My Wallet.

It's no secret that money, and the desire for more of it, provided a major shove for this move. I wasn't prepared for the amazing change in lifestlye that we experienced (conveniently timing our move to skip winter entirely...woo hoo!), but it's not like our lifestyle now includes the fabulous parties, Jimmy Choo pumps and designer handbags that we were lacking in Ottawa. Those things still...lack. Well, save one favorite handbag, perhaps. It does now include a fun ferry ride to work, sunny lunchbreaks spent wandering around downtown, and weekend swims in the ocean. Still, that original plan focused around our finances has been lurking around in the background of all of the fun, and now, with 2008 looming over us and me on a limited work permit, it's become time to buckle down and deal with it.

I am a spender. When I have money in my wallet, it's not there for very long. And, while the maturity that I've gained (??) in the past few years has encouraged me to be smarter about my spending, I think that the internal spender in me tends to rear her slightly-less-attractive head when opportunity arises. And...it has arisen. And...it's time to corral her to a budget, once again.

Since we arrived, we have spent a lot of money. It's expensive to set yourself up in a new place with only a limited amount of the complete household you once had. We needed first and last month's rent for our apartment, which, though cheap by local standards, would be a ridiculous amount to spend on rent anywhere else. Except maybe Monaco or perhaps downtown London. This is the most expensive country in the world...there is not much we can do about that. Still, it was unfurnished...we needed a car...and a scooter...and the actual move itself, including shipping and 25% duty fees on everything we own, took a toll. And after all that, we needed to eat. In the past two months, we have spent more money than in the past year back in Ottawa. Not all of it was necessary.

Last year...or maybe the year before...we inflicted upon ourselves a fairly serious spending budget, compartmentalized for our lifestyle and with the intention of saving for a big trip. While we did buy ourselves a very lovely roof and contribute towards our trip to Mexico, we were simply unable to save anything. While we were excellent at sticking to the jar system, we have yet to go on a big trip and did require some financial assistance even to make this move. Not a huge deal, debt-wise, when I think about some of the conversations I've had with friends in similar boats. I've never felt like we were in any kind of trouble and I know that we have made a lot of very smart decisions when it came to what to do and how to deal with our money. But then, on the other hand, I did not need to spend $28.00 on a vegan cookbook yesterday. Or $16 on Chrismas candles the day before (since Christmas is officially dunzo and a peppermint candle will not have the same appeal in February), so it's become clear that we need to get ourselves (me) back on a budget.

In the past week, I did a tally of everything we owe (minus the mortgage, which someone else is now paying for us) and with our new salaries and a strict plan, my goal is to have everything paid off by July 1, 2008. This is an aggressive goal, but not an unattainable one, in my belief. I have not been without some form of personal debt (read: Visa) since I got my first credit card when I was 19 years old. I can't even imagine what debt-free will feel like. I have consolidated as much as possible and we're ready to go. Our main focus in coming here was to put ourselves in a good position to purchase a second home and open doorways for our future, financially. We have every possible reason to be able to do this successfully, so I'm putting this out there here, now, with the hopes that such a personal declaration will make me more accountable to it. I don't want to turn this into a strictly PF (personal finance) blog, but I will be updating on the situation from time to time. In the same way that I log all of my runs online to be able to enjoy the geeky monthly running total graphics, I want to be able to track our progress on this...our top priority.

So, blog friends (both virtual and not), wish me (us) luck. It's going to mean a lot of cutting back, but it's also going to mean that we get an opportunity to enjoy our new surroundings without spending money unnecessarily. I have no lululemon around to tempt me (though I still got my fix, thanks to my sympathetic mother), no Starbucks to eat up at least $10/week...nada. I do foresee more spending on books, since they are great for the beach AND the occasional afternoon indoors, but I figure I can write those expenses off as brain function enhancement. Plus, my current book - an 8-in-one compilation of Jane Austen's books - cost $20 and will last for months. This defines cheap entertainment.

I may put some snazzy debt tracker things on the sidebar, if I can figure them out, and have already started reading up on dedicated PF blogs for tips. I've found a few great ones already that I'm going to link to and blog about in a future post to pass their wisdom along.

Black Swede on a Budget.

P.S. Only JUST realized that my blog initials are B.S. Hopefully not applicable to the above goal.

December on the Rock.


We've had some fun in the past few weeks that has gone unblogged. My camera hasn't been following me around, so I've missed capturing a lot of it, unfortunately. However, I have big plans to actually learn how to use my camera tomorrow, so expect more pictures from now on.

A few weeks ago, we went to the annual Boat Parade. We'd been hearing about it pretty much since we arrived, just like everything else that happens here. It's so small...even the tiniest flea market is BIG NEWS. And EVERYONE goes. So, the Boat Parade, being an actual event, obviously drew a crowd. And obviously, we went. It's pretty much exactly what it sounds like...boats...parading. Except that they're all decorated with themes and Christmas lights. This year, there were 45 boats in the parade and though it was dark and difficult to see the actual boats themselves, I think that the smallest ones were probably no more than your standard dinghy and the largest ones were....well, multi-million dollar yachts. We found ourselves a seat in a park downtown, along with the rest of the population, and listened to Christmas music pumping over the loudspeakers until the parade started. The Aussie met us down there, and we were all set for the big show.

People were crammed in pretty tight along the waterfront and so I was fortunate enough to be sitting beside a particularly irritating 6 year-old, who was less than impressed with the wait. It was supposed to start at 6:30, but by 6:35 or so, when boats were still not appearing, she began rattling off her very astute observations about the tardiness in comparison with last year's prompt start, followed by an exasperated sigh and lament over how the boats probably wouldn't even be as good this year. By about 6:40, I was ready to shove her and her Crocs off the dock, but was saved by the timely appearance of Boat #1...the well-known-makers-of-rum's boat. When you're the biggest sponsor, you get to be #1. Apparently, there was a prize for "The Boat that Looks the Most Fun to be On", and though I didn't stick around long enough to see (or hear) the prizes handed out, I'm sure it won. I'm assuming being on the rum boat guarantees you just a little rum here and there, and by the time the boat got to us, the passengers were well on their way to a substantial law suit. It was awesome. Maybe not up to the high expectations of certain children awaiting a "realistic looking reindeer...FOR ONCE" (since apparently they ALWAYS look like just regular deer), but it certainly met all of my requirements for good times.
This kicked off a loooooooooong line of good times. My personal favorites were the Bermuda Triangle boat with planes flying into the abyss (though it was slightly out of place amongst the mostly Christmas-themed vessels...and slightly morbid), the pirate boat (complete with pirates fighting onboard) and the tiny little fishing boat with a big red heart and "Peace" spelled out with snake lights. I can't imagine the amount of work involved in getting some of these boats outfitted for this event, and it was really neat to see so many people come out to watch and get into the Christmas spirit.
The brat next to me wasn't thoroughly impressed by the parade, but I was. What a neat idea. I can think of a number of other cities that could and should try to pull something like this off. By the time Boat #30 came along, our asses were freezing (the day had been hot, but it gets damp when it cools off at night, and we were sitting on cement), so we grabbed a couple of drinks and some appetizers and then had a cold-ish ride home on the scooter. So anyways, that was the Boat Parade.
AND...as mentioned earlier...our apartment has taken a turn for the better. It's not nearly done yet, and lots of the furniture in these pictures (can YOU spot the hotel furniture?) will probably be gone and replaced in the early New Year, but here is a little taste of our new and improved digs:
And look...we even decorated for Christmas...

Bo-ring.

My blog even bores me lately. It's been a bit hard to find the time (or an internet connection strong enough) to blog over the past few weeks, but I'm determined to rediscover my inner blogger. I think she's still entranced with turquoise ocean views and beeping frogs.

We're finally, FINALLY furnishing our apartment properly. We bought two enormous chocolate-brown couches yesterday, which are being delivered on Monday, and we found a funky coffee table, so now we will be able to stretch out and enjoy downloaded TV in supreme comfort. One of said couches happens to be a queen-sized sofabed...since we've never found ourselves to be more popular than since we moved to Bermuda. People who we couldn't even entice to our Ottawa home with free beer are going to be showing up...and we're excited. This is a great place to be a visitor because you can, literally, experience the entire country in a week. Actually, you can literally see the whole country in under two hours, but there's plenty to do as well. It's going to be fun to show people around and take them fish watching.

The remainder of our stuff has made its way here and is waiting for us at the local airport. The pick-up times are conveniently 9-4, Monday to Friday. This is just perfect when you work 9-5. One of us (Kurt) is taking tomorrow morning off to haul it from one end of the island to the other, where we live, and tomorrow night is going to be like Christmas. I'm almost tempted to save the boxes for Christmas morning, since I really don't remember what's in them. It was so long ago that I packed them, and I was pretty much the living dead when I did, so what's in them is anyone's guess. I know one of them is the rest of my clothes. I honestly don't recall packing the rest of Kurt's clothes. Don't tell Kurt. My memory foam pillow is definitely in one of them as well, which is pretty exciting for me. I love that thing. I wish my iPod docking station had made it in, but I have a sneaking suspicion that in my haze I packed it away, classifying it with the "unnecessary" items. It is, of course, completely necessary.

Besides that, it's pretty much business as usual down/over here. It's HOT though...22/23 degrees every day and we went swimming in the ocean on Sunday, which was nothing short of fantastic. The water is amazing...no weeds, no rocks...just white sand and clear, blue water. We're planning out our Christmas shopping right now, which is fun, but difficult when you only get paid once a month. You feel like you have all this money available to you, which technically you do, but it's easy to forget that there's not another paycheque coming until mid-January and that between now and then, we need to eat. And pay rent. Quite the switch from how things were for us in Canada. Still, a (careful) Christmas shop is happening later this week, along with my office's Christmas "cocktail reception", another corporate shopping night and...my birthday. Which I forget about continuously because I've never been this warm this close to my birthday. I'm turning 26 this year. Unless someone can convince me that 27 is actually still in my "mid-twenties", in which case I'll succumb to the truth.

Unsolicited Product Endorsements.

I'm long overdue for one of these.


It's now been a month since I moved and that month was full of new places, new food and new things. Some have been great. Others have been just OK. Some were terrible. However, in the spirit of consumerism and my current obsession with online shopping (which never actually results in a sale, since 99% of places won't ship here, but I have loaded virtual carts everywhere!), here is my current list of faves.

1. The "have-it-built-by-a-professional" lunch salad bar. I'll blog about this separately, but I am loooooving the chicken, asparagus, sundried tomato, avocado and feta combo, with balsamic dressing on the side. It's like discovering salad all over again.

2. Perfume. I'm not really a big perfume person - mostly because I'm always afraid of being "that person" who overdoes it. Even one spray in an inconspicuous place can cause major discomfort for someone else, and since I've been that uncomfortable person many times, I'm pretty conscious of pungent perfumes. That being said, I'm actually allergic to a lot of perfumes (like, anything made by GAP, which is unfortunate when you're a teenager and the GAP perfume is the only stuff you can afford), but every once in awhile, I come across a few that are awesome and don't leave me with a splitting headache. This normally happens around this time of year, when most department stores are shoving beautifully packaged gift sets at you, which for me, has resulted in more than one purchase of a perfume that I actually hated. Like the 'L'interdit' episode of 2002. Yikes. This year, I am fortunate to live in a place that sells high-end beauty products at surprisingly low-end prices, so I've started shopping around again for a new bottle to sit next to my Jean Paul Gaultier 'Classique'. My top picks:

Vera Wang - 'Princess'

Escada - 'Island Heat'

and...perhaps surprisingly, perhaps not...

'With Love' by Hilary Duff.

The Duffster has actually rolled out something pretty sweet. Maybe I was biased given that it shares its name with her catchy little tune (however overplayed), but I was impressed. I do enjoy the occasional stuff by Duff.

3. TV via the internet. I'm totally caught up on the Hills and don't actually own a TV. How great is this?

4. 'The Eat-Clean Diet Cookbook' by Tosca Reno, which was recommended to me by Laila when I was home in October. Full of great, easy, healthy recipes. We have been enjoying her recipe for baked oatmeal for a month now...you can change up the ingredients and make it differently everytime.

5. Facebook. Ever heard of it? After two months of waiting to get on a plane and living like a nomad, and probably because I chose to wait out the remainder at home, somehow I ran out of time to say all of my Ottawa goodbyes. Thanks to Facebook, I've been able to say virtual goodbyes and keep people updated on everything with minimal effort. Not to sound lazy or anything, but I do admit that it's made everything just a little bit easier.

6. December NOT in Ottawa. Seriously. I would highly recommend this product to anyone. After 5 complete winters in my nation's capital, I was feeling pretty seasoned to the whole ordeal. Until I went for a walk this morning at 6:30 a.m. wearing only a light shirt. And then got to work to find an email from EXH in Ottawa about some further 30 cm of expected snow, expected to fall on top of the existing 30 cm of snow. As much as I miss how pretty snow looks with Christmas lights, I really don't miss one flake of it.
7. 30 Rock. I've been a longtime Tina Fey fan, so it's not a big surprise that I love this show. Hilarious and so smart.

8. Home-made salsa. Armed with a can of diced tomatoes, a small can of pineapple, some chipotle chiles, part of an onion and some Epicure salsa mix, Kurt mixed up the most amazing salsa last weekend. We've been eating it on everything...pita, chips, chicken, a spoon...it's seriously delicious. He's under strict instruction to ensure that there is a container of it in the fridge at all times.

9. Fish-watching. This may sound like a downright retarded way to pass time, but scarily enough, we're getting into it. It is amazing at how much time Kurt and I can kill watching fish. It's like birdwatching, but instead of looking up, you're looking down. There is some great fish action off the various docks and wharves around our place, so often on our morning walks we will stop and check out what is going on below the surface. It's amazing to watch fish interact, who eats who, which ones swim how fast and wonder why certain fish seem to always be alone. I'm seriously thisclose to picking up some sort of regional fish book so that we can identify our scaley friends. Is that weird?

10. A good loofah. A good loofah, in my experience, is hard to come by. Either they are far too stiff and scratch the hell out of yourskin, or the bristles fall out constantly. In fact, I was completely turned off of loofahs until a new friend pointed out a brand that she'd tried and loved. So, I tried it. And I loved it. I haven't gotten into the whole dry-brushing thing though...I'll save that for another UPE (or the UPE vice, the Unsolicited Product Critique - these are always bad).

Adjusting.

Every kind of move requires a change in mindset. An adjustment period, so to speak. Moving from Victoria to Ottawa required me to adjust to the idea of walking down a busy street or through a crowded mall and not knowing one person. Or having gone to school with their sister. Moving from living with my roomie to living on my own required me to accept the fact that I could, actually, spend an entire evening watching episode after episode of Felicity and not feel the slightest amount of guilt for doing so while there were dirty dishes in the sink. Not that my roomie was a guilt-tripping type, but I was fairly good at guilt-tripping myself. I could also eat ice cream at 2:00 a.m. and no one was around to judge me for it. I never actually did this...but I remember marvelling at the thought that I could. Damn you, guilty conscience. Moving from my own apartment into a house with Kurt required me to realize that I can actually function while only using half of the cupboard space in the bathroom.

Moving to a tiny island in the middle of the ocean has required more adjustment than any of my previous moves. Yes, I went swimming today - in the ocean - on November 25th. There's one mindset I don't mind getting my head around. OK...I have a palm tree outside my front door. I don't mind that either. They drive on the wrong side of the road - this one still gets to me a bit. But the worst one by far is the fact that groceries are never, ever a sure thing.

In the height of my suburban Ottawa life, I enjoyed the many luxuries that come along with being surrounded by a number of clean, well-stocked, well-lit, gigantic grocery stores. I had my favorites - choices based not on the availability of certain items, but the quality of said items. I could get my olives here...or I could drive just a little further down the road and get the really good olives over there. I preferred one store over the others because they arranged their fruit and vegetables symmetrically and they always seemed to be shining. Maybe it was the wax coating, or the light reflecting off of crystalized pesticides...but I liked it. No matter where I went, I knew that I could always find an eggplant, a can of chipotles, pita bread...whatever I wanted.

This is no longer the case.

It's not even remotely the case.

I feel as though I am participating in some sort of treasure hunt where the only prize is spending far more money to settle for something that is not quite what I am looking for. Like spending $8.99 for a jar of peanuts, when what I really wanted was natural peanut butter. And then having to grind them yourself. Which I may or may not have done last week.

Like most weekends, I decided to make a big pot of soup today. I'd picked my recipe on Saturday, based on what appeared to be readily available in the local grocery stores - sweet potatoes, red peppers, garlic. I made a list and went out yesterday to the pinnacle of fine local shopping to gather my ingredients. What a bust. Sweet potatoes, previously available in abundance from any local produce merchant, were mysteriously missing from the aisles of this fine establishment. And when I say fine, I mean Godiva chocolate and artisan sea salts fine.

So, on we went to two other places. Both were well stocked with various other types of potatoes, but absolutely no sweet potatoes. I should mention here that one of them displays its produce on what appear to be a bookshelf, under a shelf of salted cod. I had already purchased the other ingredients for the soup...I was desperate. After our ocean swim, we headed to one final grocery store in the hopes of success. And this is what we found:

It was in the right area for sweet potatoes, in betwen regular potatoes and those things that I don't have a clue of what to do with....they look like brown roots, coated with wax...? Anyways, it looked like the right place. But it did not look like a sweet potato at all. First of all, it was huge. To exemplify the size, I posed it next to the recently deceased Sony Ericsson (R.I.P.):


Gigantic. The thing weighed over three pounds. Secondly, it wasn't the right color. It was under the sign for sweet potatoes, and it was in the right colour family, but I wasn't positive. But, given the need to use the other veggies I'd bought (at great expense, assuming that this wouldn't be an issue), I figured that desperate times call for desperate measures and we bought it. At $2.79/lb. The recipe called for a 45 minute roasting time...this took twice that, and it was cut in half.

This wasn't the first time that we've driven pretty much end to end of the island, looking for an ingredient that we probably used to have backed up stock of in our cupboards. It is true that it's easier to see what's in the stores and then plan your meals, since you never know what you will or will not find. The most readily available ingredients back home become hot commodities the second a ship is late, and some things are just not around at all. Luckily, we've found most of what we've needed and actually found some decent substitutions. There are a lot of things here that we can't get in Canada, which is always neat. Like Oh's! cereal, which I looooved as a kid, but isn't sold in Canada anymore. The fact that it's on the shelves here is a small miracle, though all the Spanish on the box makes me think that it may have been destined for Mexico and took a wrong turn. Lucky for me.

Another new find is Bare Fruit, which is exactly that...baked fruit, sold in bags like chips, with only "organic apples" or "organic cherries" listed under ingredients. Delish.

Back to the mutant potato. It was delicious.

And, it was most definitely a sweet potato.

By the way, I highly recommend the recipe on page 121 of rebar cookbook. Wow.

Update.

Clearly, I'm still dealing with a serious lack of internet. We're weighing our options now as far as service goes, but it doesn't look like we'll get internet service at home for under $180/month. Isn't that just freakin' fantastic? I can't get over what a great deal that is..n't. It's brutal. But, I'm stuck halfway through television seasons and am dying to find out what happens to Meredith and friends, so obviously, it's a must-have service.

I am so out of touch.

I have access to everything during working hours. Unfortunately, I spend those hours "working". We have no TV at home, so I'm totally behind on the Hills, ANTM, Grey's (like, an entire season behind...seriously), the Office, Weeds...I have a lot of downloading to do. Legally, of course.

The weather is cooling down a bit. And while I don't want to say too much on the subject and piss off my snow-laden Ottawa friends, the sunny beach weather may be over for now. At least, in the "spend a day at the beach" sense, though I'm told that you get those days off and on throughout the winter as well, so maybe there's still hope of rectifying the raccoon tan that I have acquired. It's been incredibly windy for the past two days. We went for a somewhat insane run yesterday morning and I thought, as we ran at an angle over a bridge with flimsy sides, that it wasn't a very smart thing to do. The wind was so strong that we weren't running in straight lines at all...we totally looked drunk at 6:30 a.m. Which, here, wouldn't be that odd, actually. At one point, the wind was blowing so hard into my ear that it actually hurt. The island isn't wide enough to give any shelter, so you're pretty much due for bad hair, no matter where you go. The ferries still run, though I'm pretty sure that I saw a woman run outside to barf this morning, so it's a bit choppy. Still, I'm not wearing a coat, so...I'll be quiet now.

The vacation feel is finally starting to wear off, though our weekends still seem like mini vacations, since we're always seeing something new. Or new to me, anyways. We've got a good little routine started with our morning runs or walks, actually eating breakfast (as opposed to the caffeine and baked goods diet I was on during my last few months in Ottawa), and I'm already feeling a million times better. I do shed a single tear at the thought of Farm Boy...or even Superstore...or the Market on Yates, since produce is such a bugger to come by here. Yes, you can find a fennel bulb...but you will pay $7.99 for it. Seriously. We've dabbled in the locally grown produce (marginally less expensive), which is limited to beets, sweet potatoes, some things I don't recognize, and fat carrots. They grow fat because they can't grow long, because the soil isn't very deep. Some things are tricky to find - we finally found capers and kalamata olives and Kurt located some canned chipotle peppers today, which I am pretty excited about. I do love a caper and a chipotle. But not together.

We have found the most amazing sushi. I'm a bit shocked at just how amazing it is, since sushi doesn't seem to be a real hit with the locals. About a 7 minute scooter ride from our place is this great little restaurant that has become our favorite, possibly because it is the most random place I've ever been or possibly because the awesome bartender brought a bottle of Grand Marnier to our table and literally drenched our tiramisu in it last week. Either way, it's pretty great. There is a take-out hut attached to a normal looking restaurant, attached to a dark English-style pub that doubles as the sushi bar AND an internet café. We went there on one of our first days here and we shared #60 off their sushi menu. What arrived is only "sushi" in the sense that it's rolled and involves rice and seaweed, but what they've actually done is take an inside out spicy tuna roll and then lightly deep fry it and drizzle some sort of delicious sauce over it. I'm not big on fried food...in fact, the smell of deep fried food occasionally makes me dry heave...but this was/is AMAZING. Last Friday was not a good day, so we took ourselves out on a date and got a #60, along with various other delicious numbers, followed by aforementioned drenched tiramisu, and left in much better moods. Luckily for us, we can't actually afford to eat our feelings very often.

The other good thing (besides #60) that happened last Friday was that we became the owners of real, actual furniture. As in, items that do not require a pump to inflate. A queen-sized bed, a sofabed, table, 4 chairs, a desk, a tv/armoire, a mini-bar (haha), the biggest mirror that I have ever seen and three of the ugliest lamps I have ever seen became ours last Friday, at the total cost of $900. Thank you, Fairmont. Yes, it is hotel furniture and quite obviously so, except that Fairmont doesn't skimp on the swank and it's actually pretty decent stuff. So long as it's not inflatable, I'm happy. We're no longer eating off our laps, while sitting on the floor. Baby steps.

Finally, I just finished booking our trip to Mexico in February and already dreaming of fresh picked pineapple, pelliscadas, morning walks on the beach and quality time with the family. I'm so excited. Our 2007 Mexico trip was by far the best trip we've ever taken together, and we're hoping for a repeat performance in '08. Of course, actually getting to Mexico is slightly more tedious. Instead of a lovely direct flight from Toronto, we fly from here to Miami, and then on to Dallas, where we spend 4 hours, and THEN on to Mexico. Too bad that neither Miami or Dallas made it on my "cities to see before I die" list, or I could have at least made some headway. We do stopover in NYC on the way back, but I'm not sure if a 6 hour overnight stay qualifies as really "seeing" the city, so that box will remain unchecked for now. It's only a 2 hour (cheap) flight from here though, so the Aussie and I are planning a shopping trip.

Anyhoo...that's all.

OH...and the mourning period for Samsung X426 is officially over, with the acquisition of a far sleeker replacement. The mourning period for Sony Ericsson w810i continues until further notice.

Casualties.



I regret to inform that Samsung X426, age 3, and Sony Ericsson w810i, age 1, died on Saturday, November 10th, 2007, during an unfortunate incounter with a torrential downpour, whilst seemingly safe in Kurt's pockets. This was not the case, and though there were repeated attempts made to revive them through the use of various silica products and a hair dryer, all attempts were unsuccessful.

They leave behind their grieving owners, Kristin and Kurtis, their friends, iPod and wallets (with whom they travelled most frequently), and their SIM cards. Their tragic and accidental death was unexpected, but we are left with fond memories of zero dropped calls, amusing text messages, inappropriate camera phone photos, and Beverley Hills 90210/Warren G ring tunes. Our only regrets were paying some guy in the mall $50 each to unlock them before we left. What a bust.

Oh...and putting them in Kurt's pockets before riding into the storm.

Gone, but not forgotten.

Until we get newer, cooler phones, that is.

Two Weeks In.


It's now been exactly two weeks since I arrived here, even though it somehow seems longer. Three weeks ago, I was hanging out at the Moka House, and here I am...unable to find a decent latté anywhere, but definitely enjoying the fact that I spent Monday, November 12th, at the beach. Yes, Monday. It's a holiday here (Remembrance Day long weekend).
We have found ourselves a car. Finally. It's a bit of a piece of you-know-what, but it has a trunk large enough for me to buy an ironing board, which was really my main concern. I'm pretty excited to be able to grocery shop for more than one meal at a time. Besides which, we need furniture in a bad way and are pretty lost without a way to get it home, once found. Most people buy their furniture used here, since the turnover is so huge with people coming and going all the time, but the problem is - how to get it home? So long as we stay away from gargantuan, mammoth furniture, we'll be OK for now.
My first week of work went well at IBILF. My boss is great, the work is good, I loooove the location (though I was pretty spoiled for location in Ottawa too), and even though the office itself seems to have some sort of love affair with the colour beige and computer systems that channel 1999, I'm generally enjoying my days there so far. And that's all I'm going to say about work, since a) it doesn't really define my life here (though it does fund it), and b) I don't want to get fired for having a blog. That is so cliché.
Speaking of cliché, Kurt and I have traded in our mornings at Starbucks for morning runs. I'm sure that if there were a Starbucks here, this wouldn't have happened, but there isn't, so we've been hitting the road a few times a week, easing back into it so as not to scare my knee. Prior to this move, we were the ultimate snooze-button-hitters. We had it down to an art and, even though the initial alarm would go off at 6:30 or so, wouldn't usually roll out of bed until less than 20 minutes before we had to be out the door. We even went so far as to shower at night to save us that step in the morning, thus buying us precious time. And now? Casually jogging down the road at 6:20 a.m. We're starting slooooow, so it was more of a walk/run, but it's our third time out since we moved into the apartment and so far, so good. The sun is rising while we're on our way back, s0 we can see it lighting everything up. The sky does amazing things here at sunrise and sunset. If I could run effectively with my camera, I would take photos of it. We walk on our "rest" days, so maybe the camera will make an appearance tomorrow. We come home and still have plenty of time to shower, change, eat breakfast and walk to the ferry.
Speaking of my camera, it has gotten a workout. I am so happy that I decided to buy it when I did, even though it would have been even cheaper if I'd waited until the dollar hit $1.10, but then, I don't have any Canadian money anymore, so does it matter? Plus, I'd pay a fortune in shipping and then duties here...anyways....I'm glad that I already have it because it's been averaging about 60-100 shots every time I take it out. And, thanks to my awesome camera bag recommended to me by my awesome fellow Nikonian, Shan, it can go pretty much anywhere. It's especially great for the scooter. Everywhere I turn, there seems to be another calendar-worthy shot. To the point that if I posted them all, I would bore everyone to tears with various views of sand, waves, rocks, Kris, Kris and Kurt, Kurt etc., so I'll only put the best of up. You're welcome.
We just came off of a long weekend, which we spent pretty much just relaxing. We hadn't done that together since...oh...June, so it felt great to just watch shows on the laptops, do some cooking (the Rebar cookbook came with), do some exploring and hiking and planning out what we need for the apartment. Currently, our furniture list is as follows:
1 craptastic air mattress.
We're hoping that this will be a very different story after a big liquidation sale at one of the local Fairmonts, but we'll see how it goes. It may be a madhouse, but we need things badly, so we're hoping to score some deals.
We went out for the first time on Friday night. I mean, OUT out. We had dinner at a great restaurant downtown with my new Aussie friend and then the three of us headed to a local...I don't even know what you would call it. I do know that I had a latté there the morning I started work (not tasty). And then, apparently, at night, this place morphs into a nightclub...of sorts. You walk in through the café, where you are met by a middle-aged woman who sells drink tickets for $5 and ushers you into the "yard" behind the café (through a door opened by a security guard) and you suddenly find yourself at what appears to be some sort of happening backyard party. You seriously feel like you're at your friend's backyard party, and their mom is home. There was a DJ, who played songs twice consecutively if people cheered loudly enough when it came on the first time ("Way I Are" is very hot here right now, not unlike EVERYWHERE). There were some seriously questionable - one might even wonder if legal - dance moves. There were ex-pats everywhere, mingled in with the locals. Thigh-high socks are apparently also hot here right now. It was awesome. I was still dressed in my work clothes, which made dancing a bit awkward, so we pretty much just observed. Hilarious. We met up with a friend of a friend (who I only knew through Facebook prior to Friday) and some of her friends, most of whom were Canadians, most of whom were from Ottawa. And randomly, Quebec City. Everyone is so friendly here. So many of us are in the same boat, so everyone is eager to meet people, network, etc. There seems to be a lot going on, all the time. After that, we headed home. We had the bike downtown and weren't sure how long it would take us, but as it turns out, only 25 minutes. So long as one of us is sober, that is.
I digress. Good times.

Paradise Found.

I'm writing this post perched on the edge of our new porch. If I point my computer just this way, I can secure one bar of unsecured wireless network. Thank you, wireless network. As you may have guessed, I've been a little bit out of touch! Start a blog specifically for this move and then actually move and don't bother to update. Brilliant. Until we get our own legit internet connection up and running (only slightly more exhausting a process here than at home), I'll count on my unsecured friend, but it looks like I'm OK. For now.

Last Tuesday, I boarded my plane to Jersey and then on to our final destination, only a day after getting off of my plane from Victoria. After the loooooong process that we'd undergone to get to that point, my enthusiasm was pretty dismal. I think I was more excited about the SkyMall catalog in the seat pocket than I was about getting here. Something about no sleep, exhaustion of losing things in suitcases and the general anxiety that goes along with me generally had me completely zoned for most of the journey. I hadn't seen Kurt in over a week, and I hadn't even really thought about it. Not that I didn't miss him when I did think about it, but my mind was pretty much mulch.

And then the plane descended out of the clouds and I got my first glimpse of this beautiful, quirky little rock and it all came back. Literally. Like, in a Lifetime Original Movie way, complete with a tear, a racing heart and all of the excitement that I'd lost. I was a kid in a candy store. WITH change in my pocket. Glorious.

Kurt met me at the airport (he came down a week ahead of me) and drove me back along the (one) road towards the temporary accomodations we would be staying at until we got the keys to our place. Ah...our place. More about that later. It was about 4:00 in the afternoon and the roads were covered with scooters, driven by people on their way home from work. In between the scooters were various versions of tiny European cars. Ah..cars. More about THAT later as well. That was a less adoring "AH" than our apartment got. The only way that I can describe the air here is jungle-y. It has a greenhouse feel to it, but in a pleasant, fresh-air kind of way. And all the smells that mix in with it are distinguishable...flowers, salt, Downey dryer sheets...the list goes on. Every house is a pastel color and has a white corrugated roof, which drains rainwater into tanks underground, which supply the tap water. Palm trees grow next to cedars (which are, surprisingly, indigenous here), and everywhere I look, there is a plant or bird or flower that I have never seen before. At least, not growing naturally. There are tons of frogs (I actually just saw my first one, making its way down the stairs in front of me), and they make noise all night. Not a ribbit-ribbit kind of noise, more of a two-toned beep. It sounds like a noise that a Nokia cell phone would make, if someone were to pick the most annoying ring-tune possible. I'm used to it now, but it pissed me off something fierce the first night. Frog beeping aside, this is an incredibly, incredibly beautiful place. And from someone from Victoria, this is very high praise.

We stayed at the guesthouse for the first few days as I got my bearings. However, as of the first of this month, we had the keys to what has to be the most amazing apartment on the island. I'm not totally convinced that someone didn't die here, given the obscenely low rent (for the island), the space itself, but we're happy. Really, very happy. High ceilings with exposed beams, brand new (amazing) kitchen with corian countertops, huge bedroom, one and a half bathrooms...it's gorgeous. I think Kurt was just in the right place at exactly the right time (a phenomenon not present for our search for a car), and signed a lease on the spot. Finding a home is the biggest thing...the biggest expense, the biggest impact on your lifestyle...and we have one that suits us perfectly.

A seven minute walk from our house takes us to the ferry stop, where I catch my catamaran to work. It's kind of like the Clipper, except smaller and no one barfs. It cruises in at 8:15, cruises around the corner to the neighboring bay to pick up another load of passengers, and then picks up speed and flies across the Sound into Hamilton, where I work. I'm walking up the hill to my office at 8:45. I sit outside on the upper deck. The weather is still somewhere around 22-26 during the day, so I have yet to unpack my coats or heavy sweatshirts.

I started my new job on Monday with a couple of days of "computer training". It was the most elementary training I have ever done. And yet, totally mandatory. But today I actually sat at my new workstation for the first time and started work. My boss is awesome so far. I had a feeling from our phone interview that he would be and my co-workers on the floor were really welcoming. I do miss the LUNLF girls, though. It's not going to be the same without DDC, KKB, EXH and SKZ. I signed something with my LAS ID today by accident and felt a small pang of regret. But then I got over it.

I have met my first new ex-pat friend. She's from Australia and started the same day as I did, so also endured our training period. We've planned our first night out for Friday, which marks the end of the big rugby match going on here right now, so that should be fun. I believe it will mostly consist of getting drunk and meeting people, which sounds about right for people who currently know no one. Something about it isn't lonely though. Having Kurt here, of course, makes a huge difference, but everyone is so incredibly friendly here that you are constantly finding yourself in conversations with strangers at the ferry stop, on the ferry, on the street...everyone says hello, how are you, have a nice day. In fact, the ones who don't are the ones who look miserable.

Our apartment is currently unfurnished, though we did manage to completely outfit our kitchen and have started cooking for ourselves already, which feels great. This also means that we have done our first grocery shopping and yes, the rumours are true. It's expensive. But really, if you are careful with your shopping, check out the ENTIRE shelf, and don't buy more than what you'll need for a day or so, you can do it affordably. For instance, we picked up a salmon filet tonight (about four servings for $13), along with a lemon (0.99), three apples (0.99/ea...seriously), brown rice ($2.50), some "green squash" (a.k.a. zucchini) for about $2...not terrible. It kind of evens out, since there are things that are cheaper here than at home. Such as, surprisingly, maple syrup. WTF? And soy milk. And after we shopped? We loaded the two of us with the grocery bag between us onto our new Vespa scooter, snapped on our helmets (very cool look, by the way), and zoomed on home. Right around dee cornah, and dawn dee road. That's how they talk. It may or may not be how I talk after some more time here.

Anyways, I want to end this before this unsecured person shuts off their computer and I'm stuck with an unposted post, especially after my embarassing absence. We're having a blast so far - still feels like a vacation. Of course, work is hammering in the reality pretty quickly, but something about climbing aboard my 5:30 ferry home, while the sun is setting, amongst the friendliest people I have ever encountered (minus a few crusty ex-pats) makes a day of work a distant memory before the ferry even leaves the dock.

Start counting your air miles people, we've got loads of room for guests.

I've uploaded some pics onto Facebook. If you haven't seen them already, they're here.

Home for a rest.

For the past 5 days, I have been drinking lattés (with the occasional London Fog), walking on the beach, running along Dallas, test-driving the new camera and pretty much enjoying every minute of unemployment. It's seriously great. Why did I never do this before? Oh right...because watching the money (literally) drain out of our account today with a mortgage payment made me want to vomit. That's why. Unemployment sucks for the wallet, but it is great for the soul.

I've managed to squeeze in a lot, without feeling too rushed around, like I normally feel during a typical trip home. This is partly because very few people knew I was here, and partly because I just didn't want that kind of trip. After all, I was just here in July...there isn't a lot to catch up on between then and now. Except the whole moving process, and really...no one cares about that. I dug up a few unemployed friends, but mostly just hung out at the homestead, reacquainting myself with the cat, eating healthy food, visiting with my ladies and occasional man-friend...good times.

This time next week, I'll be on another island, in an entirely different ocean, with an entirely different life. What a weird feeling.

Fall in Ottawa.

A small tribute to this beautiful city, which I have been lucky enough to call home for just over five years. It is never prettier than at this time of year, with all of the fall colors. I took these photos from LUNLF's deck, approximately 4 minutes after my new camera finally arrived.

So Prepared.

A couple of times each year, the glass tower which houses LUNLF decides to test its tenants with a fire drill. I think we're timed, and then probably scolded by our local fire hall for a lack of speed. We always know about these drills ahead of time, because they send an e-mail out earlier in the week, alerting everyone to the fact that they will need to pretend that the building is on fire at this particular time, on this particular day. It's usually a PDF, complete with little graphics, some arrows and always includes the exact time. This is handy because it's common knowledge that as soon as that fire alert starts, the elevators stop and you are forced to take the stairs down to the ground floor. This is also when the millions paid in rent for the penthouse, while totally worth it on the average day, just do not cut it. Especially not when you are wearing heels. However, if you choose to remain behind and are not wheelchair-bound or pregnant (they await "help"), you apparently get "reported". A chilling thought, indeed.

Usually, I am smart enough to catch the elevator down before the actual drill begins, saving myself a very slow descent from the clouds, amongst irritated looking people trying to simultaneously walk down steep stairs whilst keeping up-to-the-minute on their BlackBerries. Walking down stairs slowly is a lot harder than walking down stairs quickly. I can go grab my latté to keep me warm while I wait with my co-workers outdoors for the signal that it is "safe" to return to the office. Today, I was a little slow, totally missed my window of opportunity with the elevators, and was corralled into that stairwell. What a very not awesome way to start the day.

Besides our scheduled fire drills, occasionally, the signals go off randomly in the middle of the day. The response to the fire signals, in this office at least (so I'm going to generalize for all law firms everywhere) is hilarious. No one stops what they are doing. Most get up to shut the doors to their offices to drown out the noise (actually a smart move, in the case of a real fire), some end their phone calls because of the annoyance, but most just truck on, pretty much immune to any threat of real danger. It rarely crosses my mind that there actually could be something wrong. This may be because 99% of the time, after the signal has droned on for 10-15 minutes or so, we get an announcement from a bored-sounding security guard confirming that "the situation has been investigated and there appears to be no fire." Shocking. They usually leave out the part about us being annoyed for half an hour because of burnt toast in the food court. And then there was that one time that we ignored the signals for ages, walked down the stairs to go get coffee, and found the lobby filled with smoke. Apparently, a car had caught fire (?) on one of the 12 or so levels of parking garage below the buidling and there actually was a threat to the building. However, no one was alerted, no bored-sounding security guard told us to get the $%#& out, so no one moved.

Brilliant. Obviously, we were all awaiting our e-mail notification of what to expect, and what time to evacuate, complete with graphics and arrows, if possible. We like things that are pretty and visually stimulating.

We are so prepared.

Limbo is Over!

So, my return to blogging has been slightly lacklustre. This is mostly because I had anticipated this exciting whirlwind of a time where we're packing and leaving, getting settled into a new place, new jobs, etc., when in reality it has been more like WE'RE GOING! Oh...wait...just kidding. Oh, what's that? We're going to be here for another week or two? Wait...another MONTH? You know that we're homeless, right? And Kurt quit his job mid-September? Oh. OK. A one to FOUR week delay? Awesome.

This has, for the record, been so NOT awesome. But yesterday, with the replaying of a single voicemail from my new office, the winds changed.

Work permit status = approved. We're officially moving. And our excitement, which had been reduced to a few tiny shreds and replaced with a fear of perhaps having to stay here...with no stuff (sold) and no house, is growing again at an exponential rate. This may, in part, be because Ottawa is getting cold...fast. Minus one has already registered on the thermometer, which means that minus 40 isn't far behind.

I gave my notice to LUNLF approximately 11 weeks ago, and though they've been amazing about letting me stay on and continue in my old position for almost a full month after the departure date I gave them in my notice letter, it's seriously time for me to stop working. I need to let go. No more free paper clips, no more catered lunches, no more fun co-workers, no more working for the two most amazing bosses you could ever ask for. Why am I leaving again? Oh...right...pink sand and eighty degrees in October. This Friday will be my official last day as a LUNLF employee.

So, I'll have about a week to kill between my last day at LUNLF and our scheduled departure date of October 29th, and since I'm in the mood for a little granola, I'm going to spend it at home. I fly out on Saturday and I'll be there for a week, reminding my cat of who his true mother is, enjoying a week without heels and work clothes, eating Noodle Box and drinking Moka House coffee, and pretty much just relaxing. My selection of unemployed/casual labour friends is pretty limited in Victoria, so I'm expecting it to be a pretty quiet week. Kurt's going to stay behind and say his final farewells to his hometown, as I'm doing the same in mine.

It's all finally coming together...THANK GOD. I'm not sure we can take much more of this limbo business. However, I did locate my hair dryer on the weekend, which has marginally improved my general happiness about the situation.

Pet Peeve #6783: A Story.

Clothes that are manufactured to look old, used and torn.


WTF.

A few years ago...or, now that I think about it, more like 7 or 8 years ago, Victoria's favorite shopping centre, Mayfair Mall (also known as "high school reunion with only the people you don't want to reunion with"), acquired a couple of stores which provided a certain level of excitement for Victoria's teens. At the time, I was one of them. A new store in the mall was a fairly big deal, especially if it was one that you had only ever seen advertisements for in your latest issue of Seventeen magazine. When you are stuck with a sad selection comprised of Mariposa, Le Château, the Levi's store, and Club Monaco (which perpetually sells only white, black and grey clothing), a little variety was worth the drive.

On a side note, if someone can please explain how Le Château went from being the store I would pick up a synthetic $15.00 shirt on a Thursday afternoon (specifically so that it could get spilled on at the bar that evening) to a store with prices on par with Jacob and RW, despite no visible improvement in their overall quality, please let me know.

I remember driving out to Mayfair in my car with Alayna, babysitting money saved and ready to be spent. Focused mainly on the t-shirt, hoodie and jean crowd (and therefore perfect for us), it lived up to all of our expectations and both of us left with empty wallets and a much-coveted reuseable shopping bag, which is great when you want everyone else to know where you have been. When you're 18 and live in Victoria, this is very important.

Over the next few years, I frequented this store often. The quality seemed good, the clothes were super comfortable and the prices, while higher than Mariposa, etc., were manageable. However, at some point circa 2001, a certain irritating trend began that I not only refuse to participate in, but will never understand.

Again, Alayna was my shopping buddy. With a 36 inch inseam, her choices in jean manufacturers were somewhat limited, but this store fit the bill, so off we went on a random afternooon. We clearly hadn't been in quite awhile, because we certainly weren't prepared for what we saw. Mannequins, draped in the usual jeans and t-shirt combos, looked as though they had come into contact with a rabid cat, wielding a sanding block and a pair of scissors. Threads were hanging off of the edges, the jeans were full of holes and purposeful scuff marks, the collars of the shirts were frayed...it was a mess. And it didn't stop there. All through the store, amid the now-limited selection of intact clothing was the start of the trend of clothing manufactured to look old, used, stained and torn. And I don't mean the standard cute vintage t-shirt (with necklines and sleeves intact)...I mean the jeans with a hole in the knee that someone not only took the time to create, but also the time to patch up again.

Now, I do consider myself to be somewhat of a snob when it comes to certain things. I uphold certain standards. One of those standards is that when I spend upwards of $50 on an article of clothing, I would rather create the holes myself. And I don't expect to see one for years. When you buy a t-shirt with the neckline already frayed and full of loose threads, can you really be surprised when it falls apart in the washing machine after only one wear? No. You can not. Because that is what aged clothing does - even if the aging happened approximately 30 seconds after the shirt was sewn together in the first place.

This morning, on the bus, I noticed a guy in front of me dressed very nicely and carrying a shoulder bag made by a very expensive jeans label. However, as nicely dressed as he was, it looked as though he had dropped his bag into a mulching machine. Not only were holes created all over the bag, but they were patched (from behind) with a different type of material and then purposely frayed around the edges. The bag even had a little "menu" on it (supposed to look like an old stamp?), listing all of the "features" of the bag. These "features" included "holes and patches" and "staining". Awesome. $200.00 well spent.

I am all for comfortable clothing. Sometimes, the aging process does create clothing that is softer and feels as though you've owned it forever. I don't have a problem with that - in fact, I think it can be great. I just think that the rips, tears, stains and loose threads are a rip-off. For one thing, you can do this yourself, if you really want to. A pair of scissors, a couple of random pieces of upholstery for patching and a sanding block should work nicely, and for the staining, try tea. For another, clothes that are old to begin with have a much, much shorter lifespan, even though you have spent just as much money on them.

I know, I know. Ignore the trend. Buy clothes that are actually new. Get over it. Doesn't mean that I can't be annoyed by it anyway...especially since it seems to be the trend that doesn't die.
I just think it's lame.

Belated Birthday Poem.


Yesterday, October 8th, was a very special day.
Unfortunately, my inner poet did not come out to play.
And so, I'm back in action, and I hope that no feelings were hurt.
Because yesterday was the birthday of my one and only, Kurt.

Which birthday, you ask? Well, that's not for me to say.
I can say that he's decades away from requiring a toupée.
But, though his spring chicken years are over, and he's feeling quite mature,
He looks no older than 28...of this, I am quite sure.

Great qualities are abundant in this fine young man.
Over an SUV he always prefers an enviro-friendly sedan.
He knows a lot about computers, about cars and about life.
He's patient and gives good advice - he'll have a very lucky wife.

(Hopefully, he will also keep me on the side.)

Even though he was allergic, he grew to love my cat.
He's very, very funny and looks great in a hat.
When I'm feeling lazy, he'll come pick me up from work.
Even though sometimes I can be quite a jerk.

(But not often, obviously.)

In short, to sum up, he's a very special guy.
To his hometown he will soon be saying goodbye.
But for now, even though yesterday was his special day,
I'd like to say to him (again), HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Love, Kris.

Update.

What a bust.

Camera bag: purchased, arrived, awesome.
Camera lens: purchased, arrived, unpacked, all settled into lens compartment of camera bag.
Camera lens filters: purchased, arriving today.
Camera: Supplier backed out, money refunded, dammit dammit dammit. WTF.

It was only the most awkward eBay transaction ever. I'm pretty annoyed, because now my time is really running out and I have all the supplies...just no D40X to USE said supplies with and take glorious photos of fall leaves. Not even turkey dinner could cheer me up on Sunday.

Je suis trés bummed.

Thank you, struggling American dollar.

I have been obsessing about the purchase of a new digital camera for about a year now. And when I say "obsessing", I actually mean "compulsively searching the internet, reading reviews, creating fake shopping carts in various online stores" obsessing. Last weekend, the obsession ended. I logged onto eBay on Saturday morning, set for my normal list of search filters, watching prices and narrowing in on the perfect buy when I noticed the following phenomenon:


BUY IT NOW PRICE: USD $500.00
C $497.50.

Pardon? Sold.

In my relatively short life (comparatively to...people who are a lot older than me, perhaps), I can't remember the last time I saw this happen. And believe me, I took advantage. Now, I am all about buying Canadian, but when the difference is as huge as it is and until I am very, very rich, I can't pass up this kind of deal. In the span of about 20 minutes, I had purchased the camera body AND a lens. Even with the shipping and calculated duty costs, the already lower prices in the States meant that my camera, $780 for the body only in Canada, ended up costing me hundreds of dollars less than I had originally budgeted for. And by budgeted, I of course mean "thought about money in my mind and came up with a number". Brilliant.

My choice? A Nikon D40X, with an 18-135 zoom lens, which looks like this, with a different lens:


I had originally planned on purchasing the extremely popular Canon Digital Rebel XTi. Cute, sleek, comes in silver, capable of taking some amazing shots. But then I went to a local fantastic specialty photography store and changed my mind. The D40X and the XTi are very, very similar, but besides the fact that the particular salesperson I had seemed to be in a Nikon cult, I was wooed by other factors, like the menus and the way the Nikon felt in my hands. I also have a very good Nikon-using friend whose photos sell Nikon (and parenthood) very, very well. Anyways, while I'm pretty positive that either of the two cameras on the block would have been fantastic, I'm happy with my choice.

The downside? It's taking a freaking lifetime to ship out of New York. Sitting here...fingers crossed...HURRY UP. I have dead fall leaves and cute babies to photograph.

Fall TV!

There are a lot of things about this season that I enjoy. Boots, for example, are awesome and plentiful. Cozy sweaters are showing up on mannequins and all of the leaves are turning beautiful shades of red, orange and yellow.

And...Fall TV has returned.

And suddenly it gets much more difficult to make plans.

While I have high hopes for being able to convince myself to spend as much time as possible doing things outdoors once we move, this will be slightly impeded by the return of a few of my good friends - Tyra, Izzy and Betty are back, along with newcomers Serena and Blair, and I'm gearing up to make sure that I spend some quality time with them, in all of their long-legged, lifesaving, braces-wearing, teen angsty glory.

Tyra is back with a venegeance. Cycle 9 of ANTM started last week, with all of the same bones but with a few new twists. Apparently, there is a "green" theme to this cycle, so the models will be showcasing all sorts of environmentally friendly habits, starting with Tyra's no smoking house rule, which should go over fabulously. Because they really need a reason to be MORE bitchy. So far, the girls are a bit generic in that I can't remember most of their names. They sent a space cadet home last week, and it's quite possible that Tyra will give the crown to the beautiful yet totally awkward Heather, who has some sort of disability that they name-drop at least 20 times during each episode. Should be a good season. My current faves are Saleisha, Chantal and Heather. I liked Lisa until she turned all dark side in the last episode and I think Ebony should casually lean too far over a high-rise balcony. I (heart) Nigel Barker. Enough said.

I am slightly behind in my Grey's. Without watching Season 3, I don't feel as though I can take on Season 4, so it's a bit of a predicament that will likely be resolved by yet another purchase of TV on DVD, a few solid weekends cozying up to my new laptop, and the scheduled use of a PVR. We'll see. This one may have to take a pass until I can really apply myself. As much as I love myself some overly dramatic interns, this may be a good excuse to replace an hour of television with an hour on my bike. We'll see.

Ah, Betty. Such an incredibly cleverly written show. The season premiere was last night and so far, so good. Amanda got fat, and is apparently the lovechild of Bradford and Faye, which came a bit out of left field, but I suppose that having missed the season finale from the first season, it's possible that I missed a bit of the background to that storyline. Judith Light broke out of jail, Betty burnt her Henry-loving past, and poor Hilda lost her fiancé. Papa Suarez is still in Mexico, and I think Justin is going to go to work at Mode.

And finally, the newcomer. Gossip Girl, quite obviously created by the same creator as the O.C., has sucked me in. This may sound a tad nerdy, but I like the camera work, which was also something I liked about the O.C. Lots of artsy shots and a decent soundtrack. Even if a show's premise is crappy and the actors suck, a little fancy camerawork and some good music will make it an entirely watchable show. Luckily for GG, the actors are actually pretty decent, for the most part. Totally addicted already.

Of course, my love affair with MTV continues. Will Chrissy sleep with Clay? Will Lauren and Heidi kiss and make up? Will Heidi ACTUALLY marry that jackass? Rest assured...I will stay tuned.

Post-Nasal Drip.

It happened on Friday. I woke up to a tiny tickle in the back of my throat. Seeing as we'd slept with the window open, I thought that some random particle of pollen had flown in and up my nose, since this city is FULL of pollen at this time of year (90% of which I appear to be allergic to). However, after sitting in the glass tower for the day and still feeling the tickle going strong by 4 p.m., I gave in to it. Sick. I woke up on Saturday morning with a full-blown head cold. FAN-freaking-tastic. Since, you know, we have nothing at all to get done right now and I can totally hang out in bed with bad TV reruns with my Kleenex and my cat.

Except that my bed has been sold, my TVs have been sold, my DVDs are packed, and my cat moved away.

Oh - and it's the WORST possible time to get sick, with only 24 hours to go before our house has to be emptied, scoured, and prepped for new inhabitants.

I have to say though, I'm not at all surprised that this happened to me. It's inevitable. I was sick throughout every single exam period for my entire B.A., every stressful event I've planned for LUNLF and their clients, every move...it's just how I do. Once the stress kicks in, my formerly healthy habits get thrown out the window and I succumb to a life of limited water intake, take-out food (and we're not talking about salad), too much coffee, sleepless nights, and exhausting weekends - the time I normally take to rest. The end result is a complete disaster. I am a walking trainwreck...but I have no one to blame but myself.

This move represents a lot of things to both of us, but mostly just a fresh start. We don't know what to expect, and we like it like that. But we have agreed on a number of things that we're going to incorporate into our lives, which this move is giving us the perfect opportunity to do. Taking care of ourselves, no matter what, will be at the top of the list. There was no good reason to stop buying groceries in...oh...July. There was no good reason to stop drinking my normal 2.5-3 L of water per day. There was no good reason to incorporate all sorts of bad things into our diets which we don't normally eat but are now paying the price for. But we did it anyways. Why? Because we are lazy, and living where we do makes it easy to be lazy.

Once we've moved, this won't necessarily be the case...and I can't wait. As some of you may know from the Swedish Chefs blog, Kurt and I love to cook. We can't hang a curtain or assemble Swedish flat-packed furniture together without wanting to kill eachother, but we can create a delicious meal without so much as a snarky remark or an eye roll. This is momentous. We spent last winter trying out new recipes and planning out our meals and it was fantastic. We've got big plans for a repeat performance once we get settled. However, with groceries being as expensive as they are there, it will be interesting to see how much we spend on food in our first month. I've decided to gradually move towards becoming a vegetarian, and red meat, pork and drinking cow's milk were the first to get the axe. This will help. We're bringing our rice cooker, our favorite pots and utensils, and a whole load of brand new cookbooks for inspiration.

But...I digress.

In short, I feel like crap, but it's all my fault, but it doesn't make it any less awful or any less badly timed.

Single Tear.

We're down to (literally) the final hours of Operation: Get Out (Leave) and tonight, Monday, is the very last night that Kurt and I will ever spend in our house. At the beginning of all this, leaving the house behind wasn't something I placed a lot of emphasis on, since it got its thunder completely stolen by thoughts of pink sand and warm winters. However, it finally hit me last night, while I was laying on the air mattress in what used to be our fully-furnished basement.

We're leaving our house behind.

And then I finally got sad.

I was going to take some photos of how it's looking, but it's too depressing - so instead I'll just enjoy the way it was.
I'm not sure what we have planned for the last night in the house, but it's likely going to involve a tear or two. Our first home together has been amazing, and we will miss it.

And what have YOU been up to?

What HAVE we been up to? Oh, you know...casually emptying a house, selling our belongings, and preparing to get out of here. As it turns out, we had a lot more stuff than we even knew, and getting rid of it in a fairly short time span is not exactly a walk in the park. However, with the help of my lovely Mother, who has been here for the past week. In just one week, she has blown through our house, making neat, labelled piles, and pointing us in the right direction. It's kind of like "Moving for Dummies", and it's soooo appropriate for us. Now, when I find something, I just walk around the house until I find the right sign on the wall, and add it to that particular pile. Is this a "Promised/Return to Friends" item? No. Is it "Move Overseas" item? No. Is it "Trash"? Probably. Brilliant. I love my Mom.

Last Saturday, we threw the garage sale to end all garage sales. The weather was looking iffy, but we took a chance and dragged a household worth of stuff (literally) out onto our driveway for the world to see and, hopefully, buy. And holy crap, did they ever buy. I have never seen so many people in a driveway - at one point, I couldn't even see through the sea of people. We had already replaced most of our crap with really nice stuff, so this was a generally crap-free garage sale, which helped enormously. Most things went for one or two dollars, and at the end of the day, we only had a few boxes of stuff to unload and a big box full of money...which mostly just made me marvel at what we must have spent on the stuff to begin with. However, looking back, I can't think of one item in that garage sale that I felt sad to sell, so that just goes to show how much excess you can accumulate in a house that you really, seriously don't need.

But now we're on our own, and down to the final few days in the house. The tenants move in mid-week next week, and we have to be out of there by Sunday. Out AND have scoured the entire house by Sunday. Awesome. What's left to do? Oh...you know...pack.

According to the piles and what I have done so far, this is what we are moving with:

-rice cooker
-Rebar cookbook
-extension cord (?)
-two mugs
-three pairs of heels
-a knife

If that doesn't make for a comfortable household, I don't know what does. Obviously, there is work to be done. Luckily for Kurt, he finished his job last Friday, and so has this week to be home and get his stuff done. I'm trying to cram it into evenings and our last precious weekend, which is less than ideal, but thanks to my intense procrastination and denial over the past few weeks, entirely necessary and something I definitely had coming to me.

That's not to say that we're not fitting in the fun stuff as well, where we can. The goodbyes have already started...some of our friends are having a goodbye party for us tonight, I have a dinner date on Thursday and we have another one on Friday. The goodbyes make it even more real than the empty house does. And as excited as I am to do something completely new and be completely on our own, it is very, very difficult to think that these people won't be just a car ride away, or in the case of my co-workers, just down the hall.

I hope my new co-workers aren't duds, by the way. This thought scares me more than the idea of hurricane season.

Anyways...it's happy but sad, fun but not, exciting but nerve-wracking, mind-blowing but still kind of surreal. Friends are congregating with their support, which is overwhelming and means a lot. We have a lot to do yet, but we can see the light at the end of the tunnel now...and empty floor space in our house, so the worst is now over. Minus the final goodbyes, of course.

I can not WAIT to get on that plane....

Unsolicited Product Endorsement.

It has been awhile since I wrote a UPE, but it has also been awhile since I found that one was warranted. However, I have had a number of things lately spark the UPE flame, so I'm bringing it back. I love sharing what I love. Unless it's only available in limited quantities, in which case I keep it to myself. Obviously.


Last week, I came across some great blogs on new and awesome not-to-be-missed items. I'm going to put some links up at some point to these blogs, because I've found them to be great as far as product ratings by real, actual people go. It's one thing to read about an item from someone who is trying to sell it. It's quite another to read comments from people who have spent/wasted their money on it.

I have been in the market for new blush. Unless I've been running, or exerting myself in some way, my cheeks don't naturally flush. Not even when I'm embarassed. In the winter, particularly, this leads to a kind of death pallor that reflects badly in photos. Seeing as I'm not willing to risk serious sun damage to keep some color on my face, and refuse to wear foundation, I do rely on blush and bronzer, from time to time. And since my entire regular, every day make-up routine consists of no more than blush/bronzer, mascara and lip gloss, I'm more than happy to shell out a few more bucks for awesome products. Though I enjoyed my current blush, I always found that because I don't wear foundation, it was gone before lunch time.
Enter: Tarte Cheek Stain.

This is Tarte Cheek Stain, in the exact color that I purchased. As you can see, instead of a powder, it is more of a glue-stick type of product. Except not glue, and not sticky. It's brilliant. When it first arrived, I thought it would be too dark (despite having read numerous online reviews on this particular color suiting all different skin tones). My fears were unwarranted, because it's very, very sheer, so you can layer on as much (or as little) as you want. Personally, I am not into "clown", and it's very easy to avoid "clown" with Tarte. However, if you were into "clown", you could definitely achieve the look with a few more layers. It's very natural-looking, and you can't feel it when it's on. You can buy it at Sephora, or do what I did and get it from a retailer on Ebay. I'm very impressed. And even though it was a bit pricier than normal, everyday blush (I paid $18.00 for mine, I think Sephora sells it for $39 in store), you really don't use very much so it will last a long time. The only thing I would be concerned with is having it melt into a sticky mess if you live in a warm climate and, say, leave it in your purse. Which totally did NOT happen to me with my favorite Cargo lip gloss palette, which I am still totally NOT pissed about. Needless to say, mine will live in the fridge.

Out of it.

To say that our lives have been somewhat upside down since we decided on this big life change is a huge understatement. Our house is in utter chaos, and it's all I can do to make myself pack, instead of hiding in bed with Dawson's Creek reruns, in a fruitless attempt at procrastination. Am I dreading our departure date? No. Am I super excited to leave? Absolutely. Am I in total denial about what is left to be done? Clearly.

This past weekend, I had lofty ambitions to clear out the green room, otherwise known as our office. Otherwise known as the room where we have dumped the "we're not sure what to do with this yet" stuff that we've collected as we've emptied other rooms. It's very simple to make yourself look organized if you have a place to dump all your crap which happens to have a door that closes. Open the door and you are treated to an array of old magazines, paid bills, art supplies, jigsaw puzzles, mountains of schoolbooks from both of us, photos waiting to be framed, random homeless wires and cables from various electronic things that we most likely no longer own...the word "mess" doesn't even begin to describe what I'm dealing with here. And when you're faced with such a dizzying array of crap, it's hard to know where to start.

Tomorrow, salvation arrives. My mother, in all of her label-making, expert-packing glory, flies in tomorrow afternoon to help with these final stages. As her plane descends, the clouds will part, sun rays will fall on us, and an angelic choir will sing. She'll set us straight in no time, I'm sure, but I'm not sure that Kurt is ready for what's about to hit.

The last time I experienced this phenomenon was in August of 2002, when her and I tackled my apartment, cleaning it out and packing it up for my move to Ottawa. Oh. My. God. It was really something. I hated every second of it, but when it was over, my entire existence had been reduced to a neat stack of carefully packed bins, each marked appropriately with labels such as "Kris - Rock Collection" or "Kris - Knick-Knacks" (it actually says this) or, my personal favorite: "Kris - High School Yearbooks, documents, ect." Facebook would LOVE what I have in that bin. What isn't stored in bins in their basement was shipped out to Ottawa with me, where, as I mentioned in a previous post, most of it remained until just a few weeks ago. In short, the packing whirlwind that is my mother is a force to be reckoned with. She is ruthless...and thank God for that, because I have a slight tendency to hoard, apparently. As evidenced by numerous useless, forgotten items strewn about our house.

One of the best aspects about the move is that we are going there with only the items that we actually need. It costs some pretty serious duty dollars to bring things in, so we're not going to be wasting money and bringing in things that we're not 100% positive we'll need and use while we're there. In fact, the only things that we don't have to pay to bring in are used clothes, books and golf clubs (how appropriate). Everything else gets a hefty duty tax stamped on it and we'll have to cough it up at the airport when we land. To reduce the sting, we have to pare way back, and that's actually going to feel pretty good.

They say that the state of your home is a reflection of the state of your life, and I definitely find that to be true. When we're in our normal state of meal-planning, grocery shopping and cleaning, life is generally stress free. It's just our routine, and we do it well. However, we currently have no schedule, we haven't bought groceries since July, I haven't cooked a meal since June, and we don't know where anything is. Worse, we don't have any motivation to restart our routines now that we're about to leave. It's definitely taking it's toll. It spirals outwards too - my normally somewhat organized workstation is a mess, I haven't been drinking my normal 3 litres of water each day, and I've actually chosen muffins for breakfast, which I would find gross otherwise.

In short - order is important to me. I like bringing my lunch to work, and knowing what we're making for dinner each night. One of the things I'm most looking forward to is settling into our new routine once we get our feet on the ground. It's going to be like the "new us", just a little warmer year-round and hopefully a lot more relaxed!

New Babies.

Because we don't have enough going on, Kurt and I have decided to expand our family, whilst simultaneously and systematically shutting down our Canadian lives. Yes...whilst. So far this has mostly involved closing accounts, telling the Liberal Party to stop spamming me, and burning a gigantic box full of our financial pasts...which really has nothing to do with leaving the country, but is a lot faster than shredding every. single. thing. Going forward, I'm going to aim to destroy irrelevant but yet possible identity-theft inducing materials on an annual basis, as opposed to a "every 14 years" basis. It would have been a much smaller fire, involving far fewer toxic chemicals being infiltrated into our marshmallows.


On Friday evening, after a somewhat questionable "work day", I busted a move over to Best Buy and purchased us each a new laptop to take with us. We've been watching the sales for awhile and figured that the ones aimed at broke students are probably best for us as well, so we jumped on the first one that fit our criteria:

-fast-ish processor
-small-ish screen
-HP or Toshiba (throwing a conversion to Mac into my life right now would put me over the edge)
-DVD player
-doesn't suck
-cheap

Last Friday, laptops that fit this description perfectly went on sale, and now we have two of them in our living room, doing whatever it is that laptops do when you put them into "hibernate" mode. HP, 14.1" screens, 160GB hard drive. They're so cute. Like babies, but less loud and replaceable when we get bored of them. They were cheap-ish too, so we're pretty thrilled. Now I'll be able to blog from the beach...which doesn't sound nerd-ish at all.

A Question.


Are we screwing ourselves by putting "lawn maintenance" in our lease when our lawn currently looks like this?
Hmmm.

I'm sad. No...really.

This past weekend, Kurt and I hosted a small gathering to say goodbye...to ourselves. When our move became a reality, we immediately made plans to have a backyard BBQ to celebrate and say goodbye, but when we started to count off the weekends left before we board the plane, we realized that there was really only one that we could work with. The rest are booked and busy and there just is not going to be enough of us to go around. Still, even with the ridiculously short notice, quite a few of our favorites were able to come and drink, BBQ sausage, laugh and break chairs with us, which was great. What was not great was the huge black cloud that settled over the sun at about the time that the first guests arrived, and dumped its contents on our house (and BBQ) shortly after that. Good thing our house is so empty that it echoes...we just set up lawn chairs in what used to be the dining room and sat on coolers. We do not skimp on the swank.

However, there is a certain perception that has been brought to my attention through the use of innuendos disguised as jokes and offhanded remarks which I would like to address. And since I'm not actually pointing this at any person in particular - it's more of a get-this-off-my-chest kind of post - I don't think it qualifies as the ever-pathetic "Airing of Dirty Laundra via Blog". Though, I have to admit that I do feel an overwhelming desire to overuse the exclamation point while typing.

I have always gotten a lot of thinly-veiled flack about my desire to leave Ottawa at some point. Besides those who just simply don't understand why anyone would ever want to live anywhere else, there seems to be an illusion that we are not going because it's a great opportunity and for the whole adventure aspect, but because I want to get the hell out of here and Kurt is my VIP card.

Bitch, please.

I love Ottawa. And I love the life I have built in Ottawa during my 5 years here. Moving to Ottawa was the best decision I could have made, and I've never once regretted it. But while I do love it and enjoy so many aspects of it, I am painfully aware of what it is lacking for me. If I had ever been desperate to leave, I would have.

Perhaps a creative comparison is necessary:

Living in Victoria is like sitting around a beach fire with hoards of university students vying for one decent job, a yogi, a yuppie, a couple of former Ontarians, a fairly serious contingent of the elderly, and a selectively homeless person (they will go home when their Beach Drive-dwelling parents lift their 11:30 p.m. curfew)*. Accessories include a SmartCar, matching nylon track suits, a large dog, a reusable Starbucks coffee mug, and a joint. Organic and locally grown, of course.

Living in Ottawa is like an evening at an Irish pub, flanked by hoards of the shamelessly-name-dropping-wannabe-upwardly-mobile, an aspiring politico, a mad scientist, a farmer, a couple of Quebecois and a homeless person. Accessories include a speeding ticket, a BlackBerry, a Jos. Louis, a designer purse, and a coffee from Timmy's. Double double.

Each of these descriptions will appeal to different people for different reasons. For me, I'll take the first, but I'm not going to lie and say that there is nothing appealing about the second. I fell right into it and have enjoyed it thoroughly (minus the Jos. Louis, since I do not enjoy a processed cake product...much to Kurt's dismay). Unfortunately, Victoria is not an option for us because we quite simply can't afford to live there without taking a fairly serious hit to our current lifestyle. We know what we love and what we can't live without, and these things are important enough to us to shove Victoria off the table. Or at least down to the other end of the table. For now, anyways.

No matter where we live, one or both of us will be away from our family and closest friends, but we have to at least try to be fair. At least our new adventure puts us in equal territory. As in, the only person I will have there is him, and the only person he will have there is me. This will either be awesome, or a complete trainwreck, but it is like the Switzerland in the logistical and geographical challenge that is our relationship. I'm mostly looking forward to seeing how we do completely on our own, without either of our families and with none of our friends around. It's going to be good for us to stand on our own for awhile, live our own lives, and see if we can survive moving from a 1700 square foot 3-bedroom (3 bathroom) townhouse to a one bedroom (one bathroom...) apartment. He just may have to give in and become my new America's Next Top Model friend, in the absence of C-Mo and my B.C. ANTM Contingent. Given the 500 square feet (if we're lucky) that we'll be living in, he'll have no choice but to enjoy a little Tyra with me. At least I have him hooked on the Hills already.


* For the record, I did work briefly with StreetLink and am very aware that there are homeless people in Victoria who are actually homeless and do not have a Beach Drive mansion to go home to when the big frost arrives, or when their allowance runs out. I am just making a point.

Restaurants that I will miss.

Because our new country is ridiculously expensive, we realize that our weekly dates will have to temporarily become a pleasant memory as we attempt to save our pennies and dine on such luxuries as canned soup. We're mostly fine with this. We have come to terms with it. Still, we're trying to fit in (without going overboard) all of those places around Ottawa that we always said we would try and never got around to (or remembered) when it came down to the actual date.

Ottawa has a pretty awesome selection of great places to eat. Since we are the anti-"meat, potatoes and rice" people (because living that way is 100% boring), we have always made a point of trying a new place, a new food, a new recipe...whatever. Since we won't have the pocket change necessary to sample all that the island has to offer right off the bat, we've been even more aware of some of the awesome places that we'll be leaving behind. In no particular order, here are the places that I'll be pining over whilst enjoying my Campbells' Cream of Tomato goodness (at $4 a can, no doubt):

Haveli in the Market. The most amazing Indian food ever.

Chahaya Malaysia on Montreal Road. A mix between Indian and Thai. I heart Malaysian food.

Singapore in the West End for sesame chicken, shrimp curry and spring rolls.

Suisha Gardens on Queen or Takara on Dalhousie for sushi.

Pho Truc Lien on St. Joseph...for pho. Special shout-out to Pho Bo Ga 2 & 3 on Somerset, though a mental image of a certain winged creature will never leave me.

Groovy's Roti Hut on MacArthur.

Carmello's on Cooper for pasta...the one time per year I actually want to order pasta.

Flippers on Bank - our new favorite seafood restaurant, discovered last Friday.

Green Papaya for the best Thai food around.

Moxie's/Milestones' bellinis. I will miss you, bellini.

A'roma Meze on Nepean for Greek tapas.

Of course, there are a lot of things about Ottawa that we will miss besides the restaurants. Like our friends and our house, for example. But the restaurants will be missed.