Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas, everyone!

I'm looking out at our balcony right now, where earlier there was snow, then water, and now ice puddles. The yards beyond are all white. I find this remarkable, as Roger likes to boast of Christmases spent in short sleeves walking on the beach. People around here are all shaking their heads, insisting that winter just isn't like this here. (That's why so many retirees retire to Powell River--because winters are mild, if a bit rainy.)

Today, my 31st birthday, started with a trip to the gym (a gift to myself). My sister surprised me with a call from North Carolina this afternoon. Her family was supposed to be on their way to Mom & Dad's, but the icky weather in West Virginia made them decide to put their travel plans on hold for a day. (At least she got to make cookies.) We hope to be able to connect via webcam on Christmas day.

A few weeks ago, Mom & Dad surprised me by shipping my KitchenAid stand mixer to me, along with a box of some of my (more durable) Christmas ornaments and my elves. Roger spent a couple hours today taking apart the mixer because grease had leaked out while it was in transit and he wanted to clean it up and make sure it was done leaking before I use it. I tried not to be nervous (and I mostly wasn't) while he dismantled this machine I've been so missing for the last eleven months.

For our anniversary, a friend gave us a live Christmas tree. It's really small, so my plan was to decorate it with my smaller earrings, already attached to hooks. Turns out, it's too tiny for even that, so while I went through my box of ornaments, explaining to my husband why I'm so attached to each of them, he found some lightweight ones that he managed to hang on our tree. The star is a snowflake pin I got a few years ago. Attaching the pin to the top of the tree on its own made it droop like Charlie Brown's tree, so Roger bolstered it with a pencil.

Roger was impressed with the Christmas countdown my grandparents made all their grandkids when we were little. He proclaimed it our second tree.

So between the snow, the ornaments from home and the two trees with presents underneath (apparently, I forgot to mention to Mom that gifts aren't supposed to be wrapped when they go over borders), it's feeling an awful lot like Christmas here. In spite of not having unpacked the boxes in the living room yet.

So merry Christmas, everyone. To all my family and friends back in Ohio (and elsewhere)--I love and miss you. I hope we'll be able to be back in Ohio for the holidays next year.

These two elves have been guarding my wine for the past few weeks.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

So I'd been craving the french dip roast beef my mom made, and finally, I checked the family cookbook she made us--and it wasn't there! So I e-mailed her, and she dug out the recipe and sent it to me, and I was able to make it last week. Roger's been putting the leftover beef in ramen (beef) soup for lunch.

And it's just so good (and simple), I have to share it. (Unfortunately, I don't remember which of her friends she got this from.)

Slow Cooker French Dip Roast Beef

3 lb beef chuck pot roast
1/3 c vinegar (I've used both--white & cider)
1 lg onion, cut up
3 bay leaves
1/2 t salt
1/4 t ground cloves
1/4 t garlic powder

Combine the ingredients & pour over meat (stab the roast a bit). Marinate overnight. Place all into crock pot in the morning. Cook on low for 10-12 hrs. Use French rolls or croissants (we used croissants at my mom's, but I made French rolls), split & line them w/spinach or lettuce leaves. (We skipped the greens.) Discard the bay leaves. Skim the fat off the top of the liquid and ladle au jus into dipping dishes. Shred the beef onto the sandwiches (careful--it's hot!). Enjoy!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Today is Roger's & my first anniversary. A year ago, we were at the end of an exhausting 30-hour race from Boise, Idaho to our wedding in my parents' living room in Pemberville, Ohio. Looking back, we're amazed that we made it--winter storms, blown-out engine, rush-hour just outside Chicago, almost no sleep in 48 hours.

It's only right, then, that we spent today sleeping in. (Last night was the Three Leaf Construction holiday party, so we were out kinda late.) I made cinnamon rolls, but managed to bake them under the broiler instead of in bake mode. (I don't think that would've happened if it hadn't been for the fact that the oven doesn't actually have the words "bake" & "broil"--just symbols.) Still, it only resulted in a hard caramelized top (and a few instances of burned sugar). They're, otherwise, delicious. (And they were really easy!)

Tonight's plans are simple: a choral festival called Carols by Candlelight. (If my poor, congested husband is up to it.)

Amazingly, it's been snowing all day. Or maybe it's not so amazing--the forecasts said we'd be getting our dose of winter weather this weekend. It probably won't be sticking around, but I'll settle for a little bit of snow before Christmas.

(Reception dinner at Mancy's Italian in Toledo, Ohio.)

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Today is a rainy day. The third day in a row of rain and gray. It gets grayer here than it did in Ohio because the ocean reflects the sky--so when it's blue and sunny, everything's happy. When it's like today, everyone's sluggish and chilled and tries their best to stay indoors with books and movies.

We're in-between moves, which means that we've moved from the place with the view of Myrtle Rocks, but we haven't moved into the new place (a two bedroom apartment), so we're biding our time for a week or two at the old cottage with the fun walls we painted while the current tenant of the apartment moves into his new house.

It would be nice to be able to actually afford a house that wasn't just what Roger calls bulldozer bait. . . .

Anyway, it's been a while since I posted here. (But I have been posting my reading--though I probably won't do much reading here; we don't really have much lighting. We really need to get a lamp or two.)

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair(s) in July has been one of my favorite summer events since I started going with my mom when I was in college. Sometimes it was just Mom & me and one or both of my sisters, sometimes friends came along. A few years ago, we got a little turned around about which exit (from US 23) led to the Briarwood Mall, where we parked and took the shuttle. (We finally wrote step-by-step directions and kept them in the glove box.)

This year, thousands of miles away, I could feel in my skin, without looking at the calendar, when it was the art fairs weekend. I was itching for an art show. Ohio seems to have a lot of them, way more than I've found here. We'd got to two or three in the summer (including Ann Arbor), but in remote little Powell River, there's Art in the Park, which is part of the Blackberry Festival, and that's usually tiny and considerably poorly attended (because it's always the same weekend as a ton of other events in the area). Besides, they don't get a lot of outside vendors, so most of the artists' works are familiar.

So just when I was feeling art show withdrawal, I got an e-mail from Powell River artist Skye Morrison, letting me (as one of her many fans) know that she was going to be part of the Filberg Festival, a juried arts & crafts show in Comox. I brought the festival up with my workout buddy Velma and she said she'd love to go--especially if it meant she could check out her competition. (She's a soapmaker.)

She arranged for some of her friends to come along; the more people who came, the more ways the ferry fare would be divided (and the ferry fares just keep going up). Plus, there's that whole "the more, the merrier" idea.

As the festival weekend neared, the weather forecasts grew less promising. People in our group decided not to go, and by Thursday, our group was back to just Velma & me. We decided to go to Comox as walk-ons ('cause taking a vehicle was going to be about $100 more) and catch one of the shuttles to the festival. Dressed in layers and carrying umbrellas and extra socks in our bags, we met the morning of August 1 and after purchasing our ferry tickets, we ran (in the rain) to Rocky Mountain Pizza to get some breakfast and tea.

Fortunately, that was the last rain we saw that day. Though directly overhead was gray for a lot of the day and you could always see gray clouds somewhere in the distance, we didn't have further need for our umbrellas. Yay!

As we were now a party of two, Velma's fellow soapmaker and friend Natalie agreed to pick us up at the ferry (no need for a shuttle!) and took in the festival with us.

What first struck me was how strange it felt to not be allowed in to the festival until 11. I've never been to an art fair where people couldn't walk around and get glimpses of artists setting up. Plus, since we got there at 9:30, we had an hour and a half to kill. (More tea. Biscotti.)

When we were allowed in, I realized this was a park. I'd been told it was, but I apparently didn't take the fact in until I wasn't walking around on pavement and sidewalks. Very relaxing, low key. And compared to the Ann Arbor I was craving, it was tiny.

There were fantastic flowers everywhere, and I thought I took more pictures of them, but apparently not.

Vendors at Filberg include every kind of vendor you'd find at larger shows--just with less selection. These vendors were selling spice mixes to be used as marinade/rubs, created to effect the results of marinating without taking the time to marinate.

This is Skye's booth; I know I'm biased, but she was on of my favorite artists here. She had new paintings, lots of prints, and of all the stalls, hers was one of the busiest I saw.

I was just about to get a picture of her in her tent, but then someone asked her a question and she turned around.

In the end, my purchases included a birthday present, some earrings, and a hair stick (now that my hair is long enough to be held up with one). And we determined that we didn't like any of the three soapmakers' products there as much as we like Velma's and Natalie's soaps. Well, I have to take Velma's word about Natalie's; I haven't tried it yet, but I figure I can trust Velma's judgment on the matter.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Today, I'm sharing a few photos:

Some critter (an otter, maybe) got into the burn barrel a few months ago.
(And back out. And then back in again.)

Roger thought this was a baby dragonfly, newly hatched and drying out. Can baby dragonflies be this big?

Kitty asleep on Roger's computer cords.

Sunset from last week.

Sunset from a few weeks ago.

A cruise ship that passed by our place last weekend.
(My camera doesn't like night pictures.)

Me, holding a very licky 11-week-old chihuahua last weekend.

Friday, August 15, 2008

This is a long overdue post. Sorry, Mom.

View Larger Map

Roger and I have been busy. A few weekends ago, we went to a wood boat show in Madeira Park. A few weeks before that, we were on Texada for Van Anda Days. I'll stick with Van Anda Days for now. On the map above, Powell River is just north of the northern tip of the island.

Texada is a large island, generally known for its limestone and grow ops. And, according to Wikipedia, Jennifer Tilley was raised there, too. (Who knew?). The whole population of Texada is about that of Pemberville, Ohio, where I grew up--and Texada takes up considerably more space. Van Anda is one of its biggest towns, and they got some of the money being given for the celebration of BC's 150th anniversary to use to celebrate the founding of the town.

The first day's spectacles included the local bagpipers, kids' activities, the opening of the local history museum, and a performance that wasn't really a play in which a few people played many voices in the history of Van Anda. Roger brought his camera and caught a lot of the events on video. And there was a costume prize.

The guy in the above picture is Elder. He and his dad built these amazing wood cars, and they brought them into town to entertain the kids.

After the first of the Van Anda Days wrapped up, Roger's friend Gary and his wife Phyllis invited us to spend the afternoon on their sailboat in the harbor, and later, Gary took us out for a "sail" (there wasn't rally any wind, so we just motored close to Powell River and back).

Gary even let Roger drive.

And we headed back to Texada just in time for the sunset.

Though you can't see it well, this is Powell River at dusk. (If you click on it to open it in its own tab or window, you can see the stacks from the paper mill.)

The second day of Van Anda Days was at the airport, starting with a fly-in pancake breakfast. I volunteered, wormed my into one of three flipping positions, and didn't get any photos of what was going on. Roger was otherwise occupied--he got to go up in a plane with his video camera--and didn't get any pictures of me behind the griddle, spatula in hand. The rest of the day was spent watching planes coming in, leaving, talking to pilots. I think they said they had over 90 planes in. The Fraser Blues--which were supposed to be part of the first day's festivities as well, but one of the planes had mechanical issues--flew formations for us as the culmination of the weekend.

Of course, the guy on the ground is my love with his video camera.

And the last memorable bit of my first visit to Texada: There was a pretty long line-up for the ferry (it was the end of Diversity Festival weekend, too, which is also held on Texada). People got out of their cars and socialized. Suddenly, in this little turnaround area, there was a deer. I was stunned--there were way too many people around for this deer to be out there in broad daylight. We were a little far away to be getting good, detailed pictures, but we did try:

Next posts (not necessarily in this order):
  • Wood Boat Festival
  • Filberg Art Festival
  • Sandcastle Days
  • My garden
  • At the shooting range
  • Meeting Joni Mitchell (yes, the Joni Mitchell)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

We just returned from our trip to Vancouver to see Cirque du Soleil's Corteo. Amazing.

What I knew about Cirque du Soleil prior to being offered the tickets was that I'd seen a few acts on PBS, my aunt went to see the Beatles show in Vegas, and our friend Pat went to see a show in Vancouver a few years ago. I knew it was, basically, a circus without animals, so it would be a lot of tumbling and contortion and acrobatics. And very cool costumes.

When we arrived at the place, funky yellow and blue striped tents loomed large before us. I hadn't expected tents. Performers were everywhere, playing instruments, performing magic, greeting guests. At intermission, we watched a guy (who looked a bit like he'd wandered out of a jungle) playing drums, and a mime we were following turned around and presented me with a double-headed red daisy.

Our seats were three rows from the stage, so we got to see the mechanics of the show, as well as the performance. I suppose some people would find the show less enchanting to see the skirts of the angels dangling above the stage, waiting to become part so the scene again, out of sight of rows farther back, or to see performers being unhooked from their harnesses just off stage, flirting mildly with the crew member helping them out. Roger and I, however, enjoyed seeing the extensive rigging that made the show appear surprisingly simple. (After the show, we were talking to the head usher who told us that Corteo actually required the biggest crew because everything offstage was so complex.)

Corteo's premise is that a clown is dreaming his own funeral, and though it sounds like a dreary plot, it was very funny and had plenty of jaw-dropping moments. The clown's circus is based on a nineteenth-century European circus, so the costumes are all based on that period as well--and Roger read later that the costumes were all made of natural fabrics. (You probably won't understand why that's so impressive unless you see the show--which I encourage you to do if it's ever in your area. The head usher said they'd just come from Columbus, Ohio...)

Some of our favorite acts were: the lovers--four women who do acrobatics from chandeliers, the tiny woman harnessed to huge helium balloons (she bounces on the clown's hand), the acrobatics after the intermission which involved platforms and men flinging the women from platform to platform (and people doing flips on the trampolines below), the people in the silver rings, the tightrope walker (who walked up a rope on a 45 degree angle!), the jugglers, and of course, the finale (horizontal bars in a square, with another bar to the right and and another to the left of the square, and the performers' routine included up to six at a time using the square--what timing!). We weren't, of course, allowed to take pictures during the performance, so pics posted here are from other sites, and there are more pics when you follow the links in the text.

Our other adventures in Vancouver included getting a ScoopFree automatic kitty litter box, which may seem an extravagance for our single cat, but she is the pickiest cat about having a clean litterbox that I have ever seen. So we decided to get an automatic scooper. We can only hope that she appreciates what this will mean for her. Plus, it has a privacy hood which should mean (yes!) no more "missing" the box and this means that next time we leave for a long weekend, we won't have to put her in the kennel just to make sure she gets a clean litterbox. So far, she seems to like it.

We also visited Pacific Center for two reasons: The Apple Store and The Body Shop. The first because we needed a new battery for our laptop. It was a rather stark store--everything white and grey, in keeping with Apple's signature colors, except the staff who wore bright tee shirts. Roger was disappointed; he felt bugged by the staff, who in our estimation were too numerous and who clearly worked on commission. (He spent more time in the store than I did.) The one staff member who tried to help me while Roger was talking to the first staffer we'd engaged, was shrugged off by my pointing to Roger at the end of the counter and saying, "I'm with them." I never took my eyes off the iPod Touch I was playing with. (Those things are neat.)

We stopped at The Body Shop not because I needed anything, but because I have a Love Your Body membership which has a $15 gift sitting on it, waiting for me to claim it.

But, of course, I got the membership in Ohio, and although I asked when I signed up for the program whether I would have problems once I moved to Canada, the people who signed me up clearly had no idea what they were talking about, because while the Canadian stores will give me the 10% discount the membership allows me, they will not let me take what I wanted for the gift I'd earned by spending so much at The Body Shop last Christmas. I am not pleased. Even if I ordered from The Body Shop Online, they won't ship to Canada because The Body Shop Canada has its own online presence. It's the bleeping Vonage situation all over again. (But I'm not spending hours on the phone with customer service this time.)

But we did stay at a nifty little hotel downtown called the Burrard Inn. We were able to walk to the performance (maybe a dozen blocks or so) and there were plenty of restaurants around, and a coffeeshop right downstairs. Our room was white with an orange accent wall--and a very pink bathroom. And we really appreciated the rooftop garden (on the roof of the parking area).