Wednesday, May 17, 2017

All decked out for summer

Last summer we realized that we would soon need to do something with our deck. Spanning the garage and wrapping around the living room and kitchen to the front and rear, the deck is a vital part of our living space for at least half the year.

Trouble is, the railing was starting to sag alarmingly to the point where I wouldn’t have wanted to put any weight on it, and there were a few places where there was a noticeable bounce under foot. Not good.

So we resolved to put things to rights this Spring before the fine weather kicked in. A builder friend managed to squeeze us in between jobs - and in between spells of rain that dragged the process out a lot longer than it might have taken, but we’re there now and very pleased with the results.

The most nerve-wracking part of the operation was having the garage open to the weather while they ripped off the old decking and put down new plywood. We had to clear the place out beforehand and do our best to shield the freezer and shelves the that remained. Here’s how they left it that first evening. Luckily the next 24 hours stayed dry and the garage was covered again by the time the next showers hit.

And here is the finished work. We’d debated going for aluminum railings (zero maintenance) but opted for cedar in the end, and we are both happy with that decision. They were able to salvage the glass panels that were in place originally and put everything back very much like it was.

Yes, that’s our barbecue sitting lonely in the corner. I had to take off one side shelf to maneuver it through the door and into the kitchen while they worked. There was no way we were going to get it down the stairs, remembering the battle we had years ago getting it up there in the first place.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Emerging local authors

Now into its third year, the Greater Victoria Public Library is again celebrating emerging local authors with a special collection.

On Thursday evening I attended the launch of this year’s collection, showcasing over 100 local authors who are recently published, either independently or through a small press.

The library courtyard was crowded with authors and guests. It’s only when you see people and books assembled like this that you realize what a thriving occupation writing is.

Yes, Tiamat’s Nest is one of the books in this year’s collection. See here for more details about the GVPL Emerging Local Authors program.

Friday, April 21, 2017

A few foodie favorites

With everyone in the family in full time work or education, time in the evenings and weekends is at a premium and a little planning goes a long way.

We always plan a weekly menu, and get all the necessary groceries in one go for the week ahead. Sometimes the hardest part is simply coming up with a menu plan and trying to keep it interesting. We love a variety of foods and flavors and are ready to try new things from time to time, but under pressure of time it's only natural that most of our meals are tried and trusted family favorites.

Even so, we try to mix it up and we often find ourselves wracking our brains, thinking "We need a rice dish here" or "Haven't had fish for a while", and trying to recall dishes to tempt the tastebuds.

Just as an experiment, I've started another blog called Rumble in the tumble where I'm keeping a daily record of recipes as we go. My thinking was to keep a note of meals, using the labels to index by main ingredients to help jog tired memories. We'll see how that goes, but meanwhile if anything over there encourages you to try something new it will have been worthwhile.

Just a word of warning - don't expect full-blown recipes with measurements and precise instructions, or anything fancy like that. I mostly just dive in saying "fry this" and "boil that". Quantities are up for grabs, and depend how many you're cooking for. This is seat-of-the-pants cookery.

On the plus side, it's all very simple and forgiving stuff. We like simple :)

Friday, April 14, 2017

Downs and ups

I know I’ve posted before about how life seems to go through up and down swings. The last couple of months have felt like unusually hard work, with very intense spells at work, illnesses, and (something I didn’t mention) we had one of our cats put down a week ago.

So it was great to have that party last weekend that Megan had spent so long preparing for before her appendix operation.

During the week, Ali and Megan had been visiting a pet shop for supplies for the aquarium and came back with two kittens. Meet Loki and Luna:

Last night I gave a talk at the library on Writer’s Block, something I’ve been preparing for weeks now. I’ve been running through my presentation in my head for ages, so when it was done it felt like a huge weight off my mind.

And to round off the good things in the past week, Megan today spoke with a teacher at Vancouver Island University and learned that she’s been accepted to join the baking program there in September. This is fantastic news because she’s been enjoying the culinary program at school this semester and has finally found something she wants to do. But of course there’s been a lot of pressure through the application process, and she had to recover enough from her recent operation to sit an assessment this week.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

March appendix

There is one aspect of our March traumas that I didn’t talk about last time. I decided to save that for a separate post and hopefully be able to report “mission accomplished.”

When Megan complained of abdominal pains, one of the reasons we assumed an innocuous cause at first was that she had been working very hard over the previous days.

She had taken it on herself to organize a surprise birthday party for one of her friends. We’d discussed the practicalities, and had reservations about the prospect of a dozen or more teens bouncing around the living room upstairs, so we settled on clearing out the garage for the party.

First off, there was a heap of stuff accumulated all over the floor - after all, who keeps their car in the garage? That took a day of sorting out with all of us pitching in to help.

Then she went to town cleaning up the rest. For the next several evenings we sat upstairs trying not to cringe at the sound of hammering from downstairs. Megan blacked out the windows, covered up the shelving, moved our summertime patio furniture in from its winter resting place in our bedroom, and put up strings of lights.

There was a major shopping expedition for food and drinks. We borrowed an air hockey table, which was a heavy duty mission in itself to lift in and out of the truck.

All in all, she put in a shedload of hard work over the course of four days. Monday she was planning to bake a cake ready for the party on Tuesday.

Monday and Tuesday were spent at the hospital instead.

The party, of course, had to be postponed. But I’m happy to report it finally took place today and was greatly enjoyed by all involved.

Friday, April 7, 2017

March madness

Now that April is here, life seems to have calmed down a bit.

Which is just as well.

When I last posted, I was looking forward to a bit of normality after an exceptionally intense few weeks at work. Better still, I booked a couple of days’ vacation in the middle of Spring Break to enjoy a long weekend of relaxation.

Things were going to plan until Sunday night, when Megan woke us in the middle of the night complaining of stomach pains. We went through the usual “what did you eat/what have you been doing” rigmarole for a couple of hours, but eventually concluded this wasn’t something simple that would sort itself out with a bit of rest.

Off to Emergency, and after a stressful day of tests she was in that night to have her appendix out. She was released from hospital the next day, and in the post-stress relief I promptly went down with a cold that knocked me out all through part of the week and all through the following weekend  :(

Back to work this week and things are more on an even keel. I’m feeling better and Megan is doing well.

Meanwhile, my novel is cranking slowly through the critiquing process which means I’m able to slow down on the writing front for a bit. Right now, instead I’m getting ready to give another talk at my local library. I’ve done talks like this a couple of times in the past. It takes a lot of preparation but it’s always been a worthwhile and enjoyable experience. This time I’m talking on Writer’s Block, based around a short series of blog posts I wrote this time last year.

Wish me luck!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Inner peace

Last weekend, I was thinking about writing a post on introversion/extroversion, when I remembered I already did something like that a year ago, and for much the same reason.

This time last year we held a division-wide all staff meeting. Given that we were bringing hundreds of people together from all over the province, and that most of them work directly on front counters serving the public, that conference took place over a weekend which took away the time I normally depend on - as an extreme introvert - to recharge my mental batteries.

Last weekend I reached the end of two weeks of highly intense and interactive departures from regular work, which for introverts is the definition of exhaustion.

We had another division-wide conference, but this time it was a smaller group and was able to take place on regular workdays. It was three days of presentations (which us directors had to prepare and deliver) and some great conversations. On its own that would have been fine, but by sheer coincidence it was book-ended by four days’ traveling out of town on an intense project workshop the preceding week, and followed by two days’ highly interactive training on, of all things, giving presentations.

Don’t get me wrong, these were all fabulous experiences individually, but run them consecutively and by the end I was ready for the funny farm.

It’s taken me the past week to get back on an even keel work-wise and energy-wise. Along the way it got me musing about the kinds of people the workplace values.

As a society, we claim to value diversity, and yet it seems we consistently revert to one image of success: that of outgoing sociability, to whom “networking opportunities” represent joy unbounded. This ignores a significant portion of the population to whom the words invoke a visceral dread.

It kinda peeves me that people seem to expect introverts to behave like extroverts in order to progress, but that seems to be the world we live in. Is my perspective simply skewed? How does it look from your perspective?

Meanwhile, I’m enjoying a weekend of rest and re-energizing activities such as reading and writing and long walks in the spring sunshine. How about you?

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