Julia and Valentina Poole, normal American teenagers who happen to be mirror twins and have no interest in college or jobs or possibly anything outside their cozy suburban home. But everything changes when an aunt they didn’t even know existed dies and leaves them her flat in a block overlooking Highgate Cemetry in London. They feel at last their own lives can begin….but have no ideal that they’ve been summoned into a tangle of fraying lives, from the obsessive compulsive crossword setter to their aunt’s mysterious elusive lover, and even to their aunt herself, who never got over her estrangement from the twins’ mother – and who can’t even seem to quite leave her flat.
I was all ready to enjoy this book, since I loved Time Traveler's Wife ... and one of the girls at book club mentioned a twist at the end. But honestly, I didn't :( It was sort of entertaining but in the end it wasn't more than mildly surprising and there were too many bits I felt weren't explained sufficiently towards the end, which I find frustrating. There were definitely some interesting characters tho.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Julia and Valentina Poole, normal American teenagers who happen to be mirror twins and have no interest in college or jobs or possibly anything outside their cozy suburban home. But everything changes when an aunt they didn’t even know existed dies and leaves them her flat in a block overlooking Highgate Cemetry in London. They feel at last their own lives can begin….but have no ideal that they’ve been summoned into a tangle of fraying lives, from the obsessive compulsive crossword setter to their aunt’s mysterious elusive lover, and even to their aunt herself, who never got over her estrangement from the twins’ mother – and who can’t even seem to quite leave her flat.
'At the turn from my bedroom into the hallway leading to the kitchen there is an old full-length mirror in a wooden frame. I can't help but catch a glimpse of myself as I pass, and turning myself towards the glass, I consider what I see. This reflected version of myself, wet, shaking, rumpled, slightly stooped, and pinched, would be alarming if it were not for the self-satisfied expression pasted across the face, I would ask the obvious question, 'What are you smiling about?' - but I already know the answer ...it just gets better from here.' Struck with Parkinson's - a debilitating, degenerative disease - at the height of his fame, Fox has taken what some people might consider cause for depression and turned it into a beacon of hope for millions. Now, in Always Looking Up, he writes about the personal philosophy that carried him through his darkest hours, and speaks with others who have emerged from difficult periods with optimism to spare. With the humour and wit that dazzled fans and reviewers alike in his bestselling memoir, Lucky Man, Fox shows how he became a happier, more satisfied person by recognising the gifts of everyday life.
I enjoyed this book ... it wasn't a speedy read, but it was interesting. I like Michael J Fox, I think as a kid growing up in the 80s, how could you not? It's nto really like an autobiography or anything because it just takes a portion of his life. And it was less interesting I guess because we didn't see half the stuff that went on in America, and I'm not especially aware of the American Political process (other than presidential elections). I will say tho, that I think he's doing amazing things ... and I don't know where I stand on the whole "all-out science thing", I mean in a sense I'm all for it, discover everything you can about us and the world we live in and make advances to the way we live, but in another sense I take a bit of a step back with regard to just what it means to save everyone and cure everything and have people living forever. I think science has changed the way we live quite incredibly already, hell, we live to 80 or 90 now instead of 40 or 50 (well, some of us anyway). And that all adds up to financial strain on families and over population. So yeah, I'm not thinking too much about it really.
Monday, December 21, 2009
Okay, so I've been intending to blog for days now ... but first I was thwarted by lack of internet at home (where I usually do my posting now that it's moved to it's afternoon time slot) on Thursday & Friday afternoon. And then, well, it was the weekend and although I always think there'll be plenty of time to do it then, somehow Sunday night arrives and I couldn't be less in the mood.
So here I am on Monday morning trying to get the last few days documented before starting my 2nd last day of work for 2009.
There is plenty to tell, I have been fairly busy considering I currently see myself in the "hibernation" phase of my break-up. There is also plenty I won't be telling because as much as I'd like to vent about my break-up and my thoughts on it, I'm a) simply not ready to yet in such a public place and b) well, Varen does read the blog. Makes it kinda weird to be upfront and honest here.
Sooo, Wednesday was Angel's birthday party which was quite weird to attend alone. But I enjoyed it, although I think I was quite quiet as it was a bit of an overdose of people and having to explain the very recent upheaval in my life. On Thursday evening I stayed home alone with toast for dinner and watched series on TV (other than my dinner, it was not unlike any of my evenings while still in a relationship with Varen!), he was out for dinner with a friend of his, Koeties. Now as much as I don't especially like this friend (the feeling appears to be quite mutual) and I don't think he's a good influence on Varen at all, I know that it's good for him to be getting out there and re-kindling lost connections. It's kinda weird to me that in the last year or so I have built up a whole pile of people to spend time with, most of which I didn't even know when I started dating Varen. Whereas he just seems to be falling back to the people he knew beforehand, even if he hasn't spoken to them in 6 months or so. Oh well, people are different, at least he's getting out the house, I guess.
On Friday night I went for dinner at The Attic with DJMike and Beukes (who has recently returned from 2 years in America). Was a lovely night :)
Saturday morning started with the surprise discovery that Varen has started smoking again :P He gave up about 6 months before we started dating. I've never been keen on smokers at all and find the smell that hangs on your hair and clothes quite revolting, personally. I'll admit I was horrified and a little devastated and disgusted that he would turn his back on 3 years of not smoking. Hopefully I don't have to live around that much longer because although our agreement now is that he only smoke outside, that's where the bunnies live and they are sensitive creatures. It really made me sad.
On Saturday I went to Bokkie's sister's baby shower and then hung out at home. And watched twitter for updates on the arrival of baby Squishy :) Congrats again, Louisa!! My Saturday night was much like my Thursday night actually. See, the hibernation part of my break-up is in full swing since I actually had the opportunity to go out. Varen went to see Avatar on IMAX with (of course) his new bff (again) Koeties. I'll admit I was disappointed, I was kinda hoping we could've gone to see Avatar together on Saturday evening ... you know, if neither of us had plans. The whole situation is very weird sometimes and other times such a relief.
I ended up seeing Avatar 3D on Sunday evening with Bokkie and his sort-of girlf. That was after spending the whole day munching on pizza and watching series at home with Varen. We are better after the week apart and after a deep discussion on Saturday. We seem to be sort of back to how we were last Sunday after the break-up, still friends. Which I really need us to be, at very least, while we are still living together. It is very odd trying desperately not to care where someone is when 3 years of habit are telling you that you should know or be there too, you know? It's also weird listening to Varen's plans for the future.
Avatar 3D was quite an adventure, the movie and the attempt to watch it. We had booked tickets online at Cresta for the 17h15 show and duly arrived at 17h00. Only to find the entire cinema area closed off due to "incapacitating plumbing problems" - the fact that the cinema was flooded right up to the ticket sale area was definitely incapacitating. But it didn't leave us feeling like satisfied customers when we heard it'd been closed since much earlier in the day and the online bookings were still open! (I'd advise everyone NOT to watch movies there for a very long time, apparently all the cinema carpets also got soaked :P). We got our complimentary tickets and decided to race thru to 4ways to try make it in time for the 17h15 show there.
I'll tell you that as I sat down in my seat, the last trailer ended and the movie started. We made it by the skin of our teeth! And what an awesome movie it was :) I don't know how much the 3D experience added, generally I'm against the whole 3D thing, really. I found that bits were often out of focus and blurred when things moved very quickly and the depth was all inwards. But I still loved the (very, very long) movie and thought it was quite beautiful (although the story-line is a bit predictable really).
So this will probably be my last post for a while since I'm off to Cape Town tomorrow, I seriously can't wait!
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Grrr. Was busy with a post and it somehow got lost :P Now I'm in no mood to re-write the damn thing.
Last night I went to @jarredcinman's and had a lovely vegan dinner (and rather dodgy vegan dessert) and chatted the night away. It felt good.
This morning I have barely seen Varen. He went out earlier and I doubt he'll be back before I head off to Angel's party a little later. It's very weird in some ways ... like not really knowing what his plans are or being involved in them. But life is easy when he's not around, I don't get upset any more if he works late or decides not to come home at the last minute because I have no vested interest in it ... which makes me a clamer person. Things are still okay when we're home alone together too tho, which is also weird. They're okay but weird. Cause he's a lot better at flipping the "off" switch to our relationship and the closeness we had (when we were actually together), which is still hard for me to do.
Anyhooo, the gist of my previous post (the one I just lost) was about The Ice Bear Project. I've said before that I think the whole idea is fantastic and I've enjoyed watching the live webcam when possible (whether or not it loads seems to be quite erratic!) and I took some screen shots of The Copenhagen Bear (the first one they did), in case you missed it. The London Bear is melting as I type, so if you're interested, go check that one out!
The Copenhagen Bear on 09Dec around 7pm (GMT+2)
Again, two days later on 11Dec around 7pm (GMT+2)
A daylight shot on 12Dec around 4pm (GMT+2)
Posted by phillygirl at 12/16/2009 02:31:00 pm
Monday, December 14, 2009
So, I guess I should at least say something here, especially for those of you who don't follow twitter.
It's been a very sad two days (which you probably couldn't pick up in yesterday's post because most of it was written on Saturday afternoon). It's official, Varen and I broke up yesterday over breakfast at Doppio Zero.
Now don't worry, we're both pretty okay. We're not angry at each other, it's more a sad acceptance of the right decision.
I won't lie and say it was a complete shock, it's been brewing for a while. The only slightly shocking (with relief) part for me was that he was in the same place. I was putting it off till January, after we got back from our Cape Town holiday. To be fair, I've been putting it off a while, constantly saying to myself, see how things are after Zanzibar, after Canada, after Cape Town. After Zanzibar they got better for a while and I really did have days where I believed this could be "it" again. But after Canada, there were just too many days where there was no way I could do this for the rest of my life.
I'm sure there will be plenty of details still to come, but I don't want to write too much right now. I will say we're both partly responsible for different parts of this failing and it's a sad sad thing. For me, it honestly came to a head when my folks announced their intention to divorce, it made me really take stock of my own relationship and I have woken nearly every morning with that "This is your life" thought in my head. And I knew I couldn't go on like this.
Sadly I truly believe love and the way you feel about someone is not enough, you need to be able to live together, really live and manage real life and each other's ups and downs. But if you can't do that ... well, I guess this is what happens then.
Oddly it is *exactly* 3 years to the day since Bean and I broke up (which probably means I missed some kind of Blogging Anniversary) and means I should start packing myself off for some alone time around the 13th December if I'm ever in a serious relationship again. Apparently the 2 and a half year mark is a death trap for my relationships too.
Ps. Anyone know of a place to rent with a decent garden for the bunnies in the Rivonia area??
Pps. In case you were worried about my holiday home to Cape Town, I booked a ticket there this morning (since Varen was going to drive us down) (let's just say my upgrade to Silver on Discovery Vitality came right when I needed it 25% off Kulula flights made it still affordable!). We won't be spending it together. Still sad, but I know he's right and it's better this way. Gives us each time to recuperate with our families without going on a lovely holiday and coming home believing that maybe it could work and ending up in the same place in another few months. Gawd I hope he doesn't just stay here by himself and work thru Xmas, I'll feel awful :(
Posted by phillygirl at 12/14/2009 05:18:00 pm
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Yes, my blogging is definitely suffering with this afternoon nonsense :( It's also got to do with my head space lately but well, that's not blogging fodder. Not yet at least.
So what have I been up to since I last posted ... ? Not a helluva lot. Went ot book club which was, as usual, a lovely evening. I was just feeling a little weird (compouding that head space of mine!) because now the two of the girls who are already married have just had babies and the third has just fallen pregnant. The other girl in a long-term relationship just got engaged and the others (aside from me) are all single. My point is, everyone *except me* who is not single, is a new mom, pregnant or engaged. Sheesh. No pressure :P
Thing is, if I didn't want to get married or have kids or any of that, it probably wouldn't bother me in the least. But I do and I don't seem able to make the decisions to get me there. I'm paralysed by my idea of how life is supposed to be, because it's just not that way. And I don't know when to accept the way things are and just plunge forward. It feels like there's supposed to be some sort of "knowing" that happens beforehand. I'm definitely personally ready for a child, I think. It's the other stuff that still has to come together before I'll happily throw caution into that wind.
Sigh, perhaps I will paddle into that weird head space for a little here then :P
What else? Nothing much. On Friday I finally bought the Boons a giant bale of hay. They are thrilled! I was also thrilled to finally be able to clean out the hutch (didn't want to do it till we could lay fresh hay down on the base for Rex's feet).
And then Saturday was spent on a desperate hunt for Xmas gifts. Some got checked off the list and others remains frightfully un-purchased.
I did spoil myself a little on Saturday and went for a hair cut. My hair was getting horrendously long and becoming pretty much unbearable in this heat so it was time for a 10cm or so trim. Gawd I love it when they blow-wave it straight. I wish a) it didn't take so long and b) I had my own personal blow-waver. Although I do own a hair-straightener, I'm very lazy and it doesn't get used very often when my hair is sooo long. My arms get sore!
I also bought myself two gorgeous new summer dresses ... it seems when I start shopping, stopping can be a little tricky :) And Varen spent the afternoon and evening at work. Seriously :P
On Sunday Varen & I hit Rosebank for breakfast ... finally located where Doppio Zero relocated to. I think they've made a very silly decision, unless they're only interested in the tourists. Oh well. It was a very interesting breakfast and we discussed some very important life type stuff. Seems I'm not the only one in a weird head space after all.
Then we popped off to the Rosebank Market to get me some of those gorgeous distressed wood photo frames as Xmas gifts from the folks & him (For that photo-wall I mentioned ages ago!!).
Then Varen went to spend more of his weekend at work :P But he was home in time for us to go watch 2012.
Which I thought was mostly great fun and great effects ... although felt quite long, was it? And then of course the whole theatre stared laughing at the "Drakensburg" and "Cape of Good Hope" lines :) I'm still not buying into the whole Mayan World is ending thing tho ...
And that was Sunday. I am not making any blogging promises for the rest of December, my weird head space coupled with the impending holiday to Cape Town make regular blogging unlikely. Hopefully things (on all fronts) will improve in 2010.
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
It was meant to be a harmless stag night prank. A few hours later four of his best friends are dead, and Michael Harrison has disappeared. With only three days to the wedding, Detective Superintendent Grace - a man haunted by the shadow of his own missing wife - is contacted by Michael's beautiful, distraught fiancee, Ashley Harper. Grace discovers that the one man who ought to know Michael Harrison's whereabouts is saying nothing. But then he has a lot to gain - more than anyone realizes. For one man's disaster is another man's fortune.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book ... and it definitely had some cringe-worthy moments a-la Dark Video. Buried alive ... not my idea of fun times, truly. And again highlights why I'm terrified of bachelor parties.
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
So a few things I forgot along the way ...
On Saturday morning I converted my normal Curves membership for their new Smart Membership, and today was my first full workout. Oh my gawd, I nearly killed myself! So for those of you who don't know, let me start at the beginning. I switched to Curves (from good ol' Virgin Active) at the start on May this year and although the results haven't been amazing, I have stayed pretty consistent in my weight and measurements (which is always better than going up!). Curves is a circuit of machines which you do twice and takes half an hour (there is a audio tape telling you when to change and everything). And then a stretch-routine to finish. My kind of workout, only half an hour and there's no thinking involved, I just go and do. I suck at gym because I let myself off the hook too often and don't know what I'm doing most of the time.
So anyway, that was the old. Now they've installed monitors in every machine and we insert our little tag for every one of them and it records our workout (per machine) and if our range of motion and speed is up to scratch (as per our programmed personalised settings - that's the bit I did on Saturday morning). And then you use your tag in the main machine afterwards and see an overview of your whole day's workout (and your workout history). So far I'm loving it ... okay, it has only been day one but anything that comes with progress reports and gives me up-to-date feedback as I work out (and isn't an actual Personal Trainer) is a plus in my book.
The other thing I forgot I'd done on Saturday was that I spent a lengthy amount of time in front of my computer (and it wasn't playing Farmville on Facebook!) I was learning about batch processing in Gimp so that I could make some animated gifs from my Canada trip. Unfortunately the files are still *huge* ... 3.5Mb and up, so I don't know if I'm going to be able to load the up here, but I'm going to try :) It's "uploading ...." as I type this. Finger's crossed!
Okay so I got it uploaded only to have it not freaking animate ... and this is because all Blogger images are stored in Picasa and "the Picasa program won't show animated gifs". Grrr. Off to hunt for an alternative solution.
So I tried to sign-up for a Yahoo account and upload to Flickr. No luck there either. But I will say I was impressed at how easy deleting both accounts were :) 1 up to Yahoo (although the thought of using them actually filled me with horror ... I'm such a Google-girl!) I found some advice on trying to display it via Google Docs, but that didn't work either cause the upload size limit for Google Docs is 500 Kb :P
Finally, SUCCESS! I uploaded it to Photo Bucket and I can see it animating perfectly :)
Oh, and another thing I forgot ... I finally (almost a year to the day later) got round to updating my Nextstop.com profile with recommendations from the rest of my Spain, Portugal & Morocco trip as well as Zanzibar & Canada.
Ps. scuse the image quality in this last animation, but I tried to get the file size down as best I could and it's still huge :P
Monday, December 07, 2009
Wowee, that was quite the weekend. Odd how as we wind down to holidays the weekends get crazier ... everyone trying to see each other before they all head their separate ways to spend time with family, I guess?
So the weekend started out far better than I expected. I was all set to spend a quiet Friday night at home, alone while Varen played Action Soccer. Some online time for me, a little dinner and some series. A perfect Friday evening in my opinion, you gotta spend some time winding down from the week and I find Friday evenings are best for that :)
And then at around 6pm DJMike called to ask what I was doing because he had a ticket for The Killers going to waste (a good friend of ours who landed back from 2 years in the States on Wednesday had been sick in bed since he arrived and couldn't go). Sure, who wouldn't say YES to that?
So he swung by to pick me up about an hour later and we headed thru to The Dome. As a giant thunderstorm arrived. Luckily the really dreadful rain had stopped by the time we'd parked and had to make our way across the completely open bridge (who's bright idea was that one?). Wow, were the queues to get any drinks insane (I think I have been tainted by the Avril Lavigne concert where there were too many people under age to be drinking so the queues were blissful :) ) but we stood and stood and eventually made it to the front.
By that time Zebra & Giraffe was about half way thru. Can't really say I was that interested in them, I don't really know any of their songs and I don't think a concert is the best place to hear them for the first time cause usually you can't quite hear the lyrics over the music. The tone was set for the evening.
(This is where I prepare for everyone reading to disagree with me)
I know, I know, everyone else has been raving about The Killers. But I'll warn you upfront, right now, I thought it was pretty "meh" and I'm pretty damn glad I didn't spend R400+ on a ticket for general admission. I'll partly take the blame for my opinion tho, I don't really know a single Killers song (aside from Human) since their Hot Fuss album (which I loved!). So to be fair not knowing half the songs does make for a duller-than-otherwise concert going experience. I also didn't think the lighting was that impressive. I mean it was mostly great (especially the fireworks and the ribbons or whatever they sprayed across the audience was, not really lighting tho I guess), but often the lead singer was a silhouette on the They coulda done better with that, I thought.
And, I still maintain (which was my upfront guess) that they should've encored with "I've Got Soul". Which they didn't. It was, for me, the *best* song of the night, and that was thoroughly worth it :)
On Saturday we made an attempt at Christmas shopping, but really all I ended up with was a birthday present for J9. We discovered a fab new (probably not that new, but new for us) spot in Melville called Bamboo ... must definitely try there for breakfast one weekend!
And then we relaxed till some folks from work came over for a rather raucous evening of Board Games and Col'Cacchio pizza. Was fabulous and I think everyone only ended up leaving close to 2am.
On Sunday we headed off to Roots for J9's birthday lunch. I honestly think it was the best meal I've had there and I have been quite a few times! The weather was also perfect. Reminds me why I love the place :)
Thursday, December 03, 2009
Yes, I'm really going to start yet another blog post with a lament about the fact that I'm writing it now, in the afternoon, when everything has fallen out of my brain. Yes, I am.
There was something I actually wanted to write about now tho, but lo behold I got home from gym and it has completely escaped me.
So what else can I tell you. I went to poker last night and thus spent the entire of the storm (except for the first few drops which arrived as I did), tucked away eating a delish dinner with friends and practicing my poker face. I didn't do too well, went out 2nd :( But I wasn't having a very good game generally ... I hate when you have to fold pretty much everything you get till suddenly it turns around and you get brilliant cards and you bet like you're Superman. Oh well, as always, it was marvelous fun ...
Tomorrow we're having a Christmas Market at work ... as I mentioned before I'm part of the office's version of event planners, referred to fondly as The Organised Glee Team, and this is another one we're putting on. Am really looking forward to it. We're even serving mince pies and champagne as people "shop" (I put it in deeltekens because we're only a company of 35 and we are putting up about 5 little stalls :) ). So yeah, that brilliant Xmas day function of lawn bowls and a picnic at Zoo Lake, that was us too. I'm having such fun with it :) We've even decided that next year people shouldn't bring cake to celebrate their birthday but instead to pick a day that is historically important or interesting to them and bring cake then ... the deal is tho that they have to send out an email explaining the relevance of the day to everyone in the office. A great way to learn something new, I think :) So .... any suggestions on what day I should pick?? I thought about picking the day the first blog was posted ... but it seems a little tricky to pin down to an exact day.
Posted by phillygirl at 12/03/2009 06:11:00 pm
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
Blegh. At least when I wasn't posting all of last week it was cause I was out and just too busy to find the time. This week is the polar opposite ... although I do have Poker with the Girls tonight.
I am enjoying my quiet week tho because I know how to enjoy the peace when I get a moment of it ... and this weekend is going to be another jam-packed one :)
But instead of a long wordy post here are a multitude of cute bunny photos :) I have been neglecting the photos of them ... in fact (horror of horrors) I haven't even cracked open my fancy-ass camera since I got back from Canada! I always think I will ... but somehow I just haven't. I really wanna sit outside (when the grass in not flooded from recent rainfall) and get some awesome shots of the boons ... I wish I still had that telephoto lens ;) (I feel like I've said all this before actually). Hmmm, I wonder if I can get everyone to give me cash for xmas to put towards buying myself a lens?
(if my phone ever emails the pics thru!!) Okay, so I see they are a little heavy on Rex ... but Him & Lily are usually in the cutest poses while Cola ends up looking like a silhouette. Actually she looks quite similar in most of her pics, funny how they all have a typical pose! Hee hee, but how funny is that pic above, that's how I found them sleeping when I got home from work today. Don't even ask me how Lily could possibly be comfortable like that! But she does love being in the middle :)
Which brings me to another point, Christmas gifts. As hard as I'm finding shopping for gifts, it's just as hard thinking about what I'd like. But I guess money towards a lens or to buy photo frames with (I haven't even started my photo wall yet! Doh) ... or money towards new pots so I can plant more ... Did I mention how in love with my little garden, that I grew from seeds, I am? I should take some photos of that too ... but not now, the light is too grey.
Tuesday, December 01, 2009
This autobiography offers a rare inside look at the society surrounding a sultan's palace. Its author, a real-life princess in exile, recalls her vanished world of harems, slave trading, and court intrigues. The Midwest Book Review praised this book as an engrossing memoir, offering a vivid portrait of 19th-century Arab and African life.
This one was quite interesting although had a bajillion spelling and grammar or printing mistakes. Interesting, but not captivating. I'm fascinated about how life was back then, but can't really imagine it at all ... seems quite surreal. And not only is there a different era to imagine, but an entirely different religion. I was about half way thru it when I left for Canada and just haven't got back into it ... no excuses, really. Perhaps another day.
From 1943 to 1951, 350 or so men and women from thirteen Allied nations served as the men and women of the Monuments, Fine Arts & Archives section (MFAA) of the Allied armed forces, the eyes, ears and hands of the first and most ambitious effort in history to preserve the world's cultural heritage in times of war. They were known simply as Monuments Men. But during the thick of the fighting in Europe, from D-Day to V-E Day, when Germany surrendered, there were only 65 Monuments Men in the forward operating area. Sixty-five men to cover thousands of square miles, save hundreds of damaged buildings and find millions of cultural items before the Nazis could destroy them forever. Monuments Men is the story of eight of these men in the forward operating theatre: America's top art conservator; an up-and-coming young museum curator; a sculptor; a straight-arrow architect; a gay New York cultural impresario; and, an infantry private with no prior knowledge of or appreciation for art, but first-hand experience as a victim of the Nazi regime. They built their own treasure maps from scraps and hints: the diary of a Louvre curator who secretly tracked Nazi plunder through the Paris rail yards; records recovered from bombed out cathedrals and museums; overheard conversations; and, a tip from a dentist while getting a root canal. They started off moving in different directions, but ended up heading for the same place at the same time: the Alps near the German-Austrian border in the last two weeks of the war, where the great treasure caches of the Nazis were stored: the artwork of Paris, stolen mostly from Jewish collectors and dealers; masterworks from the museums of Naples and Florence; and, the greatest prize of all, Hitler's personal hoard of masterpieces, looted from the most important art collections and museums in Europe and hidden deep within a working salt mine - a mine the Nazis had every intention of destroying before it fell into Allied hands. How does the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History end? As is often the case, history is often more extraordinary than fiction.
Now this one I was all set to really enjoy ... I guess I was naive to expect some swashbuckling Nazi story ala Inglourious Basterds. I was sorely disappointed. Although I still think this is an interesting story, man oh man, is this a tedious read. Seriously, draining.
Monday, November 30, 2009
Sho, every time I post these days I feel like it's for a massive catch-up and it gets a bit daunting and I put it off a little longer. Not the most blog-conducive attitude!
Plus I'm in one of those phases where there's plenty going on in my head but nothing I particularly want to put out here right now ... which makes blogging much harder, I think. I sorta feel trapped in my head with my thoughts at the moment and it means even the things I want to write get a little trapped!
Oh well. So there was a weekend. A fabulous weekend, actually, with loads of lovely bloggy friends :) But first let me just say that Friday was a very quiet evening spent at home still recovering from the office picnic :) I was exhausted. But luckily my bowling-injury had disappeared by Saturday.
On Saturday it was Louisa's squishy-shower. Sheesh I have never in my life seen so many people at a baby-shower before (in all fairness I haven't been to too many). I'm not kidding there were at least 50 or so ladies there. The gift opening must've taken around an hour and a half and by the end of it, it looked like some kind of baby clothing store had exploded in Louisa's lounge. Actually, that's not quite true because she was very lucky to have a few *very* organised friends packing the clothes away by age group ... Lucky because without storing the older ages till she needs them, there's no way anyone would've had enough space for all of it! Louisa, it just shows how well-liked you are and how welcome everyone wants baby Squishy to feel :)
It was also great to spend some time catching up with familiar faces: Angel's Mind, Jackson's Mom, Exmi, LauraKim, Ruby Letters, Jenty ... sorry if I'm forgetting anyone else.
On Sunday it was more of the same, but this time Jackson's 3rd Birthday Party :) Great fun was had by all (lovely to meet you Lettice and Mamameea) with the Champagne flowing (ahem, Sparrow) and a decadent High-tea put on by Jackson's Mom :)
But sheesh after such a baby-filled weekend I'm exhausted ... although I'd be lying if I said not a little broody ;) Ah, the thirtieth, she approaches!
And this morning I woke up in one of those delightful moods :( You know the sort ... the sort where you feel like life is passing you by. I imagine it was the baby-filled weekend followed by the news that a friend got engaged. Where is the life I planned? Who (since it's not me!) is living it? How do I get myself to a place where I can be the one living it? See, all a little deep and depressing for a Monday morning!
Posted by phillygirl at 11/30/2009 05:41:00 pm
Friday, November 27, 2009
Do I have the energy for this ... ? I know, I know, I've barely blogged all week, but I did warn you, it was going to be a pretty damn busy one!
On Tuesday evening I checked out the Bryanston Organic Moonlight Market. I was amazed at how it's expanded in the last few years. And as always it had a lovely vibe, but I didn't buy anything except dinner. I wish I could find more there to actually buy because I so love the market. But it's always the same old stuff. Although I did pass my eye over the picture frames I love there again ;) The one Mom got me years ago holds a small selection of South African notes from my collection (see photo below).
On Wednesday afternoon (and the reason there was no blog post) I headed off to Emperor's Palace straight after work to meet The Peeb and Button who were up in Joburg for a conference. Was quite awesome to see her actually especially with the recent family upheaval. So she & I went gambling, I couldn't believe she'd never played the slot machines before?! My game plan in a Casino is to load my card with R100 and play till it's spent (or in the unlikely event that you're winning, leave when you're hungry, if you go before dinner, or tired out, if you go after). So that's precisely what we did. Mine lasted a little longer than hers, but we had great fun just trying different machines and blowing our cash.
And then I took her to dinner at Col'Cacchio. All in all a lovely evening. I will say, however, that I was hugely annoyed with Emperor's and aside from that think it's a dreadful step down from Monte Casino venue-wise. Can you believe they wouldn't let me buy or load a temporary card using my credit card. Thankfully The Peeb had spare cash on her otherwise I would've had to wander around to find an atm to give them the cold hard cash the were demanding. I mean really, like it makes a freaking difference :P Can you tell I was quite annoyed?
On Thursday I got to laze in bed a little more than usual, although my body clock wasn't far off! I did a morning gym run and then headed off, dressed all in white, to the Zoo Lake bowls club for our office end-of-year function. We played a few fun rounds of lawn bowls in the sweltering heat (how do the old ducks do it? Daddio's mom was quite an avid bowler actually, sadly I do not seem to have inherited the genes!) and then headed back to the Moyo side for an afternoon catered-picnic under the trees. It was a very awesome way to spend a day and I only ended up leaving Zoo Lake at about 7pm, not long after the sun had set!
For a change Varen was actually home before me :)
Today has felt like a very long work day ... and I seem to have a bowling-injury to my right (bowling) hand. Can you bruise a tendon, or perhaps I've sprained something. I dunno, but although it's not swollen it's very very sensitive :(
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Not much to report here, but I thought that I'd put up some words while the bunnies enjoy the afternoon sunshine before I head out this evening.
Last night's dinner was delish. I was surprisingly glad to be cooking, properly, off a recipe again. Since we did the detox before Zanzibar, I haven't really been cooking properly ... I've been sticking to some all-veggie staples during the week and I can't even think what else.
I made Gnocchi Supreme. Although, let's face it, there was nothing gnocchi about it ... Woolies didn't have any :P Instead I made it with 4 cheese tortellini and (naturally) left out the olives. And Woolies also didn't have any tinned peeled tomato's so we made those from "scratch" too. And although this recipe requires that you use about every pot and pan that you own (one for the pasta, one for the sauce, one to toast the pine nuts), it is extremely delish! It will be made again soon ;)
Monday, November 23, 2009
Right, the weekend blog post ... Sho, if I can't get blogging back into a routine (like it used to be in the morning) I fear I may stop blogging altogether. Nah, that's not true, I like to look back at my holiday posts too much :)
Perhaps it's really just a sign of my mood. I've been pretty anti-social for the last week or so. And so was the weekend. Friday night I was stuck home-alone while Varen played 2 Action Soccer games. I amused myself online, made toasted cheese & tomato open sandwiches for dinner and started watching the latest season of Grey's Anatomy. Not a bad way to spend an evening.
Saturday I was supposed to be left to my own devices yet again (Varen had plans during the day). Well I wasn't really, but my plans got canceled. But sweet boy that he is, he canceled them to stay home with me and cheer me up. It was the *perfect* lazy day. In fact I didn't get out of my pajamas except to get drive-thru for lunch :)
It started with home-made crumpets for breakfast. Yum! And then lots of series watching. In fact an entire day of it. I'm really sort of glad the rubbish weather stuck around for the weekend :) It was just what we needed.
Sunday we headed out for breakfast and I attempted to start on my Christmas shopping. Which was dreadfully unimpressive. I was too scattered, I can't seem to focus on Christmas at all right now. Usually the Peeb is my easiest gift to purchase by far, but no such luck this year yet :(
I forget what else we did on Sunday, oh yes, *attempt* to watch a movie. I dutifully checked the Nu Metro site (a site I loathe and detest, but as I've said before, Brightwater Commons is easily the most enjoyably unattended movie theatre to watch big-screen movies at!) and saw under "What's Showing at my Cinema" that Avatar was listed. So I checked the times and off we went. Only to be told it wasn't showing. When I got back home I checked the website again ... showing in December. What bloody use is that :P I'm specifically interested in Movies *Now* Showing! (And because it didn't have a poster, it didn't have the usually quite obvious "forthcoming attraction" banner across it). Imagine my annoyance.
And now it's Monday, it's going to be a busy busy week. I'm off to check out the Bryanston Organic Market tomorrow evening, The Peeb is up in Joburg for Wednesday evening so we'll be hanging out, Thursday is the office Xmas Party, Saturday is Louisa's baby shower (it's okay, it's not a secret :) ) and Sunday is Jackson's postponed third birthday (bit of a broody weekend, admittedly).
And now it's off to sort-of make Gnocchi Supreme ... except our stupid Woolies did not actually have Gnocchi :P Oh well, here's to experimenting.
Posted by phillygirl at 11/23/2009 06:18:00 pm
Thursday, November 19, 2009
So, here's where I finally tell you what's had me twisted up for the week: On Tuesday evening my Mom phoned to tell me she'd asked Daddio for a divorce.
On the 15th December my folks will have been married 30 years. And I get it. When the reality that you've been married 30 years sets in and your realise you probably have another 30 years of life left in you (my folks are in their early 50s) I guess you do some serious evaluating.
I'm not angry, with either of them. I know them. I've never understood what made their relationship tick and I've questioned their likelyhood of divorce since I was in high-school and knew what divorce was. They just never did it so I guess I let my guard down a bit and I'll be honest and say it was a shock. But I don't live there anymore and I don't see their daily interactions, so probably it wasn't much of a shock ... except for the actually going thru with it bit. I think that's always a bit of a shock, even to the person who actually instigates things.
I'm upset. I'm upset about the impact this is going to have on my family and on me. I know they'll both be okay and they'll survive and recover from the pain and the loss of the habit that having someone in your life for 30 years brings. But I don't know if I'll have the Christmases I cherish anymore (esspecially since I was so looking forward to going to Cape Town for one of *my* family Christmases this year ... something I haven't had since 2007). And it's the little things like that that are really upsetting me. The not knowing the upcoming impact on how we've always done things before, when Mom and Dad were a unit.
I'm thinking about the trivial things because the bigger ones make sense to me. I don't have any fundamental issue with the decision they've made. I'm okay with them getting divorced if it'll make them happier. I know neither of them really experienced life before they were married and had me. And I know from the last 10 years of my life how much a person needs that. Hell, I am still figuring things out for myself.
The scariest thing really for me (aside from the general worry about each of them as individuals that they will be okay and are getting whatever emotional support they need - although it's damn hard for a concerned daughter to provide it in this case!) is how it's affected my outlook on things, my life and my relationships. In the space of 48 short hours it's made me question all sorts of things. Things I grant you I was questioning already, but it's brought them to the forefront of my mind, like the need to actually get married at all, and why/how people manage to stick it out "forever" being the top of the list that jump to mind, and based on all of the above how exactly I will end up having children and the life I imagine for myself when it seems so contradictory to how things actually work out! Enough about that tho.
I guess I also feel a little guilty about being upset about it. I mean I've been thru enough break-ups including one where I had to take my stuff and move out of my safe-place, my home (because it wasn't really mine, it was his ... although after 2 years of living there it really did feel like home to me!) to understand how hard this must be for them and how hard even just making the decision must've been. And here I am being upset about how it'll affect me. It's their lives, they're adults, they need to experience and live life as much as I do and if that means it's not together then so be it. It's very peculiar having all these contradictory feelings.
So yeah, a delightful week as week's go.
And if you're wondering why I only told Varen about it 24hrs after I found out a) I didn't exactly want to talk about it (although his parents got divorced earlier this year too) and b) we were still in that "circling" phase post argument where you don't know if things are fine again yet or if you're still not talking to each other and I certainly wasn't talking to him about something like this while we ourselves were in that sort of weird place.
Posted by phillygirl at 11/19/2009 05:08:00 pm
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Right. So I should be posting. Trouble is there's nothing I want to say out loud right now. There's stuff going on here. Serious stuff and I'm just not ready to share (as I write this, I haven't even told Varen yet). And no, it's not exciting stuff, it's upsetting stuff.
Cryptic I know, eventually you'll know too, I just need you to give me a little space to breathe before I'm ready to share.
Last night was not an awesome night.
Today is not an awesome day. It's raining, which I like, but the poor bunnies remain relegated to their hutch because bunnies do not like being wet. If only it would ease to a slight drizzle I could let them out and there would be someone, at least, enjoying the day.
I can't promise that tomorrow will be any more interesting.
Posted by phillygirl at 11/18/2009 04:25:00 pm
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Unafraid of a challenge, Lois Pryce began the kind of adventure most of us could only ever dream of. She put on her sparkly crash helmet, armed herself with maps and a baffling array of visas, and got on her bike. Destination: Cape Town - and the small matter of tackling the Sahara, war-torn Angola and the Congo Basin along the way - this feisty independent woman's grand trek through the Dark Continent of Africa is the definitive motorcycling adventure. Colourful and hilarious, Red Tape and White Knuckles is an action-packed tale about following your dreams that will have you packing your bags and jetting off into the sunset on your own adventure before you know it.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I think it was especially interesting because I haven't traveled thru nearly any of the places she rode thru (except Namibia and South Africa, but she didn't spend too much time writing about either). That said, it doesn't inspire me to get my bike-license and head up to Cairo or anything ... I have way too little faith in the kindness of random strangers. Still, it's a great real-life experience to read about :) Apparently there's another bunch who are walking thru Africa, might give their books a read at some point too.
Monday, November 16, 2009
Wow, so, the report back on my busy weekend is going to be far less busy (I hope). I tend not to write as much when I see people versus when I do things. Does that make sense.
So on Friday night I grabbed some Ghazal's take out and headed over to DJMike's place. We hung out for a whilt till Varen joined us after his Action Soccer game and we all ended up watching a Derren Brown dvd called Something Wicked This Way Comes, while the storm raged.
Let me just tell you that magic about drives me nuts ... and this is worse! It was pure torture. I have no idea how he did any of those things and it drives me to frustration. I will send out a big round of appreciation tho because he does sort of explain how he did the show-long trick at the very end. But I'm still not convinced it'd work on me (doesn't everyone say that?)
On Saturday I'd decided that I wanted to visit Tangaroa Strawberry Farm so Varen and I headed there for lunch. I wish I could say I was wildly impressed, but I guess my expectations were tainted by a visit to Polkadraai (in Cape Town) many many years ago with their neat rows of Strawberries and the box-ful I came home with that we could hardly eat before they went off.
The setting is quite nice but you don't have a feeling of wide open spaces, there is a border of nice grass to picnic on (their picnic baskets look quite yummy!) around a dirty-but-restful lake with some ducks and the odd duckling. We ate our lunch at their "coffee-shop" which was quite nice and I really wished I'd had more space for dessert (really should tried that Strawberry Salad they have, sounded delish, but I was still planning to keep space for dessert when I ordered!).
And then we wandered down to the Strawberry Fields. It was pretty hard to tell what was strawberry and what was over-growth. I appreciate that it's an organic farm, but that means you shouldn't go with high expectations (or maybe it's just this year - they do have a note on their website noting that their current production is slow). We spotted some awesome specimens but as soon as you turn them over, you'll see the underside is mush or has been feasted on by some insect-beastie. We couldn't take any Strawberries out with us but could go and wander and eat what we picked (which wasn't much seeing that we were full from lunch and it was hard to find any pristine specimens).
I'm glad we went and tried something new, but I won't be rushing back there this season.
On Saturday evening we headed off to Norwood for some Hokkaido Sushi with @saulkza, @nadgia, @tfrayne and friends. Was a great evening with a group I'm very much enjoying :) Sadly tho, I think I must definitely give Hokkaido the thumbs down over Yamada (although @saulkza may have my head just for thinking that!). There is reason to my madness tho ... I've said it before and I'll say it again, there is no rhyme or reason to serve 8 items per sushi plate. Firstly, it means you can't try something new because if you don't like that first one, what a waste of the next 7! And secondly, I like variety and if I eat 8 of this sushi-type, there's no way there'll be space for all the other delicious ones too. I ordered far too much and ate more than I should've.
On Sunday Varen and I were up early to get the week's grocery shopping out of the way and the house cleaned up before our guests arrived :) We had Louisa, RubyLetters, Doodles&TSC and Arkwife&ArkFamily over for a Sunday afternoon braai.
It turned out great, although most of them were quite fashionably late (thanks to the 94.7 road closures). Louisa impressed us with her first (of many, I hope) Potato Salads, Ruby indulged us with some decadent Peppermint Fridge Tart (which we still have half of lurking and tempting me from the fridge!), Arkwife did a show-and-tell braai bread making session for us and Doodles ensured we ate our greens with a yummy salad (and flowers from her garden for me!).
Another group I'm thoroughly enjoying the company of :)
Friday, November 13, 2009
Not much to write today. My tax issue didn't get any more resolved ... but I guess there's always next week. I'm not in such a rush now that there has been all this discussion around it and everyone has pretty much agreed on what went wrong and verbally agreed on how to resolve it.
Am really looking forward to this weekend, it's going to be hectic, I have something planned this evening, tomorrow day-time, tomorrow evening and Sunday day-time. I can't remember the last time I had such a jam-packed weekend scheduled. And although I wouldn't want it to be like this every weekend, because sometimes you just need some time out, I'm really in the mood for catching up with such a variety of people!
Have a good one.
Posted by phillygirl at 11/13/2009 04:49:00 pm
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Erm well, to say it's been stressful since my last post should be a given (as I'm sure anyone who is following my tweets will atest).
I have been backwards an forwards (quite literally with spreadsheets being emailed back and forth with comments by everyone and then amended and updated!) about 4 times today with my "minor tax issue". Daddio got involved too, so between my TaxLady, Daddio and the 2 Accounts Ladies at work, I think we're making progress. It's days like these that make me awfully grateful to have a Dad who is an accountant and is damn good at his job :) Thanks Dad!
It took a while for work to admit any mistake, but they have and are willing to pay a pretty large portion of it on my behalf (none of this has been finalised yet). Which I'm hugely greatful for, since obviously they have actually already paid me this money in error. But I'm wondering how it might end up affecting my end-of-year bonus :P Oh well, we'll have to wait and see, but at least it doesn't seem like I'll be footing the 15K bill myself anymore. Shoo.
So although not finally resolved and my tax return still has yet to actually be submitted, I am feeling a lot better about the situation and that it will manage to be sorted soon and amicably.
And on another very positive note, Doodles put me in touch with a bunny-sitter and I'm so incredibly greatful :) I can't tell you how much I prefer the idea of it being someone I have a connection with thru a friend I trust.
And, today is The Peeb's (my little sister) birthday (and SleepyJane). (Wishing both of you a very happy day!). So tonight instead of debating what I should eat - Varen is having a liquid dinner at Whiskey Live, so I am left to fend for myself and like all girls, I expect (although this may be a gross generalisation on my part?), when I don't have someone else to feed as well, dinner completely slips my mind - I should be heading of to a Family dinner. But I'm not, I'm sitting here trying to justify swinging by a drive-thru something or other because our cupboards are empty except for dry pasta (and one definitely need sauce!). This is the curse of shopping for very specific planned meals ... and forgetting one of the evening meals, because you just assume there'll be something in the freezer for little old you, but in fact it turns out that that was all flattened while you were in Canada ... say, for example ;)
As you can see, I am focusing on all the positives, most especially because I have a fabulous, busy weekend planned with so many very awesome friends :)
Posted by phillygirl at 11/12/2009 06:40:00 pm
The flight to Toronto yesterday was pretty uneventful, although we ended up leaving half an hour late. I did spend most of the flight chatting to the guy sitting next to me - people seem quite fascinated by a South African who has traveled all this far from home (although goodness knows why because it seems as tho every Canadian knows some South African who has immigrated here!). Anyway, it certainly made the flight go a little faster.
The flight from Winnipeg to Toronto was one of their cheap domestic routes so I didn't end up eating cause I thought I'd grab something in Toronto Duty-Free (always a good way to pass the time in an airport!) ... clearly something I didn't really think thru tho because by the time we landed, I only had time to dash straight to my boarding gate. And besides, at 10pm at night, just about everything was closed anyway!
I also, sadly, did not get my passport stamped out of Canada. Weird, I know ... but I guess cause of the late hour and the delayed flight they just checked my boarding pass and ushered me thru (And by that I literally mean 1 member of airport staff standing at a small glass gateway that clearly was not the usual passport control route - maybe they just don't care if you're leaving?). It's annoying really, as someone who relishes their passport stamps.
By this stage tho, I was starving, having not eaten anything since my pretty unsubstantial Tim Horton sandwich at lunch but, at least I did get dinner on the plane! I honestly wasn't sure if we would considering our after 11pm take-off time.
Oddly (because honestly, before this trip I can't remember this ever happening before!) I ended up chatting to the guy next to me (another local Canadian who'd never seen or thought to see the Polar Bears - as my last aeroplane-companion explained to me, their winters are cold enough for them, they'd rather go somewhere warmer!) who was headed to Egypt to join a tour that sounded pretty similar to the one I did in 2006.
I managed to get quite a bit of sleep after my dinner and awoke to fruit juice not too long before we landed (although I missed the muffins they were handing out for breakfast - although it was about lunch time in Frankfurt).
I'm hoping I won't actually get affected by jet-lag at all tho because I managed to get some sleep and am now having my day at Frankfurt Duty-Free and will hopefully manage a little more sleep on my overnight flight to Joburg.
Had brunch at McD's, I tried their Hot Chicken Nacho burger. Interesting, but it wouldn't become a favourite. Okay, I know I've eaten a vast amount of McD's in the last week ... but when on holiday it's safe and cheap and as I've said before, I enjoy trying the items we don't get back home. I spent ages wandering the 2 Duty-Free shops deciding early on what I was buying (perfume for me and whiskey for Varen), and then faffed around reading my book waiting for my flight to show up on their schedule board. It was a long and boring day...
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Now I know why afternoon posting is tedious for me ... last night seems so long ago!
Anyway, so last night was book club, it was J9's month to host but because of various things going on, she ended up hosting at my house instead of her own. So there was a mad panic to get the place clean after the home-made pizza incident (making pizza tends to leave flour all over the place and use plenty of dishes!) and getting the place ready and then a minor altercation with Varen because I wanted to set the TV up to do a slide-show of my Polar Bear photo's and I can never connect to the TV laptop or figure out how to get whatever new software he's installed on the thing actually working (this was like the 5th or 6th time something like this has happened ... and that's probably out of the 10 times I've ever tried to do anything like this! So reason to be frustrated in my book, what use is this fancy system if only one person can use it?!).
And then, happily I get that sorted and J9 get's dinner going and people start arriving ... and then I get a call from Varen (who was still at work) who has misplaced his car keys. So what happens? As all my friends start arriving, I have to leave and race to Varen's offices, drop off his spare keys so he can go and play his Action Soccer match and race back home to Book Club, which is At. My. House. Today I hear it was some idiot in his office who took them as a joke and left without telling him a) that he'd taken them or b) where they were?!? Boys. You can imagine my lovely mood :P (In his defence the poor guy did sms me to ask me if he could come home ... I imagine only partly because of the Book Club girls being here :) )
Luckily the rest of the evening was lovely :)
Today however I received a very upsetting, practically-ill-making phone call. From my tax lady. There is something wrong with something (we're in the process of trying to figure out what?!?) in one of my IRP5's (I changed jobs in the last Tax Year) ... that currently results in my tax return showing that I owe the receiver 15K. yes, R15 000. Oh. My. Freaking. Freaking. Now you can imagine my horror, not simply because it is a huge amount, but also because usually (and I wasn't expecting this year to be any different) I receive a refund. I have every year since I started submitting my tax. And I *am* actually receiving a bit of a refund, you see the money I owe is even more that 15K, but my refund is reducing it slightly ... and I lost a bit on Capital Gains tax (the amount of which was like a quarter of the cash I actually got out of the sale :P Count me annoyed). I'm practically devastated by this news, how could this have happened? That's more than a thousand rand a month over the entire tax year! I'm in a flat panic and I expect shall remain so until this little matter has been resolved (which better be before next Friday, which is when the tax return is due!) I think just typing that has pushed my blood pressure up :(
Posted by phillygirl at 11/11/2009 05:28:00 pm
I had another very relaxed morning, getting my bags re-packed for the long flight home and only went down for breakfast at around 8am. Well it was pretty late compared to some of our other days, I think I've been up before 7am every morning of this trip, also always waking up before my alarm! Not too bad if this is all jet-lag means :)
Met up with 2 of the people from our tour group who were still around after breakfast and we spent then top. day wandering Winnipeg. First we went past the Manitoba Legislative Building which has a gold statue of a boy on top. Then we went and spent a good 2 hours in the Manitoba Museum.
Then we wandered down along Portage street looking for lunch - which we ended up having Tim Hortons (a Canadian fast food chain). It's not too bad, smaller sandwiches than Subway tho.
We ended with a warm drink at Starbucks near the hotel, we were pretty soaked from the constant drizzle! And I bought Varen's last Root Beer at a nearby cafe.
I collected my bags from the room and caught a taxi to the airport. My driver was a very amusing Libyan man who was trying to convince me how easy it would be for me to immigrate to Canada ... and then being disappointed cause I have a boyf because he has 2 single sons and also inviting me to his house if I'm ever back in Winnipeg - sorta freaky, really!!
And then I started the first of my long airport waits. Winnipeg is not a bustling duty-free area and it's certainly tedious passing the time! Thank goodness I brought an extra book which I have yet to actually even begin!
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Not much to say ... there's always more to say in the mornings. There was something I wanted to write about but I keep forgetting :(
At the moment things are busy. Tonight is Book Club and this weekend is already full :) And I'm planning more and more before the end of the year filling up our weekends. I'm also on the hunt for a pet-sitter ... anyone used one of those services before? Got any recommendations?
The other thing I'm following quite avidly at the moment is The Ice Bear Project, as you can imagine it's quite close to my heart at the moment. Mark Coreth is in Churchill at the moment and went on a Tundra Buggy Day ... just like I did. And strangely it seems like I almost bumped shoulders with the Obama's there too ;) Probably it's just that my senses are piqued to notice news about Churchill having been there myself so recently :)
Posted by phillygirl at 11/10/2009 05:54:00 pm
Had more of a lazy morning today, having breakfast and getting packed. Then we took a last wander around the town before we were ferried off to the airport and caught our Calm Air flight back to Winnipeg.
I'm amazed that although I thought flying all these miles to Canada for just a week-long trip was quite extreme (and I'm not a huge fan of flying), it's been perfectly fine. I doubt I could've spent even a single extra day in Churchill, we've really done all there is to do and after 2 amazing days out on the Tundra, what more could we need? Wouldn't want a third one only to end disappointed, and I'm not sure much could surpass our experiences so far.
I feel lucky that the flight here (less than a week ago) is already a distant memory, I am ready to head home.
Once we landed in Winnipeg, I said my goodbyes to @clairam and I headed back for my last night at The Fort Garry Hotel. I spent the afternoon "wandering" Winnipeg on their Free Downtown Spirit buses (again ... but there are 3 different routes) in the drizzle.
I was secretly hunting for a fast food snack ... gotta try all the stuff we don't get back home, ya know? But although I had my heart set on trying a Taco Bell, I couldn't find one and I ended up at good old faithful McD's. I tried their Southwest Chicken Burger. It was quite different from anything we get back home: The roll was square and more like a Ciabata bread and I chose the grilled chicken option.
On the way back to the hotel I got myself a Starbucks Hot Chocolate and another brand of Root Beer for Varen.
I came back to my room and had a relaxing bath (gotta really take advantage of the plush hotel while I can!) before heading out to dinner with a handful of the tour group at a local Italian spot called Bombolini's where I had a gorgeous butternut, shrimp and goat's cheese pasta. Seriously, that and the Salmon on our first night in Churchill were by far the best two meals of my entire trip :) Yummy.
The weird thig I've noticed here is that whichever main meal you order, it automatically comes with your choice of either the House Salad or the Soup of the Day to start. It's actually quite annoying when you're not that hungry! But by far my most annoying thing ever over here is the pricing. NOTHING costs the price you see on the shelves or menu. It's always the listed price plus about 12% (They have GST plus Provincial Tax). It is highly annoying. Even our 5CAD phone card cost 5.60 CAD, how ridiculous is that? How do they survive never being able to see what something is *actually* going to cost them upfront?!
Monday, November 09, 2009
Someone had spent time with her - someone well-practised in the art of pain...Three and a half years ago former Grant County medical examiner Sara Linton moved to Atlanta hoping to leave her tragic past behind her. Now working as a doctor in Atlanta's Grady Hospital she is starting to piece her life together. But when a severely wounded young woman is brought in to the emergency room, she finds herself drawn back into a world of violence and terror. The woman has been hit by a car but, naked and brutalised, it's clear that she has been the prey of a twisted mind. When Special Agent Will Trent of the Criminal Investigation Team returns to the scene of the accident, he stumbles on a torture chamber buried deep beneath the earth. And this hidden house of horror reveals a ghastly truth - Sara's patient is just the first victim of a sick, sadistic killer. Wrestling the case away from the local police chief, Will and his partner Faith Mitchell find themselves at the centre of a grisly murder hunt. And Sara, Will and Faith - each with their own wounds and their own secrets - are the only thing that stands between a madman and his next crime.
Meh, I think I might be moving on from Forensic Crime and Mystery ... I can't remember the last *really* good one I read. This one was okay, it had loads of potential, but in the end I felt like Karin Slaughter was just making stuff up out of nowhere to try and get a twist that I didn't really feel held up to the rest of the story-line. Lacking follow-thru would probably be my best description.
Note: For the second time, I'm trying the "click on the thumbnail for a bigger picture" approach with the animal photos. I don't really like it as it will take longer for the page to load, but I do feel that these pictures especially deserve it! Plus the "large" version is still only roughly 640x480 (fyi. in case you're worried about clicking on a picture)
I called Varen this morning. It has been hard having no cellphone signal since we arrived in Churchill. You realise how much one relies on simple smses while away (well, I do ... I like to know what he's up to at home and how the bunnies are and it's especially hard to to have been able to gush at him about our fabulous first Tundra Buggy Day's sightings and the dog-sledding!) Oh, the little things we take for-granted these days like being able to keep in touch with a loved one.
Today was our 2nd day on the Tundra Buggy. I really wasn't sure what to expect since it was very misty this morning and after we'd had such a brilliant first day ... Well, one can't help but be greatful that the first day was so fabulous and we weren't entirely reliant on our 2nd day of viewing for some fabulous Polar Bear sightings. I would've hated for that to be the case, imagine you see nothing on the first day-out, what pressure that puts on your 2nd day.
But I need not have worried. Our second day was as brilliant as our first, but in a completely different way. If it hadn't been in a different way, it probably wouldn't have been as good as the novelty of bear spotting was definitely wearing off with @clairam and I coming up with nick-names for all the bear-spotting by midday: Do not stop the Buggy for "Binocular Bears" (the ones that are so far away, you can only spot them clearly thru a binocular ... so you definitely can't get a decent photo of them!) or "Boring Bears" (the ones who are just lying around not moving at all, we'd already seen enough of them). But *definitely* stop the Buggy if you spot any "Baby Bears" (obvious enough!) or "Bonus Bears" (the entertaining ones, moving around, making for good photos). Our 2nd Tundra Buggy day had pleny of the latter two Bear-types ... although we didn't see another Arctic Fox or Hare ... but did apparently spot a Willow Ptarmigan (as opposed to the Rock Ptarmigan from Buggy Day 1). I'll be honest and say the bird was only spotted as we were headed back to the Buggy launch-site (yes, their word, not mine) so I wasn't especially captivated.
Anyway, back to Day 2: It took a little while before we even saw a bear ... and even that wasn't amazing (I guess you see more the further from the launch-site you get, hence it usually takes a while to see the first Bear of the morning) and as I said earlier, it doesn't take long to become complacent about seeing far-away Bears (and at this point I still didn't have especially high hopes for the day considering the misty weather).
But, Pyro-technic Bob heard a tip on the radio (nothing specific as they actually don't radio each other to tell them where the Bears are because you don't want all 18 Tundra Buggies in the same place at one time) and we sped off to another spot and had an absolutely incredible experience with the first cub-sighting of the season. There was a Mother Bear with her two 20 month old cubs (cubs stay with their Mom till they're about 22 months and Churchill is the only place around the world where Polar Bears have more than one cub at a time).
After we first stopped to watch them, they wandered quite a way off from us but then ended up coming right up to the Buggy where I was standing on the outside observation deck! Even with the telephoto lens zoomed all the way out, I was too close to them to fit a whole Bear into the photo frame - how awesome is that?!
We stayed with these three for ages just enjoying the experience. When we eventually moved on, we spotted another Mother with her much smaller 10 month old cub (just one this time), but she wasn't coming anywhere near us with him.
A little later we came across another 3 Bears in close proximity (often when there is a litter of more than one cub, and they're old enough for their mother to have left them, they'll stick together until they reach sexual maturity). One of them was quite the little showman and was rolling around for for ages - incredible to watch! I really need to find some easy-to-use (and free!) stop-frame animation software to put these together so you can watch the full show.
It doesn't sound like much when written down, but it definitely added up to another completely worthwhile day on the Tundra!
Later I popped by the grocery store again so I could try the different flavours of Fanta I'd seen there: Fanta Cream Soda and Fanta Red Tangerine (this is another overseas quirk of mine). The Cream Soda came in a bright pink can and wasn't at all like our Creme Soda (although I haven't had that in years!), it was almost like a bubblegum flavour. The Red Tangerine tasted just like naartjie.
I also managed to find my momento item. I've gone with 2 Polar Bear drawings by a local artist which I'm hoping to have framed with some of the photo's I've taken on this trip because there really are some amazing ones!
We had our last group dinner at the Seaport Hotel. I decided to try the Arctic Char this evening, but it really wasn't up to scratch. @clairam's tasted and looked completely different to mine - although we ordered the identical meal!! But I guess it's tricky preparing a meal for 30 in a town that size. I did try Alexander Keith's India Pale Ale at dinner. I was hoping it'd be a little lighter than normal beer (like cider ... being "pale" and all :P) but it was actually more like Carling Black Label! Made me think of Gum.