Tuesday, October 23, 2012

I wish I could be...

While Mark was building the deck, I was inside, away from the sun and rain, working on a (much smaller) project of my own: an illustrated storybook for my nieces and nephews. The book took over my non-working hours for about five happy months. The story is adapted from Kimya Dawson's awesome and quirky song "Treehugger" (popularized by the Juno soundtrack).

For reference, I used old encyclopedias and my own photos. Finally, my snap-happy tendencies came in handy! For instance, the hundreds of photos I took in Sequoia NP last April made for excellent tree studies! After I was happy with the pencil sketches, I traced them in marker on tracing paper, scanned them, and coloured them in Photoshop. In the future, I'd like to experiment with actual watercolours, so I can spend even less time on the computer. But regardless of medium, colouring is fun. Oh so much fun.

I loved making this book, from head to toe. Without deadlines, rules and expectations, the drawings evolved and the characters formed. I think this is the first project in a long time where I was able to keep that critical, judgy, inner voice at bay, and was able to maintain a sense of fun and exploration. And I am thrilled with the outcome. I used Blurb again (as per usual), and I'm so happy with the quality. The thick, matte paper looks like a sketchbook, the colours are so vivid and the details nice and crisp. Zero complaints there.

However. Very, very unfortunately, I didn't get these printed copies in time for Thanksgiving (even though they were scheduled to...), which was my last chance to visit my nieces and nephews before I leave... So I showed them on the iPad, and the printed copies will find their way to those little hands in time for Christmas. It makes me sad that I won't be able to deliver them in person, but I look forward to the day when we can read it together. Hopefully my illustrations will fire up their imaginations and live long in their memories, as old storybooks did for me. Have you experienced that feeling of happy familiarity when coming upon a book from your childhood?

My very own book. In good company on the bookshelf!

Monday, October 22, 2012


Went for a short run this morning, and as I was breaking through the trees, the sun was just cresting the horizon, and it was the most amazing neon-tangerine colour. It cast warm coral-gold on the tops of the trees for just a moment before ducking behind the grey curtain of clouds. Glad I was there to see it. So lovely.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The sweet smell of cedar

I don't think Mark can claim that he's not a carpenter anymore... After building toychests for the kiddles, built-in bookshelves, and now, a beautiful deck, he is, most definitely, a carpenter.

For this project, the weather never seemed to be on his side. Through the blindingly, scorchingly hot days of summer, and blustery, rainy days of fall, Mark worked tirelessly. I helped a little bit in the early days; with a two-person auger we dug the footings, six feet deep (thank you, Ottawa frost line). And near the end, Mark's dad came down for the weekend and they made some major progress on the decking. But otherwise, it was built entirely with his two hands. The planning, the sledge-hammering of the old step (I tried a bit, but was largely ineffectual), the electrical, and all the construction; everything.

I've already done a bit of yoga on the deck, and the sweet smell of cedar and fresh air was so blissful. I can see many warm autumn days spent out there, wrapped in blankets, with books to read and hot chocolate to sip. And maybe a nice, cold beer on those hot summer days. Or shovelling a path to the BBQ in the winter. Life on the deck, it will be good.

The construction paralleled the growth of the pumpkin.

In the foreground on the left you can see the offerings I left for the Construction Gods. Crackers and cheese.

I am in love with the warm glow of the cedar. Like honey.

If the frost hadn't killed off the pumpkin plant, I am certain it would have taken over the deck.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Accidental pumpkin farmers

So it did turn out to be an interesting, and most definitely fruitful, mystery! The pumpkin empire yielded some plentiful spoils indeed: after the frost killed the plant, we harvested, and found eighteen pumpkins. Eighteen! Plus the three or four green ones we harvested early on brings the full harvest to about twenty-two. Amazing!

After some reading, it sounds like the light and warmth from the sun is what turns them orange. And judging from the green one that has been sitting on the sunny kitchen counter for the last few weeks, that seems to be true. The half that has been facing the sun is now orange!

So hopefully after sitting in the warm, sunny kitchen, we'll have some wee jack-o-lanterns! If not, they will make delicious pie. Actually, I know they make delicious pie: I just made my first from-scratch pumpkin pie ever, and it was pure deliciousness. Oh how I love harvest time.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Certain uncertainty

This post is going to make me look way more Type A than I think I am... It seems to be in my nature (no matter how much I fight it) to plan and organize and itinerize, but with this trip especially, I have really tried not to do that, and yet... if you saw the spreadsheets and maps I've created, I'm fooling no one...

That said! I really want to stay flexible, and be open to veering in unexpected directions, because that's where the adventure is. It's never as memorable when things go exactly according to plan. It's what you can't anticipate that's the fun part. Though I'm sure it won't be fun when we miss our bus/train, or when that bus/train breaks down somewhere, or can't find a hotel... but that's what we'll remember the most after the fact.

However, to figure out what vaccinations and prescriptions we need, and to apply for visas, we need to figure out the where, when, and roughly how long for each country. Also, to get certain visas on arrival, you have to show proof of onward travel, usual a plane ticket, but we're hoping to travel overland for a lot of the trip, so again, it feels as though we're being forced into an itinerary.

There are a few countries which need to be figured out ahead of time, and will be anchor points around which we can be flexible. Bhutan needs to be booked ahead of time, and that's where we'll be headed after Indonesia. My parents are meeting up with us in Cambodia (beyond exciting, I can't even express how awesome this is!) so that will be fixed so they can book their flights.

So, with all of that said, I've made a map to show the first chunk of the trip. We fly into Bangkok, and from there head north, looping around through Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, and back to Bangkok. Then southern Thailand, and down through Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia. It all looks like a nice, convenient loop, but I have no idea how it will go once we hit the ground. But from the comfort of this arm chair, it looks like a nice route. I'll let you know how "nice" it is when we get refused at some border crossing for not having the right paperwork and have to make an unscheduled detour. The fun part, right?

But can I just stop all this "plan" talk and say how ridiculous it feels to talk about this? As if! As if I'm going to do this? Go here? Whaaa? Dreams are going to actually be realized? Ba-nay-nays. It's still so surreal, and I can't believe this is happening.

There's still a lot do to over the next 42 days... visa applications to muddle through, final vaccinations to get, malaria prescriptions to fill, key phrases to learn... Gulp! I'm so excited I could cry, but feeling a bit overwhelmed too...

"The suspense is terrible. I hope it lasts."   — Oscar Wilde

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


The pumpkins were starting to glow, but after this weekend's frost, the plant seems to be very, very dead. Instead of bouyant, green leaves, they are blackened and withered. A sad sight indeed. And the pumpkins are still far from orange, so I'm not sure if they'll ever turn. Anyone have any ideas of how to get these puppies to orange-up in time for Halloween?

Friday, October 5, 2012

Turning 30 is a reason to celebrate!

And as such, it deserves a party. A surprise party!

I couldn't concentrate much at dinner, knowing the house was filling up with people; trying to send surreptitious texts updating my awesome co-conspirators on our ETA who had done so much work to get the house ready while we were out. I have to mention also, the incredibly kind bus driver who said "nah, don't worry about it" when we jumped on a bus after dinner and I didn't have enough change. When does that ever happen? It's his birthday! I said. Thank you so much!

Walking up to the house, windows darkened, heart in my throat. Unlocking the door and stepping inside, it was beyond surreal knowing there were people inside when it was so insanely quiet and I couldn't see anyone. At all. Where is everybody hiding?! For several incredibly long moments I was convinced I had dreamt it all, or that it was the wrong day. But then twenty-two people jumped out of hiding, and yelled "SURPRISE!"

It was the best! Mark was totally blown away, and didn't suspect a thing! Which is amazing, because I was sure I'd blown it at some point over the previous two weeks of scheming, but I guess I'm not as transparent as I thought! I was so incredibly relieved that the surprise worked, and that I didn't have to watch my step anymore! And it was so nice to see so many people gathered (on a Tuesday no less!) to celebrate Mark's birthday with him. Turns out I'm not the only one who thinks he's the best.  :)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Adirondacks anniversary

Just like last year, we went to the Adirondacks for our anniversary, but this time it was a double celebration, because we went with our good friends, one of whom was celebrating a birthday!

I wasn't sure if I'd be able to hike, because my plantar fasciitis flared up earlier in the week (for the first time in over a year - argh!), and as I limped around the office, barely able to walk, the idea of doing a vigorous 8-hour hike seemed unlikely. The idea of getting to the top of the mountain and being unable to hike back down seemed more likely... Very,
very thankfully, it cleared up enough, and just in time!

We had our big hike planned for Saturday, and got up very early to get a jump on it, but it was raining quite a bit, so we ambled around town, ducking into shops to avoid the rain, and feasting. Upon the recommendation of a local, we did a quick hike up Cobble Hill later that afternoon, which gave us some nice views of Lake Placid and the surrounding mountains. It was a fun, little hike with a nice bit of exposed rock "scramble" where
some of us perfected our crab walk.

Saw a shooting star Saturday night after a nice dinner of duck steak. 

Adorable croquet course on the lawns of the Lake Placid Lodge. We rented
a condo nearby, where the accomodations are not $1,100 per night...

Dusk on Lake Placid, with rain falling on Whiteface.

It's a good thing we didn't try to push through the rain to hike Big Slide on Saturday, because Sunday's weather was crystal clear (though also exceptionally chilly). It was below zero when we woke up! Glad I brought my long johns this year...

The route we took went over the "Three Brothers" which gave us some stellar views very early on in the hike. There were some "very steep," and some "quite steep" sections (it's hard to determine what the hiking book means, when reading such qualitative terms... quite or very, which is worse?! what does it mean?!) but all in all, Big Slide is an amazing hike with a good mix of steep sections, open rock, levels paths through forests, and a descent which is not nearly as knee-jarring and thigh-quivering as we've experienced.

The inspirational "no more sadness" birch bark drawing.

The Slide, and The Sandwich.

At the top we met a hiker who was celebrating his 46th peak! How amazing to be there just as he'd finished such an amazing accomplishment! Very inspiring for us aspiring 46'rs... We got to chatting, and he gave us some good intel on some of the peaks we have yet to do. I was also curious how many he's been averaging per year, and it turns out he did thirty-two this year alone... Oh man, to be a local and be able to hike there so much!

It was a wonderful weekend!