29 August 2008

Here come the hens…

Beware fine gentlemen of Ottawa. Wedding season is in full swing and we all know what that means - Bachelorette time! Yes folks, it’s that wonderful season where otherwise-sane woman throw caution to the wind, principles to the wayside and decency out the door. Prepare to be ogled, cajoled and dared…not that you mind I’m sure.

This weekend I will be joining the catty masses of giggling women, as I celebrate my future SLAW’s (a.k.a. Sister-In-Law) final send off. She’s a very brave soul for agreeing to marry my brother, so she deserves a memorable party of epic proportions, not to mention a motion for canonization…

I cannot yet reveal what fun lies in store for this weekend, in case my lovely SLAW is reading this. Let’s just say that the bridal party will be taking good care of her and keeping things original. I have no doubt that the bride will be tagged in many Facebook pictures after the festivities…poor gal.

This will be the first time that I will ever get to experience a bachelorette as a dirty, old married lady. I’ve heard that we always make the rowdiest party goers…maybe it has something to do with yearning for the long-lost days of our singlehood. Perhaps it’s also because we’ve been through all the hoopla before ourselves and are keen to exact revenge. But best of all, we know that at the end of the night we’ll be returning to our peacefully slumbering hubby’s and thanking our lucky stars that we’ve already found our man - a real solid guy and not some beer-saturated (albeit muscular) frat boy.

Lookout world, here we come.

28 August 2008

The best "merde" I've read in a long time...

Since booking my flight to Europe, I have started a steamy love affair my local Chapters’ Literary Travel section. It was here that I stumbled upon a little gem written by British journalist, Stephen Clarke. Intrigued by the title of his debut novel, “A Year in the Merde,” I decided to purchase a copy in hope of earning a greater appreciation, if not a few laughs, about the life of an Englishman living in Paris. I often find that literary travel novels or commentaries on cultural difference, are some of the best educational tools in preparation for a trip. I’m not interested in knowing all about the glitzy tourist attractions; I want a raw look at what makes people tick, how to order coffee at a local café like a native and, of course, come to understand that age-old dilemma…how to avoid slipping in the heaps of dog excrement that litter the streets of Paris. Thankfully, the aptly-name, A Year in the Merde, does not disappoint.

The story is written in first-person narrative by Paul West, a 27 year-old Brit who moves to Paris on a one-year contract to establish a chain of English tearooms for a French entrepreneur. Sounds simple right? Wrong! The novel highlights the turbulent and often humorous ups and downs of settling into life in Paris, dealing with a devious, Lagerfeld-clad boss, his sex-crazed daughter, a motley crew of English-bashing coworkers, the plethora of inexplicable strikes in Paris, and, not surprisingly, a flurry of problems in love….c’est la ville d’amour, n’est-ce pas?

I could go into graphic detail about the adventures of Paul West, but that would be ruining the story. Let’s just say that his love-hate relationship with la ville de lumière and French culture have left me, on several occasions, snorting out loud in laughter, earning me a healthy dose of raised eyebrows of the bus. You can’t help but laugh and blot at your teary eyes after reading his acute and colourful descriptions Parisians, at his string of back luck and generally the pile of ‘merde” that often finds himself in both literally and figuratively. In the words of the author…

"There are lots of French people who are not at all hypocritical, inefficient, treacherous, intolerant, adulterous or incredibly sexy … They just didn't make it into [this] book." - Paul West (Stephen Clarke)

Rating…A +++ Go out and buy yourself a copy! I have since read his sequel, "Merde Actually” and am now preparing to devour the third installment, Merde Happens”. Also be sure to check out, Talk to the Snail: Ten Commandments for Understanding the French,” what I’m sure will become an invaluable guide as I prepare for my own French adventure next spring.

27 August 2008

Jump, jive an’ wail no more

Tonight is the last night of Swing I. While I’ve enjoyed the lessons, I don’t think hubs or I will commit to another session in the fall. We have already registered for volleyball for the next three months, so I think we will gracefully leave the dance floor for a while….while I still have some toes left.

The wonderful thing about living in Ottawa is that I don’t need to commit to costly lessons to learn the basics. Oddly enough, this city has quite the large underground swing scene (of the non-sexual variety…although I’m sure we have that too). Every Tuesday evening, free lessons are offered at the New Edinburgh Boathouse. On Fridays and Saturdays, two more dances are held at Dance Studios in the Byward Market. It’s nice to know that there are options available and that hubby and I can hit the tiles whenever we want without paying an arm and a leg (we need those for dancing after all). I also think it would be a fun night out to organize with a group of friends, although most of my guy pals are of the “I’d rather die than dance,” school of thought. ..nothing that a few beers wouldn’t fix, I’m sure.

Seeing as tonight is our last lesson, I’m hoping that the instructors will actually allow us to dance with our intended partners. I barely ever get to dance with hubby. I think that part of the reason why I’m not heartbroken about leaving, is the fact that I won’t have random guys kicking me in the shins and attempting to pull my arms out of their sockets anymore. I will, however, miss some of the better partners - guys that have finally taught me how to follow, trust and enjoy the unexpected.

While I enjoy swing and hope to try more lessons at some of the local dances, I think my first love is still latin dancing. With a bit of luck and a truckload of convincing, perhaps hubby will humour me with lessons next year. Either he signs up, or I’ll have to find myself some suave, muscular, tanned, Cuban God named Alejandro to teach me how to move my "heeps"…sigh, what’s a girl to do?

25 August 2008

Several "Tall Boys” and a few mosquito bites later…

The merry adventurers have returned from the wilderness, tanned, tired, mosquito-bitten and generally content with the way of the world. Despite the three-year hiatus from camping, everything went off without a hitch. Thankfully, we were blessed with the best weather that we’ve seen so far this summer – very hot days (perfect for the lake) but comfortable evenings for the campfire and sleeping.

The bulk of Friday was spent setting up camp, a process that I’ve never really enjoyed. By the time we reach camp, I’m anxious to get down to the very serious task of honing in on my inner pyromaniac, plunking down on my posterior and drinking beers by the fire. Unfortunately, however, campsites cannot set themselves up. This time the menial process was prolonged by the fact that we each had to scratch our heads and figure out how to build that damn new dining tent. Thankfully for hubby, it turned out to be an awesome purchase (very sturdy construction) and I was slightly less scathing with my comments about his losing our original dining shelter (R.I.P. you flimsy piece of crap). Once everything was finally assembled, we quickly transitioned into slumming it mode, opened our cheap tall boys of beer and ate a gourmet meal of turkey sausages and store-purchased potato salad…hey, even Martha needs to take a break sometimes.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get any answer my to exhaustion prayers on Friday evening. We headed off to our cozy dome tent early, but I had a terrible time staying asleep. Typically I get my best Zs while camping, but this trip proved to be the exception. Between hubby’s tossing and turning, a sketchy owl that freaked out several times in the evening and our air mattress’ inept ability to stay fully inflated for more than a few hours, it was a recipe for sleeping disaster. After catching only a few random hours of sleep here and there, I woke up on Saturday looking as though I had been living in the wild for well over a week rather then merely one evening…très sexy.

After plying myself with horrible instant coffee (never again) and subsequently hurling it into the fire pit , Dan and I had a quick breakfast and headed off to the gate house to reserve a canoe. We planned to spend our morning on the lake and exploring some of the interior and islands, but unfortunately all of the canoes were booked solid for the entire day. I was upset but I only had myself to blame; I should have known better. On a busy weekend, always book your canoe the moment you arrive and register at the park! Fortunately, however, we had a good backup plan – hiking!

Charleston Lake Provincial Park is blessed with a variety of different trails or varying degrees of difficulty. Dan and I chose to follow the moderate Shoreline Centennial Trail (2 KM) that snakes through the woods, up some rugged terrain and along the shoreline. It was nice to trek though the woods in the early morning, before the heat of the day reached its peak. We pretty much had the trail to ourselves, only bumping into another family at a lookout point. It’s always exciting to walk through the deep woods, quietly scanning for other signs of life…namely bears or the infamous rat snakes of the Park. Unfortunately (or fortunately), we only saw a few chipmunks. I was surprised that even the mosquitoes seemed to be hiding out for the most part; although this could have something to do with the fact that I had enough bug replant on me to kill a small animal. I wasn’t taking any precautions! I put so much repellant on, that my skin actually resembled a basted golden turkey leg at a Thanksgiving feast.

After exploring the Shoreline Trail, hubs and I decided to hit up another 2 KM trail to Quiddity Lookout. We made it about half way before we encountered an unavoidable swampy mud patch. Because we were only wearing our runners, we decided to forgo the mess and head back to square one. The beginning of the trail is quite lovely, as it crosses over a marsh on a wooden boardwalk. I was happy to see that not only were there trails for the more fit or seasoned campers, there were also options for the disabled - something that is often lacking at other campgrounds. Big points for Charleston Lake!

By the time we concluded our second hike, hubs and I were getting ravenous and sweaty. It had turned into a scorcher of a day. After eating some sandwiches (yes, another A+ effort in gourmet cooking), we hit the beautiful beach just down the road from our awesome campsite. If you’re ever at CL, I highly recommend booking site #304 in the Shady Ridge campground; it’s large, well shaded, very private and boasts an excellent location - not too far from the water or the washrooms. The beach (one of three) was also quite pristine with a reasonable stretch of sand, some shady patches and cool, clean water. As I blissfully dived in, I actually felt like I was getting cleaner rather than grungier – a feeling I often get after bathing in rivers closer to Ottawa. I would definitely camp at CL again, even for the lake alone. A clean body of water is hard to find these days; I almost feel guilty for soaking my Deet-saturated turkey legs in it.

Lying in the hot sun on the beach, it didn’t take long for complete lethargy to take hold of me. My eyes started to drift shut so I headed back to camp for a siesta in the tent. Hubby, also being quite the pyromaniac, decided to take advantage of my downtime by building a good fire that would last us well into the evening. Several hours later, after dining on chili and wine (another class meal), we capped off the evening in front of the bonfire reminiscing over our childhood days in Scouts and Girl Guides. I was quite a prolific camper and had spent three years as a Brownie Leader (a.k.a. Snowy Owl), consequently, as you can imagine, my repertoire of stupid camp songs is quite extensive. I’m not sure whether it was the wine or simply the fond memories that prompted me to start belting out my finest tunes. Either way we had a good laugh and hubby even joined in on a few. I’m sure we made quite the picture, but at least our experience was more authentic that the campers two sites over who were…get ready for this…listening to episodes of M.A.S.H. and Back To The Future on their portable television! Colour me critical but doesn’t that defeat the whole purpose of camping?

Saturday sleep time proved to be as equally frustrating as Friday. Once again, I was woken by a screeching owl and a snoring hubby. For a brief second I wondered whether there was a bear outside my tent, but I soon realized that the snorting and snuffling noises were emminating from my sleeping companion and were very likey a byproduct of the amount of tall boys he enjoyed earlier by the fire. I did, however, exact my revenge at 2:00 A.M. when I decided to pull the frightened female routine and got him to accompany me to the bathroom. Much to hubby’s chagrin, I sometimes revert to the bitter school of thought where, “If I’m not sleeping, nobody is!”

On Sunday morning we woke bright and early, had a basic breakfast and decided to pack up our gear due to the forecasted rain. Trying to pack up wet gear is a horrendous and messy job, so while we wanted to stay a little a little longer, we knew that it would be wise to get going. At any rate, it’s probably best that we left early as my allergies reached their climax and my eyes and nose were running like a faucet. Even the antihistamines that I regularly pumped through my body were no match for whatever was lurking in the air…not to mention on my clothes and our gear. I felt downright miserable!

The two-hour drive home went relatively quickly, aided in part by a healthy dose of Tim Horton’s coffee along the 401. There was absolutely no way we were going to subject ourselves to the ‘instant poison’ that we had at camp the previous day. Hubby was feeling particularly sorry for my pathetic sniffly state and even stopped off at Starbucks once we reached Ottawa so that I could have a comforting latté…he spoils me.

Once we were home it was business as usual. I spent the bulk of my time doing laundry, using hordes of Kleenex, sneezing and wishing myself dead, and comforting my surly guinea pigs who were none-to-pleased that ‘mommy’ and ‘daddy’ abandoned them for the weekend. We left the beasts with two full water bottles, an armload of hay, two bowls of high-quality pellets and enough food to generally satisfy an entire guinea pig tribe for a week. We returned to two angry, squeaking bundles of fur who had consumed all but half of a bowl of pellets, tipped over their sleeping castle and decided to throw in a poo and woodchip flinging contest for good measure.

By 2:00 P.M. I was verging on tears any insanity, so I tucked myself into bed for a much-needed nap. Hubby soldiered on and clean Dora…our dirty, dirty, car! Sadly the house didn’t get cleaned, but we’ll leave that to another day – yes folks, I was THAT tired.

And finally (thanks for making it this far folks), we ended off the weekend with our last season game of beach volleyball. Thankfully, the nap did me well and I was able to play my little heart out. It was one of our best games ever, but sadly we lost the bronze and ended up in fourth place overall…still not too shabby. We celebrated our efforts at a pub after the game and had a fantastic time.

Sunday evening…I slept like a baby!

22 August 2008

Gone fishin'

Bags are packed, car is loaded and we’re ready to hit the road!

Last evening was productively spent organizing all the gear and preparing food. It’s far easier to make meals in advance and to wash fruits, veggies or anything that requires extra attention. In my active camping days, I would often spend countless hours cooking six-course feasts over the fire, in tinfoil ovens and with a variety of other Macquiveresque contraptions. I once even cooked a full Thanksgiving dinner, complete with a turkey cooked in tin bucket and ham roasted in a pit. My current mantra is, “Keep it simple!” This time, I’ll be serving up basic grub that can simply be heated on the Coleman stove or over the fire…hooray for the homemade chili sitting in my freezer!

The only small hiccup in all this camping preparation, is that my husband managed to misplace the main supports for our dining shelter. I love him dearly but I could have killed him when he came to this realization at about 9:00 PM last evening. He had dragged the tent bag out of storage several days ago but somehow failed to notice that bag was as light as a feather. When I was moving the gear to the front entrance last evening, I noticed that something was missing the moment I picked up the bag (namely, I wasn’t experiencing any back pain). My husband is a lovely man but organization and observation skills are not always his strong suits. Unfortunately, after a few choice comments on my behalf, I was left flying solo to pack and prepare most of the gear, while he combed through the house and his father’s basement looking for the lost tent supports. Sadly, his search yielded zero poles. Today he purchased a new dining shelter on his way to work, so I have no doubt that the other half of our tent will mysteriously reappear when we return...that’s just how these things work.

So far the weather looks promising. It’s a sweltering and sunny 30ºC today and tomorrow’s forecast is 28ºC. Does anyone else find it strange that the two hottest days of the year, when hubby and I would actually use our AC, we’re going to be stuck sweating it out in a tent? Even more hilarious, is the fact that tent is about as cooling as a damn greenhouse. Guess I’ll get a little more mileage on my bikini this summer after all! The only downfall is that I’ll have to fend off the eager mosquitoes from attacking my overexposed flesh. Pray for my folks or I could very well end up looking like a Leper in my brother’s wedding photos in two weeks.

Enjoy the weekend folks and make the most of these last few lazy, hazy days of summer. I’ll undoubtedly have loads to gripe write about upon my return. Rest up, because the next one is bound to be a doozy!

21 August 2008

Must work to relax…

Only one day left until our highly-anticipated return to nature! The dusty camping gear has been dragged out, new sleeping bags have been purchased and the all-important canned beer (a certified redneck camping necessity) is in the fridge. With the amount of running around and preparation that we have done in the past few days, hubby and I are very excited by the prospect of ‘slumming it’ for a weekend.

In a perfect world, we would all be able to leave for vacation, camping trips or move houses without ever having to lift a finger. Alas, my little utopia of laziness exists only in my mind…or in the lives of the rich at famous (fat chance there). I am always astounded by the amount of work that goes into relaxing - several days of preparation for a mere few days in the woods or on the beach, followed by several days of post-escape laundry and cleanup. It hardly seems worth it. Why do we do it to ourselves? Because it’s a change of pace and scenery; because the grass is always greener on the other side and, to a certain degree, we’re all gluttons for punishment.

How soon we forget the rigmarole when we’re seated is paradise, drink in hand, loved-one at our side, with not a care in the world.

20 August 2008

A sport for all seasons

As summer draws to a close, so too does my first successful season of beach volleyball. When hubby and I signed up for the recreational league with friends back in June, we had no idea that we would grow to enjoy the sport as much as we do now. We decided to play because (a) it was an activity we could do together, (b) it would be a great way to keep fit while seeing friends and (c) to hopefully spark some remote sense of interest in team sports. Thankfully, our decision did not disappoint. As we get set to play our last game on Sunday, we can’t help but wish that the season could last a little longer.

While playing beach volleyball outside is not exactly conducive to Ottawa’s cooler months, the Ottawa Sport and Social Club does offer indoor volleyball starting this September. Eager to keep playing, hubby and I are hoping to sign up for the fall season; so far most of our existing team seems interested in continuing. While indoor volleyball may be more limiting (I.e. Much harder to dig and dive without the sand), it will probably force us to become better players. Without the advantage of beach volleyball’s endless ceiling, we’ll have to work on cleaner /lower serves, smoother passes and better positioning on the court. The play is a little more strict but it should help us hone in on some good skills for the next summer season...then watch out!

Can you tell I’m excited much? Personally, I’m just thrilled that hubs and I have a shared interest in some form of sport! I guess that’s one of the wonderful things about being older - you have a renewed sense of confidence and self worth that allows you try new things without feeling embarrased or uncool. I was personally lacking that sports-centric ambition and confidence as an adolescent. It almost seems a shame that now, as an adult, I would give anything to have gym class enforced in the middle of my workday ; in high school, it was the one part of the day that I could have happily done without. Better late than never, I suppose.

19 August 2008

Back to nature…

Fear not; I’m not turning hippy on you. I’m not prepared to give up modern luxuries and sport a leaf bikini or loin cloth (although I may have once had a dream along those lines…)

Two years after moving into our home, hubby and I have suddenly come to the sad realization that we haven’t been camping in ages. Before the busy demands of marriage and homeownership, we were avid outdoorsmen. Back when we were dating and not worrying about dusty baseboards or the weeds in our garden, we used to do a fair bit of camping each summer. In university we invested a small fortune in the “camping kit” – a collection of every possible gadget or piece of equipment that a camping enthusiast could dream of. After sitting dormant for roughly three years, I am happy to report that the kit will finally come out of hiding this weekend.

The decision to escape the city came as a bit of a last minute surprise. Hubby was invited to go a cottage in Sudbury for my brother Bachelor Weekend, but with the six-hour drive each way and not being able to leave work early or take Monday off, he decided that the journey would not be feasible. He also has to be back in town on Sunday evening to play in our beach volleyball finals. Low and behold, we suddenly found ourselves in the position where neither of us had plans - literally a first in months.

After some quick browsing on Ontario Parks, I decided to try booking a campsite at Charleston Lake Provincial Park. We wanted somewhere that would be close (under two hours), yet far enough to feel like an escape (I.e. anywhere not bordering the immensely polluted Ottawa River). Charleston Lake seemed to fit the bill perfectly and I’ve heard good things about it from coworkers and friends. It turns out that the proverbial ‘luck of Irish’ was with me, as we were able to book the last campsite available. I was even more pleased to learn that the site is actually graded superior quality – a rarity when it’s the only vacant site which leads me to believe that we must have lucked out on another person’s cancellation. Double score!

I cannot wait to reacquaint myself with Mother Nature. The park looks like a paddlers dream so hopefully we’ll be able to rent ourselves a canoe or kayak to get around and explore the interior. My only reservation is that the park is home to a large population of black rat snakes, not exactly the kind of fellows I hope to run into or find dangling down from a tree. I’m fairly comfortable with wildlife but ‘large’ snakes really do creep the bejesus out of me! At least this variety is non-venomous, a fact that brings me a minute sense of comfort. Either way I’m certain that any encounter will end in me shrieking like a little girl and pushing hubby in front of me to act as a shield…that’s if he doesn’t shriek and run away himself.

The countdown is on and I’m already bursting at the seams to hit the road, pitch the tent and light the campfire. The one unfortunate part of camping that I seem to have forgotten during my hiatus is that it actually takes a good deal of planning and preparation. Because our equipment has been lying dormant for years, we have to air everything out and make sure that all is in working order. Coupled with a busy work week, two dinner parties and swing dance in the evenings, I’m not entirely sure where we will find the time to get things packed and ready in the next three days. Something tells me that a good chunk of our time in the woods may actually be spent sleeping off exhaustion or dozing in front of the fire.

18 August 2008

Tales of the blogging "husband"...?

After months of my nagging and insisting that he is interesting enough to warrant a blog, my hubby has finally taken the plunge and started writing his own ramblings. I am pleased to shamelessly plug his new endeavour and encourage everyone to check out Thank God, It’s F3rret! I will not even attempt to understand or explain where the name comes from; I leave the particular story to him.

I’m not entirely sure what the main premise of the blog will be but I imagine that a good deal of the content will revolve around computers, IT frustrations and evil ploys to get his uptight wife to play video games with him…or so it seems from post #1. At any rate, it should be good for a laugh. Of course, I consider my husband to be quite funny; one needs a sense of humour to tolerate living with me.

I addition to reading hubby’s blog, I also encourage you to plague him with comments and requests to give his wife complete creative control over his layout design. In particular, you should demand that he adopt the stunning visuals and ferret graphics that said wife has so lovingly prepared for him.

Go now!

17 August 2008

Clearly frightened by goats…

I believe the picture sums it up nicely.

The bulk of my time yesterday at SuperEx was spent in the Aberdeen Pavillion (a.k.a. Cattle Castle). I wanted to get some shots of the Connemara pony and Irish dog breed shows. Unfortunately, the day’s schedule was running behind and the two groups that so generously donated their time and their animals never even made it into the main ring to strut their stuff. But I suppose it wasn’t a total loss, because people seemed to enjoy simply visiting and petting the animals – myself included.

If you put me in a room full of ponies and dogs, I’m pretty much reduced to the ‘wet-your-pants’ state of a five year old. Throw the cutest miniature ponies in the world into the mix and I’m absolute putty. At the risk of sounding like a princess…I LOVE ponies and I want one! Even Dan conceded that a miniature pony would be the perfect addition to the family. One shrill little whinny and he was sold. We have already staked out the perfect place for grazing in the field behind our yard - ponies can graze on city property…right…?

As if all the pony cuteness wasn’t enough, the pavilion was also filled with a variety of other fluffy bundles of sweetness. Of particular amusement, there were goats everywhere! Now I will readily admit that I am slightly apprehensive when it comes to goats. They seem a little too shifty-eyed and curious for my liking. Experience has taught me that goats, especially those of the petting zoo variety, will pretty much nibble whatever is put in front of their face, be that hair, clothing or cameras. They also have a somewhat precarious nature; you can never be too sure of what they're thinking or plotting. I know it sounds paranoid but I have my reasons for distrust. When I was in high school my friend Rob and I were at a leadership camp held at a farm. One day we decided to pay a visit to some of the local livestock. When we came to the fenced animal enclosure, we saw a pathetic little horned goat with his head stuck sideways in the gate. Of course we felt horrible and decided to help the poor little guy out of his predicament. Rob hopped the fence and gingerly helped the goat to tilt its head until he was able to slide it out of the gate. His reward for his heroic efforts - a swift ram to the posterior, horns and all. Since then I’ve never looked at a goat the same way. They have all been tarred with the same unfortunate brush - painted as ‘sketchy’.

With some gentle coaxing from hubby, I finally confronted by long-standing distrust of goats. As you can see above, he thought that the special moment warranted a picture. Okay, so I still look somewhat terrified but I least I petted the little buggers. By take two (pictured below) I started to relax a little. Too bad he didn’t snap this shot three seconds later as another goat suddenly barged his head through the fence right next to my face…game over.

16 August 2008

Irish lass goes to the county fair

Sounds quaint doesn’t it?

Okay, so maybe it’s a little less romantic, but I’ll be heading off to the Ottawa SuperEx today to promote “Irish Day”

During each day of operation, the Ottawa SuperEx typically features a special theme. This year the Irish Society NCR and other local Irish community groups put in a proposal to host an “Irish Day.” The day will be a different mish mash of cultural activities, shows and events. If you’re in the Ottawa area and looking for something fun to do, check it out!

Saturday, August 16th Schedule:

12:00 PM – 12:30 PM
Connemara Ponie = awesome, I looooove ponies!

1:00 PM
Celtic North = stomp your feet and enjoy some tunes

1:40 PM - 2:00 PM & 3:40 PM - 4:00 PM
Irish Dog Show = hooray for puppies!

5:30 PM - 6:15 PM
Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann = learn to speak Irish!

5:30 PM - 6:00 PM
Ottawa Valley Group = good old fashioned valley fun

7:00 PM - 7:30 PM
Suzanne Taylor Irish Dancers = amazing traditional Irish dancers!

7:30 PM - 8:00 PM
Ottawa Fiddle & Step Association = More music and foot stompin’

9:00 PM
Robin Averill = Sing along folks!

But the biggest draw of all folks, is that you’ll be able to see yours truly, the rambling redhead, dancing around like a fool and turning out a few hearty jigs on the Ottawa St. Patrick’s Float on display, or working the adjacent info desk (slightly less exciting). Yup, just another regular Saturday…

Now kindly leave a pleasant comment, turn off your computer, give yourself a break for the day and proceed immediately to the Ex!

Want more information? Check out the Ottawa SuperEx website at: www.ottawasuperex.com

If you do visit the Ex today, be sure to come and say hi. I’ll even sign autographs…if I must ; )


15 August 2008

Post-Meeting Gluttony

I used to make fun of the vultures that would storm my workplace kitchenette to devour post-meeting leftovers. I would laugh at their fevered excitement as they scuffled over the last mauled cookie, soggy sandwich or stale cracker. Why fight over something that a million other meeting goers riffled through with their dirty paws? Why get all fussed over the leftovers that were passed over by the executives - scraps that were left for us mere mortals?

For all my mocking and guffawing, I am ashamed to admit that I too have fallen victim to post-meeting vulturism. I have no idea where this sudden weakness came from, nor my apparent lack for personal hygiene. Perhaps it’s because I stayed behind to burn the midnight oil; perhaps it’s because I had prime pick of the scraps or maybe it’s because I’ve been so damn good about my diet these past few days. Whatever the reason, I am ashamed to admit that I found myself capriciously clawing my way through hordes of meeting leftovers last night. It was gluttony at its very best...or worst.

What truly surprised me? The food was awesome! As it turns out, our workplace recently switched its catering company and the cooking no longer resembles specimen samples rejected from the upstairs laboratories. No stale crap in the entire lot and I could hardly believe my luck when, low and behold, I found a pile of glistening “pets de soeurs” before my very eyes. No folks, I am not referring to offerings of religious flatulence; I am referring to orgasmic cinnamony goodness and one of my all-time favourite French-Canadian treats. Cinnamon buns are for pansies; real people eat “nun farts.” Only the French could come up with a name so utterly absurd and food so immensely fattening.

Not only did I eat just one pet de soeur, je les tous mangé! And despite the fact that I have a scratchy throat today - undoubtedly from the germs I acquired by eating manhandled reject goodies – I enjoyed every second of my post-meeting gluttony! My only regret was having to fess up to my coworkers this morning and squarely shouldering the blame that I single-handedly polished off all of the “good” leftovers.

14 August 2008

Another day, another ache…

At the rate I whine about aches and pains, you would think that I’m actually an eighty-year-old rather than an active gal in her twenties.

As anticipated, last night’s swing dance adventure left me hobbling off to bed with visions of muscle ointment and ice packs dancing in my head. Last night’s lesson was on...drum role please...Kicking! Or, to be more precise, we were learning the Charleston.

One of the difficult things about swing dance is trying to maintain proper alignment and spacing between partners. We have to slightly offset our stance so that we are stepping between each other’s feet, rather than crunching our partner’s toes. As you can imagine, when both partners are kicking, this position becomes infinitely more important. It sounds easy in theory, but many have a hard time mastering it in practice.

Thankfully, most guys are pretty good about not tromping on toes. Unfortunately, because we have to rotate partners often, I got saddled with the ‘weakest link’ in the class for one of the first Charleston demos. I know folks…it sounds very harsh, but it’s totally justified. After being kicked in the shins several times and clumsily manhandled like an old battered piece of luggage, you would start to loose compassion as well. What really made me cringe, was the fact that this guy seemed to wearing steel-toe-esque shoes. Imagine cheap, rimmed dress shoes with bricks attached to the front…or at least they felt like bricks as the consistently collided with my shins! No matter how I spaced myself, this guy could not master the art of kicking straight. I gritted my teeth and mentally delivered several blunt Mortal Kombat-style kicks to his head. Either this guy is a complete n00b who has no idea how to treat a woman, or he’s not the full shilling. “Queer as a bottle of chips,” also comes to mind…

Thankfully hubby turned out to be the “Charleston Master” and was able to help me learn the proper technique after class - without killing my shins. Go figure; my husband manages to understand the most awkward looking dance move. I guess he’s naturally inclined to pick up on the abnormal…not too sure what that says about myself?

13 August 2008

Melancholy muscles...

A word to the wise from the not so wise, never attempt a vigorous free weight session the day after starting a new aerobics routine. My muscles are positively screaming this morning. And here I thought that I couldn’t possibly find more parts of my body to torture…turns out I was wrong.

I’ve been a little more lax with my exercise routine this summer. Being on the run all the time, means less weight sessions than I originally anticipated. I usually manage to fit in at least one session per week with cardio thrown in everyday, but I would like to up my free weight sessions to a minimum 2-3 times / week. I really find that weight training gives me that extra boost – I have more energy, I’m more flexible, and it really tones and defines the entire body. However, miss a few training days and “look out!” Muscles have an uncanny way of letting you know that you’ve been neglecting them; they also don’t appreciate being overworked. Treat them well and they will treat you well; ignore or abuse them and they’ll be reluctant to help you out when you need them most…fair enough I suppose.

I guess my own muscles were trying to deliver a message after yesterday’s overambitious workout. “Thanks muscles; I get it…but do you really have to make putting on underarm deodorant such an agonizing experience in the early morning?” I’m also enjoying the throbbing sensation between my ribs and my pectoral muscles. I’ve been spending a good chunk of my morning trying rub my aching upper chest without drawing my coworkers attention, least they think I’m some sort of pervert who enjoys expressions of ‘self love’ at the office...

The good thing about all this pain is that I can at least be certain that I have given my body a good workout. I can only pray that my partners at tonight’s swing dance lesson will be merciful and not thrown me around the floor too violently. On second thought, maybe a healthy dose of precautionary Robaxacet might be a good idea…

See how my garden grows...

Because it has been such a soggy and dreary summer, I have decided to post some cheerful pictures of my garden today. Every time I complain about the rain, I have to remind myself of its awesome effect on the garden. Despite the fact that all the shrubs were babies when I planted them this past May, they are now mammoth-sized. Now if only it would stop raining long enough for me to weed the damn garden, let alone sit outside to enjoy it...

For your viewing pleasure, I now present my precious babies. These were taken back in early July. They grow up so fast…sniff…

12 August 2008

Happy belated 150th post…to me!

Okay, so I'm a few days off. This is actually post #152 but I missed out on celebrating my big day two posts ago. Indulge my frivolity, won’t you?

In celebration of my big and vastly-dorky blogging milestone, I am going to shamelessly steal an idea that I once saw on another blog. I now present you with 150 utterly useless facts about myself:

1. I am a redhead
2. I have naturally wavy hair but didn’t know it for years
3. I used to hate my freckles as a child; now I love them.
4. I have two guinea pigs – Clancy and Gus
5. I have no first cousins
6. I detest my first name
7. I miss my maiden surname
8. Mom wanted me to have a French name
9. Dad ‘won’ the name battle
10. I have one brother
11. I met my hubby in high school
12. I thought he was strange
13. I’m strange and realized it was a perfect match
14. I can roll my tongue
15. I can’t wiggle my ears
16. I am very good at picking up accents
17. I’m also a language geek
18. I sometime read cheesy romance novels
19. I am ashamed of the above
20. I am obsessed with travel
21. I want to win the lottery
22. I don’t have much faith in the above
23. I’ve never liked the number 23
24. I will always bake two-dozen cookies…never less
25. I wanted to be a politician before University
26. After meeting other ‘aspiring’ politicians, I quickly changed my mind
27. I adore public speaking
28. I love to sing
29. I car dance…big time!
30. Hubby joins me in said car dancing
31. I hate taking the bus to work
32. I’m still working on my license (my one big hurdle in life it seems)
33. I’m an extrovert
34. I love to entertain
35. Cheesy theme parties are my specialty
36. I adore trying new recipes
37. My family is often used as guinea pigs for said recipes
38. I love to drink wine
39. I want to become a sommelier
40. I have wine blog but need to update it
41. My parents don’t get my wine obsession
42. Hubby does
43. We are going to wine tour in Tuscany in 2009!
44. I lived in Italy one summer as part of an exchange
45. I took two years of Italian lessons
46. I am studying Italian on my own again
47. I love Italian food
48. And opera
49. Italians seem to love my red hair
50. I love my red hair
51. Mosquitoes love me
52. I hate mosquitoes
53. I love camping
54. I’m a bit of a pyromaniac
55. I love the sun
56. The sun doesn’t love me
57. I could eat guacamole until I burst
58. I could eat fresh salsa until I burst
59. I could drink pina coladas until I burst
60. I miss Mexico
61. I have always wanted to wear a bikini
62. I now own two skimpy bikinis
63. I enjoy wearing said bikinis
64. My father does not like said bikinis
65. My husband does
66. I have a strange sense of humor
67. I have an infectious personality
68. I’m fairly intelligent
69. I’m sarcastic
70. I flirt with wit rather than looks
71. I’m confident
72. I also have my ‘off’ days
73. I love to chat
74. I also love to listen
75. I sing in the shower
76. I play recreational beach volleyball
77. I love to exercise
78. I own an elliptical
79. I one day hope to run a marathon
80. I’m obsessed with dance
81. I took four years of Irish dancing, as an adult
82. I’m currently taking Swing dance lessons with hubby
83. I feel very short when dancing with partners
84. I “am” short – only 5’2”
85. I’m muscular
86. I lift weights
87. I hate doing lunges
88. I prefer to exercise at home, rather than the gym
89. I respect/admire athletes
90. I’m obsessed with the Olympics
91. I want to learn to ski
92. I used to figure skate
93. I was in Girl Guides for 12 years
94. I was a Brownie leader
95. Kids used to call me “Snowy Owl”
96. Those kids are now taller than me and some have their own kids
97. I don’t like getting older
98. I use wrinkle diminishing cream
99. I hate my forehead creases
100. Forehead wrinkles are an inevitable family trait
101. I love my family
102. My mother are I best buddies
103. I share my father’s odd sense of humour
104. My brother and I have our own language
105. I spent many summers in the Maritimes
106. I want to retire in the Maritimes
107. I love road trips
108. I want to own a B&B
109. I also want to own a pub
110. I have an entrepreneurial spirit
111. I hate sewing
112. I often pay to get my pants hemmed
113. I can sew well
114. I hate ironing
115. I hate wrinkly clothes even more
116. I love to take baths
117. I love to read in the bath
118. I cannot tolerate dirty bathrooms
119. I am a clean freak
120. I am sometimes too anal about my home
121. I love to garden
122. I want a minimum half acre of land with my next home
123. I want a Victorian Home
124. I love to decorate
125. Halloween is my favourite holiday
126. I love the Fall
127. I enjoy buying potted mums in September
128. I like cooking holiday family dinners
129. I go ‘all out” at Christmas
130. I love to write
131. I one day want to write a novel
132. I adore reading travel diaries or literary travel
133. I like WWII-era books
134. I sometimes watch the History Channel
135. I LOVE the Fine Living Channel
136. I try to watch the national news everyday
137. I need to read the paper more
138. I sometimes work with the media
139. I had a small cooking segment on T.V. last year
140. I do voluntary work for the Irish Society
141. I am both Irish and French
142. I am Canadian first and foremost
143. I want to volunteer at a local museum one day
144. I often take on too many projects
145. I need to say “No” more
146. I like a challenge
147. I thrive off stress
148. I can’t sit still
149. I think I have minor OCD
150. I love life and wouldn’t change a thing

11 August 2008

Weekend Showers

Surprisingly, I’m not actually referring to the crappy summer climate. While the weekend weather was somewhat erratic, it actually didn’t rain! The showers I am referring to are of the wedding and baby extraction.

September is gearing up to be quite an eventful month. My brother is getting married on September 6th and one of our closest set of friends is expecting their first baby boy on the 17th. These are exciting times and thus, you guessed it, very busy!

Saturday morning was spent baking les petits madeleines and hand-dipping each cookie in chocolate…perhaps a little too enterprising for 8:00 AM. I was in a rush to prepare things for my Sister-In-Law’s bridal shower that afternoon and didn’t even stop to contemplate the consequences of “not” letting the chocolate harden on wax paper. I dipped the cookies, put them on a plate to cool and had a lovely time trying to rip the little buggers off an hour later after the chocolate had hardened to the surface. In true French spirit I shrugged, grunted “Merde!” a few times, salvaged what I could and headed out the door.

With the cookie fiasco behing me, I enjoyed the afternoon basking in the sunshine during the shower . The party was held outdoors by an old friend of bride's family. Despite the heat and subsequent sunburns, we had a nice time; it was a good opportunity for me to meet most of the female side of her family. They appear to be a fun bunch and I have to doubt that the wedding will be pretty lively…quite the contrast to my small family. Speaking of relations, I was unfortunately the only representative from my family as Mom still isn’t well enough to stay out of the house for long periods of time. She feels terrible for not being able to participate in more of the wedding excitement but I suppose the timing of these things cannot be helped. Hopefully with a few more weeks of rest and physiotherapy, she’ll be mobile enough to stroll up the aisle. Sadly, the process of recovery is very slow.

While I was hanging with the gals, hubby was off golfing with my brother and the bride’s many male relatives. I’m proud to say that he survived the full 18-hole course, despite the fact that he hasn’t been out to play or practice yet this year. I’m fairly certain that he and bro were the weakest links of the lot but they both came back with smiles on their faces so I gather that they had a good time swinging clubs, drinking beer and generally behaving like guys. In the end we all met up for a big BBQ back at the bride’s parents’ house. It was a fun by tiring day; I think we were collectively pooped from all that sun and overindulgence.

Being the absolute troopers that we are (or lunatics…you decide), hubby and I capped off the evening by heading to a house-warming party in the opposite end of the city. I have to admit that I was getting a little crabby by this point so our presence was short-lived. Yup…even I have my energy limitations!

Sunday, a supposed day of rest, was bit of a rinse and repeat for hubby and I. The morning was spent cleaning the house and our afternoon involved stuffing our faces at a baby shower. It was nice to finally be able to attend a co-ed shower together. I personally find the old "women-only" tradition a bit strange. Men have every right to be involved in baby showers and I know many guys and fathers that are equally excited by children and all related cute accoutrements. When our day comes, Dan and I definitely plan to experience the fun together!

Following the shower, we raced back to the other end of the city for our regularly scheduled volleyball game. I am happy to report that we two out of three games and have managed to hold onto our 4th place position heading into the semi-finals. We still have a chance at a"medal" standing – very exciting.

The weekend was topped off in usual style - a sandy/grubby return to the local pub to celebrate our victory, watch the Olympics and brush up on our skills by studying the seasoned beach volleyball pros. We don’t have their talent, but as this weekend may prove, we could very well have their stamina.

08 August 2008

You too could be this cool...

I love to exercise. Over the past year, physical activity has become a major part of my lifestyle. It keeps me sane, balanced and healthy. All that said, I do find my routine getting a little stale these days; there’s only so much elliptical and free weights that one can withstand before the enthusiasm begins to fade. This probably explains why I add so many random activities to my daily life (I.e. swing dance, boxing, volleyball, etc.) One thing is certain, I need to feel challenged or entertained in whatever I do.

As a means of spicing up my exercise regime, I have been searching for a collection of good cardio aerobics DVDs to try at home. Because my day-to-day is so unpredictable, it’s far easier to exercise in the comfort of my own abode rather than heading off to an overpriced gym where I’d have to wait for equipment or be at the mercy of a class schedule. This being said, I have been hunting around on the internet and exercise forums to see what goodies I could find. Most women seemed to praise a series called “Turbo Jam” and assured me that it would get my heart rate up and help me get past my exercise lethargy. I took their word for it and ordered myself two sets of DVDs from Amazon; they arrived in less than a week.

After reading the back covers of both DVDs, I opted to try one called the “Turbo Jam Cardio Party”. The name should have tipped me off because I literally put myself through 40-minutes of absolute CHEESE. You know when people try too hard to be cool? Picture a set of ten fraternityesque aerobics addicts or “jammers” (groans). I realize that these people have to be high energy to try to motivate viewers, but these people take ridiculous to a whole new level. The workout is decent, don’t get me wrong, but I certainly don’t need to hear people shouting, whooping and hollering every five seconds. This just in…it’s "not" a party, no matter how you try to sell it. Even more annoying was the fact that the instructor felt comfortable enough to start singing along with the early 90s mix that was playing throughout the workout.

What truly sets this exercise program apart from others I have tried, is the amount of awkward dance breaks that are thrown in to transition between moves. I wiggled, I shook, I gyrated and I “housed it” (WTF?) as the phony peroxide blonde barked, “Just let yourself go and get funky fresh?” I was just praying that hubby wouldn’t come down into the basement to find me in my “funky fresh” state.

Turbo Jam gets my vote for the most annoying aerobics workout ever introduced to mankind. This being said, I did manage to work up a good sweat and I will probably try the other DVDs. I also have to admit that I got an amazing abdominal workout from the amount of laughing that I was doing, both at my expense and at the instructor and her caffeine-jacked groupies.

Party on folks, party on!

07 August 2008

I love Paris in the springtime…

Or at least I hope that the song is right because I’ll be visiting La Ville Lumière to find out for myself in April 2009! After years of dreaming and pseudo planning, hubby and I will finally be heading off to Europe next spring for what we now lovingly refer to as “our last hurrah.” In other words, we are trying to fulfill our dream vacation before we settle down and start adding little bambinos to the mix.

While we would love to escape for an entire month, our schedules and savings account will only afford us two weeks in paradise. We could have opted for a whirlwind bus tour, but it’s just not our thing. The idea of spending the bulk of our journey on a crowded bus and adhering to other peoples’ schedules didn’t appeal to us. Perhaps you get to “see” more on a bus tour, but I firmly believe that you don’t get to “experience” more. Instead, we have opted for a few days of adventure in Paris and then it’s off to Italy by train to embrace la dolce vita amidst the beautiful backdrops of Venice, Florence, Siena and Rome.

Despite having already spent a summer in Italy as an exchange student in my early teens, I still find myself yearning to explore the country even more. I could have easily chosen to visit other beautiful parts of Europe but there is something about Italy that pulls at my heart and beckons me to come back…maybe it’s that coin I threw in Trevi Fountain fifteen years ago? At any rate, there is something so utterly spellbinding about Italy and I can’t imagine being in Europe without visiting. I am excited to return and equally thrilled to share the experience with my husband. I have a feeling that the gelato alone with have him thoroughly enamored.

While I may have been fortunate to have already visited a good chunk of Italy in my younger years, there will still be many ‘firsts’ on this trip as well. Paris will be a new experience, as will Tuscany. Fueled by our passion for all things vino, we decided that this would be the ideal region to spend the bulk of our time touring wineries and small medieval hilltop towns. I have a feeling that this will be just the right ticket after enduring the hustle and bustle of Paris and touristy Venice; it will also be a nice way to unwind before heading off to busy Rome.

I am happy to report that our airfare is now booked! I realize that it seems a bit early but experience has taught me to jump at good airfare deals because they don’t hang around for very long. At only $1,834 for two adult round-trip tickets from Ottawa with United Airlines, I wasn’t going to complain or hold out for something better. Sign me up!

With the tickets already purchased, I now find myself itching to go. It’s still early yet to start booking hotels but I have already started to compile a list of “top choice” accommodations at a modest budget (if you can call any price in Euro modest). Hubby jokes that I will know that lay of the land better than its own people by the time we finally get there. Knowing me, I’ll probably be handing out directions and restaurant recommendations like a local. Some would say that this spoils the adventure, but I’m a glutton for planning and I have a sick little obsession with never being ‘wrong’ or ‘lost’. It’s an O’Brien thing…we’ll leave it at that.

Pray for me folks. With 247 days of waiting, I may very well pop. Here’s hoping that hubby still finds my excitement ‘endearing’ at that point. I tend to get a little OCD with these things.

06 August 2008

The hard sell...

“Citizens of Ottawa, lend me thy bank balances!”

By now most readers already know that I regularly dabble in Ottawa community events and, more specifically, all things Irish. I have now started my second year as the voluntary Chair of Communications for the Irish Society of the National Capital Region. You have undoubtedly seen my ugly mug on television during the city’s annual Irish Week festivities back in March. Taking on this role has been quite the challenging addition to an already busy work schedule and personal life, but it provides me the welcome opportunity to expand my skills as a communicator and to delve into certain areas where I am currently limited in my day-job with the government.

In the GOC, the word “Sponsorship” has a horrible taint associated with it. It is both a forbidden word and practice (compliments of Mr. C’s lovely scandal a few years back). Consequently, any form of self-promotion or blatant appeal for financial aide has never factored into my job…all submissions to Treasury Board aside, of course…haha

In a private or non-profit organization, the rules of the game are infinitely different. Here one can freely partake in the time-honoured tradition of begging for money, accepting favours and, shock of all horrors, aquiring not one but many sponsors. There’s no “partnering” “supporting” or “special friend” status here; people give you money and you are expected to talk about it.

Intrigued by the whole notion of sponsorship, I decided to gain some practical experience by volunteering as a pitch hitter for the 2009 St. Patrick’s Parade (yes, because I don’t have enough to do already). Despite having just made the offer to help at last night’s Board meeting, I now find myself editing a final sponsorship package during today’s lunch hour (fear not dear tax-payers, this is an un-paid lunch break and I work extra time to make up for these blog updates! ) To be honest, I’m actually looking forward to trying to find new sponsors for our growing parade and not necessarily the same usual local suspects, although I will gladly accept a cheque from them as well!

On the rare off-chance that a potential sponsor may be reading this post, I’d like to encourage folks to check out the Irish Society NCR website for further information. A Sponsorship Package for 2009 St. Patrick’s Parade will be posted shortly.

Wish me luck folks! With a bit of luck and a good measure of smooth talking, next year’s parade will hopefully be bigger and better than ever. We may not be as big as NYC, Toronto or Montreal, but we are Canada’s capital afterall! We are a generally wealthy population, replete with key decision makers and we LOVE to shop…hint, hint, hint…

05 August 2008

A very short long weekend…

Why does it seem that the more days we have off, the faster time speeds by? In my case, I suppose it’s because hubby and I manage to fill every waking moment of our ‘spare’ time with some sort of activity, task or event. To be honest, I suppose the bulk of the blame rests squarely on my shoulders. I’ve said it time and time again - I can never seem to sit still!

Saturday was spent cleaning the office and ridding ourselves of the copious amounts of paper and receipts that we managed to accumulate over the past two years. Let this be a warning to prospective home buyers; when purchasing your first humble abode, you will typically amass enough paperwork to build, or rather kill, a small forest. Add this to warranty slips, home inspection documents, user manuals for new appliances and doodads and, not to be forgotten, all the fun and fabulous bills that that you pay and you will soon find yourself swimming in a sea of paper. For a clean freak and self-admitted “clutterphobe” this is a huge, HUGE problemo!

So Saturday was pretty much a write off. We managed to get through most of the cleaning and the office now resembles something befitting professional adults and not our former University glory. We threw in the towel late in the afternoon and got down to the serious and much more enjoyable task of preparing one of my favourite dishes - Sicilian Chicken. It had been ages since hubby and I sat down together, just the two of us, to a nice home-cooked meal and a good bottle of vino. Our plans to entertain that evening fell through but it turned out to be just what the doctor ordered. Yes folks, even two years into our marriage, we still enjoy quality time together (eat that, Hollywood!)

Sunday saw the continuation of the cleaning spree, mixed in with some random errand running for good measure. We played beach volleyball in the evening, despite the temperamental weather, and were soundly beaten by the first ranked team in the league. I am happy to admit that despite the three-game loss we played well and didn’t manage to humiliate ourselves too much. We are getting progressively better as a team and while we are not in the top ranks, we are certainly not the worst either. We had a good time and on the way home hubs and I celebrated our valiant loss at our local pub - replete with sweat, sand and muddied feet. With hubby in his tank top, complete with awesome red neck and snow-white arms, and me in my short shorts and classy “Little Miss Naughty” T-Shirt, I’m sure we made a fabulous picture. I was temped to tell people that hubby was taking me out for our first wedding anniversary – LOL

Monday, our last day of ‘rest’, was capped off with a visit to the Colonel By Day celebrations. I was volunteering as a media relations liaison for the annual Celtic Cross Memorial Ceremony as part of my role with the Irish Society. It was a warm afternoon and luckily the rain held off for the ceremony, but sadly my presence wasn’t really needed as there were very few media outlets present. At any rate, it was a nice ceremony and hubby and I managed to sneak in a Starbucks cheat (yummy mint mocha frappuccino!) and catch a glimpse at some of the entertainers as part of the Busker Festival on Sparks Street while we headed back to the car.

The grand finale to our long weekend was yet another satisfying team-effort in the kitchen. I wanted to try a new recipe for Mediterranean Chicken in avocado salsa. Despite the addition of some overly-strong olives, it was delicious and definitely something that I will add to the growing repertoire of favourites.

It was a busy but delicious weekend that ended far too soon for my liking!

03 August 2008

Goblins in August…

I hate to be one of those people who grumbles about the weather, I suppose I shouldn't be complaining so long as it's not snowing, but even I have to concede that this summer has sucked! I'm starting to think that the sun is merely a figment of my imagination. After the harsh winter we had, we are all in need of some Vitamin D and solar therapy. Thank God hubby and I managed to escape to Mexico in April; I think we got more sun in that one week than we probably have over the entire summer...le sigh!

Because it feels like a cool fall day, I already find myself dreaming up plans for my favourite season. Apple picking, pumpkin patches, fall colours, potted mums, harvest time and...wait for it...HALLOWEEN!

Yes folks, despite the fact that I'm almost thirty, Halloween still manages to revert me back to the age of six. It's not just a "day" in our house; it is a long anticipated, high-praised and diligently crafted "event." It's the time of year where I get to unload my six or more decoration boxes from the basement, haul out the tombstones, goblins, fog machine and cobwebs, and generally become the subject of much amusement to my neighbours. Yup...we become "those" people on the block!

While the mounds of decorations would be enough to satisfy most insane folks, they are only one layer to the complexity that is Halloween chez nous. Even more exciting than the goblins, is the costume party that we throw for our friends. "How serious are the hosts?" you ask. Let's just say that nobody is allowed into the house unless they are wearing a costume; the guests even casts votes for best costume and we hand out a trophy at the end of the night. The wheels have already started spinning and I have no doubt that I'm not the only one that has started piecing together costume ideas for this year. It's a very serious business, not to be taken lightly!

So here I find myself in August, dreaming of October with an excitement that far overshadows my disgruntlment over the current lack of sun. Who needs sun when you're a vampire, right? (Hardy Har Har)

Next time you think you're a dweeb, remember me!

01 August 2008

All hail hubby, Lord of furniture building...

For all that I tease him about his lack of carpentry prowess, I will readily admit that my husband is Lord and master of furniture assembly. Nobody can wield an Allen Key or turn a Cam Lock like him; it’s dead sexy!

I’m sure I’m not along in admitting that my house has one ‘crap’ room. Fess up folks, you know what I’m talking about! It’s that one room that we never quite know what to do with - the one that’s filled with a mish mash of furniture or relics from your university days - the one “blah” space that always seems to be neglected. For most people the solution is quite simple, close the door to the room and forget what lurks beyond it. For me, however, it’s very hard to disguise an open loft that guests often pass on their way to the second floor bathroom (a popular spot during parties).

When hubby and I moved into our home two years ago, we decided to turn our loft into an office. Because we had already spent a whack of money on decent furniture for all the other rooms, we simply purchased some economical desks. Hubby got a nice but modest desk and I chose a compact computer cart that would tuck inside a small nook. The desk and cart match, so at least that counts for something right? Unfortunately, the fashion buck stopped there when we introduced some hideous but practical plastic rolly-carts into the room. Between folders for home purchases, hubby’s side business and my benevolent work, we needed a cheap and easy solution to store our hordes of paper and files. Sadly, the plastic carts gave the room a bit of a slapdash student look, completely at odds with the décor of the rest of our home.

I’m not sure what drove me into a frenzy last week, but I suddenly couldn’t stomach the loft any longer. We had always discussed buying a matching set of filing cabinets and a bookcase to go with our desks, but it was something that we never got around to. Thankfully, Staples still had the set to match the desks; mysteriously the price didn’t seem to depreciate over the years (damn!). There was no going back…we were getting them come hell or high water!

One week later, the set is almost complete. Hubby has been slaving away at building the set. While they don’t look like much, I swear to God that one needs an engineering degree just to put the damn things together. One look at the ‘so-called’ directions and I was almost (just almost) willing to concede to the fate of plastic rolly-carts. Thankfully, my darling husband was blessed with the virtue of patience.

The office is almost ready now and I’m giddy to start filing things away into their neat little compartments. Even more significant is the fact that I won’t feel like body-checking anyone that tries to sneak upstairs to use the bathroom. Heaven forbid they should see anything unpleasant on their way to the porcelain throne.