January 2008

General and Travels19 Jan 2008 08:21 pm

We finally made it to Phuket. We arrived with a plane load of Estonian tourists but my dad was still able to pick us out of the crowd at the airport and whisked us away in the Toyota “Soluna” he had rented to the place my parents are staying.

The island is as pretty as ever, also just as chaotic. It’s taken a while to get used to things here, but finally I think Mike and I are settling in. Mike’s doing his SCUBA certification right now and is doing his first boat dive as I type. I’m scheduled to go out tomorrow and the day after with him, I’m nervous and excited.

So the good things are the sun and sand, the food and just general laidbackness of Phuket. It’s nice to be with my parents. The bads are the atrocious internet speeds (oversubscribing of the providers has REALLY choked their speeds down) and the tourists. Everywhere. We’ll probably only spend another 10 days here and venture onto calmer waters, I think.

General and Travels11 Jan 2008 04:15 pm

There is no way to really describe it here. We’ve been in the city just over a day now and we’ve already done most of what we’ve come here to do…and more.

I guess the most amazing thing has to be the washroom at our hotel. I’m not even really sure I can properly explain it here, but I took a video tour of it the other day so I’ll try to post that at some point. Yeah, I know it’s cliche to talk about how amazing Japanese bathrooms are, BUT THEY ARE.

The toilet seat has a warmer so it’s always warm. Always. There is a built in bidet with three spraying options (bum, bum soft, ladies) and the shower has a talking temperature control panel. My mind almost melted when I discovered that.

The fashion makes me feel like a bag all of the time, and we haven’t even gone to trendy Harajuku yet. Thank God I had the foresight to pack pink legwarmers. There may be some saving face yet.

Also, Mike towers over everyone like Godzilla and attracts attention like you wouldn’t believe. He’s basking in it.

General and Travels09 Jan 2008 10:29 am

We’re in the middle of a layover in Seattle, living it up in an Alaskan Airlines lounge. It was a hellishly early flight and now it’s 9am Seattle time and we’re having free beers while everyone else makes business calls and drinks OJ.

Hey; it’s noon somewhere, right?

General08 Jan 2008 11:04 pm

Going to bed early before a trip never works. Despite a list I have been steadily ticking the boxes off of for five weeks now, there were still some last minute things to get done.

Mike and I had our favorite pizza tonight from Tony’s, and did some last minute packing. I bought travel insurance (this is the first time I’ve bought it for ANY trip. Unsettlingly, it will not cover civil unrest. Great.) and as usual worried about nothings.

I can’t tell if I’m excited yet or not; I think it will finally hit when we’re on the plane to Tokyo. I’ll try posting from the business lounge at SeaTac tomorrow. If we don’t have too many free beers.

General03 Jan 2008 12:41 am

The last few weeks I’ve had to do a few early morning shifts. 6am early, to update the newspaper’s website. It’s a quiet time, as it’s just me and the police scanner.

I always get a thrill out of that thing. Everyone, especially the cop reporters, have long grown weary of it, and only listen for big things, shootings, big accidents, fires. But I can’t help myself and I find my ears tuning into whatever is being said on the scanner.

Lots of paramedic calls. People can’t breathe, heart attacks, people who have to return the hospital. Homeless fellows found in bus shelters. Domestic disputes. Car accidents, too. Fires, or just pulled fire alarms. I listen hard to these, always expecting to hear about someone I know or hearing a familiar address. I never do.

It’s kind of voyeuristic and disgusting, I know. But it’s so fascinating. Even the cop banter about weird stuff they say when they assume no one is listening, maybe not even the dispatcher, is incredible to me. I often jot things down to spill to Michael when I get home, just itching to tell someone, because I know I’d only get withering glares if I were to mention it at work.

Once, when some officers made some disparaging joke that was particularly rude, I stared wide eyed at the entertainment writer who was lucky enough to get a weekend at the cop desk. She was carrying the radio and when I stared at her unbelieving of what I was hearing, she said “What?! Do I have something on my face??” I laughed and said “No, but did you hear what they were just saying?” she said “Oh, no. I tuned that crap out long ago.”

I hope I don’t ever get like that. The voices on the scanners at 6am on a Sunday is somewhat comforting as I sit alone in the huge empty newsroom, sipping my tea.

Food and Food: Edmonton and Food: Home Cookin'01 Jan 2008 04:16 pm

I bought a new camera when I was in Minnesota (CANADIAN DOLLAR POWER!) and I really really meant to start doing daily updates, but it hasn’t happened that way.

Instead, here is a round up of all the singular posts I had planned on making the last week or so.

For my birthday I got a few incredible things, including luggage from my parents (and pots and pans! I MUST be 28 if this gets me excited), and a pair of chinchilla earmuffs and trimmed leather gloves. I know how awesome chinchillas are, I’ve held them in my hands, but honestly, to have them next to my ears is sumptuous and ungodly. I feel sick writing that. I’ve always liked fur, though.

Anyhow, the surprise element of my gift (which I thought was going to be a horse ride in a sleigh for some reason) was actually a champagne tasting. We were the youngest ones there, and the crowd made all sorts of horrible jokes about getting tanked, but it was really enjoyable otherwise. Here are the rosé selections. I even sipped a sample of $300 champagne. It was my favorite, of course.

Afterwards, we rode the bus home, slightly tipsy and all classy.

These are sort of out of order, and I can’t get them to go in order, so I apologise. This is Michael with his tall mug of beer and his eyeglasses free visage. Almost 1 month post-LASIK!

We were on a review dinner at a restaurant on Whyte Avenue. He has quite a few to do before we leave for Asia still.

I’m worried.

This was my Christmas Day dinner at work. It’s the first major holiday I’ve ever had to work, and it was a little strange. Please ignore the horrible yellow overcast from my desk lamp. I’m still learning the ways of the new camera, and I had not the energy to Photoshop it to correct it.

Please note the classy Dixie brand paper plate. The dinner was pretty good actually. But I was still sad I had to stay on until 11pm.

This is Connor. We had been promising to take him to this incredible Leb place that does wonderful schwarmas right outside the building, but he got the plate instead. It’s a meal and a half.

I was horribly ill last week and it took me a while to eat the Christmas dinner package Michael put together for me. He cooked it all himself, a duck consommé to start and a chateau briande wrapped in crepes and brioche with additional items like braised cabbage and scalloped potatoes. (I love how I seem to be using the é at will since I’m not always sure where it goes)

Anyhow, I saved the consommé for the exact right moment when all I wanted was clear liquidy things. The little bits are duck breast, of course. It was lovely and like liquid gold on my tender throat.

We also made perogies earlier in the month. My Ukranian granny was pleased, so now I know how to make two staples of the uke world, perogies and cabbage rolls. Also, I can say “teeth” in Ukranian. It’s “zuba”.

The ones on the top remind me of bird beaks or clams they’re so perfectly shaped.

And so, there’s the photo roundup. Pretty food centric, obviously, as that seems to be where my life is headed, and I don’t mind at all. As I laid here, bed ridden last week, I read review after review for restaurants in Tokyo. It’s more impossible than you might think. The restaurants are small and obscure, name translations differ, most websites are only in Japanese, the addresses are all messed up and when we get there, we may be turned away for lack of reservation or because we’re gaijin.

But, I’ve chosen a few staples in some main areas. Sushi, of course, but also tempura, kobe beef, tonkatsu (a deep fried pork cutlet that’s popular) and also soba noodles. 5 days is not going to be enough.