magazine I get paid to do. In the evening, I was still no better but luckily our dinner plans didn’t require me to go for. For the second week in a row, we had Sunday Neighbours’ Dinner, this time hosted by Julian.

Everyone gave lots of helpful comments about what to do to help ease the pain in my back; I was relieved (and bewildered) when conversation turned to cars. I think Glen and I were the only ones who didn’t have a clue what the five other people were talking about. Julian cooked a lovely dinner of roast salmon with a quinoa salad, that was then followed up by homemade apple pie (he even made the pie crust). We left around 9:30, an early night for a change. Next week it’s Pete and Royden’s turn.

Monday

I woke up and my back was no better. I managed to get a chiropractor appointment for the afternoon, which helped somewhat but has not eased everything. I’m still a little crooked. With all the guests and the wedding preparations going on, I hadn’t had much time to edit my latest book. I’d already missed one deadline, was set to miss a second, and wanted to make a third, self-imposed one for the end of the month. Despite the back pain, I managed to get myself comfortable enough to get some work done, and managed to edit 5,000 words of the draft.

I’m pretty pleased with myself because I’ve so far repeated that effort on Tuesday and Wednesday as well. I have approximately 21,000 words left to go, though there’s bound to be a need to write some new words as I go. Still, I feel like I will make my deadline and be able to get this damn book sent off to the publisher (who has been very accommodating so far). I really need to pull my finger out though and make sure it gets done. Still, if current trends continue, I’ll be sitting pretty.

Tuesday

In the evening Julian came over and we watched Blue Jasmine on Netflix. Glen cringed through most of what he saw; he doesn’t like Woody Allen films. I was glad it was on Netflix as I’d missed seeing it at the cinemas and everyone had raved about it. When it was done though, I wasn’t quite sure whatever everyone found so appealing about it. Cate Blanchett is great, obviously, and the writing is typical Woody, but it’s a bleak story. And in fact (and here comes a bit of a spoiler), I didn’t really like the way that it came across like everything was her fault, that she somehow deserved to go mad, to have no friends or family. Was it because she’d tried to get revenge for having been lied to? Would be happy to have a discussion with someone about this film, particularly if you loved it as I’d like to know what I’m missing.

Wednesday

Tonight has been quiet. Glen came home from work late as he’s doing some extra work to get some more money to pay for the ski boots we bought. Dinner has been a rather sorry affair as I seem to have let that side of things slip a bit. I had rice, salmon and capsicum, while Glen just had a slab of pork. Must get some vegetables back in the house, hopefully tomorrow. We’re also binge-watching our way through the second season of Damages. One more episode to go. What an exciting life we lead.

The rest of the week is going to be busy, and the weekend is shaping up to be fun. I’m looking into taking a drawing class in winter and have found a few options. It’ll be strange going to something structured and regular again.

Cousin roadtrip to Algonquin Park

My cousin Fiamma was keen to see some Canadian wilderness while she was here and luckily I had the time available to go with her. We’d decided on Algonquin Park as it was near-ish (3 hours away) and there was a place available to spend the night. (Being after ‘the season’, there aren’t too many places open, especially accommodation, in that part of the country.)

On Thursday morning we went shopping for supplies, buying a baguette, some shaved turkey breast and salad stuff, as well as a couple of treats. We then collected the hire car, returned to the condo, loaded the car up with our stuff and then set off towards Maynooth.

Maynooth is a small town to the south-east of Algonquin Park. It was where Fiamma had booked us in for our one-night’s accommodation at The Arlington Youth Hostel. We got there at about 1pm but it was too early check-in so we headed into Algonquin Park to scope the place out. It wasn’t the nicest of days. It was raining but we’d brought enough wet weather gear that we didn’t let the light sprinkling put us off.

We stopped in at the information centre first to pay our fee and get a map. There’d been a moose sighting (mother and calf) the day before in the west of the park so that ignited our hopes of seeing a moose on this little jaunt. We also wanted to see beavers and so went to the Beaver Pond walk which was a little way into the park.

The walk wasn’t very long but it took us around two ponds which both had evidence of beavers. We saw their little mounds and opined that beavers were asleep within. We also saw a real beaver dam, which was really impressive. Despite our entreaties though, no beavers sallied forth. We did, however, see red squirrels and eastern chipmunks, one of which came up to Fiamma’s shoe and gave it a sniff.

By the time we returned to the car it was about 4pm and the sun was already starting to go down. We decided against exploring further and instead drove back through Maynooth to Bancroft to find somewhere for an early dinner. We got in there about 6pm and because it was so early were the youngest in there by about 30 years. It was a small country town kind of restaurant but the food was cheap and tasty, servings were large, and the staff friendly. We had big turkey dinners and then shared a cherry pie.

We returned to the hostel, night well and truly having settled in around us. (Daylight savings ended on Saturday night/Sunday morning so it’s taking a bit to get used to the sun setting so early.) Back at the hostel we sat and watched a Nicolas Cage film called Windtalker about the Navajo code talkers in WWII. It wasn’t our choice, we just joined in with the other two people who were already watching the film. At 9, when the movie finished, we went to bed, suddenly weary (and not really wanting to watch another crap film).

It took me a little while to fall asleep as the curtains didn’t block out the light, the bed was a bit short, the walls paper thin and people coming into the building late and talking in the corridor. Still, I managed to sleep.

We woke on Friday morning to a world blanketed in white. Yes, it had snowed. We left at about 8am on Friday morning and this was the first time I’ve actually had to scrape the snow and ice off the car. The novelty wore off after about five minutes. I wouldn’t want to have to do it every morning, that’s for sure. Luckily, the snow hadn’t been too heavy and the roads were pretty clear by the time we set off and they weren’t icy.

We stopped for breakfast in Whitney at a little roadside petrol station restaurant, getting a cheap breakfast of eggs on toast. We stopped in at the grocery store and Fiamma bought some ripe bananas for 15c for two. I thought that was funny. We then drove back into Algonquin Park, stopping off to pay for our entry fee. It snowed while I was sitting in the carpark (while in the car) and was a bit concerned about our plans for hiking, but it stopped pretty quickly.

We drove out to Lake Opeongo first, thinking that the outfitters store would be open. It wasn’t but we had a nice view across the lake at the Christmas-card-like scene around us of snow on trees. On the way back to the main road we stopped and talked to a couple who were walking along the side of the road. They looked like they’d spotted something. They had. Chickadees. We stopped and had a watch with them for a little while, then went to the Visitor Centre down the road.

As it was cold outside (about –1°C or 0°C), we took our time checking out the interpretation, learning a little about the beavers, moose and wolves in the park. We also saw moose, albeit stuffed, dead ones. Armed with new knowledge about the forming of the lakes and forest in the park, we next stopped at the Spruce Bog walk, heading out along the boardwalk. The great thing about the fresh snow was seeing the different animal tracks left in the snow.

Even though we couldn’t be sure as we didn’t have the guide book with us, we were pretty confident we could see which ones belonged to chipmunks or squirrels. There were probably some rabbit tracks as well. No moose. Of course no moose. Despite this being a prime area for moose to visit (they like bogs). Still, it was picturesque.

Our next walk was the Hemlock Bluff walk which took us up along a cliff, through forest and down to the shores of the lake. We saw more tracks, including what we think is likely mean to be wolf, no moose still, but a good walk through very pretty landscapes. The walk took about an hour and a half to two hours through some boggy, muddy areas. The last time I was in Algonquin Park was for the changing of the leaves and the place was full of people. This time we hardly saw anyone. It was magical and I was really glad we decided to do this short trip north.

After returning to the car, we figured we’d done enough and if we wanted to get back to Toronto before 8pm we needed to leave then. We drove through the rest of the park, out the west gate, and then stopped at Henrietta’s bakery for a bite to eat. Then we zoomed down the freeway back to the city, the roads a lot busier than I would have expected. Once we hit the city, the traffic slowed to a crawl and it took half an hour to go 9km. Such a contrast to the vast emptiness in the north.

Once back home, we ate dinner with Glen, who’d prepared tacos for us. He gets brownie points. Julian came by a little later and we whiled away a few hours talking about our travels and watching Mindy Project. I’d bought a book while in Algonquin, which listed 115 must-see destinations in Canada. I’ve seen 28 out of them. Clearly I need to spend a lot more time in Canada.

At 11, Julian and I took Fiam to the airport, said our quick farewells-for-now, then drove back to the city. I filled up the petrol tank, returned the car, we got late night pizza slices and then went to bed. What a great couple of days.

A revolving door of visitors

Sophia and Katelyn killing time

Me, Sophia and KatelynOn Monday we played host to Sophia and Katelyn after their return from Quebec City and before their late flight to Hong Kong. Glen took the day off sick, a rarity for him but much needed. Sophia and Katelyn arrived in the early afternoon, hung around for a bit, and then went out exploring while Glen had a nap and I went to the gym.

In the evening we had roast vegetables and chicken at home. Katelyn sat transfixed, watching My Little Pony on Netflix for a few hours while Sophia, Glen and I got to catch up on everything. Having this one-on-one time was great, but also made me realise how rare it was during the wedding and how nice it would have been to have more time to talk to everyone without needing to move on to the next person. Can’t have everything though and at least Sophia and I had Monday. They left at about 10pm to get their 1am flight. Katelyn probably fell asleep in the taxi on the way.

My mother-in-law and aunt-in-law return

Glen’s mum and aunt returned from Seattle in the evening on Tuesday. This gave me time in the morning to catch up on emails, edit a bit of my book (which is massively overdue now) and do a couple of other things. Glen had wanted to go to Buca, the very nice Italian restaurant on King St W, for dinner but we opted for Indian buffet over the road because of the price.

The next day I went to help Dave out with his baby Josh while they were at a rental tribunal thing. I got baby cuddles for a couple of hours, and he was really well behaved. I got to see the nasty side of the landlord/renter relationship when things go wrong. There were no punch-ups but it’s not a very nice environment. After that, I went home, hung out with Christine and Gaye for a bit, and then went with Christine to get a pedicure as there were still a few hours to go before they had to leave for the airport. Glen joined us a little later after he’d finished work and we had an early dinner over the road at the food court.

Christine and Gaye left at 5:30, bundling into an airport limousine. We closed the door on them and the next second later Fiamma arrived back from her journey to Montreal and Quebec City. She checked into the guest suite in our building and then we had dinner up at our place and hung out for a little while before bidding each other goodnight.

Booking our return flights home

Sunday was definitely not a day of rest. We went for brunch with Bec, Alastair and Vicki down at Smith on Church St. We got there at the right time as the tables quickly filled up (and when we left there was a queue). We ordered coffees and teas and hot chocolates, then some food. We caught up on various things, having not had a good opportunity to talk to Vicki much over the past week.

In the afternoon I went to Julian’s to look at options for our Cuba holiday at New Year’s. We think we’ve found one. Glen came down to join us too, and I think he likes what we’ve chosen but I’ve told him to do some of his own investigating. Donna might also be coming so she’s going to look at it as well. With any luck, we’ve found the right place for what we want and we can book it.

Glen and I then went to Dave and Antony’s, briefly seeing Antony and Josh before they went to meet Vicki for coffee. Glen and I needed Dave’s knowledge in booking return flights to Australia for next year. Our dreams of going home first class on points were dashed as there were no award flights available in July 2015 that we wanted to use. Instead we found business class flights (which I booked the following day).

So…

We leave here on Monday 6 July, spend a couple of nights in Chicago, then fly through Hong Kong to arrive in Perth on 10 July.

Now that’s booked, let’s not talk about it again until those dates arrive.

Happy HalloweenWhile at Dave’s Glen also tried on Antony’s Halloween costume. Isn’t it great?

We left at about 5 to get back to the condo so we could go to dinner at Bec and Alastair’s. They cooked a roast and had invited the neighbours (Julian, Royden and Pete), as well as Anna. Vicki was staying with them so it was quite a good party.

We talked about the usual things: how brunch in Australia isn’t the same as brunch in Canada, the wonderful taste of Vegemite, bogans, the differences in language and accents (here Vicki doesn’t have an accent because she sounds American), and then whatever else came to mind. We had lots of fun. The food was great too, and the evening may have engendered a regular roast night (provided our schedules align).

Family farewells on Saturday

Christine and Gaye came up to our apartment early on Saturday morning to drop off the bulk of their luggage before catching a flight to Seattle. Dad came up too for a little while, but I stayed in bed, managing to fall back to sleep for a while, much to Glen’s annoyance.

Dad and Helen returned around 11am after they’d checked out of the guest suite, and then we decided to visit Nadege, a patisserie next to Trinity Bellwoods that Anna recommended to us a while ago. It was a bit of a dreary day so we caught a taxi so we could avoid the rain and also get fed quicker. We ordered sandwiches and pastries, along with some drinks. I messaged Anna to say we were at her favourite place and she texted back “I’m 10 minutes away!” so we got to see her as well. She also gave us a recommendation for a coffee shop on Ossington as Dad has been hanging out for a good coffee in Toronto.

We walked through Trinity Bellwoods, which was looking very pretty with all the coloured leaves littering the ground. I should point out that it was actually cold enough for us to be wearing our Canada Goose/Nobis jackets, as well as scarves, beanies/ear muffs and gloves.

We stopped in for coffee/cider/hot chocolate/hot water at Crafted on Ossington Avenue, its coffee getting the nod from nod. From there we walked up to Little Italy and stopped into Caffe Diplomatico for a late lunch. I’m glad we went through Little Italy as I’ve not had the chance before, and now that I’ve seen it, I don’t think I need to go again. Perhaps if someone has a recommendation?

After that it was a long walk back to our neighbourhood, going through the very picturesque University of Toronto. I took Dad and Helen up to The Bay so he could buy a set of the ear muffs Glen and I have. They should come in handy when he goes cycling, though hopefully he’ll still be able to hear the cars.

We chilled out at home for a while, Dad and Helen availing themselves of the hot tub downstairs. They were then collected from the apartment at 8pm and taken to the airport. It was a rather quick goodbye on the side of the road. I’m glad they both made it over for the wedding. They’re now on their way to Medan for another one.