Monday, December 27, 2010

Four Day Christmas

In about twenty minutes, Christmas will officially be over for me. In about twenty minutes, my stepmom, Baby Bro and I will be done watching A Child's Christmas in Wales and with it we will have finished all required Christmas traditions.

It was lovely to spend time with family both in Victoria and Nanaimo. I also got everything I asked for: a housecoat (which I put on hold for my mom to go pick up) and a copy of Romeo Dallaire's They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children (I'm so uplifting in my non-fiction choices). I wanted so much this year ;) We started Christmas Day with our traditional waffle breakfast. Waffles always taste better on Christmas morning, it's a scientific fact! The day was very relaxing and I managed to almost finish The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest before dinner.

On Boxing Day, full of good food and still humming the tunes of the Chieftan's the Bells of Dublin, my mom and stepdad drove me up to Nanaimo for my second Christmas with my stepmom and Baby Bro. I finally got to play Christmas carols on the piano which pretty much made my Christmas complete.

I've spent the last twenty-four hours relaxing in a very rainy Nanaimo watching BBC's Sherlock (which I can not say enough good things about although the second episode is a little lacking but the first and third totally make up for it and I can't wait for the next mini-series to be released in roughly 10 months because OHMIGAWD can you say annoyingly awesome cliffhanger?!?!? Plus it totally makes me want to read the originals which I'm a little ashamed to say I've never won. Very strange seeing as I love mysteries. At any rate, I'll be checking out some second hand shops for cheap copies.  However, as always, I digress so I'll close these parentheses now) and letting my stepmom win at rummy. It's only fair being Christmas and all that I let her have a little joy when it comes to cards.

We had plans to head out today but when we learned that the Dinghy Dock Pub was actually closed on Mondays, we opted instead to stay inside, drink copious amounts of tea, and make fun of each other because that's how we interact as a family unit.

I would have various pictures to include of all this but, of course, the one thing I forgot when packing was my camera cord. C'est la vie! I guess I'll just have to drown my sorrows in another cup of tea and an episode of Doctor Who. That's right. We've just officially finished Christmas so now it's back to regular family programming: dinner and then Doctor Who. Some things never change.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

...And To All A Good Night!

The problem with not being at work this week is that I keep forgetting what day of the week it is. More specifically, I have routinely been a day early. On the downside, I'm a little disappointed that tomorrow isn't Christmas Eve. On the upside, I have very little left to do because, well, I thought I had less time. Yay extra day for all those chores I was hoping I could somehow 'forget'. Sorry, did I say upside?

Obviously, with it being Christmas, I'm not going to be online much... well, for me, anyway. It will be good to unplug for a few days and just enjoy being with family. I'll expect that to last for about three hours and then we'll all be dying to get away from each other... which is when you open gifts to distract yourself for a few more hours.

I hope you all have a fantastic holiday weekend.

Merry Christmas
Joyeux Noel
Frohe Weihnachten
Feliz Navidad
Nollaig Shona Dhuit
Mele Kalikimaka

and in case I'm not back before then, Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Two decades later...

Baby Bro is 10 years, 8 months and 16 days younger than me. It's easier to just say 10 years. I still remember seeing him for the first time in the hospital. On the one hand, I was so excited that I was no longer 'the baby' in our family. On the other hand, he was another brother. I already had a brother who tickled me until I peed my pants, made me lie to my parents that I still believe in Santa under the threat of no more presents, and yelled at me when I got Junkyard (the dog in G.I.Joe) stuck in the hovercraft. Okay, maybe I deserved that last one. But did I really need another brother?

Family from out of town meant that I was sleeping in the cot and Baby Bro was on the ground.
He had a nightmare so he joined me in the cot.
In the end, I wouldn't trade Baby Bro for all the sisters in the world. He is, as I often often described him, me in male form. We share the same love of Star Wars, Stargate, and Doctor Who. We never cease to find the humour in South Park, Simpsons, or Monty Python. We have a shared language only we understand like twins separated by 10 years of cryogenic freezing. He tried to explain to his mom once "you don't know what it's like to always have a song in your head, to hear a phrase and have it immediately remind you of some obscure song, then to feel the need to sing that song out loud." That is every social interaction I've ever had summed up in one sentence.

Standing beside an elephant skull in Tarangiri NP, Tanzania

Twenty years ago today, my best friend was born. Happy birthday to my 6" tall, rugby playing, baby brother.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Traditional Traditions

There are certain things I need to do to really feel like it's Christmas. I'm a sucker for traditions and I have a lot of them all year round but especially at Christmas. I am, after all, a self-proclaimed Fauxman Catholic. I started one of the traditions Saturday night by watching White Christmas and another one on Sunday by baking Grandma's Molasses Cookies with my mom.

The scene with the bells leading up to this scene used to terrify me.
Actually, it still does.

My step-mom always watched certain movies leading up to Christmas. Eventually these films became a must for our family: White Christmas, A Child's Christmas in Wales, Miracle on 34th Street, It's a Wonderful Life, and A Christmas Carol/Scrooge (depending on what country you're in). We have certain rules that have to be followed for each movie. The order in which we watch them is carefully selected as only White Christmas or A Child's Christmas in Wales are allowed be watched after Christmas. A Christmas Carol has to be watched as close to Christmas Eve as possible. On Christmas Eve is the best night but with two households to plan around, that's not always possible. Unfortunately, my step-mom moved up to Nanaimo earlier this year so many of these films are being watched alone.

They're about to fulfill their destiny of being tasty, tasty cookies!

Grandma's Molasses Cookies recipe goes back to at least my great-Grandma. My grandma always had them year round in her house (obviously not with Christmas designs like ours) but we only make them at Christmas. I like it more that way. Like Starbucks' seasonal flavourings, it builds the anticipation. I eagerly await for my mom to suggest a baking date every year and then I talk ad nauseum about how we're going to bake Grandma's cookies and how they're the best cookies ever (which they totally are!) and that the recipe is over 100 years old. It's not just that I love eating these cookies, I love making them. I love the process of rolling out the dough and fitting the cookie cutters to get as many cookies as possible. I love icing them and then adding sprinkles. There's something about that last step that just really seals the deal for me.

Best. Cookies. EVER!

My family is full of traditions, these are just two of them, but there's too many to talk about them all so I'll just leave it to the ones I actually participated in this year. Besides, who really wants to hear about my Baby Bro almost falling from the ladder with the chainsaw during our family tradition of cutting down our own Christmas tree?

Hiding a Full Moon With Something Other Than Pants

In case you've been living under a rock this past week (or on the moon *snort*), there's a full lunar eclipse tonight in a little under two hours (at the time of posting). Lunar eclipses are much different than a solar eclipse because a) you can view them with the naked eye and b) they take several hours to complete. There has been a fog cover over Victoria today and I can not see any indication of stars from my apartment at this time, but nonetheless, I will hike to Central High School and park myself out in the field to see if I can see anything. Please, please, please let the clouds be gone!

If the weather cooperates, I should see something like this.

Technically this lunar eclipse doesn't fall on the winter solstice because that happens at 3:38pm tomorrow, but in the grand scheme of things, most of North America will be seeing this eclipse on the 21st so... The last time this happened was 372 years ago. If you plan on raising nerdy offspring--I can't be alone in this plan--this will be something you can tell them about for years to come. Of course, there will be another lunar eclipse in approximately four years time but not on the solstice!

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go brew a big batch of hot chocolate!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Photo Presentation

I had mentioned a few weeks back that I was going to be displaying some of my photos at work. My office was looking at leasing artwork from the AGGV but at the suggestion of one of the employees decided to display employee artwork instead. Having seen some of the work of other people who've put their name forth, I'm very excited to see the different displays over the coming months.

When you consider that I only have the last three years of my life captured in photos on my computer, I have a lot of photos (as opposed to alot of photos, which I secretly wish I had). After much deliberation (and perhaps some cough syrup) I decided to go with photos that played with light and was some how able to narrow it down to five (again, cough syrup).

Morning Sunbath
Magi y Chai, Tanzania

Dhow and Sunset
Nungwi, Tanzania

Gary Oak Sunshade
Victoria, BC

Shell Centrepiece
Victoria, BC

Barrel and Vines
Victoria, BC

I made the pictures as large as I could for the post but if you click on them you get ginormous size!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

GBC Book Review: The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency

First off, multiple people recommended this book to me because I've lived in Africa. Little geography lesson: this book is set in Botswana, I lived in Tanzania. Not the same place. Botswana is in southern Africa, Tanzania is in east Africa. Although they share more in common than they do with many west or north African countries, it's like telling someone who lived in BC that they should read Anne of Green Gables because they spent time in Canada.

Having said all that, one of things I did really like about The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency was its imagery of Africa. Without going overboard on the sentimentality, Alexander McCall Smith did a good job on creating a vivid image of Botswana. There was a balance of both the good and bad aspects of living there which I appreciate. It is so common for books, both fiction and non-fiction, to sway to either end of the spectrum when it comes to life in Africa. Smith does tend to look more at the good, but he doesn't shy away from talking about the bad.

Given all the talk and praise I had heard for this series, I actually wasn't that blown away by the first book. A series of unconnected mysteries which are often solved with very little fuss are held together by the overarching story of Mma Ramotswe, who has opened Botswana's first detective agency run by a woman. I love a good detective novel. I love trying to solve the crime before the protagonist but this book didn't really allow for that and that stopped me from really getting into it.

I have the second book in the series and I'm sure I'll get around to reading it, but it has moved down my list in order of importance. Overall, if you're looking for a light read for the beach or your daily bus commute into work, this is a good mindless diversion. If you're looking for a gripping whodunnit that you can sink your teeth into, stick with Agatha Christie.

One Flu Over The Christmas Nest

Sign Number One that I'm not over the flu... I think my title is hilariously punny!

I've been laid up with a nasty, nasty flu for the last four days. Today is the first day that I woke up and actually wanted to get out of bed... as opposed to the other days when I only got out because I get better Internet reception in my living room and without cable, that's my only way to watch TV.

Don't get me wrong, I still sound like I should be in some sort of quarantine, but I can hold a thought for longer than five minutes so that's a win in my books. I've been meaning to post stuff (hey, I'm stuck at home, why not write?!?) but instead, I'd open a post, stare at the screen until I was done my cup of tea, and then just watch another episode of Being Human. Very productive few days around here, let me tell you!

I wasn't scheduled to work today so instead, I'm going to tackle the Christmas shopping while the stores are (hopefully) still relatively empty.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Recommended Online Reading

I'm writing another post as I type this but the hour is creeping closer and closer to my Boozy Brunch with my three favourite ladies so I really should get off my butt, shower and put on some pants [EDIT: Actually, with these fine gals, pants are optional]. So instead of my post, I'm going to give you a link to an awesome site I discovered thanks to WilWheaton and BadAstronomer.*

It's called The Big Picture and everyone should have it in their RSS feed. (I also think everyone should have an RSS feed but that's another post). It's a daily story told in pictures. From current news stories to collections for a retrospective, the photos are Ah. Maze. Ing. There was a recent one about the sulphur mines in Indonesia. It's both breathtakingly beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time (the lack of gas masks for the miners just tears at me). But my favourite part about the Big Picture? This is the third year they have done a Hubble Pictures Advent Calendar.

Merry Dorkmas to me!

*Everyone with a passing interest in science should also have the Discover Blogs in their RSS feed. Then you get to follow awesome people like Bad Astronomer, Science Not Fiction, and Not Exactly Rocket Science.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Frohe Nikolaustag!

It's St. Nicholas Day. In Germany and Switzerland (and other parts of Europe, but they're the ones I know) this is the morning you walk up to gifts from St. Nick placed in the stocking at the end of your bed (or just the end of your bed if it's too large) and then Christmas is just gifts from your family.

My ex's family used to send me separate gifts for today and Christmas but now that they no longer work in the post office, they just send them all at once so I don't have the little surprised to look forward to in early December. I was feeling a little bummed about that this morning until I found this link.

Oh NASA, thank you for the St. Nikolaus Day present.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Open the Gates and Seize the Day!

What is sure to be an incredibly busy weekend (meeting in Shawnigan tomorrow morning, staff party tomorrow evening, hangover on Sunday...) kicks off with a good old fashioned girl's night tonight. Tonight I get to introduce two of my best friends to one of my all-time favourite films of my childhood: Newsies.

This movie defined my tween years. My best friend (whose name I will keep hidden for fear she will hunt me down and beat me) and I would rent it almost every Friday night for a year before my mom finally bought me my own copy. We knew all the words, sang along with the songs, and incorporated some of the choreography into our own dances. It was, in all honest, a wee bit of an obsession for us. We may have even created back stories for some of the characters, and continued the story line after the movie. May have. I refuse to actually admit to that in print.

I was a little shocked one night to discovered that neither of these friends had seen it. These were girls who knew lyrics to all the same musicals that I did. These were girls who had squealed with me when Patrick Swayze appeared in Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights (still waiting for #3 The Swim to Miami). These were girls who joined our facebook group "Christian Bale's Chompers Anonymous" (muh teef). In short, these were girls who should have seen Newsies multiple times!

Luckily, one of their sister's (who has seen Newsies and has loved it as much as me) totally agrees. We discovered our mutual love of the film when I made a comment about it on facebook. I had just received the DVD for Christmas (my love for Newsies is well documented in my family so when someone saw the DVD while shopping, they knew it had to be in my stocking on Christmas morning) and, of course, had to watch it immediately upon returning home. I still remembered all the lyrics despite not having seen the film in at least 10 years so I worked the lyrics into a status update thinking no one would get it.

Someone did.

We've been planning this evening since that comment. It's finally going to happen.

Dese is for da Newsies!