It’s My Birthday!

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Okay, this picture was taken a few years ago, but this is the person I see in the mirror everyday.  The painting in the background is by my good friend Lori Sokoluk taken at The Drift Art Walk and Studio Tour in 2009 where I was a volunteer organizer.

It’s a cold, grey day which keeps switching between rain and snow; wind warnings causing havoc with the ferries crossing from Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island.  But I’m here snug in my apartment watching it unfold.  Actually it’s pretty calm here today unlike Monday when we were in the throes of the storm with windows rattling, branches flying and some trees falling.  We lost a beautiful white birch tree on the grounds of my apartment building.

It’s been a busy morning taking calls from well-wishers, reading greetings on Facebook, and now I’m ready for an afternoon nap!  I made my call to Dad reaching him just before he left his room for dinner.  I rarely miss talking to Dad, and before Mom died, to Mom, on my birthday.  Hopefully they liked hearing from their daughter as much as I wanted to talk to them trying to close that gap of being several thousand miles away in Vancouver, just like this birthday.

My friends Mark and James are having my friend Susan and I over for my birthday dinner. They are just the greatest hosts and I know I will have a superb evening.  I’m sure I’ll have a story to tell after tonight, so stay tuned.

The Day After the Day After the Party

Candles spell out the traditional English birt...
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March 12, 2010.  I’m still basking in the after-glow of my party on Saturday night.  I felt like a Queen.  There were flowers, more flowers and even more flowers.  My secret wish for flowers came true and now my apartment looks like spring has sprung!

Pam arrived right on 7:30 pm, which if you knew Pam, you might be surprised at her punctuality.  But she was coming straight from work, and it being a Saturday, she managed to get out of the office at a decent time, despite a client walking in 5 minutes before closing wanting to book a holiday.  I was glad it was Pam because I wasn’t ready – in fact I was flat-out on my bed taking a power nap when the buzzer went.  Pam helped me polish up the wine and martini glasses, lay out the tablecloth, set up the bar and do some last-minute party preparation.  As an incentive, Pam poured us some milagro ‘sipping’ tequila sprinkled with cinnamon and followed by a wedge of a juicy orange.  I think the tequila gave me that energy boost I needed.

The food was great — a platter of sushi – something you cannot get in Tillsonburg; mini quiches, sausage rolls, spanokapitas, dry cashews, deviled eggs, delightful chinese nibbles with a yummy sauce, cheese, a box of chocolatey petite bites and some cannolli…did I leave anything out?  It was a feast!  No wonder everyone was hovering near the food.  A big thank-you to my friends for their generosity in bringing such delicious food.

There was a steady stream of people arriving – quick hellos, big hugs and kisses.  What a feeling when you see someone for the first time in ten long months.  It’s a bit surreal, but at the same time, those ten months seemed more like only ten weeks — it’s been a while, but it didn’t feel anywhere close to a year.  It felt natural as if time had stood still or had moved in very slow motion.  But I hugged a little harder and longer, because my heart knew there had been a long absence.

I enjoy watching the new connections being made among my friends.  I overheard Lori, MJ and Ellen talking about getting together to play golf.  Those who attended my martinis and cupcake party last spring were now coming together again, no longer strangers.

We got into some story telling because two of my former roommates from the condo on Barclay Street were there — MJ and Lane.  When MJ moved in, it was about the same time as that scary movie called “Single White Woman” was out.  I refused to go see the movie which is about two women who are strangers decide to share a place in response to an ad, and I think the roommate turns out to be a psychotic killer. I’m sure in MJ’s description of the movie, it was the other roommate, which would be me, that was the crazy killer.

Sometimes when art imitates life, it gets you thinking.  That’s how it was with MJ and me since we had quite a few similarities:  we were both paralegals, we both loved to sail, we both loved travel and reading books;  but at least we had one difference – she had long hair and my hair was cropped short.  I don’t think MJ and I ever talked about this movie, but we each independently spoke to our friends about it.  I know I told my best friend Susan that “if she ever cuts her hair like mine, then I’m out of here”!  Well of course, some weeks later, MJ comes in with a short hair cut similar to mine.  Oh yes, did I tell you we both had black hair!  Last night she told me that once when I was away, she had to go check in my bedroom and bathroom to make sure nothing weird was lurking hidden away behind closed doors.  I think she was able to relax after that.

Lane was my last roommate at Barclay Street before I moved here to Laguna Vista.  Lane and I lived together for 6 years and I liked to kid that it was the longest relationship that I ever had.  The next year she got married to John and as their anniversaries started to pile up, John was very pleased to tell me, once their 6th year anniversary passed, that I no longer lived longer with Lane than he did.

Of course Lane is a master story-teller and she had us in stitches.  The short of it is, by time she got to me, she had already checked out quite a few other shared accommodation ads and had become very disillusioned.  Now to call Lane a ‘diva’ would not be an overstatement – although I think she prefers princess and she wasn’t having much luck in finding something to meet the style to which she had become accustomed.  She was starting to think she would return to California or London, England, two of the last places she had lived before trying Vancouver.  Luckily, Lane hadn’t completely given up hope yet.  Even though she was already hip to ads that didn’t accurately reflect reality, she decided to meet me anyway.   Well, the rest is history.  She loved the place and we got on very nicely.  And soon we were making lime margaritas, eating Miss Vickies chips and getting ‘liquored-up’ on many a night.  I guess you can say we bonded.

And the great thing about roommates like MJ and Lane, is that we became friends and I got to meet their friends and they got to meet mine.  I guess you could say that it is networking at its best.  And now when I have a party or Lane and John has a party, we bring our friends together, and what could be better than that.

So the party was a success!  So even though in some ways this was a going away party, it didn’t have that sadness or finality to it because I will be seeing most of these friends again over the next two weeks.  Thanks everyone for making me so happy on Saturday night by your presence in my home.

Pictures from the party will follow soon. I’m still not very good at getting pictures from my camera to the computer.  Wish me luck!

Another Day Goes By

Angel food cake
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March 9, 2012.  It’s the end of another day.  I’ve just finished baking an Angel Food cake – from a mix because it’s not worth making one from scratch – what would you do with all those egg yolks?

I managed to fritter away the whole day.  What a great word:  fritter.  The definition in the Merriam Webster dictionary says:  to spend or waste bit by bit, on trifles or without commensurate return.  I was supposed to meet a friend for lunch, but somehow I didn’t get to bed last night until about 4 am this morning.  I was feeling rather tired and I started to worry that I should be doing something in preparation for the party I’m having on Saturday night.

Somehow I didn’t really accomplish that much which is exactly what you are supposed to do when you fritter away the day.  I spent too much time on the computer reading emails and writing some, opened some more mail that piled up while I’ve been in Ontario (nothing all that important), stared outside my window glad that I got out yesterday for a walk because the weather has taken a downturn (7 day forecast is for rain and more rain), checked to see if Rufus, my Great Blue Heron was at his post (yes, standing there like usual), ate a couple of meals, and from time to time, thought about my party.

Tomorrow is d-day for the party.  I guess I like leaving things to the last minute.  I’m planning to make two kinds of martinis – Green Apple and Pommegrante.  Some of my friends are bringing some finger foods.  A little bit of clean up, last minute shopping and then setting up the table & bar.  Hopefully I’ll have time for an afternoon nap.

A Walk in the Park with Wanda and Kate

March 7 & 8, 2012.  Not quite what the weatherman predicted, but the sun did come out mid-afternoon.  If it reached 8 degrees it didn’t feel as warm as I would have expected.  First stop was coffee at Milano where I met my friend Wanda Chau and her lovely Olde English Bulldog Kate.  A good strong latte was just what I needed to give me some pep.  Wanda is a chef and operates Bah! Baked at Home – you can find her delectable baking at The Baker’s Market, call her up for a special made-to-order batch of my favourite gingersnap cookies and to-die-for mini cupcakes.  She will also come to your home to prepare a meal for your dinner party or she might be giving cooking lessons at the Cook Shop.  We met while I volunteered with Soup Sisters where she graciously donated her time and expertise in the kitchen to oversee soup-making by groups of like-minded charitable souls at either Quince or The Dirty Apron, two of Vancouver’s fine cooking schools.

Next was a walk in Stanley Park which was teaming with squirrels, ducks, Canada Geese and Blue Herons – all to Kate’s delight.  We dropped by The Fish House hoping to see Karen Barnaby, Executive Chef, but she was busy with a photo shoot.  We continued on our way to the corner of Denman and Davie for our own photo shoot by The Laughing Man sculptors – an incredible sight to see and walk among the giant sculptors of, you guessed it, laughing men, all based on the artist’s own likeness.  It’s part of the Biennale but looks like it may become a permanent installation as the City has the opportunity to keep it for the next 20 years.

Our tour of my ‘west of Denman’ neighbourhood took us along Denman Street where I pointed out the House of empanadas, a new little eatery I tried for lunch yesterday, passed another new shop – Ayoub’s dried fruits and nuts which is as beautiful to look at as is delicious to eat, an authentic Iranian shop with silver display cases and crystal chandeliers, unlike anything I have every seen before.  We walked and talked until we ended up by the Safeway grocery store where we parted ways.

It was so good to get out walking in the fresh air, something it seems I’ve forgotten how to do since I’ve been living in small town Tillsonburg where I have access to my Dad’s car.  In Vancouver, it’s second nature for me to walk everywhere – something I will find easier to do when I return to Ontario as I will be moving to a house which is close to the downtown making walking an option again.

Yesterday I got together with my good friend Claudette.  We’ve known each other since our days in Whistler in 1979 when we worked at the old Cheakamus Hotel. Today we’re a couple of 50+ women, but back in Whistler – well we both have stories we like to reminisce about when we were both a little wild and crazy.  That carried on for a while when we both moved to Vancouver and lived in the same apartment building on Pendrell Street.  In those days we liked to go out and party at The Railway Club, concerts at The Commodore and all the other hot spots at that time.  I still remember playing The Talking Heads full blast on the stereo as our preamble to our night on the town.  I’m sure no one who saw us eating dinner at Zefferelli’s last night would ever suspected we were those same young women!

The great thing about Zefferelli’s – of course the fantastic food, is that their plate of pasta is huge and I almost always take half home.  So tonight was Zefferelli’s Part Two – house made pasta with a crab and artichoke cream sauce.

So a couple more things checked off on my list of things I want to do while here in Vancouver.  Claudette and I started off on South Granville at Starbucks for coffee, we strolled along Granville Street popping in and out of the many independent art galleries. The best was the whimsical and colourful art of Glenn Payan at the Ian Tan Gallery which I can best describe as reminding me of the scenery in Dr. Seus’s movie adaptation of The Lorax. Next we transported ourselves by bus over the bridge to get to Robson Street where Milestone’s was our destination for a pre-dinner Bellini.  Too bad I got several brain freezes which migrated such that I also felt it in my chest.  Can’t say I enjoyed that aspect of the drink – maybe I’ll have to ask them to warm it up to room temperature for me.  Is that a sign of getting old?. And last, but certainly not least, was dinner out at Zefferellis which calls itself a sophisticated spaghetti joint.

Zefferelli’s has hardly changed during the last 20 + years that I’ve been coming.  I wouldn’t be sorry to see them get new chairs – there’s something odd about them that you instantly notice when you sit.  The truth of the matter I think it’s the tables that are too short.  But once you get lost into your glass of wine, their in-house baked bread served with their Italian version of salsa, the chairs almost become a moot point.  I mentioned these things to our server and she assured me that there was at least one change – there is now a heater in the women’s washroom.  It always was mighty cold in there.  Another great day and night in Vancouver.

Dear, Dear Vancouver

Tuesday March 6, 2012.  Another beautiful day in Vancouver – sunny, blue skies and all calm – no wind and no waves on the ocean.  Today as I ate my breakfast I was watching the sky looking for the Great Blue Herons.  There is a large nesting area just a few blocks away by The Fish House Restaurant.  Last year I noticed several herons that would perch on the rooftop of one of the neighbouring apartment buildings.  I haven’t seen them yet, but my friend Karen tells me she has spotted them already this season.  They are such a magnificent bird.

There is so much life to see outside my window although it doesn’t necessarily move that fast.  Off to the right I can see one of the small prop float planes that flies back and forth between Vancouver and Victoria harbours.  I saw a ferry in the distance sailing into Horseshoe Bay from Nanaimo.  It’s too early to see any of the cruise ships headed to Alaska.  And always there are the shipping tankers sitting out on English Bay waiting for a pilot boat to take it into the Port when it’s their turn to unload.  I never see any movement on these boats.  I wonder if there are very many crew aboard, where have they travelled from, what are they doing on board, are they anxious to reach dry land?  Do they dream of jumping ship and claiming refuge in Vancouver?

Karen and Roy invited me to dinner tonight.  They have recently moved into an apartment building that I see from my living room window.  On the top of the building is a very recognizable orange circular structure.  It is a building that is mostly dark at night because few people live there full-time.  They live on the third floor with the park wrapped around three sides of their apartment.  They call it their treehouse.  There’s an interesting back story to this condominium building.  I know the woman who lived there before, Phyllis who I met her through my friend Joan.  Phyllis is a famous Canadian make-up artist.  She lived in an apartment on the location of this new highrise and while all her neighbours sold out, she held firm and insisted that they provide her with a place in the new building.  And she won.  And this is now the condominium where my friends live.  So even if you are one among many, you can succeed as long as you stay strong.  I’ve always loved that story and now the story continues because of Karen and Roy.

lt’s five minutes before midnight and my day is over.  A little reading, listening to the radio and then lights out for me.  Good night!

Vancouver, I’m back…oh how I’ve missed you!

Monday March 5, 2012.  I’m writing this post from my kitchen table looking out over English Bay on the Pacific Ocean.  I plan to write a love story over the next 3 weeks.  My love story with Vancouver.

There are white caps on the water and with that piece of information alone, you know it is a very windy day.  But I knew it was windy before I saw it because the bedroom window almost rattled out of the frame!  But the beauty of a blustery day is that all those low hanging rain clouds get blown out of the atmosphere leaving a sunny, blue sky with fluffy white clouds on the horizon.  And the radio man told me that 30 cm of fresh snow fell last night on the local ski hills.

I live on the 15th floor of a vintage high-rise building in the West End  built in the 50’s and contains many original features.  Quaint and desirable by some or lost in the background once you fill it with furniture and stamp it with your personality.  This is a rental building with a million dollar view and is affordable for someone like me when I was working as a paralegal.  It’s a concrete building and should last for years and years to come unless that earthquake that we are told to expect comes.

Not only do I see the ocean, but I live on the edge of Stanley Park, can see the mountains to the right, Kits Beach to the left and I have a bit of city view as well.  My view of the English Bay is mostly unobstructed except for a few high rises a couple of streets over.  In fact, the high-rise I look at everyday is now home to my good friends Karen & Roy. We can see each other when I stand out on my patio and they are standing in their livingroom.  I just hope they don’t have a telescope or binoculars at the ready because I almost never close my curtains.

So yesterday it was overcast and rainy and today it is fabulously sunny – both very typical days in Vancouver.  I’ve been away for 11 long months while others lived here in my absence.  I’m back and I can’t believe how affected I’ve been coming back into my lovely apartment with the walls painted with three different sunny yellows and my Mediterranean blue.  These walls contain the sum of my collection of stuff over the last 30 years.  I chose well, they’ve held the test of time and it makes me feel happy.  I find little gems that bring me pleasure as I settle back in.  If these walls and objects could talk, they would be the memoir of my adult life.