Things that are Awesome, Part 3

Surprise Parties

Crazy photo of meSo I happened to say in the course of talking about something else, about how one of my lifelong dreams was having someone throw me a surprise party. I just mentioned it in passing, in part of answering a question about ways to win my heart.

Some awesome friends of mine happened to notice this, and actually threw me a surprise party (for my half-birthday). I have to say, I was 100% surprised, didn’t suspect a thing at all! AT ALL. It was awesome. Seriously one of the most awesome things ever.

Also they got me a cake! And made me drinks and played games and it was thoroughly awesome. And Trevor took that crazy photo of me. Yay!

Dragon Age: Origins

Dragon Age LogoTrevor picked up the Dragon Age: Origins Ultimate Edition (Dragon Age: Origins, along with all the downloadable content, and Awakenings). He picked it up because he thought he’d like to play it, and I took to it quicker than he or I expected. And I’m a huge fan. I’ve never really gotten into an RPG video game as much I have this one. I think part of it is the characters- I find them very engaging, and I definitely enjoy all the character interactions. The story is pretty awesome as well.

And the voice acting! Some really amazing voice work on this title. I recognized a few voices right away (Tim Russ, Kate Mulgrew, Tim Curry) but I also really enjoyed the work from people whose voices I didn’t know (Steve Valentine, Steve Blum, Corinne Kempa, etc).

I finished my first play-through last night, and I’m going to have to start a new game and try some things differently- I think I’ll have to play through 3 times more at least in order to try all the things I want to.

Another thing that’s awesome about the game- the score. It’s my first real introduction to Inon Zur as a game composer. He’s done other games, but none that I’ve played. I was seriously an instant fan. He makes great use of horns and brass, writes gorgeous melodies (a sure way to win me over) and has great orchestrations that really evoke images and emotions better than any I’ve come across in a game before. I love film music and game music, and he’s definitely one of my new favourites.

Sunshine

A little sun (especially in the morning and afternoon when I’m going to or from work) makes everything better. As much as I avoid too much sun exposure (fair skin and a family history of skin cancer makes for a healthy avoidance of sun damage) I love a nice sunny day in the winter.

Favourite sweaters

Do you have one of these? I have this sort of army-green sweater with a huge cowly turtleneck, and I feel like a million bucks in it. Wearing this sweater just makes my day that much more awesome. I wish I had one for every day of the week.

The sunglass clip

I have to wear corrective lenses to drive, and thus, sunglasses become more difficult, as I’m not a contacts person. Enter the sunglass clip, that clips on to your existing eyeglasses! They’re much nicer nowadays than the flip-up clips from the 80s, and I’m super happy to have mine. I don’t really like transistions or photo-grey lenses, because I think they don’t go back to clear soon enough or fully enough. So this is a perfect solution for me.

Awesome headphones

Headphones
My ears stick out from my head in such a way that finding headphones that fit and stay comfortable over a decent length of time is difficult. At work, recently, we all got new headphones that are actually comfortable for me, and really nice for audio work or listening to music while we’re working! They’re the Sony MDR-V600 model. I love them.

Things that are Awesome, Part 2

My Keurig Coffee Maker
I am kind of in love with my coffee maker. Trevor got it for me for my birthday a few years back, and it is seriously magical. It’s one of those cup-at-a-time makers, and since I am the only one in the house who drinks coffee, it’s perfect for me.

I also recently found a shop near me (Tweed and Hickory) that sells a huge variety of K-cups, and particularly my favourite kind (Creme Caramel!), in the larger box size. Yes!

Mini Cadbury Creme Eggs
I’ve never really been a fan of the Cadbury Creme Egg. All that goo in the middle was too much for me. Too much sugary goo, not enough chocolatey outside. And too big to eat without making a mess.

This year, some friends of mine told me about the MINI Creme Egg. So I bought a tube of them (they sometimes come in tubes, apparently) over the weekend, and tried them.

They are lovely and perfect. Much better chocolate-to-goo ratio, easier to eat, and not so huge. Hooray for the Mini Creme Egg!

Chili Cookoffs

At work, we have chili cookoffs twice a year, with the money raised going to charity. I make a chili most of the time, and I also have been running the cookoffs for the past few times. It has gone pretty well! We raise a good amount of money for whatever charity we’re giving to, and the chili is awesome.

I usually enter a chili, but I never win. This time I got a good amount of votes though! I was pleased. Hooray for chili cookoffs!

Winning awards from the WODL

The production of The Penelopiad that was involved with last fall was entered in the Western Ontario Drama League festival as an “Out of Festival” entrant (meaning that we were not planning to be eligible to take the show to the festival that happens each year.

The production won two awards- Best Ensemble, and an adjudicators award that was named “Fearless Theatricality or Theatre on a Shoestring Award”, haha. It was awesome. The first show KWLT has had adjudicated in a long time, and we made quite a good showing. Our director was nominated for Best Direction as well. Awesome!

Movies, weather, music, and running


I finally saw The King’s Speech this past week, and it was awesome! And not just because of Colin Firth. 🙂 The costumes were really quite splendid as well, the screenplay was good, the acting was superb. I really enjoyed it.

This week also brought some very welcome above-freezing weather. Up to 7 or 8 degrees a couple days in a row! A lot of the snow melted, and everyone got a taste of that mental and physical perking-up that spring brings. It was awesome. I went out without my snow boots on! There’s something really awesome about the first day you can go without snow boots or a coat. Even if it is in February and the winter weather is still going to come back again before spring arrives properly.

Was back at the gym this week after a few weeks of not going, as well. I did lose a bit of speed in those couple of weeks, but I managed to get through one long-ish run last night (just over 6 miles) so that was good. I needed it.

Starting to work on the St. John Passion in choir. I never thought I’d say this (being a long-time anti-Bach type) but it’s nice to come back to Bach. I think I’m just now starting to realize why the big Bach fans feel the way they do. It’s a different challenge from the 20th century stuff we’ve just finished, and there’s something very comfortable about baroque tonality, even if the actual singing can be quite difficult sometimes.

Life and other things

Lots of other things going on for me right now- so continuing in that sort of “blurb” format!
Back to the Future Poster
Enjoyable Outings: I went to see Back to the Future on the big screen at the Princess Cinemas on a couple weeks ago. It was awesome. That movie was such a huge part of my childhood, and it was awesome to see it in the theatre- I was too young to have done so when it came out. Aside from the big screen and sound, the audience and experience was awesome. Everyone clapped when George McFly decked Biff, and at the end! I haven’t been. in a theatre that applauded in several years, it always adds to the magic.

Last weekend I went to a ceili for the first time, which was so much fun. For those not familiar, think of like, Irish square dancing, I suppose. The music was great, and the dancing was fun (I actually remembered some of the dances from years past) and I totally want to go back again. It was near Robbie Burns day, so I got to try haggis! It wasn’t bad, but I probably won’t seek it out int he future. 🙂

Both of those outings were in relation to friends’ birthdays- so yay friends for having birthdays!

Yoga: I was taking yoga classes at my work, from a co-worker who teaches at GoodLife gyms in the area. She’s stopped giving classes at work, so I was kind of looking for a new place to go, because I really enjoy it. I thought about just going to the GoodLife classes, but couldn’t seem to get out to do it, and I was looking for something with a little more to it than just the exercise/physical aspects. I tried out the community class at Queen Street Yoga last night (after Stacey recommended it), and it was pretty awesome. Definitely going back. I might add in some classes from GoodLife as well, but Queen Street has a great space, and the approach is a lot more body/mind and not so much just exercise.

Theatre: I’ve made a deal with myself that I won’t do any theatre for a while. I’m planning on working on a show next winter, but between now and then, I’m going to just take some time away. I work on projects for KWLT outside of shows (specifically the website), and do so much other stuff that I wound up not having enough time for myself or my friends or family, and that’s lame. So taking a break. Should be nice!

Choir: There’s a concert coming up for choir, and I’m finding this season that I’m starting to feel a little choir fatigue. Maybe it’s just the way this season shook out, and maybe it’s just because I’ve been overwhelmed with other things, but That said, the upcoming show will be awesome, and I’m looking forward to that and the rest of the concert season. I just wish there wasn’t so much work to do between now and then.

Video Games: I started playing Starcraft II, and it’s super fun. I’m not very good at the game yet, but I did start playing a custom map called StarJeweled, and I am pretty good at that! Basically you play a game of Bejeweled and that lets you build units and stuff to beat the other players. It’s really fun! If anyone wants to give me some tips on how to play proper Starcraft, feel free. I’m good at building stuff, but not at winning. 🙂

I also bought Dr. Mario on the Wii over the holiday and that’s pretty fun. We played it like crazy, all New Years Day!

Other Games: Playing my first in-person game of Diplomacy this weekend. I’ve played online with people before, but never with the board and in person. It’s a long game, and I’m not great at it, but it should be fun!

Updates from the home front

I’m behind in posting about things, so I’m going to do a few posts to catch up! First, a catchup on homelife!

The Fuzz: Fuzz seems to be settling in. The cats aren’t wrestling and fighting as much as they were (though they still get into it now and again). They’re still not quite friendly, but I don’t worry as much about them killing each other, so that’s good.

Bedroom: We bought a bunch of new furniture for the bedroom, from IKEA. We needed to replace our dressers, and wound up getting new nightstands and a new shelf as well, and a new tv to replace the huge monstrosity that was in there. It’s really nice! Eventually we’ll probably get a bigger bed as well, but that is still a while off.

Trevor took a couple photos! They’re phone pictures, so a little fuzzy, but you get the idea.

There’s already a lot more room to move around in the bedroom despite there being more furniture, which is nice! And the new dresser is a lot nicer than the old one.

Kijiji experiences: We were able to sell our old TV on Kijiji, which was actually really awesome. I hadn’t sold anything on there before, but it’s really great for when you just want to get rid of something- people will come and pick it up, which saves a lot of hassle! Our old TV was really heavy and large, and now, we won’t have to lift it anymore and instead we have a much lighter tv. Hooray!

Next, I’ll write some more about other things that have been going on. Stay tuned!


Things that are awesome

This is just going to be a quick catch-all of things in my life right now that are awesome.

Snowthrower of awesome

Our electric snowthrower–  we don’t have a big driveway, but it’s enough that shoveling gets to be a time-sucking endeavour.  This thing makes clearing snow a lot quicker, and we don’t wind up with huge piles of snow that are hard to see around when we’re backing out of the driveway.  It’s a Toro 1800 Power Curve .

It’s pretty sturdy for an electric, and though it’s not made to eat through lots of slush and ice, it does great with all different kinds of snow.

Green Chai Tea – This stuff is awesome.  I like chai, I like green tea, and this particular combination is good.  The little tag on the teabag has a fortune-type thing!

Grooveshark–  Grooveshark is an amazing app that gives you access to a huge catalog of music you can stream- it’s basically like a huge, all-request radio station.  You can upload your own music so that you can access it through Grooveshark, and you can access music that others have uploaded as well.  You can set up playlists or use playlists that others have shared.  It’s really where I think music is going.  I purchased a VIP membership last year in order to  help support the company.

The performance is great. It’s quick, downtime is pretty rare (though not unheard of) and improvements come pretty frequently.  If you’re not already using it, you should start!

Sleep– I think one of my unwritten New Year’s resolutions is to get more sleep.  It’s amazing how much better everything is when one just gets enough sleep.  It’s one of the first things to go when time gets tight, and I think it needs to have higher priority than that.

Photo of Fuzzball, our new kitten

The Fuzz

The Fuzz– Our new cat is pretty awesome.  Even though he tends to start fights with Bumblecat, he’s pretty darn cute and hopefully he’ll calm down some as he gets older and he won’t get himself into trouble as much.

Running

I started running early this year, as I had signed up for a 5k race in April in a fit of  joiner-ism and wanted to finish it without completely embarrassing myself.  After the race itself, in April, I thought I would stop running- it’s fairly high impact exercise, and I could burn calories other ways, so why keep on with something like that when I could bike or walk or do the elliptical or the arc trainer!

So I didn’t run for a while.  I did a lot of walking and so on through the late spring and summer.  But late in the summer, on a hot and humid day, I decided to go for a run.

And you know what?  I love running.

It’s hard, and it can hurt and I’m not good at it.  I get horribly sweaty and I jiggle.  But I love it.  No other exercise seems to give me quite the same satisfaction as a good hard long run.   I feel exhilarated afterward.  I feel like I’ve accomplished something.  It seems to chill me out.

I signed up for another 5k race in October, and was 4 minutes faster than my April time.  I’m a lot faster already than I was when I started- I’ve gone from a 13 minute mile to a 9:30 mile.  Not superhero- or athlete- fast, but pretty fast for me!  I’ve been running 8k regularly at the gym (on the days I do weights, with cross-training and yoga on other days).  I’m thinking about building up to a 10k race at some point next year.

So I guess I’m a runner, then.  Weird.

I’m a dual citizen!

So on October 7, I became a citizen of Canada.  The ceremony was at 1:15PM at the Citizenship and Immigration office in Kitchener- they have a citizenship court there, actually the same building where I took my citizenship test.  When I arrived (along with my husband, and my friend Carrie), a clerk checked me in, took my Permanent Resident card away (it was weird to give that up after basically guarding it with my life for 3 years) and gave me some booklets about Canada to take.

We went into the court itself and sat down- there were a good number of people there. They schedule the ceremonies for 45 new citizens at a time, but there were 49 of us there, with guests.  Once we were all checked in and seated, the clerk walked us through how the process would go.  All through this, the flat-screen tvs in the room were playing one of those montages of images of Canada.  Eventually, everything was set to go and the clerk had us rise for the judge to enter.

My ceremony was presided over by Judge Sharon Robertson, a former educator.

Sharon Robertson - Philip Walker, for the Waterloo Region Record

She gave a speech, telling us about some of her background and talking about the importance of the occasion and the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.  Then she administered the oath, which we took in English, and French.  A representative from the MP of the area spoke and gave out little cards of congratulations.  Then each new citizen was called up to get their citizenship certificate, shake hands with the judge, and sign the oath paperwork.

There were people from 20 different countries at my ceremony, including Northern Ireland, England, Russia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, Colombia, Mexico, USA, Romania, Nigeria, China, Netherlands, Germany, India, Albania, I think Turkey, and a couple of others that I don’t remember.

After the certificate presentation was over, we all sang O Canada, our first time singing the anthem as Canadians.   Soon after that, we were finished.

I'm so Canadian!

After the ceremony, I had to go straight down to the passport office, because I’m travelling out of country soon, so I needed a passport right away in order to get back in. A bunch of others from my ceremony did the same thing.  I’m a proper Canadian now!

Once I got back to work, I found out my coworkers had done this to my desk.

Decorated Desk

Thanks, coworkers!

Hooray for Canada!  For people curious, I am a US citizen by birth and am retaining that citizenship as well.

Approved!


I got the letter yesterday. I passed the test! My application for Canadian Citizenship is approved!

My Citizenship Ceremony and oath are happening on October 7, at the Citizenship and Immigration office in Kitchener.  I’ll have to head back to work afterward, and then to a show in the evening, but I’m sure I’ll get a good chance to celebrate.

This does mean I’ll be allowed to vote in the upcoming Municipal election! I’m excited.

Citizenship Test

I took my Canadian Citizenship test yesterday. The scheduled time for the test was 3PM, so I left work at about half past 2 to walk up to the Citizenship and Immigration office and be there in plenty of time.

I neglected to check the address on my paperwork before I went- I went up to 29 Duke, which is where the letter came from, and the office that I’ve been to before, but citizenship tests are held at 15 Duke.  So I was confused for a few when I was faced with a locked door and an hours sign saying that the office was closed on Wednesdays.  I figured it out momentarily after a closer read of my letter.

Once inside, there was a small waiting room, attached to a small room with a desk and two CIC people who were asking questions of the test attendees.  They called us in one by one, and we went in there, and were asked to present various paperwork, and they asked a couple questions, basically just getting a quick assessment of our grasp of English (French would have been fine too of course, but there didn’t seem to be any French speakers at my test).

We had to show our passports and landing documents and various other things.  The lady had my application there, and mentioned that I had a lot of vacations to the States- while looking through my passport for stamps. My passport is pretty much never stamped- I got stamped once on my very first trip to Canada, and once each for my Study Permit and my Permanent Residence, and that’s it.  Plus, now that I use a Nexus card, I almost never have to show my passport at all when I cross the border.

Once they were satisfied with my paperwork and english, they gave me an answer sheet- basically a photocopied legal-size sheet with numbering to 20, and A B C D after each number.  I was told to go sit in the next room (the citizenship court room) and find a chair with a clipboard, sit, and sign my sheet.

After I sat, I could sort of hear the test-writers coming in after me going through their questions/paperwork stuff.  One woman really was struggling with English and was definitely flustered and nervous, but she did fine enough in the end.

Once we were all in the room and sitting down with our clipboards, they started the test.  They handed out different colored folders, with a few pages inside that held the questions.  There were two mandatory ones (questions that you have to get correct in order to pass) and a set of 3 questions where getting one of the three correct was mandatory.

I think I did fine.  I definitely remember feeling like I got one of the questions wrong, but at this point, I can’t remember at all what the question was.  After we finished, we just turned in our papers and test folders, and that was that.

They don’t let you know right away if you’ve passed, which I found a little frustrating.  I’ll get a letter in 4-6 weeks with my results, and if I’ve satisfied all the requirements, that letter will have notice of when the oath ceremony will be.  I hope that it will be before the next municipal election, so that I can vote right away!