Monday, July 30, 2012

Life is so very full

Monday, July 23, 2012

Weekend with "Stini"

It feels good to get back into my routine after a delightful weekend of gallivanting with my dear friend Cristina. We shopped until we dropped, dined in cafes, perused boutiques, talked each other's ears off, munched on candy, tried on carts full of clothing at value village,agonized over our purchases (Christina found two pairs of pretty shoes and a chic jacket and I bought a vest and scarf), prowled the shoe department in winners, took long runs in the morning (Christina is training for a 100km race), wandered through the historic downtown streets of Nanaimo, tried to go the beach but nearly got blown over, ate homemade apple cream pie while watching "this means war", and read magazines.  (Disclaimer: some of these photos are quiet awful in terms of focus, but I decided to share them because they are so happy and silly.)

Catching up

I have so many wonderful memories and photos to share with you that I hardly know where to begin. Between visits with friends, picking berries, soaking in the sun and trying to keep my house from falling into shambles I have sorely neglected this blog. Thankfully, today we received some much needed rain and it forced me to stay "mostly" indoors and get a few things done. Today I managed to attend church, take the girls for a VERY soggy walk to the park, deal with my recycling, organize my kitchen drawers, do a load of laundry, de-junk my "junk" cupboard, organize my pantry, make a decent meal for my hubby as well as a rather disappointing apple crisp, do my workout video, take the dog for a run, sweep the floors, plan meals for the week, and download pictures off my camera. Whew! Hopefully tomorrow I will find some time to blog about something a little bit more interesting :0)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Re connecting

About a month ago, I received this facebook message from a girl named Ashley:

I'm not sure if we've met... but rumour has it you and your hubby go way back with my hubby... and we are all soon to be living in Nanaimo (or your already are?). Since Art heard that, all I hear is "Nate this, Nathaniel that"!We are moving into our new house this Saturday, and we should plan on meeting up sometime after that. Cheers, Ashley (and Art) Bakker."
When I told Nathaniel, he was so happy he didn't stop smiling for days. Since we have moved to Nanaimo, nearly a month ago, those boys have spent every available moment together. I joke that that they are twelve year old boys trapped in 30 year old bodies. Years ago, when they were counsellors at a camp on the called Esperanza, they both enjoyed windsurfing, jumping off cliffs, wake boarding and hiking. Fast forward ten or so years and they have since added hunting, working on motor bikes, kayaking and apparently exploring tidal pools to that list. They make me smile when they are together and I am so thankful Nate someone in his life that "gets" him.

Another great bonus to this arrangement, is the fact that Art's wife is pretty cool and it has been fun getting to know her better. The other day we bumped into each other enjoying the parkway trail on our bikes and then on Sunday she invited me to hike Mount Benson with her. I am  thrilled to have found someone that enjoys and appreciates the outdoors as much as I do. Here are a few pictures from our hike on Sunday. (I am still sore)!

There were some steep spots but they made the hike all the more interesting.

Our snack midway up the mountain. Ashley brought freshly picked cherries. YUMMMMY

I just love all the shades of green in this photo.

 The view from the top of Mount Benson overlooking Nanaimo and the harbour

I cannot even tell you how many pictures I have of my feet on the top of mountains. I always love having an extra set of legs beside mine

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Good friend, good shopping, good food...

 Since we moved to Nanaimo, nearly five weeks ago, I have been occupied with nesting, exploring our new community and hosting family from Victoria on the weekends. Only recently have I begun to long for local friendships and have the energy to begin pursuing them. About a week ago I made plans to go out for tea with someone I had only known vaguely when I lived in Nanaimo ten years ago. When we attended church I recognized her and we hit it off. We made plans to get together the following week and had such a GREAT time! We talked for two solid hours, only pausing briefly to breath and feast on our treats. I enjoyed the most incredible scone I have EVER had in my life. (I am already fantasizing about having another).

I felt so refreshed and encouraged after our conversation and I can't wait to hang out with her again. I was delighted to discover that she also enjoys thrift store shopping. It sounds like I will have someone to prowl the isles of Value Village with. Yippee! Take a peek at this stunning pair of frye boots I found there last week. (The only reason I know that frye boots are significant, is because of a shopping trip I went on with my girlfriend Stina a couple years ago). The  crummy things about these lovely boots was that they were two sizes too small for me. I bought them nonetheless and have since consigned  them at a trendy consignment store where I stand to make a decent profit.

 Check out this sundress I bought there recently. I have a feeling I am going to be wearing a lot of color this summer.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Guest Post: Part 2

May 26: Italy, Part 3. Naples. We docked within easy walking distance of the downtown area so Rob and I took it upon ourselves to take a brisk morning walk exploring the streets. Unfortunately, Naples disappointed me. Maybe it was just an off day, but the town itself seemed like one huge "bad" area. Garbage everywhere, lot's of negative attention, dirt and grime on every street corner. The area seemed poverty stricken and in need of some TLC. Luckily my day turned around when we jetted off for our tour to the ruins of Pompeii and a hike up Mt. Vesuvius. For those history buffs, you already know Pompeii's tragic story: In 79 AD neighboring volcano Mt. Vesuvius erupted and buried Pompeii under 4 to 6 meters of ash and pumice. An exact death toll remains unknown, but it is thought approx. 1500-2000 people died from the raining ash. Their remains can still be seen to this day, the outline of anguish on their faces and even the belly of a pregnant lady who perished. Today it's a very popular UNESCO World Heritage Site filled with remnants of old buildings and stone casts of Mt. Vesuvius' victims. After a delicious pizza lunch, we concluded our day with a hike up the volcano, which remains one of the world's most dangerous volcanoes due to its unpredictability. It was a tough climb, very steep and rocky even with the help of our bamboo walking canes. The view from the top was incredible, both of the crater itself and of Naples down below.

May 27: A much needed day at sea spent eating and sleeping! May 28: PARTY CENTRAL! If you've never been to Mykonos, you couldn't go fast enough. This little island of Greece is one happening place not to be missed. We docked at 8AM and I was puzzled to hear shouts, loud music and tons of laughter at such an hour. Noticing my confusion, a local man informed me that this was just the sound of the people from last night finally leaving the night clubs for some rest. It was a Monday. At 8AM. And they were just going home from what sounded like quite a crazy all night party. Mykonos is famous for it's stunning white structures, nightlife, food and atmosphere. Rob was in dire need of some fun (no ruins, no museums, no tours) so we rented a scooter for a lowly $10 Euros and spent our day zooming around the island from beach to beach. The photos don't do it justice. The sand is white, the water is the most amazing bright blue, and there is a fabulous carefree vibe throughout. The beaches are NOT a place to take the kiddos: there is plenty of drinking, loud music, nudity, you name it. But I can confidently say it is the most fun you'll have in a very long time! WOO HOO!

May 29: Istanbul, Turkey. Today was THE most anticipated stop of our trip. I could barely sit through breakfast I was so excited. Num num num, HURRY UP, num num num. My wish list for Istanbul was extensive: Sultanahmet Square, Underground Cistern, the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, the Grand Bazaar, and the Spice Bazaar. Unfortunately, Topkapi Palace is closed on Tuesdays, so I will just have to return someday to see it from the inside *smile*. Armed with guidebooks and maps, I had felt confident we could see everything ourselves up until three days before our departure. I got nervous and hired a local man named Hal to take Rob and I on a personal tour. This turned out to be the best decision possible. Hal met us at the cruise ship terminal, drove us to Sultanahmet Square and from there we walked. And walked. And walked some more. We skipped every line possible (and boy, were they long!) and got the best, most personal tour imaginable. We lunched with Hal at a Turkish restaurant called The Pudding Shop, which, if you google it, is rather famous. Hal told us wonderful personal stories about growing up in Turkey and also what modern day life is like there for him and his family. Everything about Istanbul exceeded my expectations. We ended our day in the Grand Bazaar and I've never felt so overwhelmed in my life. There were over 3,500 shops to explore and needless to say time ran out. I came home lugging an extra suitcase filled with fabric, pillow covers, Turkish apple tea and other souvenirs from our day. I think Rob was relieved... imagine the damage I could have done with a full day at the Bazaar.

May 30: Izmir, Turkey. I had no idea what sort of landscape to expect before we arrived in Izmir and it was a total surprise when our big gurgling ship pulled into the port. Izmir is the third largest city in Turkey with a population of approx. 3 million. Despite its size, it's nestled among tall steep hills covered in a sea of green forest. We hopped in a taxi and drove past Konak Square, through the neighborhood of Karşıyaka and onwards to the Balcova Thermal Hotel. Nestled up against the mountains, this hotel and spa has wonderful green hot spring pools, a top of the line spa center and even a water park for the young at heart. We put on the mandatory bathing caps and spent our day soaking up the minerals and removing all the toxins. (insert Izmir pics here) May 31: Heraklion, Crete. This was a complete surprise. Our scheduled itinerary called for a stop in Piraeus (Athens), Greece today but our ship captain changed it to the port of Heraklion on the island of Crete instead. His reasoning was very understandable although there was some rather long faces on board that day. Athens was on a lot of wish lists, and would have been on mine as well expect I'd already had the privilege of visiting there during my flight attendant days. Crete is the largest and most populous of all the Greek islands and has a very diverse geography of mountains, bright blue sea water, deep gorges, lakes and rivers. Heraklion is the capital of Crete and has a population of around 131,000. We rented another scooter and spent the day exploring on our own. The beaches were breathtaking and it was wonderful to stop at one, swim, get back on the scooter and then stop at another! Rob even managed to find his way to an aqua park called Water City which appeared smack dab in the middle of nowhere on top of a windy hill. Despite being so remote, it was packed and my husband was happy to have found some thrill rides for the remainder of our time. We finished with a walking tour of Heraklion and a much deserved cold drink.

 June 1: SO sunburnt from yesterday's antics in the sun. My chest is the color of a ripe tomato. Day at sea, spent faaaaarrrr away from the pool. June 2-4: Italy, Part 4. VENICE!!!! VENICE VENICE VENICE VENICE VENICE VENICE VENICE!!!!! VENICE!!! The arrival into Venice was spectacular, there are no words to describe. We sailed right through the center of it all. Cameras were snapping, jaws dropping, lots of excited yelps. Since we spent several days here, I booked two tours for us. One, an evening tour of Venice that began at the Rialto Bridge and explored narrow streets, canals and the day to day life of its residents, concluding with a gondola ride down the Grand Canal. And two, a day tour of Doges Palace, Bridge of Sighs, and St. Mark's Square. Take my word: it is not possible to take an ugly photo in Venice. There is opportunity at every corner for a National Geographic cover. The city is full of fascinating history and has the most amazing intimate feel to it despite the mass crowds. I ate my way through many a gelato as we sat in wonderful cafes along the Grand Canal. Rob and I couldn't stop smiling, ear to ear. This was a wonderful conclusion to our Mediterranean adventure.


June 5: Home. Reality. Garden needs water, kiddo needs attention, laundry is unthinkably stacked, meals need to be cooked and bills paid. And most importantly, my dearest friend is gone. Her house sits empty (I've checked, just in case!!). When I left, she was still here. When I came home, she had gone off on her own adventure. Thank you Jocelyn for your kindness, your thoughtfulness, listening, laughing, sharing, our late night visits, and being there through the ups and downs of day to day life with me. More then you will ever know, thank you. And being your friend for years to come is better then any trip this world has to offer.