Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Stockings

Ever since I bought my sewing machine a few months ago, I've been dying to have a sewing day with my sister, Emily. She was the one who told me how great the BabyLock machines were and I totally covet her giant sewing room with built-in shelves for fabric and a cute little orange desk for her machine. Once I found out that I had a few extra vacation days from work, I figured that the best way to use one of them would be to go down to Emily's house and sew. I ordered fabric online to start some quilts and was super excited. However, by early this week, the fabric hadn't arrived yet and I had to decide on another project. Emily was planning to make a Christmas stocking for her youngest boy, so I figured that a stocking for Benjamin was in order. 

Mum made this gorgeous stocking for me when I was a little girl and I love it. I love that it's Christmassy without being too childlike. I love that it's kind of sophisticated, but still fun. Even tough Benjamin says that it's too small, I think it's just the perfect size. I decided that I would make a similar one for Benjamin for out first Christmas as a family. 

I found some perfect red velvet at Fabricland and also got some perfect gold rickrack and white edging with tiny pompoms. Emily refreshed my memory on chainstiching and french knots and by the end of the afternoon, I had his stocking finished. (Although halfway through embroidering his name on the top, I wondered why I had to marry someone with such a very long name.)

I've hung our stockings on the wall for now, since we don't have a fireplace or any kind of mantle-like place in our little apartment, but it'll do for this year.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas Candies

(mine will not be wrapped in anything near such a picturesque manner)

Since this was my first Christmas with a family of my own (yes, I view Benjamin and myself as a family, not just a couple) I decided I should make some Christmas goodies. I've been collecting Martha Stewart Holiday Special Editions for several years, and there was a recipe in one of them for gingerbread caramels that I had been dying to try. Never mind that I've never made candy before and had no idea what soft ball stage was supposed to look like. All you need is a recipe and a candy thermometer, right? Right?

Turns out that although those will suffice, I'm sure, it helps to have someone around with a modicum more candy-making knowledge than oneself. When it turned out that my largest pot was too small for Martha's giant recipe (as the boiling sugar, butter and cream threatened to bubble over onto the stovetop), Benjamin was the one who warned me that taking it off the heat would only cause the sugar to "crystallize wrong" - whatever that means.

Despite having to move half of the boiling batch into another pot to prevent a sticky mess and only having one incorrect candy thermometer for two pots of caramel, the candies seemed to turn out ok. As long as you don't try to unwrap them when they're not freshly chilled in the fridge. Oh well, they taste good, and that's all that matters, right? Ok, maybe most of what matters.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

No More Lonely Commutes

It's a little late, but I have some great news to share - Benjamin got a new job! He started as a Materials Specialist at Fluor Canada two weeks ago and is definitely loving it.

Benjamin graduated with his Commerce degree back in April and started looking for work. We were incredibly blessed that I have such great work and that he had something waiting to keep him busy (his part-time employers at Rona were virtually ecstatic to have him work full-time hours while he looked for career employment) but we hoped that a job would come along quickly. Benjamin is a super hard worker and I personally believe any company would be lucky to have him (although I will admit to being a little biased). 

Benjamin sent out resume after resume and contacted everyone he knew that might have a position open for him. No luck. So he visited the career centre at the university, sent out newly-updated-resume after newly-updated-resume and contacted everyone who was an acquaintance of an acquaintance  that might have a position open for him. By this time, full-time work at Rona was starting to get really old. We were getting more than a little tired of the job search and were praying that an opportunity would come along soon, but still nothing. Benjamin had had only two calls back and two accompanying interviews after 6 months or more. 

One Friday, Benjamin called me at lunch to say that he had heard from two companies. One of the previously mentioned interviews wanted him to go to a second interview, and the other wanted to set up a first interview. We were so excited, then when he picked me up from the train station that afternoon, he told me that he had just gotten off the phone with a third company that wanted to interview him. "When it rains, it's a monsoon." he wryly noted.

When he interviewed with Fluor, he was told it would take about 3-4 weeks for them to get back to him. Imagine our surprise when he received a phone call less than 24 hours after the interview ended, telling him that a job offer would be forthcoming. It was such a blessing to have this job come up - it's a perfect opportunity for him, doing exactly what he wants to do and learning from a great mentor. It even worked out that he'll be working from downtown instead of driving a 45-minute commute to their main south office. I know that our prayers were answered.

My favourite thing about this new job is having Benjamin coming downtown with me. It's so fun to have a buddy on the bus and meet up with him sometimes during our lunch breaks. Mostly, though, it's great to see how happy he is and how much he loves his new job.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Thoughts on the Flu

This week the flu bug struck at our house. Now when most people say that, there follows a story about kids and husband getting sick and then mum getting sick while caring for all of them. I am thankful every day that I fell in love with a man with the constitution of an ox. Seriously. A few months ago, he was feeling tired and a little listless in the evening. I asked what he wanted to eat and he told me he had no appetite. Coming from a man who usually eats three helpings at dinner and then sometimes still has to make himself a pot of oatmeal to stave off "The Hunger" at 8 pm, I was worried. "I must be getting sick." he told me. In my frame of reference, getting sick means feeling like garbage for several days, trying and sometimes not succeeding to get into work, sleeping and dosing myself with copious amounts of vitamin C. Needless to say, Benjamin woke up the next morning raring to go and feeling perfectly fine. "That's about as sick as I ever get." he told me.

As someone with the immune system of a flea (please don't ruin this analogy by telling me that fleas are remarkably hardy or something) I was a tad jealous. Let's just say that I get sick more than a previous roommate of mine, and she was a preschool teacher. If something is going around, I'd better batten down the hatches, because I'll probably have it within 48 hours.

This week, I came down with the flu all of a sudden on Wednesday morning. Thank goodness for a company that lets me log in and work from home, otherwise my entire floor probably would have my bug by now - except for the guy who sits a few cubicles away, who I suspect was the one who gave it to me (shaking my fist in his general direction). After one day of complete misery, one day of alternating napping and working on Information Documents from my laptop, I returned to work Friday. I was well enough for work and for a ton of errands Saturday, until we went to chaperone the youth dance. After several futile attempts to convince girls that leggings are actually not pants and having to explain to two very angry mothers why their daughters were not allowed in the dance in their current attire, my voice was completely gone. So far today I have been speaking almost entirely in whispers, and not by choice.

Next time I start to feel better, can someone remind me of my current predicament and convince me not to extend the flu for several days by attending a youth dance? Much appreciated. Now, off to take some more vitamin C. Daddy will be so proud.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

My New Favourite Toy

I grew up with a sewing machine in the house. My mum was a handy lady who sewed her own curtains and lots of our clothes. Once I was old enough, I was also sent over to my Grannie's to learn to quilt. I've loved making little projects here and there, being able to mend things, and I especially loved sewing a few details for our wedding last February (that's right - Ben's tie and my jacket were just a few things that I whipped up during my two jobless months leading up to the wedding). Of course, any sewing I wanted to do necessitated a trip to my sister's house on the other side of the city or my mum's house, provided she had the church sewing machine signed out form the library. As fun as it was to squeeze projects into a day at someone else's house, I really wanted a sewing machine of my own. This desire was magnified after a trip to Spokane where I visited Jo-Ann's, which I have decided is pretty much the best fabric store ever.

I started to look online for sewing machines and because I didn't want to spend much, I was looking at Brother machines from Project Runway, which seemed to be a pretty good deal. The only problem was the shipping. My Mum and sister suggested that I go to Sewing World on Crowchild Trail to see what they had available. I promised Benjamin that I'd just look around, see what they had, then I'd come home and read reviews and compare prices online.

Imagine my excitement when they had a Baby Lock machine with even more features than the Brother I had been looking at online, on sale for about the same price I would have paid for the Brother with shipping. Not only that, but the Baby Lock is a way better quality machine (according to the friendly saleslady).

After a thirty-second call to Benjamin to let him know that I was coming home with a machine that very day, I was headed home with my brand new Baby Lock.

Thank goodness for supportive husbands.

Monday, September 5, 2011

On the Road Again...

Benjamin and I decided to take a our first real holiday together over the July long weekend. We had originally planned to go to a family reunion of his in Seattle area, but when it was cancelled, we ended up keeping our plans for a Washington state holiday anyways.

We left Wednesday night and drove to Fernie, BC. We drove through several large rainstorms on the way, so we were not hopeful that our campsite would be dry or that we would be able to light a fire. When we arrived, the last rainstorm had been through almost an hour before and the sky was clear, so we had a lovely evening around the campfire (once Benjamin got it going with the slightly damp wood we had picked up – about an hour's effort).

The next morning, we drove to Spokane. I had offered to drive the first leg of this portion of the trip, since Benjamin had driven the entire way from Calgary to Fernie. This meant that Benjamin was in charge of getting the directions from my iPhone. After entering in the address of my cousin in Spokane, he directed me onto a highway heading south and we were on our way. It wasn't until we were crossing the border at Eureka, Montana that I realized that we hadn't gone through Yahk, BC, which my original trip research had indicated was the fastest way to Spokane. Turns out that the iPhone had confused Upriver Drive, Spokane with Riverside Drive in Eureka, Montana. We ended up taking quite the detour south through rural Montana to make it over to Bonner's Ferry and back to the main highways to Spokane, but it was a beautiful drive! We drove right along Lake Koocanusa for over 100 km and passed the huge Libby hydroelectric dam.

Spokane was great. It was so fun to see my cousin Karen and her family, Doug and Charles, again. Little Charles was adorable. We ate delicious food and had a fun Canada Day picnic in a park by the river. We also were very lucky and got to see my other cousin, Monica, and her husband, David (whom we had never met before).

Since the highway from Spokane to Seattle is fairly well-travelled and well-marked, we avoided a scenic detour on that leg of the trip other than to stop at the Petrified Gingko Forest site in Washington. It was so amazing! A really small little National Parks site where they've found some of the only petrified gingko trees in North America. I love stopping at random roadside attractions.

We spent the 4th of July in Lynnwood with Benjamin's cousin. I enjoyed visiting the temple in Seattle, one I've never been to, and it was great to meet so much of Benjamin's family.

Throughout our entire drive through Montana, Idaho, and Washington, I had noticed stands set up in parking lots everywhere selling fireworks. I love fireworks. I love watching them and have always wanted to be able to buy my own and set them off. We made a stop in a parking lot in Lynnwood and bought a ton of sparklers, Roman candles, and spinning ground flowers. Lighting them on Independence Day was one of the highlights of the trip. We attended a 4th of July party in a neighbourhood where everyone seemed to be competing over who could put on the best fireworks show. Everywhere I looked, there were fireworks, and they started at 8 pm and went almost constantly until 11.

After staying up late watching the fireworks, we had to get on the road before 7 the next morning to get home in time – a 12-hour drive. It was incredible to go for such a fun trip together and squeeze so much into 6 days, but we were glad to get home again. I almost wished I had left a day afterwards to recover from our vacation!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


In my last semester of school, I decided that I wanted to take an accounting course. Of course, I couldn't take it at the U of C, so I had to do a correspondence course from Athabasca University. I finished it and applied to graduate with my economics degree.

Benjammin was also set to graduate this April and was really excited to go to his convocation, so I booked a day off work to come. I decided that it wasn't worth taking two days off work for convocation, so I figured I'd have my diploma mailed to me.

Last week, I was in a team meeting and once we had gone over our various projects, my boss reviewed the upcoming time off, reminding the team that I was going to be off the following day for my convocation (somehow he had thought that I meant I was taking the day off for my own graduation ceremony). I piped up to tell him it was actually Benjamin's convocation and decided to add a funny story - I got an email about one week before convocation, telling me that I was one credit short of graduation and would not be able to receive my degree the following week. Really, University of Calgary? You tell me this one week before I had planned to receive my degree? Couldn't have pointed this out to me a month ago or something so I could remedy the situation? I mean, I did apply to graduate back in November.

After telling this story, my coworker Joe said in pseudo-disbelief, "WHAT? You didn't graduate? You don't have a degree?" Ha-ha, Joe. This was followed by my boss raising his eyes to heaven and wondering aloud, "What else in the interview was a lie? Oh great!"

I then spent the rest of the day being teased about being a college dropout.

Benjamin, however, graduated and received his Bachelor of Commerce degree on Friday. It was
great to see him in his gown and walk across the stage, even if the rest of the three-hour convocation was kind of boring. Congratulations, Benjamin! I'll catch up to you when they award the degrees in November. Although I think sitting through one covocation per year is probably enough.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Songs in My Head

Sometimes I feel like my mind is like an iPod on shuffle. Today I had 8 separate songs in my head, most of them for no discernible reason – I didn't hear any of them or even listen to any music at all today.

I woke up to "Just Haven't Met You Yet" by Michael Buble. I don't wake up to a clock radio, otherwise I might have had some reason to have a song in my head very first thing. An hour into work, I suddenly was singing Backstreet Boys to myself – nothing that I do at work should remind me off "Backstreet's Back". As I microwaved my lunch, I tapped my toes to the background music of a Chevy commercial that always plays when Benjamin watches the hockey game on As I settled back in after lunch, into my head popped "Zero to Hero" from Disney's Hercules. You start to see the randomness of the iPod in my head?

Oddly enough, within 15 minutes of my Disney singalong, I was listening to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing their hearts out to "I Believe in Christ" which actually did make sense. We didn't sing it in church yesterday, but we did sing the song right next to it in the hymnbook. Next came "YMCA", as I checked the online schedule at the Y. It was at this point I decided to start making a list of all the songs I'd had in my head that day, which prompted the DJ inside to switch tracks to Greg Hanna's "Song in My Head". Go figure.

After getting home, I was soon back to singing Disney tunes with "I'll Make a Man Out of You" from Mulan while I made dinner. However, soon, and completely without reason, I whistled the Beatles' "Come Together" (not even a Beatles song that I actually like that much!) while doing the dishes.

I'm torn between being curious about what's coming next and turning on some real music to stop the madness.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Lights of Las Vegas

My office is right across the hall from our floor's large conference room. Unfortunately, this conference room has only sliding glass doors that do nothing to block sound. I've been privy to the details of quite a few meetings, especially those meetings on which the door is not fully closed. Let's just say I've gotten used to pulling my headphones out when a particularly loud group takes over conference room 2923.

Sometimes, though, I get to hear little gems of conversation during my inadvertent eavesdropping. Like today: A group or market forecasters was in a meeting. While they waited for all the attendees to arrive, one was asked about his recent vacation. "I was in Vegas" he replied. Many others chipped in with their anecdotes about Sin City, one commenting on how bright it is to walk down the strip. Suddenly, one of the mused, "I wonder what the total electric load for Vegas is?" Another pulled out the relevant statistic. A third chimed in that each hotel on the strip averages approximately 8 MW. Suddenly, stories about wild vacations in Vegas had turned into dorky shop talk.

I work with a bunch of nerds – and it feels like home.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Reading List

My new job requires a 30-minute bus ride every morning and every evening. During my first few weeks of work, I usually spent at least the bus ride home getting carsick, as I have done on buses for years. However, after consistently riding almost every day and learning at which stop I was most likely to get a seat at the front, I've been able to get to the point where I can read on the bus. This is great, because for the last several years, I've been so busy with school that my reading has dropped off a little (although not enough to stop me from devouring Stephanie Meyer's Host in the 24 hours before my Economics of Taxation final – don't worry, I still passed).

The past two months, I've read over 14 books (not quite back up to my high school level yet)
from such a scattered assortment of genres, the list looks like it was created by a butterfly with ADD. It's just reinforced what I told people years ago in high school: if it's got pages between two covers, I'll probably read it. Here's some of my favourites for those of you who are looking for a good summer read:

The Host, by Stephanie Meyer
The Host tells the story of the world after an alien invasion. These aliens are a completely peaceful race and have implanted themselves in our brains to prevent violence, war, and anything else nasty. The main character, Wanderer, has arrived on earth after the aliens' dominance is mostly complete, but is implanted in the brain of on of the last human survivors, a girl named Melanie. Melanie is strong-willed enough that she remains present even after the insertion and Wanderer begins to feel some sympathy for the human race and the remaining survivors. They go off on an epic adventure to find the rest of Melanie's family, who are still on the run. Yes, I know it's the same woman who wrote Twilight. I know that amongst my acquaintance, Twilight has gotten extremely mixed reviews. Let's just say that I do enjoy Twilight, but I'm under no impression that it's a work of fine literature. The Host, on the other hand, is much better written than Twilight. The drama that pervaded Twilight is still there, but feels less hokey and more believable. Even though I was reading it for the second time, I couldn't put it down.

Frederica, by Georgette Heyer
My sister Jaima got me into Georgette Heyer books after I got home from my mission, and I've been reading them whenever I can find them from the library since. Heyer started writing in the 1920s and most of her books take place in the Regency era, the same time as all the Jane Austen books. Frederica is my favourite so far. It tells the story of a girl in her mid-twenties, Frederica, who is left in charge of her family when her father dies. Determined that her younger sister will not waste her beauty on their insignificant country circle, she takes her siblings to London to attempt an advantageous marriage for her sister, who although beautiful, is rather stupid. She prevails upon their distant relative, the wealthy Marquis of Alverstroke, to sponsor them in society, which he does, mostly to spite his other scheming relatives. Adventure piles on adventure as the Marquis finds himself increasingly involved in the exploits of all members of the young family as they caper through Regency area London. As with all Georgette Heyer stories, the wit is plentiful, the characters sparkling, and happy endings abound for all.

The Firm, by John Grisham
I first read The Firm is high school, and for the following few months, took out every Grisham novel I could find at the library. Grisham has the ability to keep his readers glued to the page, throwing twists and turns and describing everything in compelling detail. The Firm is one of his earlier novels, from 1991, and has all the appeal of his very early stories without the dated feel that I've gotten occasionally from some of the very first. It tells the story of Mitch McDeere, a young Harvard Law graduate who gets an incredible job offer from a small sized firm in Memphis. They offer to pay off his student loan, arrange a mortgage, lease him a car, and pay him much more than any other offer he's received. It's only after a few months there that Mitch realizes that the offer too good to be true came from a firm that is really not what it appears to be, when he is approached by the FBI to assist them in an investigation of the firm and its number-one client. Caught in the crossfire and blackmailed from both sides, Mitch has to keep on step ahead of spies, goons, federal investigators, and lawyers to do the right thing and save his family.

Happy reading, and if you have any suggestions for my next book, let me know!

Friday, April 22, 2011

I love my job, I promise!

I should probably clarify from my earlier post... I've had a few people ask me about my job with looks of sympathy, apparently under the impression that I trudge off to work every day with a heavy heart and tearful eyes. I actually really love my job. Sure, I have the odd day every now and then when I'm bored, and getting used to a new schedule always has its blips. But in case you interpreted my earlier post to mean that I was dissatisfied with my job and life in general, I promise that I'm happy. Especially with my job.

We actually had an offsite meeting on Wednesday this week, where our department booked meeting rooms and a gym at the Talisman Centre. We got fed a custom-ordered lunch from Jugo Juice, had two hours of presentations from our VP and directors, and then we were let loose to play basketball or badminton. They had even booked a yoga studio and hired a yoga teacher for those who weren't into getting body-checked under the hoop by their supervisors.

I was invited to join our group's basketball team, the Market Operations Hawks. Or, as we liked to call ourselves, the MOHawks. Despite an ill-fated attempt by the Market Design Dream Team, or M-DDT (apparently the only thing they could think of that would kill hawks was DDT – I know, how nerdy can you get?) the MOHawks were triumphant in the end, thanks to our lovely cheerleader, a co-worker who grew up in Ireland and didn't even know the rules of basketball, having never played sports at her convent school.

There are so many reason why I love my job.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Racy Chart

At work, a few members of my team are working on a system that outlines our project planning process. It outlines the different required tasks along the way and tells you who is responsible and accountable for each task, and who should be consulted and informed each step of the way. What can I say, I work for a large company with a very complicated approval process, but we do it to keep YOUR lights on.

On one of my first days, we had a team meeting where everyone gave updates on their projects. I was still adjusting to my new work schedule and, as usual, was drifting off in a meeting. Suddenly, I started awake when I heard a co-worker say, "... and the racy chart is coming along fairly well."

First, I should clarify that I work in an environment of very lovely, but fairly average people. Most are somewhat middle-aged with families and we don't work in the sexiest industry. Most of my days consist of separating authoritative and informational content in procedural documents that outline the Alberta transmission line system or trying to determine a satisfactory definition of the term "acceptable operational reason". Not the most glamorous job in the world, but I like it.

Now imagine my surprise when my colleagues start talking about some racy chart. I started wondering what I had gotten myself into.

Fast-forward through about three minutes of bewilderment. Apparently we have a RACI chart (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed individuals), not a racy chart.

At first a relief, in retrospect, maybe a bit of a letdown. It would have really spiced up my workday.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

How do you know when you've arrived?

I've always thought that the epitome of being a responsible adult was having a security pass to a building that was attached to the waistband of your pants via a yo-yo cord, a health and dental plan, and my very own workspace. My sister Elena has always thought it meant having real business cards that you can hand discreetly to people, like they do on TV. I guess that although I've had some jobs that definitely had their perks (like the practically free clothes when I worked at The Gap and getting paid to take kids to the library as a nanny) and others that met some of my grown-up requirements (being a receptionist for Dad meant my own desk, while my internship last summer gave me a snazzy key card complete with yo-yo cord), I never had the full package, until now.

In late January, I got a call from my previous boss from last summer. I was hoping to hear great news about them having a full-time position available for me, but unfortunately that didn't pan out. However, she did have good news. Through some industry networking, she had passed on my information to the Market Services Division at the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO), and from what she had told them about my summer internship with her, they were interested.

Over the past few months, I've had lots of opportunities like this come up. It seems like all over the place, people have leads for me on the job front. I've even had an interview come from them. But until recently, none of them came to fruition. I went to two interviews at the AESO and from what I heard about the position, it seemed like my dream job. I tried to stop myself from getting too excited about it, but it was in vain. I remembered my previous disappointments and prayed that this one, finally, would work out. Not only would it allow me to support Benjamin through school and pay off my student loans, it was a great job in the industry I loved. I got the call from HR at the AESO just a week before my wedding and started as soon as I got home from my honeymoon.

It's been an interesting challenge to catch up and try to learn everything that I need to know to function in this position, and I've gotten frustrated once or twice as I struggle to understand what exactly VArs standards are. Whenever I need a little pick-me-up, I look down at my security pass and for some reason it's so exciting to think that I'm a grown-up now! Friday morning I was having a particularly boring morning as I ploughed through technical and regulatory documents, trying to get some context for the work I'm going to be responsible for, and even my key card couldn't stop me from feeling like I was going crazy. Just then, I got an email from reception, telling me that my business cards had arrived. I went down right away to pick them up, and as I looked them over, I thought to myself, "That's right, you're Janine, Market Rules and Policy Analyst. Not just a student anymore!" And I knew I had arrived.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Get me to the Temple on time...

Elena and I had a fun time singing that song from My Fair Lady in the car on the way down to Cardston. I had always looked forward to my wedding (I've got a box of wedding magazines that I've been collecting since I was maybe 13, that has now been passed on to Elena) and it was everything I could have wanted. The best part about it was of course my wonderful husband, Benjamin, and our temple sealing, but so many other parts of the day were incredibly special. Like taking pictures with all my sisters and making sure we caught Peter and I doing oursignature kung fu pose. Like coming out of the temple and seeing my best friend Aurora. Like trying to round up all the ibbi (most of whom were either waaay too tired or else sick) for a few shots. Like walking into the chapel in Leavitt and seeing how gorgeous all those paper lanterns looked, and watching Ben's cousins attack the candy bar. Like dancing with my prince to the Sleeping Beauty waltz and then groovign with Daddy to Frank Sinatra's Swingin' on a Star, and seeing tons of other parent-child duos join in (I especially loved seeing Karen andbaby Charles on the dance floor!) I am so happy to be married to my lovey, Benjamin.

Even though these photos aren't from the wedding day, they're still lovely. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Battle of the BBC Series

I have been, for a very long time, a fan of BBC movies, especially those based on pre-1950s literature (I would say pre-1900 literature, but that would exclude Horatio Hornblower and early Agatha Christie, which will never do). I've seen the 5-hour version of Pride and Prejudice numerous times (and it IS five hours and not six, as everyone claims—there are six episodes of 50 minutes each), watched both old and new adaptations of Sense and Sensibility, Emma, Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey, and my favourite, Persuasion. I had also eventually branched away from Jane Austen into the BrontĂ« sisters, C. S. Forrester, and Elizabeth Gaskell. I loved them all, with the exception of a few of the later Horation Hornblower episodes. I will be the first to admit that I mostly enjoy the movies. The novels that I've read from the above list have tended to be somewhat dull and I can never get quite as invested in a book that leaves so much to the imagination.

Somehow, though, I had never discovered Charles Dickens. Well, I had seen Oliver! the musical and countless stage performances of A Christmas Carol, and even read a graphic novel of Great Expectations, but my exposure to Dickens was very lacking.

Last week, Elena took Little Dorrit out of the library. I had never even heard of it before, and suddenly there it was; over 450 minutes of miniseries there for the watching, most of it featuring Matthew McFadyen, which is never a bad thing. It was while watching this that I realized why Dickens has his very own adjective. The characters, settings, and plots were so very Dickensian that there was literally no other word to describe them. Every scene at the Circumlocution Office was brimming with satire and scathing judgement on the British civil service. Characters like Flintwinch skulked through narrow, crooked halls in a manner that can only be described as Dickensian, while Andy Serkis played a masterfully creepy Rigaud. In some movies, the side characters are so interesting that one loses sight of the main plot, but with incredible performances in the lead roles of Amy Dorrit and Arthur Clennam, I was riveted almost the entire 7 hours (minus a bit of a slow part in Italy towards the end of the movie). I would recommend Little Dorrit to anyone with either a weekend to kill, a series of boring evenings, or a love of BBC miniseries. I promise that once you start remembering who all the characters are, it gets really good.

The worst thing is, on every BBC production, there are previews for even more tantalizing movies. I've added several to my list, including The Way We Live Now, Bleak House, and Lorna Doone. At this rate, I don't think I'll ever be able to watch them all—every time I discover a new one, there's three more waiting.

Bless you, BBC, for your prolific miniseries making.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Ultimate Daddy-Daughter Date

My saintly father has six children, the first five of which are girls. For many years he has lived in a female-centric home and has had his own special way of bonding with each of us. For me, I used to love it when both he and I would be excused from cleaning the kitchen after supper to do some sort of fix-it job around the house. Fixing the broken washing machine? Sounds like a job for Super-Dad with his trusty assistant, Little Neen. The highlight of my Saturdays as a little girl was getting to go on errands with Daddy to the now-defunct Beaver Lumber that used to be in the parking lot of Market Mall to pick up nails and screws. I remember being in kindergarten and walking over to my Daddy's office at the Market Mall Professional building a few blocks away from our house to take him his lunch—what's even more surprising was that I seem to remember doing it once or twice on my own . . . either Mum really trusted the traffic on 40th avenue or my memory isn't what it should be.

The best, though, were Daddy-daughter dates. These were the special occasions when Daddy and one of his daughters would have a special outing, just the two of them. This outing might consist of ice cream at Lic's, a canoe ride at Bowness Park, or once when I was really lucky, dinner and a movie. It was always fun to have special time with Daddy.

The few days when Mum and Daddy picked me up from Finland felt like a long Daddy-daughter date, as Mum's health at the time kept her resting in the hotel a fair portion of most days. Daddy and I went for a run down Neitsytpolku to the ocean, went grocery shopping in Espoo for all the Finnish delights I wanted to bring home, and visited a street market in Leppävaara. We explored the tunnels of the old fortress at Suomenlinna and met some of my friends for strawberries at the harbour market. I loved sharing a part of my mission with my Dad—he truly understood how much that place meant to me and how hard it was to leave.

Last weekend, however, was the best Daddy-daughter date of them all. Daddy had lift tickets for the resort at Revelstoke, home to some of the best powder in existence. Originally, the plan was for him, Peter, and me to go, but when Peter bailed at the last minute, the trip became a Daddy-daughter date—the last one before I get married in three weeks.

Over those two days of skiing, we discovered powder up to our knees on almost every run. It was like skiing in a marshmallow. The whole time, we kept shouting to each other that the snow was unbelievable, that this was paradise. We found heavenly little chutes filled with powder and trees spaced just right. When I found myself on a section that seemed to steep for me, Dad coached me through the turn. Even when we got separated on our last run of the day and both lost skis on a 50 degree incline and were lost for over 25 minutes, we had the most incredible time. Well, I was worried to death that he had fallen headfirst into a tree well and he had the ski patrol searching for me, but that's another story—it was all part of the adventure that made this weekend the best Daddy-daughter date ever.

But the one thing that made this ski weekend the best ever wasn't the snow or the perfect hill. It was being there with my Daddy, one last time for us to have an adventure with him while I'm still all his, still his little girl.