BRAD     |     EMILLIE

Thursday, August 30, 2012

I'd bring it to where you are, making a lake out of the East River and Hudson

I have been to New York State a countless number of times (2-3 times a year for every year of my childhood).  Brad has been to NY at least four times, and this trip was Nikolai's second visit to the state.  However, since both my Mom and my Dad are from Upstate New York I have never actually been to New York city.  And since the city is actually where everyone assumes you are going to when you say "I'm going to New York," I decided that it was about time that I actually saw the city for myself!

Luckily, I do actually have a few relatives in the city (a cousin on each side of my family), so we got to see the city from the perspective of a local.  For this trip we decided to stay with my cousin Chris, who is a full professor at NYU (he seemed like a better option then my cousin who is trying to make it in musical theater).  Chris lives in a "Faculty Housing" apartment building in Manhattan.  And his apartment provided the most important lesson we learned about living in Manhattan... mainly that real-estate is insanely expensive.

His apartment is on the 14th floor of a giant apartment building from the 60's.  He has a pretty basic 1-bedroom place that has remained completely un-renovated since it was built.  That means he has some pretty retro-fantastic kitchen cabinets and flooring. His place also boasts an amazing view (the two buildings under construction are the new World Trade Centres).
However, the lesson in real-estate pricing came from his rent.  His 1-bedroom apartment is only affordable because it is subsidized by the University.  At market value it would be worth well over $4000/month.  So that vision of Seinfeld and his crazy friends in those nice apartments is completely unrealistic.  The high cost of renting means that everything in the grocery store is expensive... and the same goes for restaurant prices, clothing stores, etc.  Apparently many of the chain stores actually lose money on their Soho locations, but they keep them open just to maintain their prestige.

The high cost of space also means that everywhere is absolutely packed with buildings. From my tour of European cities I'd come to expect broad avenues and large expanses from which I could take my touristic photos of Notre Dame or Buckingham Palace. Those expanses may exist in New York... but most of my photos were taken from pretty cramped locations.

However, that does not mean that the city is devoid of parks, in fact we started having to change our navigation routes simply to avoid stopping at a playground. Despite our best efforts, we still managed to visit quite a few playgrounds.
To finish off, here's a picture of Nikolai looking over the Lego recreation of the Rockefeller Center (I never did manage to get a whole picture of the real life version, as there was always too many people blocking my view.)
I love the Brownstone buildings in Chris' neighbourhood.
Anyone know how these cars get parked?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Underneath the dust motes

Living on an island makes travel to exotic places difficult.  It requires either a four hour trip to the Vancouver airport, or a multi-flight journey from our small airport.  (Though there are flights to exciting locations, they tend to run on a once a week schedule.)  Either way, travel to anywhere that isn't just a campground is much more expensive from Victoria than it was from Maynooth.  So this summer we've limited ourselves to one big trip.  And we definitely made the most of our trip to New York for a family reunion.

Picture a cluster of three cottages, all built in the early 1900's, or maybe even the late 1800's.  There is a shared wash house, a barn, and an old hand pump house where we used to get our drinking water (in recent times this has been upgraded with an electric pump).  These cottages were once part of a yearly migration from the town to the lake for the summer.  Though the village of Cambridge is only a few miles away, and would still provide for most provisions.  But summer would be spent at the lake, lost amongst the swimming holes, flower bed, vegetable gardens, and campfires.  This is a world that is shared with the cray fish, frogs, turtles, and ducks.

With my grandparents' recent passing (just a short 2 years apart) there is no one left to make the cottages their summer residence.  So they have remained, trapped in time, full of the memories of my grandparents youth. It is most marked by the calendar that hangs on the wall of one of the cottages as it is forever stuck on September 2008.  It remains as a quiet marker to the illness of age that eventually breathed the life out of my grandfather.

After he got over the museum like quality of the cottages ("what is a record player for?") Nikolai warmly embraced all that he could find to amuse him.  He played on the old zither and the more modern acquisition of a melodica and everything else he could find.  The experience of his explorations touched my uncles and my father as they remembered the original colours of all the toy cars, that had long since lost their paint with age. And the books of their childhood, all there, in the cupboard, to be enjoyed by the next generation. Clearly someone loved the exciting adventures of firemen as much as Nikolai does.

Some items even pre-date my father's childhood, such as the stacking wooden men that are still in good shape, and the heavy irons which have been re-purposed as doorstops.

This trip we went through the contents of my grandparents "town" house, everything was distributed, donated or thrown away.  Only two plastic Tupperware boxes of pictures and paper remain.  We laughed over the old school work, photos and cards. But we sighed over what to do with all of it... the remnants of a life full of children and grand children.  We were all given something to take home that was too important to throw away, even though it would likely serve very little use in our modern lives.  My pregnant belly meant that I was given a whole bunch of knitted baby clothes, most of them are marked with little holes from age.  But I will wash them, repair them and stuff the baby into them at least once... for a photo.  They are too sweet to lay forgotten in the bottom of a box.

Enough with the sentimentalization... here are some photos (with the promise of another NY blog sometime soon)!  Though I have to admit we mostly forgot to carry around our camera... so I truly hope some of my other relatives decide to share!

Here is Nikolai in the doorway of the "middle cottage" where we were staying.  The hat is from my Uncle Roger, and it's to match the red cowboy boots.  I've already managed to convince Nikolai that it would make a great Hallowe'en costume... there by getting out of having to actually sew him a Dragon costume (his other choice).
This is a picture of Nikolai and my Dad on the porch of "Stonefax" (my grandparents' cottage).
Claire and I floating out in the lake.
Nikolai mining for "pretty rocks".

Friday, August 10, 2012

The land of festivals

Victoria is truly a city of festivals.  There is something going on every weekend, and because it's really just a small town with a big tourist population, every festival feels like it was made just for our enjoyment.  All these same sorts of festivals happen in many major cities across the world, but Victoria's small population means that you don't have to line up forEVER to get your face painted or a free balloon animal.

I covered our spring festival events earlier this year, but haven't yet touched on our recent festival fun.  Though there's something on every weekend, thus far we've only gone to the free events, and only when we've had the time.  For example, this past weekend was Symphony Splash and apparently we should plan on staying in the city for it next year.  Nikolai's friends have all been raving about the "instrument petting zoo" and my friends loved the music. 

However, we have the best possible excuse for missing last weekend's event... Brad's brother threw a giant extended family reunion party for Brad's mother's side of things.  The party included all her siblings, and her cousins... plus their families.  A hearty crew to be sure!  Being pregnant, and having spent my recent summers in "balmy" Ireland, the 30 C heatwave sort of melted me into a pool.  We did spend one day at the beach with all of Brad's siblings and Nikolai's cousins, and the North Pacific kept my feet quite cool.
There are quite a few other free festivals worth coming over on the ferry for.  For the slightly more mature than a four-year-old crowd, I would recommend the Moss Street Paint-In.  All the local Victoria artists and a good number of artisans line Moss street with booths displaying their work.  Everything's for sale.  And a lot of the local residents get involved by setting up lemonade stands and garage sales.  The whole event centers on the Moss Street Market, which is always worth a visit.

Nikolai's favorite event was definitely the Buskers Festival.  Never having been to one before, I would have assumed that it was all about people playing guitar or doing magic tricks.  But it was actually more like going to a circus (sans the animals).  The city had a number of stages for large outdoor acts.  Nikolai's favorite act was a pair of acrobatic tumblers from Quebec, who were so good with their tricks that I'm sure they are hoping to move onto a career with the Cirque du Soleil.  Though Nikolai mainly found them funny because the smaller man was constantly being tossed about in a humorous fashion.

The photo above is Brad being buried by the junior members of his family.  And the photos below are of Nikolai at the Victoria 150 years celebration. (Celebrating Victoria's graduation from just being a trading post-style fort to an actual town.)  He was most enamored by the old fashioned firetrucks, and the live performances.  They were also giving away free lunches... but ran out of vegetarian food before we arrived.  (Though in a city like Victoria, one would imagine that everyone would be happy with a vegetarian sandwich!)

Thursday, August 02, 2012

So I remember...

Today's blog is going to be entirely selfish.  And it's because, due to hormonally linked memory acquisition, I didn't remember anything of my pregnancy with Nikolai until I was pregnant again.  So I need to remind myself of my vow on May 20th of this year...

Today's blog is all about morning sickness.  To start off with, I should have expected it.  NOW, I remember being sick while pregnant with Nikolai for around five months.  But without all the extra progesterone and hGC coursing through my veins, the memory was erased, as memories are very tricky creatures subject to the conditions under which they were created

However, my morning sickness this time around was MUCH worse.  For a full six weeks I was nauseous for my every waking minute.  And my nausea was made worse by anything to do with food.  I had to distract myself from actually thinking about food when grocery shopping, preparing lunch, snacks and dinner.  I couldn't stand the smell of food.  Needless to say we ate a lot of sandwiches and salads.  And I made some pretty awful meals too... Perhaps most famously, is the time I opened the refrigerator, fished out the broccoli and potatoes that Brad had purchased, chopped them up into a casserole dish, sprinkled on some flour, poured milk over the whole thing and hoped like hell that it would cook in the oven.  It did.  But there was absolutely no flavour to it, and I'd made enough to last us for several days.  It is truly unfortunate that Nikolai's allergy testing coincided with my nausea since I was left without any "fast" food options.  So we had a number of such lackluster meals.

And what happened when I had heightened nausea?  Well I was left with two options: lay on the couch and distract myself with a book, or visit the toilet.  Visiting the toilet was brilliant as I felt pretty amazing afterwards.  However, I didn't want to lose much weight or water, so laying on the couch was how I spent most of my life.  Nikolai and I played a lot of cards.  He also found a ratchet set, which he co-opted into a "doctor's kit" and spent a lot of time ratcheting me in an attempt to make me better.

Despite my best efforts, I still managed to vomit up my thyroid meds, my prenatal vitamins, and I even woke up to vomit in the middle of the night with nothing at all in my stomach.  It all peaked when I was around nine weeks pregnant and I ended up so dehydrated that my tongue was swollen, white, and fuzzy.  But it was that HARD to drink water.  I really don't know how I (or Nikolai) made it through those six weeks. Mainly, I think I survived by walking through my day like a zombie.  (So... that is why the blogs from that era are missing, or lacking in any kind of blog-sparkle.)

But the end was in sight.  It was the Saturday morning of our camping trip with Nancy and Dylan.  The first morning I woke up without nausea.  And my nausea free state lasted until lunch!  (The rest of the camping trip was navigated by turning off my brain and ignoring the nausea).  Then the following Wednesday afternoon I felt... fine!  I took Nikolai to the playground for the first time in ages.  And so it went... a few days of solid nausea with a glimpse of freedom arriving every so often.  Slowly the stretches of time between bouts of nausea lengthened, and I was able to have my life back.

For the past few weeks my nausea has steadily continued to decline, though every meal still makes me feel a bit ill... and I am still madly attached to my sea bands (acupressure anti-nausea bands that have been shown to help decrease nausea in pregnancy).  And I am sure that in a few weeks time I will have a day that will dawn like sunshine, and it will be a day without any nausea at all.  So this blog is to remind me of my vow from May 20th... that I will NEVER put myself (and those around me) through this again! 

Above is a picture of Nikolai tucked away into his hiding spot in the center of a cluster of trees. He's completely hidden from view on the outside.  Below is a picture of the amazing Black forest cake that Brad made me for my birthday.  He made the entire thing from scratch and it took him quite a while. It's made with a Genoise chocolate cake as a base, chocolate mousse and cherry filling, and whipped cream with chocolate curls on top.  It was truly inspirational, and (while I'm making vows) I vow to make more fancy birthday cakes from scratch!