Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas, 2009

Christmas… for both of us our first time away from home at Christmas, and subsequently our first Christmas together. I was expecting it to be hard, perhaps even depressing, but David reasoned early on that we should just have as much fun as possible. After all, you can’t go through life being married and spending every holiday depressed with your spouse, right?

Christmas Eve Day I had to work, but we had a huge appie & dessert buffet in our department, so I mostly ate junkfood all day and then was sent home early by my boss’ boss. Rather than feel stressed over having to cook dinner or do dishes before heading to Mass, we went out for dinner to the Boathouse and filled up on hunter’s chicken and beer/cider. Mass was quiet, as most of the parishioners are out of town, but nice and very not North American, by which I mean that all the hymns were different than the ones we normally sing. After Mass we came home and watched It’s a Wonderful Life, since we’re used to going to a Christmas Eve party and this year had none to attend.

On Christmas Day we had a blast. Thanks to the generosity of certain people we had stocking stuffers and presents like we would’ve had back home. Thanks to my mum sending us a surprise care package, we had surprises on Christmas morning that neither of us knew about. We spent a relaxing morning opening gifts and made a nice Christmas breakfast. We spent the afternoon slowly preparing for Christmas dinner, and then we spent the evening in the company of one of our Irish friends who was in town for the holidays. David roasted a pheasant, I made a ham, and our friend brought over Christmas pudding and mulled wine. The hours passed quickly and it was midnight before we knew it!

I’m used to spending boxing day having a huge family dinner and spending time visiting, but of course that could not be the case this year. So instead we slept in, read for a bit, and eventually wandered downtown where we picked up steak & ale pasties before heading to the theatre to see the new Sherlock Holmes movie. The movies was excellent, and it was fun eaten pasties snuck into the theatre. After the movie hit up an open pub for pints.

Two more days of vacation for me! Today we went to an early Mass and then spent the morning browsing shops along Trinity Street before grabbing lunch and groceries. Tomorrow one of David’s mum’s close friends from Jamaica is coming over for lunch. In preparation for this we’ve procured a fancy looking patĂ© and a wedge of brie which in Canada would easily cost $6, and here cost a mere 99p. Did I mention that cheese is cheap in England? I love this country!

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Yes I miss seeing my family, and I could dwell on missing Christmas Eve & Christmas morning at home. To be honest, however, I am just grateful that I have a family worth missing, and that I have a wonderful man who worked so hard to ensure that my first Christmas away from home would be a happy one. If anything, my heart is overflowing with gratitude this year for all the blessings in my life.

Merry Christmas!


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Busy couple of weeks

Life has been busy in a pretty good way. My job is going well, but as it involves sitting at a computer writing emails (and clicking buttons!) all day I don’t use the computer as much when I’m home. I also threw my back out last Sunday and have found it difficult to sit on the computer for long periods of time while home.

Two weeks ago I took my first trip to London for a very special reason—one of my favourite folk bands, with my favourite vocalist, were on their 40th Anniversary Tour and we got tickets! So David and I took the train to London when I got off work. It only takes about 50minutes to get there from Cambridge, and we got our tube tickets included in the rail price which was neat. It was fun to just zip to London.

Of course it was even more fun to see Steeleye Span & Maddy Prior in person! That concert is one of the best I’ve been too and it was such an incredible surprise, as we thought we’d missed the chance of ever seeing them. Most of the people there were old hippies and we were some of the youngest in the crowd. It was a magical evening, and the first time David and I have had a chance to get away together, alone, on an adventure since early summer. We still go on dates a lot, but haven’t had a proper carefree adventure away for awhile. So nice! We snacked on winegums, bought Cornish pasties at the train station, and of course heard some of our favourite songs performed live.

The last two weeks have been mostly a blur of work, illness, and Christmas preparations. Cambridge was hit with a “blizzard” and the UK is experiencing “sub zero temperatures”. In Canadian English that means we have about 3” of snow and it’s below zero. Granted it is icy and treacherous outside, and most places don’t have adequate heating so it is cold, but I have been laughing quite a bit over the panic and shock.

This week we have David’s birthday to celebrate on Tuesday and then on to Christmas! So I am feeling quite excited, aside from the giant stack of presents I have to wrap...

David & I at the Clare Christmas Formal (we had a lovely time, including heartily enjoying our 4 course dinner)
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Medieval Round Church during The Cambridge Blizzard of '09
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A lovely snowy dawn the next day

Sunday, December 6, 2009

food & cooking in cambridge

One of my favourite challenges of moving to a new country is trying to cook without the things we take for granted in North America. We shop at Sainsbury’s Central, which is a supermarket in downtown Cambridge. It has a good selection of meat, a fair selection of [mostly] seasonal produce, and so forth. Cheaper than the butcher’s & the Co-op, more expensive than Asda (Walmart). You get the picture.

Anyway, because it is a supermarket, instead of a mega-market, it doesn’t carry certain things like cornmeal, clingwrap, tortilla chips, etc. Things I take for granted as “able to find in any store”. These are things not impossible to get—the clingwrap is probably hiding in the store, but we can get it from the Co-op anyway. Tortilla chips, in the form of flavoured Doritos, can also be bought from the Co-op or I just purchase a package of Old Elpaso Nachos and find a creative use for the nacho sauce (like adding it to my chilli con queso because I couldn’t find the green mild chillis I wanted as Sainsbury’s).

Today I’m trying to make buffalo wings. They sell chicken wings—raw, whole, unseasoned. So they’re actually really inexpensive, and I got a bit of a workout at home separating them. I found Tabasco sauce, in a little box...but no Louisiana hot sauce. I was really hoping for some Frank’s Red Hot, but alas! So I bought a bottle of Peri-Peri marinade instead, which is a South African pepper sauce. I’m really interested to see the result.

Moving here is really forcing me to think when I cook, instead of just blindly following a recipe or freaking out/omitting if I can’t find an ingredient in the store. Last week I tried braising steaks in a brisket marinade and it called for liquid smoke. So I subbed sesame oil instead, because it has a good smokey flavour, and it turned out delicious. In fact I’d say that since moving here we’ve had more good meals than we had in Canada!

Things I do miss, tho: rootbeer (seriously, this country has none. WTF!), granny smith apples, bacon (the bacon here is different. Not as smokey or fatty), cornmeal (ok, I can actually get this from Asda, but it’s sold fine-ground as polenta and although inexpensive, having to go to another store makes it a luxury instead of the staple it was for us), and the taste of certain things (cola, certain chocolate bars, etc) that taste slightly different here. And also potato chips. They have a bunch of different kinds over here, but they seem to excel for the weird and wonderful. At least they sell Kettle Chips!

We’re learning how to use our gas stove and I’m falling more and more in love with it. Today David made sausages in the grill part of the stove, and they were fucking amazing. I love cooking chicken in the oven, because it gets a beautiful golden brown and I don’t have to fuss over it. And most food over here tastes better, fresher, than back home. Cheese is a whole new experience, and I’m not even talking fancy stuff from the deli.
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As for the wings, they came out ok but nothing like my favourites from Alzu’s in Victoria. I think this is because I baked the wings instead of deep frying, and because the Peri-Peri sauce had clearly been made less spicy for these wussy English. David liked ‘em, but I thought they were tasty but not mind-blowing. And for me to keep a less than mind-blowing recipe for my files it must be something that David won’t stop raving about, or something super easy to make with lots of leftovers. And this is neither. Ah well!
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See how beautiful this chicken gets?

Monday, November 23, 2009

wedding rambles and a bit of christmas chatter

Haven’t done as much wedding stuff as I’d wanted to this past week, namely because I am at one of those “waiting for everyone to get back to me” stages. Also in a “waiting for my job to start” stage, because until then I don’t want to court the idea of things like spending money! We are one step closer to our marriage prep, which is nice—at our church they do it one on one, instead of as a group, so we just need to email the contact name we were given and see if he has time for us. So that is good, and David will be doing that today.

On the Save the Date front, free postcards turned out to be not quite free. Excited as I get about things like that, I like to do my research as I believe that very little in this world is actually free. And although I was willing to brush aside complaints about quality, I read one too many warnings about a semi-legal form of credit card theft to trust my details to the company. So it is back to the drawing board, literally—just waiting for some printers to get back to me with quotes before we decide if our postcards are going to be printed as postcards or printed as photos! And we still need to ask someone to design them... ahem. But as I see it, there’s no great loss without some small gain, and having to rethink options usually leads to a better solution. So other than being annoyed last week that you just can’t trust people, or at least internet businesses, that’s that.

One thing that is a weight off my mind is a veil. There is nothing worse than falling in love with a veil and then having to worry that it won’t work. One of my mum’s friends gave me the very kind gift of her wedding veil. But when we took it down to try on with my dress our consultant was very worried that the veil was ivory and the dress is white. And in the pictures the veil does come out looking very yellow, but as it’s taken under yellow light in a room with yellow walls, we weren’t sure if it was going to be a problem or not. So when it’s sunny, sometime in the spring I guess, mum is going to haul my dress and veil into good light and take a picture or seven so that we can see if the contrast is too great. The reason I’m not stressing, however, is that I just found some veils that are almost as good as the one I love on ebay and the prices are very reasonable. So it is a weight off my mind! And yes, I am girly enough to worry over my veil!

I’ve got a warm fuzzy feeling about getting married, most likely because David and I were talking about actual wedding stuff the other day. It is so nice to get his thoughts on things, because they bring me back down to earth and make me focus on what is really important, and it is just really exciting to know that he is excited and involved in wedding planning, even if he spends most of his time working on his thesis instead of fussing over invites.

Christmas is coming up and I’m starting to look forward to it. The one thing I’m really hoping is that neither of our mothers starts getting all teary about how we’re away from home for Christmas, because that will make it hard again, instead of just a fun experience. I wish we could be home, but I don’t want to focus on what I’m missing and instead just focus on what I’m getting—my first Christmas (ever) with David, a chance for us to start setting our own traditions, and a chance to spend Christmas in another country. It is so magical here already—when we go downtown there are pockets of carollers, lights strung up everywhere, and church bells tolling in the distance. Because the city is so old you really feel caught up in an Olde English Christmas play or something.

I am taking part in carolling and going out with the Saint Vincent DePaul society to sign some carols and hopefully raise some money. It is a good start to the Christmas season! We haven’t done much here yet, for one thing because I refuse to start Christmas decorating until advent, and because until I work we’re not going out to buy superfluous stuff like a tree and decorations. We’ve received one Christmas card already, but it was from Royal Mail advising us of extended post office hours...so I’m hoping we get more than that! I’m not going to do much baking, if any, baking this year as I don’t have an electric mixer or any pans (and the grocery store sells delicious cookies and shortbread and pies). We did get our chocolate advent calendars, however, so the sitting room is a little prepped for December. And that is that!

A somewhat poor quality photo of our advent calendars. David has chosen a retro design, but I went for the brightly-gaudy Cadbury's calendar, because I trusted the chocolate quality more.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

flowers sorted out, maybe

Thanks to time browsing on the internet, I think I solved my bouquet dilemma. Originally the plan had been to make bouquets with silk flowers. See, I love flowers. I love to see them growing, and I love to have vases of them in my home to brighten it up. I love plants too. But somehow I just wasn’t loving any bouquet idea aside from ones that weren’t going to easily work for our wedding/budget. Partially, I think, because everything just seemed too boring and expected, or on the flip side too foreign looking for what I wanted. Hard to please. But while browsing for instructions on how to make butterflies, I found some pictures and instructions for DIY organza flowers. And these organza flowers exactly capture the kind of look I’m going for. That ethereal, otherworldly look:



Not only do they have “the look” but they’re also ridiculously easy to make, and after doing some quick internet browsing, also look like they’ll be really inexpensive to make. So I can probably make them just by using some of my weekly spending money. I’m not sure yet how I’m going to make them into bouquets, but I’m looking forward to playing around with different ideas.

I’m getting David to email the priest about marriage prep so hopefully we’ll be doing that soon. I’m really looking forward to it. After almost six years together I think it’s time for a tune up, to break us out of any bad habits we’ve fallen into. So I am hoping it’s a little more on the thinking-questions side, and less on the “this is how you share a bathroom” side. Ye gods!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

on names, mostly

This has been a good week so far. On Monday I got a job! I am not working yet, as I had to have a background check done, so I am spending this week in limbo hoping that everything works out and I can start work soon. Yesterday I had a job interview at a printing company, but the interview only last about 2 minutes (they were dealing with a printing emergency) so I don’t know if that will lead to anything, but is nice to feel like I may have two options. Unfortunately the job I just got may not start for up to two more weeks, which is frustrating. I need money! So I’m praying that all the paperwork for me and the others starting at the same time as me gets here quickly. I haven’t worked since August, and while most of that chunk has been vacation I am at the point where work would almost be welcome, and money would definitely be welcome. So, prayers are appreciated. I, personally, would like to start on Monday or something. Until then I’m enjoying my time off, of course, but as I said it grates on one.

Yesterday I also discovered that we can most likely get our Save the Dates (STDs, get it??) printed for free! I am so thrilled about this, as we are of course trying to save money wherever possible. One thing I should make clear—saving money for me does not mean compromising on what I want. That’s not how I roll. It just means being creative and coming up with something that I like/love equally to other options.

Because of that, and my desire to get all this stuff printed, I’ve been working on the address labels for our invitations. Because we’re having them printed in Canada, they need to be addressed in Canada, and I am too nice to put my poor father to the task of hand-addressing them all. So I figure Miss Manners is rolling over in her grave (is she dead?) because I dare to send out invites with, shock & horrors, printed labels! But then, no doubt, when she sees how these are addressed there will be more grave-rolling and shocks and horrors.

I get so mad when I find myself reading the “proper etiquette for addresses” sites. “If a man and woman live together but are unmarried, the names go in alphabetical order” BUT “if a man and woman are married and have different last names, the woman’s goes first”. Oh I’m sorry, I didn’t realize that if you happen to live with a man, but aren’t married, you don’t really count as far as common politeness of ladies first. PARDON ME. Then, on the flip side, I am also irked by “Mr & Mrs MAN’SNAME Lastname”. Damn male ego.

All that said, I’ve decided to take David’s last name. I’ve given this a lot of thought. I don’t agree with doing tradition for tradition’s sake. If I believed that I’d have never converted! So I gave a lot of thought to the reasons why I’d like to keep my own last name vs taking David’s. My biggest, well only, quibble with his last name is that it is too English! But can you blame me? My own Grandpa with the Scottish last name was someone I never met, never had a chance to know. All the grandparents and great grandparents and relatives I’ve known have been Ukrainian or Mennonite, with Ukrainian or Mennonite traditions. And changing my last name feels like losing the last little bit of instant connection with that tradition. I’m not a practicing Mennonite, I don’t have a particularly foreign first name, but damnit that last name is a connection.

And then I thought some more. Thought about the negative stories I’ve heard about long dead family members. And I thought—no more. This is my statement, long dead relatives, that I am choosing to take my fiancĂ©’s last name, because I am saddened by the stories I’ve heard about you. Maybe they’re coloured by recent bitterness and the passage of time, maybe they’re true. But I state that negative cycles of behaviour are stopping here, and as a sign of that I am changing my name so that you can have no claim on me unless I choose to claim it myself.

I’m proud of my father, and I’m proud that for 26 years I’ve born his last name. I’m proud to be a Mennonite, and I’m proud of the values I learned growing up. There is absolutely no way I would renounce that. But now it’s on my terms. You see, with a little thought all things to do with weddings can take on great significance. This, ladies and gentlemen, is why I am not one to ever think people should get married quickly! There is too much to consider! Everything has significance, and thought must be applied to it.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

back on track

I feel myself beginning to plan for the wedding again. It’s only been a month or so where I haven’t wanted to think much about it. You can chalk it up to the stress of moving and settling in and all the ten million little insecurities that come with this. So today I forced myself to sit down and tally up the wedding budget of absolute “must haves”. You know, the things that are actually required in order to get married, instead of the things wanted in order to have a nice wedding. It’s at the point where we need to see if we can actually do this next year even if we save nothing between now and then. And the verdict is...YES!

I’ve made my bare-bones budget. Things that we need, or would be really disappointed not to have, for our wedding. You know, a priest, marriage license (I realise we don’t “need” it, but I think the priest won’t let us get married without it!), rings, photographer, etc. We’re over what we have, but not in an unmanageable way. Then I made my list of things I’d like to have, but don’t need. And these are things that, at least to some extent, I’ll probably end up having by buying them myself at some point. But we’ll see.

One thing I’m mulling over is whether or not I want to carry a bouquet. I’m not really into the whole bouquet idea. My favourite one is actually a cluster of paper butterflies, no flowers at all. That said, I can’t figure out what else to carry, or what else to have my merry maids carry, or if it is necessary aesthetically to have anyone carry anything at all. We’ve already nixed boutonnieres & corsages. Mum and I had talked about doing something with Holland roses and ferns, or one large flower each...but...unsure. Maybe I will have everyone hold a Marian icon! Or rosary! Fortunately this decision can be put off.

We’re having to rethink our invite designs. My original plan was to have velum and mulberry paper. This could still fly, except now we’re thinking of having our invites printed in Canada to save on the international postage. And if we have them printed in Canada, we’re going to go with an image & text design, instead of a textured paper design. I have an idea of what I want, and David thinks he knows someone who can design it for us, so this just might work. The first priority, however, is to do the STDs...

Which is the final bit of news, I suppose. David got the all-clear for our date, and having compiled this last bit of budget the wedding looks set to go. So I’ve decided to try to have my STDs ready to go out by Decemberish. They’ll get lost in the Christmas mail rush I’m sure, but I know some people need to book their vacations in January.

And now I feel like I have a whole bunch of wedding work to do again!
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Later: MY DRESS HAS ARRIVED!!!! My parents are heading down island tomorrow to pick it up! Joy!!!

Monday, November 2, 2009

a wedding rant (at the air, or the voices in my head)

I’m full of cider and a Yorkshire roast beef wrap. I seem to be mostly over my jetlag and my feelings are turning more positive. Homesickness is leaving as this becomes home, or at least something like home. I don’t want to think too much about Christmas just yet, because with poverty and distance from family it doesn’t yet seem like a promising holiday. That will change in time, I know, but at the moment I am trying to take it one day at a time and not think overmuch of “tomorrow”. I am hoping we can go somewhere to experience a “traditional English Christmas” and get into the proper mood of it, or that some of our friends will also be stranded so we can band together and make a jolly time of it.

But I’m not sitting to write about Christmas or the day to day details of Cambridge life. This is a wedding post, for my somewhat neglected wedding. Since my planning spree in September I haven’t done too much but I’ve been thinking. Thinking, mostly, about the costs of weddings and how this is at odds with moving and looking for work and one of us being a student. Thinking about how, despite my efforts and purpose that it would not become a focus, the idea of The Wedding seems to have superseded the purpose of a wedding—namely to unite two souls into a sacramental bond with close friends and family witnessing this sacred event.

Caught up in the Offbeat world of zany and wonderful weddings it was easy to think that because I too am planning something different I won’t fall victim to the Wedding Curse. Alas, this was not to be. It’s funny how one can get stuck on certain ideas, the motivation from which is not me & David, but ensuring that our guests have a good time (so nothing wrong with that) but also wanting to impress people and make it something memorable and beautiful. Nothing wrong with wanting a nice wedding, of course, but I think it’s too easy to get to the point where the plans become a little more pressing than what the whole thing is about.

I want to get to that point in my head where I don’t care and where I don’t worry about my wedding looking cheap and pathetic. I mean that is really such a lame thing to worry about, isn’t it? I want the confidence to know that if it were just us getting married in a plain ceremony and we still invited people they would come and be happy and enjoy it, whether or not there were decorations or good music or even a reception. I want to know that we are more important to our friends than exotic food and cheap drink. And thinking this way makes me want to cancel my reception or scale the guest list down to almost nothing or..or...I don’t know.

I think I’m coming back to my original thoughts about this whole thing. A marriage is about community. So if you want to come and support this step we’re taking in life, that’s awesome, and I hope you stay for the reception because I just want to kick back and celebrate. And if our money is lacking and our reception consists of music played off the laptop and everyone sitting on the grass because we can’t afford tables & chairs, and no decorations and all the stuff that you supposedly need to pull off a successful wedding, well—if you don’t like it, don’t come. Because if the only reason you want to see me get married is for the reception, to satisfy your idle curiosity over how we’ll “manage” or what weird idea that crazy LeAnna is going to come up with, then don’t bother coming. Because I am not your sideshow.

Close friends, close family, and those with honest good intentions toward us at heart only please.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

adventures with the smoke alarm

First off, I made awesome steak for dinner the other day. Best steak I've ever made. I owe it all to The Pioneer Woman and her amazing steak recipe. I'm not saying it's like The Keg, or like a bbq, but for those of us who only have stoves... pretty damn good. Loads of good English butter used. And considering my cooking at the moment has to make due with 1 frying pan, 1 pot, 1 spatula, and 1 bottle of "all purpose spice" (plus 3 bottles of herbs) I am impressed!

The down side of this is that I disregarded David's instruction to "always cook with the kitchen door closed". I'd called him to ask him why, but had left the door open meanwhile...which set off the smoke alarm in the corridor. However the alarms are linked to the whole building, so that means that EVERYONE'S went off. And as I just moved in I didn't know how to turn it off, which, after it rang for about 3 minutes and I could hear people evacuating, I found out by asking the cluster of folks in the hallway. Apparently you go to the switchboard near the front door and push buttons...

So the short of it is that the alarm in the kitchen only detects heat, whilst the one in the hallway detects smoke. So THAT is why the kitchen door has to be shut. And now both you, and I, know.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A Little Bit of English Life

So...Cambridge. I love it here. To be honest, I did not expect to like it this much. I won't say that it feels like home, but it is definitely as lovely as the island I left behind although lovely in a completely different sort of way. No wild mountain ranges, evergreen groves, or raging rivers here. Just quiet pasture land, cultivated parks, and a [mostly] slow moving, rather small, and sleepy looking river winding (very much so winding!) its way through town. It is a cultivated, aged, and graceful beauty...a symmetry of architecture and landscape where it is the newer buildings that stand out.

Everything is so close, in a convenient sort of way. This isn't the first time I've lived in a city and had things close by, but here they are close by and still nice, instead of close by and grungy. Because we need an Ethernet splitter for our internet (hence my being infrequently online) I went to a nearby pub in the afternoon where I could get free wifi access. I sat there drinking English tea (which so far is ten million times tastier than tea in Canada), applying for jobs, surfing the net, and just enjoying the scene. It was my second foray out alone and I'm beginning to feel a little more comfortable (and less like I'm going to get hit by a car or bicycle). Things don't seem very expensive (in English money. If I have one more Canadian argue with me about this I am going to scream. I am not talking about your damn exchange rate! And I don't care what currency you use, £2.26 for a 3lb chicken is damn cheap. I will concur that when I have to use Canadian currency, like my credit card, for anything I die a little inside at the exchange rate).

We bought bicycles and David is going to teach me how to ride so that we can get around town more easily. Things are small but just inconveniently large enough to make it take about 30 minutes to get anywhere by walking. Not bad, but takes a bit out of the day if you have to go to more than one side of town!

Last night I went to my first formal dinner at Clare College. In a word, delightful! Sherry to start, followed by a three course formal meal (complete with servants) and wine, followed by after dinner drinks. We got home at around midnight. The meal was cream of spinach soup to start, followed by herb crusted salmon, new potatoes, and mange touts, and a kiwi cheesecake for dessert. Everyone is incredibly friendly and there is a mix of disciplines and graduate/working people so it was much fun. And at around £2/beer who can complain?

I have had one adventure since coming here. I had to go to Hardwick, a nearby town, for an interview at a job agency. The bus driver told me he didn't know where my stop was, so I ended up getting off at the wrong stop in the wrong small country town...eventually a nice old man pointed me in the right direction, and fortunately at my interview they did not mind that I was almost an hour late (thank goodness for cell phones!). And they even had their dry cleaner give me a ride back to the outskirts of Cambridge in his van! So that was nice...but then I again got lost on the bus (the lack of street signs is sort of annoying) and it took me about 1.5 hours to wander home. David was a little worried when I was gone for six hours. So now I've officially been lost in the English countryside. I'm looking forward to going back on a day when it isn't a thing of horrible stress due to having to be somewhere. Fortunately it was a sunny day.

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Off the plane and out for my first dinner in England at The Boaters.

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A grim looking David, who is actually happy that I've just arrived!

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The Clare College scarf David gave me for my birthday!


Sunday, October 18, 2009

In England!

I'll write more about the actual trip and things later.

I've made it safe & sound to England. Our apartment is huge--larger than anywhere we lived in Canada--and it is laid out very nicely. We have the cutest little sitting room! The kitchen is small, but workable--about the same size as my View Towers kitchen. So, all is well at the moment and I'm just waiting for David to get home from rowing practice. We were supposed to go to Mass but as it starts in 3 minutes I'm guessing that plan is cancelled due to his practice going longer than expected...so I think we'll just end up out for dinner. Tomorrow he's going to take me around Cambridge a little. I'm not feeling very jetlagged at the moment--I took a sleeping pill on the plane and had a small nap this afternoon, and at least at this moment I feel like I'll be able to hit bed at around 10 or 11, which is perfect as I'm trying to get up earlier. Should be easier here as the apartment is flooded with light. Also, for my birthday David got me a giant wooly Clare College scarf! I'm going to wear it to his boat races!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

on my way!

I'm currently sitting in the Vancouver International Airport, waiting for my flight to Chicago! The way that everything has fallen into place for my trip is beyond belief--I would venture to say that it is truly miraculous! Over the past few weeks God has led certain people to bless me financially, to such an extent that my flight, my travel insurance, and my cellphone cancellation fees are all paid for--things that I did not have enough money to cover! I am so amazed and feel so blessed. Finances aside a number of people have blessed me in other ways, and I am leaving feeling very loved and very excited. So this is a huge thank you to a number of special people, some of whom I did not even get to know until this trip home.

My last little bit in Canada passed quickly and easily. We had a very lovely Thanksgiving, and after I spent the last few days organizing space for my parents (so my boxes won't drive them nuts) and packing. I am thrilled because my parents' scaled was off by 5lbs, so I was able to take my big blue bathrobe! I weighed in at 44 & 47.5lbs respectively, and that is the sum weight of the earthly possessions I deem "essential", the treasures in my carry-luggage aside! For those of you who may have been wondering, I *did* manage to fit in both my Anne of Green Gables book set & my Little House on the Prairie set! And lest my spiritual life not be sufficiently met by what I consider my bible supplements, my mum bought me a lovely travel Bible yesterday. Blue leather, silver gilt pages, and less than 1" thick.

So here I am, munching farmer's sausage & cheese (how Mennonite) and killing time for the next hour and a half. I'll be landing in England at around 12:30am. I'll end with a few pictures from October in Port:

Me & my birthday cake! Cherry Cheesecake, one of my childhood favorites. We're a little short on candles tho...
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My grumpy angel.
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My brother did an amazing job decorating the table for Thanksgiving dinner. He stole leaves from the neighbours' trees.
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Starting a new tradition: the Thanksgiving firecracker!
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John taught me how to set off firecrackers. So much fun!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Things are busy. The best news of late is that I got my plane ticket! I'm going to Victoria today to pick it up, along with my visa and other final pieces of paperwork. I fly out of Vancouver a week from Saturday, and get to London on Sunday morning. I am quite excited, as is David.

I love Skype. In fact I don't remembering being this excited about a computer program ever, except for maybe when I installed Sims II on my computer, or when I installed my first ever computer game (Cosmo!). Being able to talk to David and actually see him is wonderful, as is being able to actually see bits of my apartment.

David joined a rowing team and he signed us up for English folk dance lessons. I'm quite excited, as I've been wanting us to take some kind of dance for a long time. I don't know if this is going to be incorporated into our wedding at all... David had his first rowing meeting today and said that it was a lot harder than one would suppose. It sounds like the social busyness of the first week is winding down and he'll be able to organize his research/lecture schedules and start getting down to his actual work. Tonight he says that there's a formal dinner at Clare College for matriculation. He has to wear his suit AND his college robe. I'm sad that I have to miss it, but there is always next year (and I'm going to Little Bavaria tonight so I figure that is a good consolation prize). I am sad for my boy having to do all these things alone, simply because we actually enjoy being together, but I'm so glad that he's had lots to keep himself occupied with. I promise to post a picture of David in his robes as soon as I can.

I myself have been quite busy running errands in town. I've booked a group of hotel rooms for the wedding (and subsequently discovered that Port is going to be super booked up that weekend for Thunder in the Valley). I've found a place to get my makeup and manicure done. Mum and I think we found the perfect spot for the rehearsal dinner. We made a trip to Dollar Giant to get some stuff to start experimenting with making centerpieces. It's been good.

My twenty sixth birthday has come and gone, although most people who have spent a birthday with me should know by now that I will continue celebrating (and being belligerent) until the last celebration of it, which this year won't happen until I am in England with David. That only stretches it for two weeks tho--last year, or perhaps the year before, I think I hit four weeks. Anyway, I had a lovely birthday celebrating with my family and our friends Cara & Andrew. Presents included two lovely pairs of shoes, an MP3 player that holds most of my music, and a slab of english toffee (that came with a hammer to break the toffee off)! As for my actual birth day, it is the feast of St Francis and, according to Fr Marek, that was the reason for the sun on that day (and all week!). I prefer to take it as a sign of joy over my own birth, but as I said birthday celebrations tend to go to my head and, according to David, encourage belligerence. So St Francis it is.

And on that note, I should get ready for the long day of driving ahead. Off to Victoria!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

good news from afar

David has arrived safely in Cambridge and is getting settled in. Thanks to the magic of Skype we actually got to talk the other night which was lovely...and not just talk, we actually got to SEE each other which was so nice because we haven't seen each other really since mid-September.

He told me that our flat has a bathroom, small kitchen, sitting room, bedroom, and a study! I am so stoked about this, because we'd been really hoping we'd get one of the flats with a study but once we found out what our rent was going to be I didn't think we'd got one (our rent is really low). I am so happy about this, because it means that David will have a proper place to work in at home without us having his books strewn all over the living room. It also gives him his own space so that he isn't being constantly interrupted while he's hard at work, which is what tends to happen when he's working in the same room as me. I am thrilled beyond words to finally have a "grown-up" apartment! David says it's larger than our place in Toronto was, and that it is well, but plainly, furnished. I haven't had a video tour of it yet because we don't have wireless at the moment. He's also told me that there's a grocery store a mere block from the house, and that there's a market nearby as well... this is good because apparently the British all have these tiny fridges (small enough to fit under a desk). So our shopping habits are going to be changing, and I'm thinking we'll be buying a lot more fresh food every few days instead of a weekly shop. I'm hoping this means less waste from buying more food than we eat.

It sounds like Cambridge is treating him well and things are going smoothly. They seem to be treating him quite well--he was given dinner with the undergrads when he arrived on Thursday, which made me very happy. Nice to know that he's getting fed! So my mind is fairly at ease.

As for me, my visa has been issued! I still need to get it back, which they say may take up 7 days, and I need to book my flights etc...logistically I don't expect to be leaving until after Thanksgiving, which is fine by me as since I can't spend Christmas at home this year I'm pleased to at least spend one holiday at home.

I am getting quite excited to be heading over there, particularly as David keeps telling me how much I'll love it. And that is that!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

One gone, one to go.

David is off to England today. More specifically, he's off to San Francisco right now, and then off to Heathrow a little later. Based on his estimations, I expect him to be in Cambridge by 09:30PST tomorrow morning, which I believe will be 17:30 for him. He's expecting an uncomfortable evening, as most of the shops shall be closed and he won't have any bedding or things like that. I'm hoping that he can find a shop to buy these small necessities easily enough.

Although we've been apart for much of September it hasn't felt like it since we've talked on the phone daily. So it's now that I'm grumbly about long distance and low communication. I know I shouldn't complain—it's only a few weeks apart and then we're together again—but I never like it. That said, part of me is very glad that I'll be arriving after when our place is hopefully a little more set up! I'm coming down with a cold anyway, so it's just as well that I'm not traveling.

I didn't make it down to Victoria to see David off because I spent the weekend in Vancouver. We decided that it was more important for me to spend time with family than running down island to say a quick goodbye. While in Vancouver, one of my friends suggested a photo challenge that I am going to try to do. She said that I should take one photo a day while in England and then write about it. While I don't think I'll manage to post daily, I think I'll definitely try this photoblog idea as a way of capturing life over there. This blog is going to be going in a slightly different direction anyway, more of our lives and not just wedding, because I think living in England is a little more interesting than living in Toronto, and my mum actually reads this blog!

As for wedding updates, I think the big wedding things are all done. Some of the smaller things are coming together—I've pretty much picked the bouquet flowers (Holland roses or something similar), thanks to Tara we've found a place for dancing at our reception venue, and I finally sat down and came up with the beginnings of an inspiration board (also thanks to Tara). David and I have been window shopping rings, particularly as my engagement ring is going to be hard to fit. I bought a sh*tload of ribbon at Michaels, and so now I'm coming up with ways of incorporating it into the wedding.

One really special thing that I can cross off my list is my wedding hairpiece. Ever since I found them on Etsy, I thought that wearing a beaded hairvine would suit my perfectly. It's got all the lovely organicness of nature in form, but all the subtle elegance of shiny things in details. What makes it special is that my Aunt the Amazing Jewellery Designer has agreed to make it for me. We went to Michaels to pick colours and go over ideas, and then two hours later she'd already done a small mockup (in fall colours) for me to try...and I LOVE IT. It's perfect! So I'm really, really, really excited to see what she makes for my wedding. And one of my uncles has agreed to be our MC, which is also really special. We're trying to get family and friends involved in this and so I'm really happy that people from two families have already agreed to contribute in those ways.

So here I am, missing David but grateful for each day I'm home. I'm spending my days running errands and shuffling around things in boxes, doing some wedding planning, visiting friends and family, and waiting to leave.

***

Here are some examples of hair vines. I'm definitely not a big tiara type of girl, and I wanted something a little more nature-infused than a rhinestone headband or even a metalwork circlet. These ones are by Chic Allure on Etsy.com:

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

thoughts on my reactions to life

Yesterday was play-day in Nanaimo with my mum and grandma. That makes today Productive Day, and so far I’ve done things toward settling on travel insurance and finally emailing back one of the employment agencies (an email long, long overdue but there you have it. It wasn’t so much procrastination as insane busyness).

If I’m learning anything right now it’s to not make plans. By which I mean, to steal from The Good Book, to “not worry about tomorrow, for today has enough problems of its own”. Each time it looks like everything is settled and I can relax, there is a new upset. If I spend time trying to run over everything and make sure all is in order, I can easily freak out and live on the edge of stress. So I’m trying very hard to learn how to only focus on the tasks at hand. Learning very hard to set long term goals rather than immediate plans. To have ideas of what I would like, one day, rather than a set in stone plan of how it should be. And hopefully that will keep my sanity, and keep my interest in life active without making it controlling.

I am not really enjoying talking to people right now, other than a few trusted people who I can always count on to say the right thing. Most people and their well-meaning comments just make things worse. I wish, sometimes, that I could have better control of my logic so that my anxiety didn’t peak every time someone, trying to make conversation, suggests a new worry or problem to moving/living in Europe, but I’m not at that point yet. I know I can’t control other people, only my reactions to them, but right now it’s just easier to not talk to people! That said, I haven’t felt like speaking much in general right now. I’m content to just be quiet and listen and watch. I need a break. I only want to hear good and happy things, or other people’s problems that don’t touch on my own.

Not that life is doom and gloom. I’ve been having loads of fun and am starting to feel more rested inside. I’m also looking forward to being in England and traveling around, and to having an apartment. O how I’ve long for an apartment these last three years. More privacy! Not having to live with the quirks of an in-house suite! I’m also excited for the wedding. Can you believe that 2010 is just around the corner? And yesterday I went shopping in Nanaimo and got well stocked up on much needed items...including my new embroidery project—a tablecloth with butterflies and wildflowers on it. I’m almost finished my pillowcases (I should finish them tonight) which are also butterflies and wildflowers. I seem to have adopted a theme.

All in all, I’m turning 26 in a week and a half and I am starting to feel like now I’m reaching adulthood. 25 is supposed to be a milestone “quarter of a century”, but 26 feels over a hill. Not over the hill, but a hill. The little valley between 25-30. So it’s about time I learn to harness my anxiety into productivity instead of procrastination, and learn to enjoy each day for what it brings instead of always looking ahead.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Crossing the big things off the list

The concrete bits of weddingness seem to be coming together. For those of you who think I'm organized—yeah, I am, but only because it all has to be done before I head to the UK. After that I won't be able to do anything here in person. So all the big things need to be at least figured out before I go.

Mum and I went down to Victoria to buy my wedding dress. I had tried on dresses in May, which gave me the next four months to make my decision for certain. So we went to the bridal salon on Thursday night, I tried on The Dress again, this time complete with my veil, and it was still IT. So I got measured, we placed the order, and now we wait! I was pleased because the dress was a size or two smaller than I thought too, which is fun. The only catch to ordering this early is that I have to ensure that I don't gain any weight for a year. As I've been steadily losing weight this shouldn't be a problem, but I plan to use it as an incentive to keep on track with healthy eating and exercise. Because my dress is a corset back I have some leeway for weight loss/gain, and I'm somewhat hoping that I can lose enough to order the going-away dress I want, which has a more fitted waist. So we'll see. I am certainly not someone who buys into the whole "must lose weight for the wedding" ideology, but for overall health & wellness we're trying to make better choices and I certainly wouldn't be sad if those had some visible effects by the wedding!

While in Victoria Mum, David, & I also went to find the groomsmen's suits. Initially David was going to wear his charcoal grey suit with his periwinkle blue shirt & tie, and the boys were going to be in light grey suits with navy shirts & some sort of tie. But alas! There were no light grey suits to rent in the whole of Victoria (our very kind saleslady at Moores called every store in town for us). She finally found a place for us that rented charcoal grey tuxes, so we went there and everything changed.

We were going through the samples, choosing the tux and accessories, and then David decided that he would wear a tux as well. So they boys are going to be dressed a little more formally than we'd originally thought, but I don't mind. The ties David picked for everyone are really fun and colourful which keeps with the original idea, and I think it's just as well the man wears a tux on the day he gets married. I am mostly relieved that we did not have to end up getting black tuxes. Too formal and dark for a morning wedding. I still like the idea of morning suits, but I think the shorter coat on the tux will be a little nicer for the boys in the hot August sun. And my brother is happy that David was picking the tuxes, not me, because I was thinking sweater vests...

So after wedding-clothes day we came up to Port Alberni and had our meeting with Fr Marek at Notre Dame. The meeting went well and we filled in a 45 question questionnaire that determined that yes, we are practicing Catholics and no, we're not related or unable to marry for other reasons. And Fr Marek had no problems with us setting up our marriage prep at OLEM, so provided the English are willing to counsel us it's all good. I'm really pleased with how not-anal they are about stuff at Notre Dame, so it looks like I can have The Wedding Song as my processional, and there shouldn't be any conflict over me being escorted down the aisle by my parents.

And finally, we went down to Roger Creek Park to check out accessibility for some of our older guests, and we drove to some different spots in town to find a place to take our wedding photos. We think we're going to do them in the woods behind the park—there is a bridge, a train bridge/tracks, lots of trees (obviously), and the river bed. It should be lovely. We had thought of doing it down at Harbour Quay but it's windy and not as pretty. And I'm happy, because I wanted my photos done in the woods. So we'll see if the photographer disagrees, but other than that!

The big things are all coming together, which is good because David got his visa (d.g.) and his ticket to England is booked for next Wednesday. I'm still waiting for my visa but will hopefully be joining him a week or two later.

Monday, September 14, 2009

west coast planning

I’m blasting folk music and sitting in my parents’ dining room, which means that the view from all the windows is mostly of towering evergreens and blue sky. Their house is so open and airy feeling, and its age and somewhat “crumbliness” always makes me feel like the forest is barely being kept out of it. My eyes have certainly been starved for the woods.

I’ve been back for about two weeks but they have been so full of visiting and traveling that they have passed in a blur. Things don’t show much sign of slowing down now either, although at least I’m home now until Wednesday. Then it’s off to Victoria to buy my wedding dress (!!!!) and pick up my man, who will be spending some time in Port so that we can get wedding stuff done and so that we won’t have to be apart.

So far things have been falling into place. We met with our potential photographer last Monday, and after looking at her wedding portfolio, speaking with her, and asking David’s mum’s opinion (as she is an award winning photographer herself) we decided to go with Ms. Erglis from Victoria. We haven’t told her that yet—I’m still waiting for David to approve the email I want to send her! Anyway, I am very pleased. Her photographs are beautiful and exactly what we want—nothing too staged, just pure beautiful traditional poses, a little bit of fun, and stunning scenic shots thrown in. When David comes to Port we’re going to see if we can’t find a location or two for our photos. We’re thinking either the forest around Roger Creek or the water at Harbour Quay, or both.

I spent a few rushed days in Vancouver, visiting people and getting things for my visa in order. One of my lovely brideswomen, my cousin Tara, is also engaged so we had a good afternoon talking weddings. She reminded me that when we were little we always used to talk about getting married in the same year and having a joint honeymoon. Well, the honeymoon idea is definitely out but it is funny that we’re getting married in the same year, just like our parents did.

This morning I went to mass at Notre Dame, and as usual had a happy little glow thinking about having my wedding there. Fr Marek was saying mass this morning, so I was extra happy because there’s a good chance that he’ll be marrying us. Anyway, I try to not get too distracted by WEDDING during mass.

All these thoughts aside, we actually have a little bit of tangible weddingness now—the cake topper my mum ordered us from Jim Shore has come in! And not only has it come in, but it is more beautiful and perfect than imagined. I’ve been feeling really burned out with the stress of this past year but being able to hold a little piece of future happiness in my hands has certainly rekindled my excitement for the wedding. David is really happy about it too. And my Grandma gave one of her delightful little gasps when I showed her the cake topper last night. Now that the cake topper is in we’ve been sitting around thinking up ideas for the actual cake design.

In non-wedding news, we got a bit more information about our accommodation in Cambridge. Our rent is scarcely more than we were paying in Toronto (and yes, this is with the exchange rate factored in!) and it comes furnished. Needless to say that is a huge weight off our minds. Packing sheets and silverware is much easier than packing a couch.

Off for now!

Friday, September 4, 2009

very brief

I've made it home alive, and the luggage is all ok and nothing is broken. I've just spent four days camping in Nanaimo, and now am home overnight before heading down to Victoria for four days, and then over to Vancouver for another four. It's a busy life I'm leading, and I miss David (stupid distance)...

also, prayers are appreciated for both of our visas going smoothly.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

less than 12 hours and counting!

one suitcase full of clothing
one suitcase full of miscellaneous pieces of my life that i don't want to throw out
one bag with my laptop
one backpack with a book and some food

and in 12 hours we'll be in the sky.
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my dearest, darlingest best friend is escorting us to the airport. David has been teasing me all night about it, which is a sign that he is pleased. And another good friend stayed the weekend, which was lovely. And we spent this afternoon with our new friends from school.

all i have left to do is dishes, cleaning up the last bits of garbage, making lunch for tomorrow, giving the fridge a good wipe and [hopefully finishing my trollope novel]. I don't expect I will sleep more than 3 or 4 hours tonight, but that is alright. I plan to wait for my cookies and ginger ale on the plane and then fall asleep listening to folk music (my mp3 player is loaded with tickawanda, maddy prior, vashti bunyan and mellow candles. and by this time tomorrow evening i'll be sleeping in a tent, or sitting up with my family, enjoying fresher air and the next chapter in my life.

I should add that David's preparations for moving are to copy out notes from as many books as possible from the U of T library so that he can return them tonight and not have to bother with taking them out all over again. SCHOLAR!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Registering for Gifts

Yesterday David and I took the day off in order to go downtown to the Bay and start our Gift Registry. It's a bit early, but as we'll be leaving the country soon we thought it would be better to do it now and then authorize David's mum to make any necessary changes (due to discontinued items) closer to the date. Besides, I look at the registry as more of a guide of style, type, and things we need than something that has to be followed to the letter.

We had a wonderful time, although I think David enjoyed himself slightly more than me. The Bay in downtown Toronto is very ritzy—9 floors high with a posh cafeteria, a couple of gourmet restaurants, and very helpful staff.

What made me feel uncomfortable about the whole thing was the whole WIC (wedding industrial complex) propaganda that runs through the consultant meeting and printed packages that they hand out. Statements like "now is the time to get everything you could ever want" and attitudes like that really bother me. Marriage is not about material gain! But once we got away from the consultant and her materials it was ok, and I could just focus on US.

I had a really great time choosing items with David, discussing the pros and cons of certain things, and figuring out what special items we need for furnishing our house o' dreams. We mostly focused on linens, glassware & crystal, and non-electrical kitchen gadgets because with no idea of what country we will settle in there seemed to be little point in asking for electrical gadgets that won't work across the water! David and I are both really sentimental, and prefer registering for things that will last through the years, which definitely motivated a lot of our choices. My favourite part of the day was choosing bed linens and a duvet set, because it was the first time we've ever actually had to find a compromise on personal styles! It was a lovely day, and filled us both with a soppy couple-happiness. Unfortunately some of the items didn't scan properly, and when they did them by hand they entered the wrong ones, so I'm going to go back on Friday to straighten it out and add some more things to the registry to round it out (we only had 2 hours and I would like to have a second run-through!).

After our time with the scanner was up we went downstairs where they were having a luggage sale and I got a giant black suitcase. I should be able to take most of my wardrobe to England, which makes me happy. Bulky things like sweaters are going to pose the biggest problem! After The Bay we went exploring in the Kensington Market area. We grabbed lunch at a delicious and inexpensive authentic Mexican restaurant—we had tamarind juice, guacamole & homemade tortilla chips, a quesadilla with corn truffles (mushrooms that grow in the corn stalks. Very unique tasting and delicious!), tacos with pork & pineapple, and churros. Then we went to the Lillian H. Smith branch of the Toronto Public Library to see the special Sci-Fi/Fantasy and Children's Lit. Collections. Following that we killed time by having coffee together, and then went out to Madeleine's for a delightful evening of food and fun.

All in all a delightful day! And now that David has gotten off the phone I can add that we have all the members of our bridal party confirmed!

Best Man: Jesse // Best Maid: Madeleine

Groomsmen: Nigel, Steve, John // Bridesladies: Tara, Julia, Sarah.

Hurrah!

***

We're not registering for dishes because we already have them. This is our everyday pattern--"Cotswold".

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This is our china pattern--"Yellow Tea Rose". I love it!
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Outside the library. David made a friend!
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I also made a friend!

Preparing to Move

We've entered our last week in Toronto. We actually have 9 days left, or 8 useable ones. Things have been crazy lately and I must say that David has been beyond patient with me over the past week.

We've both been running around trying to get our visa stuff in order. Basically you fill out the application and assemble all the pieces, and then you have to go to a Visa Application Center where they take your paperwork and do your biometrics (retinal scan and fingerprints etc. Very CIA or something). David is the one who has to go through all this first, and as information isn't always provided when it should be it has been a little stressful. I'm slightly more fortunate, in that I am applying via the SWAP program so they sort everything out for me, but I am in a rush to get it all done by Friday so I can make my VAC appointment in Vancouver for the same time as I'm over there. Rushed!

My SWAP counsellor expects I'll be in England by October 15th, which means likely spending Thanksgiving in Canada, and 6 weeks of vacation at home. I can't believe we're actually going. David told me it's about a 40minute train ride between Cambridge and London, which is about 5 minutes longer than it takes us to get from Madeleine's place to our own, and less time than it takes me to get to work in the morning. I can't believe it! And only about four hours to Paris, or a similar length of traveling time from Port Alberni to Abbotsford. Needless to say it blows my mind a little.

Aside from all that last week, I got an extra shift at my good job (I work for a silk screen printing company) which meant having to get up at 6:30am three days in a row. This isn't bad in itself, except that I can't seem to make it to bed before midnight. So I was a little overtired... and on top of that, I had to go into the hospital for what I am terming an "invasive medical procedure" or IMP. I don't want to go into details, of course, but the short of it all is that there is absolutely nothing wrong with me that the doctor couldn't fix right then and there, and that grad school actually made me physically ill to such an extent that I needed medical attention >:) I joke and am in good spirits now (nothing like getting a clean bill of health when you've been mentally preparing for "the worst") but the preparation for the procedure was absolutely horrible, and the initial recovery was not the most pleasant. This medical thingy happened on the same day that our last load of boxes was being picked up, and our landlords decided to try to put in a new water heater. Fortunately Madeleine is a wonderful friend who didn't mind spending her day watching our house to deal with people showing up while David waited at the hospital to take me home. And she even stayed to look after me when I got home so that David could go out and run some errands.

So now all our possessions are gone and the stress of packing is no longer something we have to deal with. It's currently just a matter of selling our possessions, cleaning house a little, packing our suitcases, and spending time with some friends. I was actually really, really touched that two of our friends from school decided to organize a going away party for us.

I cannot wait to be westward bound.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

a place to live

Today we found out that David did indeed get the couples housing he applied for at Cambridge. Which means that I can actually join him in England, instead of pining away for loss of love in Canada. And this evening we finished packing the last of our "to keep" boxes to be sent back home.

So now I will definitely be planning a wedding on Vancouver Island while living in Cambridge. From one island to another! Thank goodness my mum is so keen to be involved with wedding stuff, because I think she is going to be doing a lot of running around between now and next August.

Less than a year until the wedding too--we are both so excited. Davey has been counting down the days and hopping with excitement. It's quite cute.

And I think this is the outside of our new residence:

c1934. We get a 1 bedroom with a kitchen, sitting area, and bathroom. David is hoping it's one of the ones that also has a study, but we'll see.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

more wedding stuff!

this really seems to be the week of wedding stuff! mum left a message today saying that our cake topper has been ordered! So it should be home before we get there, which is awesome because then I can take it to show David's parents and my Grandma, and of course we can see it in person instead of just on the internet. I was worried about it getting ordered because their website seemed to have a glitch where you could only order to the USA or the UK.

hooray!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

I can haz reception site!

ZOMG!!!! RECEPTION SITE IS BOOK-ED!!!!

Mum was feeling anxious about us not booking our reception site until I came home in September, because Saturdays in August are popular for weddings. So today she went down to the City Parks place and booked the site! And the date we want was available!! Needless to say, I am ecstatic! Barring something major when we move (like us being not allowed to leave the country then or something) we will be getting married in just over a year.

Anyway, I am thrilled. And mum asked all the right questions, so my little worries were alleviated. If we need to change the date, we can do it for no extra charge. We can change the hours that our site is booked for as well (right now it's booked from 1-6 but when we work out our reception programme we might extend the time in the evening). And the best part of all is that we can run a little electricity down there from the caretaker's cottage, so that we will actually be able to have a microphone and, if my plans for live music fall through, we can be our own djs (only needing background music). As expected, the liquor license may be difficult, but having alcohol is not something we're worried about, just curious. Basically I need to see how roped off the area of drinking would need to be.

When David comes up to Port in September I'm going to take him into the woods beside the park, so we can see about doing our photos there. I want them done in the forest or at the lake, and if we could do them adjoining the reception site it would save a lot of time.

So here a big thank you is due to my lovely cousin and bridesmaid Tara, who dragged my butt down to the park in May!

My initial view of the park, when I fell in love with it. So woodsy and natural.
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Back another day with my family to get a better picture. I really love how the creek cuts across part of it.
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Close up of the creek. So pretty!!

Monday, August 3, 2009

eating the past

yesterday we went to visit family friends of David from Jamaica. Ian was the person who was kind enough to look at an apartment for us in Toronto, and Aunty Mary was close friends with David's grandparents. We both had a very lovely time visiting them and got to see a little bit of Markham as well. Supper was a fairly traditional Jamaican supper--yam, chicken, rice and peas (red kidney beans), and ackee & salt fish. The last item is Jamaica's national dish.

Ackee is a strange looking giant pink fruit of which all but the yellow flesh is poisonous. It looks like scrambled eggs, has a creamy texture, and very mild but distinctive taste. We had it with curried salted cod & onions, in a dish topped with hardboiled egg chunks. I've been warned numerous times about how it is an acquired taste, not particularly delicious, etc... But I am happy to say that I survived and actually took second helpings of it much to everyone's pleasure. It was actually pretty delicious, aside from the super saltyness, and once I mixed it with my rice and peas I could sail right in. Now I'm not saying that I'd willingly order it on a menu or anything, but at least I'll be able to make it through meals with Jamaican friends and family without looking like an ass. I'm also already looking forward to inflicting it on my children!

My mind was of course wandering down trails of our "distinctive ethnic foods" from childhood that become a part of our family in their way. When I was young and grandma had the motivation it would be a dish of homemade perogies with onions and bacon brought to a family supper. Easter was always full of traditional dishes, and even now I faithfully ensure that we have farmer's sausage and cottage cheese perogies (I've yet to find wareniki, which is what I'd rather have) at least once during Easter. Grandma's snacks were always a plate of cheese, crackers, dill pickles, and kolbassa or ukrainian sausage. And the strangest things from the Mennonites--plumi moos (fruit soup), wareniki with stewed plums inside... And every year mum and I call each other to brag when we're baking obstkuchen/platz, a delicious fresh fruit cake. With traditional religion, and the traditions that accompany it, fallen by the wayside it is food that keeps our history alive.

And now, back to Toronto. It's a holiday today, and I don't have to work, so we are going to the distillery district later for the arts & crafts fair. Then, if the store is open, I may go and pick up our engagement photos. So it should be a good afternoon.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

moving on

So DHL(?) came yesterday and 25 boxes of ours are slowly making their way west. I am already missing my cookbooks, and I know that David is missing his library, but there we are. We still have the rest of the place to sort through and pack, which I’m not looking forward to, but with a little organization it should be ok.

Looking to the future, I got another evening gown the other day. I got it at work so I was able to use my 50% discount on it, making me quite happy. It’s in pretty good shape and I only need to do a little seam stitching. It’s light green chiffon and has an asymmetrical chiffon wrap on the front that has little clear beads sewn onto it. It’s good quality too—has nice boning in the bust. So instead of taking my black evening gown to Cambridge I will be taking this one. It fits better and is a little more cheerful. I’m thinking of finding a dark green wrap to go with it for when I need to cover my shoulders. I’m quite happy because I wanted to ensure that I had a good formal dress to take as it could come in useful. Besides, with the number of dress clothes David has I have to compete!

We are both really looking forward to being home in just over a month. There is so much wedding stuff to do while we’re back—fortunately I feel on top of what there is to do and have a bit more time now than I did last time I went home (when I was dealing with health problems and term papers the week before). Thanks to my wonderful MoH and our friend Harrison I got an excellent tip on a photographer in Victoria and I’m really looking forward to setting up an appointment to meet with her. We have other photographers to meet with as well, but this woman is a little cheaper than other quotes I’ve seen while still managing to take beautiful photos in the style I want. So I’m really, really looking forward to meeting with her.

On the cake front, mum is now talking about baking our wedding cake herself (and getting a friend of hers who does cake decorating to decorate it). We are still going to go look at other cake options but I’m thinking of going this way, because it will be special and delicious! I was worried it would be too much work for her but she says she has a plan. So if she’s cool with it I’m happy.

I also asked someone to sing at our wedding. We’ll be discussing it more when I’m home, but it looks like a wonderful thing. It’s so great to have talented friends and family whom we can have participate in our day and make it extra special.

I’ve been browsing wedding bands. My e-ring is such a non-traditional setting that it is going to be hard to find something that I can wear with it. This leaves two options—get a ring custom made that fits around it or wear it on my other hand. Not sure what I’m going to do, and I’ll probably go talk to a bunch of different jewellers. I really like the idea of having an antique-style band, probably art deco, or something that incorporates stones and filigree work. I can’t get anything too expensive, of course, so getting a custom ring may be out. David has no idea what he wants, but I’m hoping he gets something fun.

So that is all that. So looking forward to moving, and to going home for a month, and for just getting on with life.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

calm spots

i've been having a good summer but I have been feeling a little stressed with all the things going on. if i were more disciplined I'd be going to bed earlier to compensate for the two mornings when I have to get up at 6:30, but as it happens I usually end up getting 5.5-6hrs of sleep on the nights before and being tired. Fortunately those days are at the job I like where my lack of sleep makes me look a little slow but is still manageable. I try to go to bed earlier, but when I'm working until 10pm other nights (and subsequently not eating dinner until 10:30) it is hard to manage. Plus Value Village is full of the annoyances of working in a place run by barely competant management, which causes its own stress. And of course moving, moving, moving... but I swear this isn't about complaining!

It's about the wonderful evening I had with David on Saturday. Between our various stresses and busyness having fun together tends to slip by the wayside. Not that we don't do stuff, just that it isn't always easy to put stress on hold and just relax. Saturday, however, worked out perfectly and was one of those nice moments of reconnecting. I had worked until 4pm and had then gone over to a friend's house for tea and wedding chat (she is also getting married, about two months before us). So I didn't get home that day until about 8:30, and when I came in there were chores to attend to and the usual little things one does when arriving home.

David was making dinner, and it happened to be ready in time for one of our favorite shows--Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares. So I was looking forward to just relaxing with David while we ate dinner, but he surprised me with a magnificent feast of snow crab legs and his homemade bruschetta. It was soooooooooooo good. We couldn't figure out a good way to divide the crab legs between us so we just piled them all on a plate and sat down on the living room floor with that and a dish of melted butter between us, sharing the plate and eating this incredibly delicious meal and just relaxing. It was delightful and different enough from the usual dinner routine to feel really special.

Packing yesterday also reminded me once again of how happy I am with David. Happy to be with someone who turns an afternoon of packing into a fun adventure instead of something stressful, and who manages to stay relaxed and organized and in a good mood the whole time. Happy also to be with a man who does his fair share and more around the house and who is almost always more than happy to help me with stuff (even if he grumbles when I make him kill spiders). In the evening we just relaxed--David made salmon steaks and baked potatoes and we sat amongst our sea of boxes watching Excalibur. I also worked a lot on my latest embroidery project (pillowcases) and am about 3/4s done. Hooray!

Also making plans for when I'm back in September. So much to look forward to--making perogies, doing wedding stuff, visitng people, and spending lots of time with my Grandma. It is going to be a major adjustment to be an only child again tho with John off at college. Everything is changing, and I'm glad to have bright dreams on my horizon instead of being stuck while everything moves on around me.

David: hair cut so he looks presentable for Cambridge and practicing packing the Gang into his new bag of holding. Look out UK!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

photos and such

So today we went to get our engagement photos done. We got them done portrait studio style, instead of an outdoorsy shoot. We may end up getting an outdoorsy shoot if it comes with our wedding photography package when we get a photographer, but that is for another day. I wanted something for now that looked timeless and elegant, and I feel that is what we got so I'm pleased. Out of all the photos we only ended up choosing one shot to do for all our prints--David is apparently really picky with how he's posed and tends to go for the more traditional (no kissing! no crossed arms!). Anyway, now we have something nice to give out to our family members and a really beautiful portrait to hang on the wall.

In other news, my mum has been full of sweet wedding surprises of late. She is talking about baking my favorite cake as a wedding cake (more on this later once we figure out for sure what we're doing, but it's looking like a good option), she's been slowly picking up brightly coloured dishes/cups for the reception, brainstorming DIY decorations with Sue (so I think we've figured out how to do strings of butterflies!), and...

and... the other night David told me that he wanted a traditional kind of caketopper bride & groom that we could keep as an ornament after the wedding. So I started looking around to find something appropriate, which was slightly harder than hoped for due to our taste and most people's taste. At one point I found these really cute Ukrainian toppers, but the groom was bald so that was nixed. And then I found it: a folk art style bride and groom with folk motif designs on them, hand painted, and by one of my favorite mass-market artists (if such a thing can be said to exist).

So we both fell in love with them, but for prudence sake decided to put off buying them. But we showed them to mum and I guess she thought they were perfect too because she decided to surprise us by buying them for us to make sure we wouldn't miss out on them! It's no longer a surprise because she started worrying I'd go and buy them and then we'd be stuck with two sets, but!!! BEST AND MOST AMAZING MOTHER EVER. So I'm just waiting for her to order them and then I will know for certain that they are ours.

Anyway, we are both really touched by her ongoing generosity and meaningful little contributions. Thanks mum!

Also, I cannot resist sharing our second choice--Ukrainian Bride & Groom:

Friday, July 17, 2009

irked!

My annoyance has faded a little, but this was the response I got to my email to our church about doing marriage prep:

Unfortunately, our marriage prep course is only available for those who are parishioners who will be getting married here at Newman.

I realize that as a university church they are kind of stuck doing something like this, because so much of the parish is transient. But it still bothers me on some level--we've been going to the church fairly exclusively (aside from when I had to be at the Cathedral for a friend's RCIA) and have participated in various events, that's where our offering money goes etc. So it is irksome that we don't qualify to do our marriage prep there. Keep in mind the marriage prep course is a prereq to having a Catholic wedding.

I have a few options:
- contact the Arch Diocese and see about doing it in Toronto in the short space of time now before we leave
- contacting the church in BC where we are going to get married and see what they say
- waiting until we both move to the UK and doing it there

I think the last two options are my best. I'm going to ask david what he thinks, but I think we may just be better leaving Toronto out of the equation. In my experience most places are only interested in you if you're physically present, and usually not interested at all when you're leaving.

I also think it might be less of a hassle going through it in the UK and getting "permission" to marry back home than it would be to go through it in Toronto and getting permission to marry on the other side of the country. But still! I realize that our circumstances seem a little more "special" to me than they do to some random secretary, and that most of the world is not still trying to grasp the concept that yes, David did win a scholarship for three years to do his PhD at Cambridge, and subsequently our plans of the last couple of years of settling in Toronto for at least five years have had a huge wrench thrown in them, but!

My original reason for wanting to get it done before the end of summer was that I wasn't sure of how/when/if I could get a visa, and thus had irrational fears of being stuck in BC while DAvid was in Cambridge and us being unable to do the prep course and unable to get married. Irrational, I know, and not really an issue anymore. But it's back to the drawing board for marriage prep I guess.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

invites

I've been wasting way too much time this weekend playing around with/stressing over wedding invites. I know that the invites are rather toward the end of my list of things needing to be done--we don't even have a date set--but I've been puzzling over an affordable way of getting what I want. I happen to have expensive tastes, so even in the DIY range it doesn't really save money.

Anyway, trying to find the original paper I wanted to go with for an affordable price was proving quite difficult via the internet. So I spent some time browsing and coming up with various ideas for a similar effect, and then I thought I nailed it. So I was happy. Until I remembered that because we are moving to the UK I either have to order the paper NOW, which I can't justify doing to my credit card, or making my parents do my invites, which I can't justify doing to my parents, or shipping the paper to the UK, which I can't justify to my budget. So I was back to the drawing board. And more internet browsing. And more time wasting--it is pretty clear from the last couple of days that I do not have enough productive things to do... Like I should maybe be packing and getting ready to move, or something simple like cleaning the bathroom... ah procrastination!

To condense what has turned into more time on the internet than I care to admit to, I *think* that I have finally come up with the invite style I want coupled with a price that doesn't break my budget, with supplies that I can get for a decent price in the UK. There has been the creation of word document templates for the sake of measuring how many of _____ I can get out of a sheet of A4 paper. And, hoping that I don't work tomorrow, I am going to walk to the nearby craft store and throw a dollar or two down on making a mockup in similar style to see if I like the result. Also, because I am ripping the general idea off of a craft site, they had a how-to video showing the basics of assembly and now I am super excited about getting to assemble all this stuff.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Mostly Music

Being overtired (I hate you, 6:30am mornings) and with nothing good on TV I seem to turn to wedding planning. So far I'm really pleased with how everything is coming together. Actually, I'm wary about how everything is coming together—am I just deceiving myself? No doubt mum will bring me a reality check when I need one.

So dress and shoes are pretty much out of the way, and my veil is sitting at home nicely wrapped and just needs some tweaking to update to 2010. Mum and I have ideas for decorating for the reception and she is already buy some Very Funky Plates and we just need to sit down and discuss our menu. I have my guest list back from both families and am just mulling back and forth over which friends to invite.

So all that said, this evenings project turned out to be music. Because the wedding will be a mass, there are a lot of opportunities for music. I need to pick a mass setting and make sure whoever does the music can play the setting. I want to have good musicians who can hold their own because I've been to too many regular masses with a congregation that barely sings and music that sounds half dead—NOT AT MY WEDDING. While I can't bank on people singing (although I know Madeleine, Hannah, & I will sing loud enough to compensate, haha) I at least want good music to fill up any empty space. I also want to put good thought into the hymns/songs used at the wedding. While I realize that it is near impossible to find songs about love and commitment that do not sound corny or mushy, if I am going to embarrass myself by having those things played at my wedding they are going to be chosen for the right reasons!

I thought about having Ave Maria somewhere in there. Not sure where—I read somewhere once that it could be sung during the blessing of the rings(?). I *may* also be able to have it as a recessional, but I'm not sure. One needs to be careful where they put Mary in the mass >;)

For the processional I am really, REALLY, hoping to be able to have The Wedding Song (Noel Peter Stookey). Not only is it beautiful, but Dad was the one who found it for me when I was home last. I think it's one of his little ways of being involved, and I just happened to really like the song. And I just picture it being set to some amazing guitar and piano, with the amazing vocalist I'm hoping to have and I melt a little. All that said I'm really hoping Fr Marek doesn't throw a fit like some priests (*cough*stmichael'scathedral*cough*) about me walking down the aisle with my dad (or parents) and meeting David at the front of the church. According to St Michael's this is a superstitious tradition and the bridge & groom are expected to process down the aisle together. I don't think it will be a problem, because i've been to Catholic weddings in Victoria that did it the normal way, and I really don't want David to see me until I'm coming down the aisle so that he will be even more blown away. I think it is much more romantic than seeing me in the narthex before the ceremony.

As for the reception, I've considered various ways of getting music at the park. The main issue is that it is a park, so there is no electricity. My brother is convinced that we can ask the caretaker if we can run an extension cord from the caretaker's cottage down to the picnic area, and I am convinced that my brother is nuts and this won't work. Instead I am really hoping that I can get certain Port Albernians who play classical guitar to provide background music. We are not planning to have a dance, but I have one special song that I would like to do a first dance to. And I don't see why I can't! So hopefully the musicians will know it, and if not I will have it provided via laptop or i-Tunes or something. And the song shall remain nameless but ya'll can guess what it is when you hear it at the wedding.

In non-music related news, it looks like our wedding is going to be dry. We're thinking about obtaining a liquor license so that we can have sparkling wine for toasts, but we're not sure. I don't mind a dry wedding—I've been to too many weddings that just turn into a bunch of people getting roaringly drunk and that is *not* what I want. I also don't want people coming just to take advantage of an excuse to get roaringly drunk. That said, I really don't care if my friends want to bring their own liquor and drink it, of course! It's more the "I'm only here for the alcohol" eventuality that I want to avoid. Besides, it's an afternoon reception!