Friday, 31 October 2008

Pumpkins!

This week a number of pumpkins were spotted making their way into a certain Vancouver property.

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We discovered them in the kitchen, crowded together, whimpering and trying to look inconspicuous. A tricky thing for five, very large, bright orange gourds. We are not certain but a bit like turkeys at Christmas, we think that they may have been trying to hide. After all, at Hallow'een and Samhain, the word 'carving' is just enough to put the shake on a pumpkin.

With good reason.


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One by one, they met their doom.
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Kiddo, the Fella's son, commented that there was nothing you could carve into a pumpkin that could possibly be more scary than the inside of a pumpkin.


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I agree.

Now, once they were over the shock of the knife, the pumpkins rose admirably to the occasion. Once the rain had cleared, dark had fallen, they staunchly defended us from malevolent spirits, while welcoming in the friendly ones (ahem, trick or treaters in our case and I didn't take any photos just in case I upset any parents).


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Furthermore, the Fella was beside himself with delight - it just so happens that once they are separated from 'their guts' - roasted pumpkin seeds are a favourite, seasonal treat.


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Also, I know - as I am not working at the moment - I should reclaim our pumpkins from the front doorstep and do something domestically industrious with them...
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...um no - they can remain outside?!

I hope that you all had a good Hallow'een and Samhain.

*****

Birthday Post Script

Here are some lovely flowers that I received from Mel's family for my birthday - thank you - and especially for you is a snap of Granville Island's Produce Market where we picked up groceries on my birthday!
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Here is a nice, healthy pink Azalea that I received from one set of my parents for my birthday. They do not know that I have a blog - otherwise, after my recent gardening exploits, I suspect that they might have thought twice about sending me a garden shrub?!

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As it happens, there is a 40ft high rhododendron outside that I am eyeing seriously with a chainsaw. So um, I have sent this Azalea away to a safe haven. It has gone to live with someone who loves it, is not hellbent on garden clearance, has green fingers and will plant it out after it has finished flowering - phew!

Thursday, 30 October 2008

It's my birthday...

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...and I'll wear handknit socks if I want to!

I was handed my gifts from the Fella while I was in bed this morning and I am going to wear my going away socks from Mel today. I am missing my friends/family in the UK and I think that I might feel that cut a little bit today, so these have been adopted as my birthday comfort socks.

Not that I am being badly treated here at all - my presents from the Fella were delivered in bed along with a steaming mug of black coffee (Monmouth Street Coffee Company beans...mmmm) and um, one of those pesky cinnamon buns from IKEA, duly warmed and buttered*.

I really needed both of these presents, so I am delighted - I requested one of them; the other he decided to get for me on his own. I am not sure what it says about me that all I wanted for my birthday was a plain, cozy dressing gown and what he twigged that I needed was a copy of MS Project!

My plans for today? Well once these have been delivered (for the next phase of West Shore Camp DIY projects), Vancouver is my oyster until the Fella leaves work and we get to fulfil the rest of my birthday requests, which were:

Please can we go:

My needs are fairly simple?!

Note for Robynn: now you have a very good excuse for busting out of your trousers, my reasons are calorie related - plain and simple!

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Some things are different...

...yet some things are just the same.


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I have come across two IKEAs so far in Vancouver - it's oddly reassuring to see people queuing for the same peculiar sounding furniture and bouncy looking meatballs. Although yesterday? I saw one corner of the store's restaurant set out for a child's birthday tea party. I have never seen that in the UK but thinking about it, why on earth not? After all, IKEA has a bouncy ball play area and the it serves has to be a bit more healthy than the same kind of event hosted at a fast food restaurant?


Also, d'y'know those packets of bite sized cinnamon rolls that you can get in the IKEA food shop? Here, they do not sell those. Instead they sell packets of 6 cinnamon rolls that are about the same size as a bath bun and are drizzled with icing sugar. The Fella likes to heat them, slice them and slather them in butter - it shouldn't work but somehow it does.


Things like this may explain why I have only been here for a month and I am already bursting out of my trousers. If you know me, you will also know that this is a serious worry for me. I am trying not to panic. So I have bought a set of bathroom scales, a pair of trainers, looked up local Weightwatchers meetings and found out the location of my nearest community centre (swimming pool and gym). If this fails, I may need a UK diet dust care package?


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PS: See this shop? I wish that I could be more enthusiastic about it but I got department store syndrome within 3 minutes of going inside. So I wandered around its aisles of densely stocked plastic fripperies in a daze while its goods glittered nastily at me and animated Christmas ornaments sang, 'Hallelujah,' alongside the Hallow'een sale goods. Tucked away at the back, there was a wall of some Patons, Red Heart and Bernat yarns plus a few tired looking patterns. I have made a mental note of the things that they stock in case I ever need anything but I am sorry, I am afraid that I couldn't leave the shop quickly enough.


Can anyone remember those WH CraftSmiths shops in the 70s and 80s? A bit like that but with a whole aisle of Martha Stewart crafts plus an aisle (or two) of artifical flowers for creating floral arrangements that you can dust?

Monday, 27 October 2008

House Clean Up – Part One

When I was outside, scything my way across the front garden, I heard the unmistakable sound of DIY coming from indoors. So I popped inside, just in time to catch the Fella wielding his crow bar:

Demise of Pine Cladding

Going, going, gone..! It is possible that I shouldn't be so irreverent about an original, mid century architectural feature? The fella bought his house from the family who built it (themselves) in 1949 and when he took off the final (i.e. the first) plank of pine cladding, he found a plank marked up with the name of the owner, who built the house and a date - 1952.

However, as much as it is central to the British psyche (well, mine at least) to preserve original house features, the pine cladding in the living room had darkened to the point where it, and the green paint on the walls, was making the whole room feel very dingy. When questioned about the pine cladding, the Fella said (and he has owned this house for about 20 years), "I hate it. I have never liked it. I have always wanted to take it down."

So goodbye pine cladding and hello drywall (plasterboard):

Drywall in Progress

Here it is sporting its first coat of mud (plaster). Apparently, the wall needs a further two coats of plaster (mud) and it has to be sanded between each coat - so the fun is set to continue this week.

Now, if you do not mind excusing me for a moment - I just need to nip off to ICI Paints (Dulux) to get a couple more paint samples mixed up!

Garden Clean Up – Part One

I hope that this picture will speak for itself:

Garden Clean Up - Part One

The top row shows the Fella's front garden before I started to work on it. The bottom row shows the clean up in progress and the lawn after the Fella mowed it.

I have filled one Canadian bin (2 UK skips) with garden debris to date. I am a bit worried that I have savaged some of his shrubs rather brutally but Escallonia is tough and it (about 8 of them plus two fire bushes) had overcrowded two flowering crab apples and a magnolia tree in the same patch. Also, I am very sorry about hefting the lopping tool around the Camellia but it was blocking out a lot of light inside the house.

At the very least, I am hoping that we can reseed the grass and keep the shrubs trimmed to a manageable size moving forwards. The Fella is not so sure about keeping the shrubs at all - now that he can see ground, he is really keen on the idea of getting his chainsaw and a shovel out. He would like to level everything forward of the house and remove their roots, then either reseed or re-turf the lawn. Apparently, this would return the front garden to the state that it was in when he first bought his house.

I can see the aesthetic merit but I would be sorry to lose the flowering crab apples as they pollinate the apple tree on the other side of the garden. Also, I would quite like to see how things recover and what the shrubs/trees look like when they are in mini-mode and flower next season before he decides on a more radical course of action.

I have not yet touched one side of the house (it is about 6-8ft high with established brambles) and I am thinking that this might need the assistance of a landscape gardener as I do not think that I am strong enough to dig these out on my own. Also, I have not tackled the back garden which is overshadowed by two huge cedar trees (apparently a family of racoons live in one of them; I have only seen black and grey squirrels so far), more brambles and a large rhododendron.

Hmm, there is more to do. I would also like to see if I can sneak in a few, low maintenance and to scale herbaceous perennials too. Even in a few pots so that they are contained and do not spread out of control - unlike his shrubs! It would be nice to introduce some more colour?

Something about this garden clean up that has made me chuckle - it seems to be a big thing to have an immaculate front garden in this neighbourhood? Actually, some of the lawns and shrubs in this street look if they have been precision cut with nail clippers. As you can see, the Fella's front garden is in sharp contrast to this - I am surprised that he has not had a knock on the door from the Block Lawn Patrol.

For a few days after the clean up, the garden did look as though we had half made an effort to bring it up to neighbourhood standard. However, when I came home yesterday, I noticed that both our neighbours had been out and done their gardening. And in comparison our front garden looks pretty despicable again! It's lucky that I don't care; else I'd be tempted to go ruffle their precise lawn stripes.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

West Shore Camp – The House

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I have barely knitted a stitch since I have arrived in Canada. I did manage to pop along to a knitting meet up at The Grind (a coffee shop for those of you with minds as wayward as my own!) on Sunday but the fact that there was a very large skip (bin) sitting in the back yard at home was enough to cause me fidget uncomfortably with my needles.

How long have I been here now - two weeks? Is it three? Where are the weeks going? It's a bit different being somewhere to live, rather than being someplace on holiday. We did go to the Vancouver Aquarium with the Fella's son at Thanksgiving but otherwise, I haven't been anywhere much or done anything specifically exciting. Actually, the past three weeks have been a bit odd. Despite being:

  • jetlagged
  • exhausted after everything that needed to be done in the UK
  • spending three days scrubbing clean (literally) the main room of the Fella's house in preparation for his family's descent at Thanksgiving...

...by Wednesday evening of the first week I had almost dashed my own brains out against the walls of the house, out of frustration of not having anything proper to do - y'know, the not being at work thing? I was climbing the walls. How do people without work cope?

Luckily, I regained my sense of perspective and focus when I attended the first day of my course the next day - I am not sure that I have ever been more pleased to be trapped at a professional development event, in a darkened, stuffy ballroom with all of the curtains drawn for the projector. It seems that the university are running all of my course modules in a hotel - so I expect more of the same between now and March.

I was further cheered up by the arrival of my yarn and fabric stash boxes via Fedex on Friday of the first week that I was here - so why, with everything delivered, haven't I thrown myself into my stash and got on with everything I know that I should be doing? After all, my Christmas knitting is not going to take care of itself!

Well, although I feel now that I could allow a ball of yarn to roll across the floor here without it picking up a thick, bachelor coating of dust and other dubious, unidentified debris, I have heard myself blaming Thanksgiving, that there is nowhere set up for me to unpack my stash into and there's not much point trying to set up any of my sewing stuff without a sewing machine. Rubbish, eh? If I wanted to do something, I am sure that I could.

I suspect that it is closer to the truth that I find it difficult to justify sitting down to either knit or sew when there is so much around me in terms of the house and its garden that needs to be sorted out? A year ago, when I came to visit the Fella in Vancouver, we discussed the things that he would like to do to his house. I was very encouraging as his house was long overdue some care and maintenance. We created a list on the blog that we set up as one of our long distance communications tools.

To his credit, the Fella has tackled as many of the tasks as work and regular visits to the UK have allowed - however, the list was, and still is, long. So, as this is my home for the next six months, as I tend to climb the walls without enough to do and it seems that I cannot settle to knit with so much around me that needs to be done – I guess that it is natural for me to pitch in and help?

After all, the sooner that it is done, the sooner I can unpack my stash?!

So for the next few weeks there may not be a great deal of knitting to see on my blog. I will do my best to share some of the work that is going on at the house instead!

Sunday, 12 October 2008

The Time of Inbetween - Part One

One word of advice for anyone who is thinking of moving – please don't! I implore you - preserve your sanity, stay put and enjoy what you have, exactly where you are.

Situation: run out of bedrooms?
Answer: bunk beds – just stack your kids all the way up to the rafters!

Situation: want to move to a posher area, where you do not battle street rubbish and graffiti?
Answer: sit tight and revel in the cosmopolitan nature of your postcode!

Instead, spend your leisure time, hanging out in the caf├ęs where you would rather live and sip your beverage with the same enjoyment as the local at the next table.

Situation: moving in with someone?
Answer: use stealth. Pretend to yourself that you are not moving at all. Just quietly transfer your things, bit by bit, week by week, month by month, until one day, you realise that there is no longer any reason to return home. Then deal with it, when it is no longer emotional.

Still need to move? Can't avoid it? Well, you truly do have my heartfelt sympathy - what a blooming awful, stressful experience.

While there has been some laughter and fun over the past three weeks, there has also been an unrelenting DIY task list and an immoveable deadline. As a result, there have been moments of real stress, frustration, tears, a lot of teeth gnashing and much exhaustion – it has been a real test.
Despite the Fella arriving to help on the 20th September and the removal company placing my furniture into storage on the 22nd September, we did not limp out of my house until 9:15pm on Friday 3rd October, the night before we travelled to Vancouver.

This is my house layout (image borrowed from my letting agent, I hope that they do not mind). There was work to do in every single room, including repainting all of the walls.

It did not help that I did not finish at work until the 29th September - thank goodness for the Fella and the help that we got from one of my brothers, Anthony, and also, from one of my sisters, Amy.

As we left, I reflected that my house was the most nicely finished, painted, clean and sparkly that it has been in 10 years - it was a bit heartbreaking, actually. So I really hope that my tenants treat it with care and respect...gulp.

This is more than I could say for us though - we were a hideous sight. We were exhausted, had been wearing the same clothes for between 7-10 days, had not showered for 72 hours (we had been painting the bathroom), we were at least 2 hours late for a family meal and I hadn't managed to brush my hair that morning (couldn't find the hairbrush).

Goodness knows what my family thought when we traipsed in, covered in paint and smelling to high heaven. It is probably best that I do not ask – my family can be a bit blunt!


Putting the DIY on one side though, the most difficult thing for me about leaving London (even if it is only for 6 months) was saying goodbye to my family, friends and colleagues. My mother and stepfather even made a 6 hour round trip to have dinner with us, one evening before we left.

Everyone has been extremely generous with their good wishes. In fact, I have been in Vancouver for a week and I am still reading through my cards and fondling my going away gifts! Thank you all very much indeed.

I did not manage to get to see everyone in person before I left - I am sorry. As you can tell from the above, the DIY was a very hard task master. However, I have not vanished into thin air - it might feel like I am long way away but in reality, I am only 4500 miles and -8 hours GMT from London! Just an email, text, Ravelry message or Skype call away - honest!

PS: now that I am over my jetlag, normal (knitting) service and communication will resume shortly. Just as soon as I have sorted out some essential admin that I did not manage to do before I left the UK!