Thursday, 28 February 2013

Or-ga-nised!

Because I am now studying two papers, and I was a little worried about how I was going to manage that time-wise, plus finish the wedding afghan in time (because I had been only working on it in little bits, I don't know why), plus keep up with the housework, and continue to feed the family (Deane has become accustomed to having lunches and dinners prepared for him every day and gets a little sulky when that doesn't happen.  Spoilt.), I decided I needed to become a little more organised with my time, rather than just winging it.  So I created this:



My everything schedule.  Top left is my daily schedule which breaks down weekdays into one hour-ish lots (some are one and a half, two, or three hour blocks depending on what I'm doing (or supposed to be doing)).  The day generally goes like this:

6-7am run, 7-8.30am breakfast, make lunches, bake bread and organise kids for school, 8.30-9am shower etc, 9-10am daily cleaning chores (part of the schedule, I'll get to that), 10-12.30pm study, 12.30-1pm lunch, 1-2.30pm more study, 2.30-3 exercise (because cross training is important for running), 3-4pm kids homework, empty school bags, lunch boxes etc, 4-5.30pm cook dinner, 5.30-6pm, eat dinner and clean the kitchen, 6-8.30pm knitting and getting the kids organised for bed, 8.30-10.30pm watch stuff with Deane, knit, and organise baking (muffins and biscuits if the kids need them for school, or sorting out the bread for the next morning), 10.30-11pm reading to wind down before lights out.  Although Deane keeps hijacking that half hour with more stuff to watch.  Grr.

Top right is my 'cleaning calendar' - something I found on Pinterest and thought was an excellent idea.  Turns out it is a huge help with the whole time management thing.  This is the stuff that fits into that hour of 'daily cleaning chores' on my daily schedule.  It looks a little like this:

DAILY
Morning - make beds, wipe bathroom counters and sinks, empty dishwasher, chore of the day.
Evening - load dishwasher, wipe kitchen counters, quick sweep/spot clean kitchen floor, wipe dining table, pick up clutter.

WEEKLY
Monday - vacuum and dust
Tuesday - clean windows and mirrors
Wednesday - scrub toilets and showers
Thursday - mop floors (although I might swap Tuesday and Thursday)
Friday - swing day
Saturday - laundry and catch-up day

SWING DAY
1st - gardening
2nd - scrub oven, microwave and fridge
3rd - wipe down furniture and cabinets
4th - wipe down walls, baseboards and doors

Of course, not all of it fits into that one hour window, little bits get done when and where they fit in (like making the beds and wiping the bathroom counters and sinks while organising the kids for school, emptying the dishwasher while making breakfast and packing lunches, etc).

Then the schedule at the bottom is for my study (eg: when I should be studying which module, when the assignments are due etc).  Under that is my race number for the upcoming Auckland Round the Bays Fun Run :D  So far this method of organisation has been going quite well (I say that, and yet it's only the first week.  We'll see how it goes long-term).  I've pretty much stuck to the plan (although I'm not militant about it.  I'm not that crazy!), and I'm already ahead of where I need to be study-wise.  I'm up to the first assignments, and they're not due for another few weeks!  I'm happy with that, as it gives me plenty of time to get them done.  For me, the course work and reading is relatively quick, but the assignments take forever.  And my house is clean and tidy!!!  I'll have to see what it looks like by Sunday afternoon (Deane and the boys tend to trash the place a bit over the weekends), but so far, so good.  I like just having one main task per day.  It works better than just doing everything all at once, which can take about six hours.  And oddly enough, having a list that tells me what to do and when to do it seems to really work for me.  I don't really like being told what to do (most people don't), but because I have the list there, my brain is all like "Ugh, I can't be bothered.  I'll do it later" and then it's all like "No!  It's on the list, and it's supposed to be done now.  Just do it!".  And this is working well for my knitting too!  Last Sunday, I was only a quarter of the way through the afghan after having worked on it for about two weeks.  A pretty poor effort if I do say so myself.  Now, because I have my 'regularly scheduled knitting time', and my brain is aware of this whole 'allocated time' thing (refer to previous brain-conversation), I've managed to get quite a bit done and am now nearly halfway through!  I may just get it done in time after all.  Two weeks to go...

Today's routine is a little whacked out, as my morning run ended up happening on my way to and from physio rather than at 6am, since Deane left for the airport at 5.30am.  And I haven't done any study as yet, instead going to physio and writing this blog post.  But because I'm well ahead already, I feel no guilt about it :-)  I've mopped the floors and the beds are made, and my kitchen is spotless.  Sweet as.

To further help with the whole organisation thing, we decided to give meat delivery a go.  I discovered a family business (thank you Twitter) in Taranaki that farms and butchers their own cattle, so they know (and you know) exactly what the cows have eaten, how they've lived (yay for happy cows!) and where the meat comes from (they have a neat little diagram on their site so you know what parts of the cow have gone into each meat product).  They're very good with customer service - I received an email letting me know what day my meat would be arriving, which was today.  Lo and behold, at 7am I discovered this on my doorstep:



Having prepared myself for needing to split up mince, steaks, sausages etc into separate bags before putting them in the freezer, I was about to set to work.  But when I opened the box, I was very pleased to discover I didn't need to.  They'd done it for me:


Awesome!  I'm looking forward to digging in to the porterhouse steaks a little later ;-)  The meat looks to be very good quality, and I'm very happy with the service.  Big thumbs up to Green Meadows Beef!  This will make it a lot easier to meal plan, and I only have to buy chicken, pork and lamb products at the butcher/supermarket now (although there is a business in the South Island that does lamb and venison...)

Ah, I love being organised.  It's so satisfying :-)  You may have noticed that I have running in my schedule, and that I mentioned I ran to and from physio this morning.  Yes, I am running again, hooray!  Sadly, as expected, my fitness level has suffered a significant blow.  The 5km I ran yesterday morning at 5'38" pace was bloody hard work!  Today's 5.7km was split in two, and was still hard (although the pace was pretty quick - 5'15" and 5'05" respectively).  I have quite a bit of work ahead of me if I'm going to be comfortable running this 8.4km fun run in a week and a half :-/  Not to mention all the other upcoming races (although those are a while away).  I had hopes of competing in the Warrior Dash in April.  I'll have to see how the next couple of weeks goes I guess, and decide from there.  There's always next year.

Oh, and one more thing before I get off the blog and get stuck into study - cauli rice.  Seriously.  So simple, and yet so fabulous!  I made a stirfry last night for dinner, and didn't want to have a whole whack of carbs and extra calories (because I have been eating waaaaaaaaay too much bread and junk food lately - my own fault for baking so much).  So I gave cauli rice a go.  It was fantastic!  I just whizzed up half a small cauliflower I had in my fridge, and fried it with a blob of coconut oil and some salt and pepper.  It was the perfect base for my stirfry, and I didn't feel really bad about eating it.  The amount that small half cauli made was more than enough for Deane and myself (there's no way I would be able to get the kids to eat it), and I now have crazy plans to buy ALL THE CAULIFLOWERS and making bags of it to keep in the freezer.  It's quick to make, but sometimes its nice just to have something on hand ready to go, y'know?  I just left the first lot plain as an accompaniment to the stirfry, but you can add pretty much anything to it to change the flavour, or bulk it out to make a snack or meal (like fried rice).  Ooh, while we're on the subject of food, I made a zucchini gratin the other night.  Oh. My. God.  Yum.  I made the cheese sauce with half cream and half milk (and just edam, no parmesan.  Plus I used some sourdough for the breadcrumbs and just sprayed it with a bit of rice bran oil instead of using butter).  Dude.  Why have I not done this before?  Deane went back for extra, so it must've been good!

Enjoy your weekend, people :-)

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Carry on

I had my exam on Friday.  I'm pretty sure I bombed, which is a little disappointing considering the other two assignments for this paper both earned A+.  I was kinda hoping I'd get an A+ paper.  Unfortunately for me, I've always sucked at exams.  My memory resembles a sieve (I'm pretty sure I've mentioned this before), and my brain doesn't perform well under pressure.  I've never been one to come up with witty retorts on the spot.  I'm the person that thinks of something to say about five minutes (or half an hour) too late.  So I'm not surprised I didn't do so well.  And I did study... eventually.  I managed two or three days of study, but clearly didn't revise all the topics I should have.  Oh well.  Now I just have to wait and see what my result is.  In the mean time, I'll look on the positive side.

I have completed my first full year of study!!  Hooray!!!  Also, I am now officially a degree student!  I signed up for two papers this trimester, that will go towards my Bachelor of Applied Science.  Exciting, and a little scary.  I'm going to have to be more organised this year, because I'll need more study time.  Shouldn't be too hard, considering how much time I had to fluff around last year.  Of course, that also means less knitting time... or... less housework time... ;-)  Nah, a messy house would drive me barmy.  I digress.  This year I'm going to try and do five papers, next year another five.  That will leave me with five more, which I can hopefully do in 2015.  For now though, I'll focus on getting the hang of studying two papers at a time.

I managed plenty of procrastination this week, filling up my time with ridiculous amounts of Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter and baking.  Sadly, not much knitting (which is what I should have been doing if not studying!) - I'm behind on the afghan.  It's only a quarter done.  Oops...

On the up side, my sourdough starter is alive and well!  So far I've made pancakes, waffles and crumpets, and seven loaves of bread.  The pancakes, waffles and crumpets were all very successful, but the bread... well.  I wouldn't say they were complete disasters, but...  Loaves one and two I proofed overnight just on an oven tray, because my loaf tins are manky and old, and have rust (I have since thrown them out.  Saves a lot on tin foil and baking paper!).  They ended up looking like this:


All flat and spread out.  I tried squishing them up into loaves, but it didn't really work out.  The bread was edible, but it looked attrocious!  Loaves three and four worked out great.  I had bought new loaf tins and proofed them in those.  Unfortunately, I'd covered them with plastic wrap.  I had failed to spray the plastic wrap with oil though, so it stuck.  I had to peel it away, which literally ripped off the tops of the loaves.  They didn't recover, and the resulting bread was very brick-shaped.  It tasted great, but the tops were so crusty and stabby that the kids would only eat it if I cut off the crusts.  I ended up making croutons out of one of the loaves (which we had with pumpkin and bacon soup tonight, that Deane made).  Loaves five and six were pretty good, but quite small.  I gave one loaf to our friends, and we ate the other.  Loaf seven was also good, but this happened:


I guess my sourdough is just a little too enthusiastic!  I ripped off the 'overflow' at the bottom and baked the rest, and it was actually quite delicious.  It doesn't have much of a sour taste though.  Perhaps I'll have to experiment a bit more, once I get the hang of baking non-mutant bread.  Tonight, I've shaped the dough into small rounds, with the hopes that they will turn into bread rolls for the boys to take for lunch.  Fingers crossed!  I have plans to make more pancakes on Tuesday morning too.  I'd make them tomorrow morning, but I don't have quite enough starter for both pancakes and bread.  But that's the beauty of sourdough - you just keep feeding the starter and voila!  More starter!  Yum :-) 

I also made almond milk a couple of times.  Deane and I like it, but it doesn't behave well in my cups of tea (it kinda does this gross curdling thing, urgh).  So I think I'll stick to dairy or soy.  After some consideration this week, I've decided I probably couldn't give up dairy, despite any possible health benefits.  I'd miss it too much!  Ice cream, all kinds of cheese, milk and cream... it's just so goooooood...

Sadly, I haven't been out for a run yet.  I went to the physiotherapist on Tuesday, and it turns out all that falling on my butt while snowboarding did a little more damage than I thought.  It's not just a groin strain, there's muscle damage all around the inner thigh area which will take a little more rest and careful stretching.  It does appear to be improving slowly though, so I'm hoping (really, really hoping!!!) that I'll be able to go our for a run this week.  It's been over two weeks since my last run (which was on 9th February.  Seems like forever ago), and I can just feel my fitness levels plummeting!  Not cool.  Plus there's the fun run in two weeks.  Guess I'll have to start slow and work my way up, maybe 5km.  The fun run is 8.4km.  I should be able to manage it.  I have physio again tomorrow, so I'll have a chat with him and see what he says.  Fingers crossed!!

Onwards and upwards!  Running, knitting, and studying!  Let's 'get 'er done' ;-)*

* Last year when we were in Florida, I really loved listening to the comedy channel on satellite radio while we were travelling in the car.  There was this southern comedian that really made me laugh, particularly when he said 'get 'er done'.  Whenever I remember, it makes me smile.  I wish we could get satellite radio here, it's awesome.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Everything's back to normal. Almost.

In a bizarre twist, Deane is currently running more than I am.  I feel like we're in a parallel universe or something...  Sadly for me, that is not the case (although I am secretly very pleased that Deane appears to be continuing his fitness regime (or what there is of one) that began right around the time he signed up for the annual fun run).  I sustained an injury while snowboarding a few weeks ago - a groin strain.  I didn't notice at the time or while we were in Whistler, but once back in Vancouver it was a minor niggle.  It got progressively worse over time, so I thought it best to take a break from running.  Despite resting it, it is not healing on its own, so tomorrow I'm off to the physiotherapist with the hopes that he'll be able to fix it relatively quickly.  Is there some unwritten rule I missed that says once you pass age 32, all injuries take three times as long to heal? Gah!  I haven't been out for a run in over a week, and have done little to no exercise - only walking.  I'm starting to get a little frustrated, particularly as I have put on 4kg over the last few weeks (I'm guessing all that poutine we ate in Canada didn't help!) and would really like to work that back off and get back to my optimum weight, which I'd managed to achieve just before Christmas.  All that muscle tone, gone :-(  On the plus side, I fit my jeans again now!  Alas, still no boobs... ;-)

Everything else is hunky dory though - the kids settled straight back into school, and T went on a full-day trip to Tiritiri Matangi Island last Wednesday.  He had a great time, and told me about all the birds he'd seen while he was there.  I've been getting back into the kitchen and making ALL THE THINGS (also not helping with my current forced sedentary lifestyle).  Today I made some rather delicious buttermilk honey bread, peanut butter cookies, and chocolate chip muffins (which the kids really like - win!) and gave some home made rice milk a go, the recipe for which I got out of the book I just finished reading - Eat and Run by Scott Jurek.  Jury's still out on that one.  I love soy milk (although not all brands), but I'm a little dubious about rice milk.  I haven't yet tried almond or oat milk.  I'm intrigued though, to find out whether or not cutting dairy from my diet would help with stomach issues and health in general.

We also had a small dinner party over the weekend with a couple of friends, and introduced them to poutine kiwi style - bocconcini instead of cheese curd, but with proper poutine gravy we bought while we were in Vancouver.  We also had braised beef (Deane really enjoyed that at The Cambie) and we gave beaver tails a go, although the recipe I ended up using calls them otter tails or elephant ears (they were yum!!  Almost as good as the ones we had in Whistler).  I've also go a sourdough starter on the go, and I'm hoping to be able to make a few loaves with it from about Wednesday, when it will be about a week old.  In the mean time I have a little excess starter to deal with, so tomorrow morning we'll be having sourdough pancakes for breakfast.  Don't know if the kids will eat them, but they certainly enjoyed the french toast I made this morning!

I've also been busy knitting.  Friends of ours are getting married next month, and I've decided to make them an afghan as a wedding gift.  So far I'm halfway through the second repeat of eight:

(Sideways pic)

 But I have some finished projects to show you as well.  Before we left for our trip, I cast on a pair of socks for Deane - they were a 'sorry you didn't get any socks for Christmas' pair.  I managed to finish those before we got to Whistler, so he could wear them on the mountain.  Me being me, I picked this pattern because of the name - Globe Trotter socks.  I got a kick out of knitting these in three different countries, and while travelling between all three.  Started in New Zealand, knit while on the plane, in Vancouver, at the US/Canadian border, in Seattle, and in Whistler, plus the car trips back and forth.


These were knit with Dream in Color Smooshy, which I luuuuuuurve!  This was the first time I'd knit with it, having wanted to try it for years.  I acquired it in a swap recently and oh!  I want more!!!  It's beautifully soft and squishy.  Couldn't tell you what colour I had though, I think it was November Muse.  Lovely.

I finished a hat I'd had on the needles since last November, in time to take with me:



Jaffrey, knit with Brooklyn Tweed LOFT in Sweatshirt.  I found this quite a challenge to knit.  The pattern wasn't hard, I just found it tedious.  I had to knit it English-style, as the texture of the yarn and the style of pattern (Bavarian twisted stitch) was harder for me to knit Continental-style (which has now become my main knitting style).

While in Canada, and on my way home, I knit a pair of fingerless mitts.  What I found pretty cool was that the second mitt was cast on while on the plane from Vancouver to San Francisco, and bound off on the plane from Auckland to Napier.  An entire mitt knit on the plane (okay, there was an hour in the transit lounge in San Fran).


The pattern is a Regia pattern designed to match the yarn line.  I thought as I was knitting these mitts that they reminded me very much of the colours of the sky in Canada.  I love them.

And when I got back on solid New Zealand ground, I cast on another pair of socks for Deane (these were the 'I feel guilty about the amount of money I spent on yarn and running gear' socks), which I finished the day before he arrived back home:


They're knee-high on me, but not quite so big on Deane, naturally.  I loved the pattern though, having seen it recently on the Yarn Harlot's blog (she designed the pattern).  These were knit with some Spud & Chloe Fine yarn (colourway Anemone) I bought at Wool is Not Enough.  I picked this yarn for him because a) the colour was manly enough, and b) it had good yardage, more than enough to match the pattern.  Having said that, I wasn't overly impressed with it, and won't be in a hurry to get more.  It was fine to knit with, but the yarn is quite unusual, and I don't particularly like the finished look.  It appears to me as though they've used low-quality silk offcuts in the spinning process.  I'm not saying that is the case at all, that's just my opinion of how it looks.

Anyway, Deane is home now and likely waiting for me to get off the computer so we can watch something, so I best be off.  Tomorrow, physio, and more procrastinating about studying for my exam this Friday (eek!!).  See you again soon!

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Oh Canada

Hello again, it's time for a recap of the second half of my trip.  I'd say our trip, but Deane's was a little longer than mine, so we'll just stick with my experiences okay?  And anyway, this isn't Deane's blog ;-)

Alrighty then, where was I...?  Right, we're still on the mountain... Yes, Friday was our last day on Whistler Blackcomb, and we finished it well with a Fresh Tracks breakfast which was fantastic.  Once we finally got there anyway.  Deane is like a very stubborn rock first thing in the morning - near impossible to move.  I did manage to wake him up at around 6am, but by the time we actually got out the door and into the Village, it was 8am.  We'd missed the cut-off for the gondola ride up.  However, we joined everyone else heading up for skiing and boarding and went to the Roundhouse anyway.  Luckily breakfast was still being served, so I loaded my plate with waffles, bacon, syrup and potatoes, grabbed a cup of tea and dug in.  We had beautiful weather for our last day on the mountain, and this was the view from the Roundhouse window while we ate breakfast (you can see window reflections in the pictures):




Gorgeous, isn't it?  We had a good day, although my last run was certainly not my best.  I was going to go down Whiskey Jack and Olympic again, but Deane thought it would be better for me to go down Bear Cub.  So I did, and regretted it.  I wiped out quite spectactularly when I was going a little too fast (for me anyway) and heading towards the edge of the run.  I tried turning and screwed it up, fell over, and slid all the way to the edge.  By the time I stopped, one foot and half my board was hanging off the edge, with a lovely rocky cliff drop beneath me.  I do believe I said aloud, "whew, that was close!".  Wish I'd thought to take a picture of how close I was to going all the way over.  Kinda scary.  So I took it easy the rest of the way down to Midstation, then hopped on the gondola back to Creekside as planned (wasn't going to board down any more blue runs after that!!).  Deane and I met up, I dropped off my board and boots, we grabbed our shoes and headed back to the Lodge to get changed.

We had a lovely drive back along the Sea to Sky Highway around sunset, and snapped a few pics along the way:


This particular picture was snapped while whizzing along at 100km - Deane was intrigued by the plume of smoke between the hills and wondered what it was from.  I don't think we ever did figure it out.  We arrived back in Vancouver and checked into the hotel, then dropped off the rental car to avoid paying horrendous parking fees.  While we were strolling through downtown, we noticed lots of people walking towards the waterfront with Canucks shirts on, surmised that there was a game about to start, and headed towards Rogers Arena on the off chance there were still tickets available.  To our delight there was, so we just had to go to the game!  And, naturally, have poutine for dinner ;-)


The atmosphere was quite something, the fans a wonder to behold.  Nothing like a live ice hockey game!  We were very happy to have ticked that off the 'must do' list.  And it was quite a game too.  The Canucks won 2-1 after overtime, a penalty shoot-out and a sudden death shoot-out.  Exciting stuff!

The next day we wandered around town and checked out the Vancouver Lookout:





Science World (a-ma-zing!!!  An excellent place for kids to spend the day):


 and Chinatown, where we found the world's narrowest building:


That evening was spent out on the town with some fellow work mates of Deane's, and some customers that had arrived earlier in the day.  I went back to the hotel at around 11pm and Deane wandered in some time around 3.30am.  Which gave me a chance to head out for a run around the Stanley Park seawall at 8am, once it was light enough.  I met a fellow runner in the elevator on the way down to the lobby, and it turned out he had exactly the same plan (plus a map) so we decided to run together.  We chatted the whole way, and it turned out he was also from New Zealand, although currently residing in England.  It was nice to have some company, particularly company that was just as keen to snap some photos on the way around.  We each took a photo the other, but mine turned out horrible (I had my eyes closed) so unfortunately it wasn't a keeper.  These were though:


 Lions Gate Bridge
 
 Birds...?
 
No, rocks!!  Clever ;-)

We both agreed that it was a fantastic place for a run, and the crisp early morning air was a delightfully refreshing experience.  No wonder it is a highly recommended running route.  All up, the distance to and from our hotel plus the run around the park totalled 13.4km, which we finished in 1:21:44.  The pace was a little slower than I'm used to, averaging 6'05", but that made it easier for us to converse comfortably.  We were happy with our run and parted ways in the elevator, much the way we had met.  Thanks for a great run, Ant ;-)

After a nice hot shower, I woke Deane up and we headed out for breakfast, then caught a bus out to the Capilano Suspension Bridge, which was amazeballs.  We did ALL THE THINGS.   Suspension bridge, treetop walk, cliff walk, shopping at the Trading Post... so much fun!  The views were absolutely spectacular, and the history of the bridge and surrounding area was quite fascinating:








 All those little dots?  They're pennies.




All I can say is wow.  If you're ever in the Vancouver area, you HAVE to go check this out.  Afterwards, we headed back into town and caught up with a bunch of convention-goers to watch the Super Bowl and have dinner.  Man, what a game!  Definitely a fun night out too.  We had a laugh about the women's toilets at the Steamworks Brew Pub where we watched the game.  Check this out:



Two loos!  I know girls usually go to the restroom together, but this is a little too far for me...  It was quite a talking point and source of amusement among the men of the group.  There was many a joke to be had :D

Monday saw us wandering from place to place, making good use of the SkyTrain and bus system - we checked out the Lululemon outlet store, which was a complete waste of time in my opinion.  I was kinda bummed that we'd spent a large chunk of the morning finding the place and having to walk through slightly more... unsavoury... areas of Vancouver:



Seriously, the area looked like something out of Supernatural (which, funnily enough, is sometimes filmed in Vancouver and surrounding areas apparently.  Hmm...)  After that, things went a little better - I got to go yarn shopping!!!  We went to Three Bags Full and the Sweet Georgia Yarns studio.  I spent quite a bit on yarn, and felt a little guilty about it (plus making Deane traipse around in semi-rural and industrial areas for my benefit) so I promised him a pair of socks (hence the rush to get a pair finished before he got home on Tuesday, you may recall).  I had a great day and a fun evening.  Deane had to go to a conference welcome dinner, so I ate alone in the hotel restaurant, then headed into town to go to a proper Lululemon store, where I spent a rather ridiculous amount of money on new running gear (which is awesome btw) to make up for the poor experience of earlier that morning.  Then it was back to the hotel to watch crappy cable programming (I believe it was four episodes of America's Funniest Home Videos in a row) before hitting the sack early.

The next day we were up bright and early - 5.45am!  It was the morning of the Fun Run!  We donned our cold-weather running gear and met a bunch of participants in the lobby, then walked down to the start line together.  I ran with one of the guys, and left Deane to run with a bunch of others.  It was a little dark, so I'm glad they had markers for the route:


My time was not my fastest, but not bad for a 5km - 28:57 (I won fastest female for the 5km, although to be honest I don't think there were any other women running the 5km.  Maybe one in the 10km, but the rest were men.  Not really a competition, is it?).  Deane rocked in about five or so minutes later, happy to finish the race I'm sure, but also happy to have achieved his goal:


Way to go Deane!!!  After that, the conference was in full swing so Deane was busy.  I had some time to do a bit of last-minute souvenir shopping in Gastown, then it was off to the airport for my flight(s) home.  I kind of wish I'd managed to get a few photos of San Francisco as we flew in to land - the views were absolutely amazing!  But my phone was off and buried in my bag under the seat in front of me.  So I just looked out the window and tried to absorb it all into my memory.  One day we might actually visit there.  As for me this time, I literally walked off the plane, walked about 50 metres to the next transit lounge, and sat down to knit and read for an hour before boarding the next plane to Auckland.  I did manage to get a photo of the cool little ice patterns on the plane window:


Neat, huh?  The flight was a fairly quick one (even though it was nearly 13 hours long), and we arrived in Auckland about half an hour earlier than expected which meant I had a good chance of catching an earlier flight to Napier.  The odds were in my favour as I whizzed through customs and walked out of the international terminal in time to catch the shuttle to the domestic terminal.  Thankfully I had plenty of time to change my flight which meant I only had to wait for half an hour, instead of 2 1/2.  Much better!  I arrived in Napier at 7.45am, tired but happy to be home (although still a little bummed about having to leave Vancouver and Deane behind).

All in all, it was an absolutely fantastic trip, and I really hope we get to go back again soon.  I adored Whistler, and Vancouver was amazing.  I would love to see more of Canada.  Apparently next year's conference will be in Vancouver again... hmmm...

Monday, 11 February 2013

I'm baaaaaaaaack...

Although if I'm honest, I'd far rather be still in Canada.  Especially since I left Deane behind.  Sure, he had a conference to attend which would've been uber-boring for me (unless you consider all that free time could be spent shopping, sightseeing, and running around some of the most beautiful parks and seawalls Vancouver has to offer), but then he got to go skiing again, and there was fresh powder on the mountain.  Yes, I'm pouting.

But seriously, it is good to be home again.  It was nice to see the boys (however unenthusiastic they were to see me) and catch up with my bff and family.  And I pick Deane up from the airport tomorrow morning, bright and early (6am, eek!) so life as we know it will resume - ie: Deane has a 9am meeting.  Crazy.  I have to admit, there was something quite satisfying about arriving home to a nice clean house, crappy New Zealand programming (no better or worse than crappy cable programming if I'm honest), and mundane routine like making up a batch of yogurt for the next day, preparing another truckload of delicious muesli (this time with dried cranberries and white chocolate, as the original recipe suggests - yum!), and grocery shopping.  And thank God, the kids are back at school!  I just sent them off for their first day, hurrah!!! But you don't want to hear about that, right?  You want the details of the awesome trip!  Well, let's get started from the beginning.

Friday 25th, Deane drove down to Napier with the boys and left them and the car behind, jumped on a plane Saturday and waited for me at the airport.  I rocked on up and we met his workmate William and his family in the Koru lounge.  William made a passing comment that the plane that appeared to be ours was probably going to be delayed, as it had a big flashing light in the cockpit.  Hmm.  We sat and ate some dinner and chatted away happily until the boarding call was made, trudged onto the plane, then proceeded to wait for about an hour while they fixed an electrical problem with the fuel pressure gauge.  Yay.  The flight was long and bumpy (as they often are) and I managed about an hour of broken sleep, despite taking some sleeping tablets (which clearly DO NOT WORK) but it was okay, as flights go.  We made good time, and ended up only being half an hour later than our scheduled arrival time in Vancouver.  Deane being Deane, he decided that since we were staying in five star accommodation for our first night, why not take five star transport?  So we hopped in a limo.  Ridiculous!  But fun :-)


After we'd checked in, we went for a wander and bought some local sims for our phones (Deane would've been fine, but it would have cost me $30 per MB for data!  Insane!).  Then we found Gastown, which is an awesome suburb of Vancouver.  It has the steam clock!


No, that's not a very good picture, is it?  Sorry about that.  My nighttime photography skills are even worse than my daytime ones.  *sigh*  We stopped in to The Cambie for dinner, and this is where we met and fell in love with poutine.  Damn, that stuff is good!  And yet, so, so bad.  We devoured bowls of poutine numerous times throughout our trip, and Deane even found (and bought at least six packets of) poutine gravy at a market.  I have hunted down a cheese curd recipe (since it is not commercially available in New Zealand) and we will be able to have poutine at home too!  I'm looking forward to introducing the kids to it :-)

The next day we rented a car and drove to Tulalip outlet mall just outside of Seattle, where I bought a pair of Nikes for CAD$70!  Way cheaper than buying them at home!  We also bought a bunch of other stuff, and Deane found a neat used sports goods store where he bought some snow blades, boots and poles.  We stopped in for dinner at Applebee's (I had the oriental chicken salad, it was awesome).  They had a Harry Potter picture on the wall, which of course I had to get a (crappy nighttime) picture of ;-)


Then it was off to Whistler mountain!!!  As we got closer, it started to snow.  I don't know how many of you have ever driven at night while it was snowing, but I just have to say it was magical.  I can't even begin to describe how beautiful it looked through the front windscreen, watching the snow falling.  It was kind of like the old Windows screensaver - you know the one, where it looks like you're flying through space and whizzing past all the stars - it was really amazing.  And our accommodation?  S-T-U-N-N-I-N-G!!!  This was the view from our room:



We had a one bedroom suite, which was spacious and just all around gorgeous.  It had a gas fireplace, under floor heating in the bathroom, a huge shower, a ridiculously large bath tub, three on-site restaurants, free shuttle all day every day...  I would stay there again in a heartbeat.  It was only five minutes walk from Creekside Village, where you could hop on a gondola and head straight up the mountain.





Or the shuttle would take you on a ten minute drive to Whistler Village, where you could go on the gondola up either Whistler or Blackcomb mountains.  I love love love Whistler!  I would live there if I could.


Inukshuk, morning and night.  Wearing a snowy hat ;-)

The first day was spent on a Ziptrek tour - the longest available, the Mammoth Tour which takes about 4.5-5 hours.  It was fantastic, and our guides were the best.  They were very knowledgeable and informative about the history of Whistler, the local inhabitants (of the furry variety ;-P) and the ecological sustainability of Ziptrek and the environmentally friendly measures the locals go to to keep Whistler safe and inhabitable for the wildlife and the community.  Beautiful views too.





That evening we went on a Finer Things tasting tour, which was a fun little jaunt around town trying different foods at different locations.  For our tour, we stopped into Bearfoot Bistro (which had an amazing wine cellar), Hy's Steakhouse (the tuna was divine), Quattro, Rocky Mountain Chocolate (OMG the caramel apples!!!), Rogers Chocolate, and The FireRock Lounge.  The food was pretty amazing, but we didn't end up going back to any of the places to eat (although we did call in to Rocky Mountain again.  Seriously, those caramel apples...).  After that we headed back to the lodge and crashed, ready for the next day - snowboarding!!!

Oh my, that mountain is something.  The views were epic, the snow was gorgeously powdery and soft (most of the time), and there are just so many places to go and things to see!  Here are a few pics to give you an idea:









Yes, that last one is of me sitting on my butt.  Probably having just fallen over.  That happened A LOT.  We had four days on the mountain, and I have to say my snowboarding improved significantly during that time.  It was a lot of fun, boarding down runs with crazypants names like Whiskey Jack (Upper and Lower), Bear Cub, Olympic Run (Upper and Lower), Pony Trail, Papoose, Burnt Stew Trail, Pika's Traverse, Crystal Road...  And I even boarded from the (almost very) top of Whistler, all the way down to the Village at the bottom!  We took the chair lift to Harmony Hut and went down from there.  That's nearly 7,000 feet up, y'all!  We also stopped into the Crystal Hut on Blackcomb, where the belgian waffles come highly recommended by the locals.  I got the fully loaded:


Strawberries, blueberries, chocolate chips and whipped cream.  Awesomesauce!

I still got passed by the majority of boarders on the mountain, but I was happy with the progress I made, and would have no qualms about heading to the snow again.  In fact, SnowPlanet is sounding pretty appealing right now (although the quality of the snow there will pale in comparison).  I'm hoping Deane might have the chance to take some time off during winter this year, so we can head up to Ruapehu.  Fingers crossed!

And if you ever happen to find yourself in Whistler and you're hungry, go to El Furniture Warehouse.  Everything on the menu is CAD$4.95, and delicious.  Amazeballs.

Gosh, it's 12pm already.  I have a heel and a foot to knit before Deane arrives home tomorrow morning (I'll explain later) so I better get going on that.  This post is already pretty long, and we're only halfway through the trip!  So I'll post again soon, with the other half.  Enjoy, and I'll see you again shortly ;-)