Well our first Christmas as a complete little family has come and gone. We had most of Tyler’s family here, minus his sister and sister-in-law. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see everyone we wanted like my dad and the rest of the family but that’s to be expected living far away. Dmitri loved having his grandparents here and I’m pretty sure they enjoyed his company too. He got passed around to everyone every day and was loving all the attention. Even though our house was full of people it was relatively stress-free. My only anxiety was when the creator of the Fucked-up Family Bullshit got sneaky access to Dmitri (which is something we expressly told them not to do (seriously, how can you think that sneaking behind my back to see Dmitri is going to fix our relationship, like at all. For fucks sake grow up.)) while we were Skyping with family. Fortunately that call couldn’t last very long because I had to go make dinner. I am really not impressed by the stunt they pulled but when you are dealing with someone who feels they are entitled to, well, everything, I’m not surprised they did that. Next time we’ll just ask to be called back when they aren’t there. Because fuck that. Seriously.
After dealing with that, I finished making my turkey (which ended up being a little dry because I was on Skype too long) and the rest and I must say, it was pretty delicious. I enjoy cooking, even giant meals like Christmas dinner, as long as Dmitri is being taken care of. Luckily I had tons of people willing to sacrifice their afternoon to help me out.
After Tyler’s family left, he had a couple days off work still so we got to spend some time together and he got to have lot’s of Dmitri time, which they both loved. Now it’s just Dmitri and I again and he’s been getting pissed that he only has be around but he’ll get over it. He got quite a few new toys for Christmas so we’ve been cycling through them each day and he’s forgetting about changing hands so often. Soon we’ll be back to normal and he’ll only want a change of handlers once Tyler gets home. He does love his Man Time
The next celebration coming up will be Dmitri’s birthday and I’m pretty sure That’ll be the next post unless we do something exciting. I think for the most part I’m going to keep Dmitri pictures to a minimum here and post most of them on my Facebook. I’ve set my privacy settings so that only friends can see what I post and I would like to keeps pictures of him more private. Anyone can read this blog, which is cool, but I do want to keep Dmitri more protected.
I will post a couple lot of Christmas pics because they are too cute not to share!
This past weekend (June 5-8) I went to Las Vegas with my dad and sister. I had never really had any interest in visiting Vegas. To me, Vegas is a fantasy land; people go there to escape their lives for a while. I had already spent a year living in fantasy while I was in Japan and had no intention of returning to another one. But, my sister suggested we go and I had no other idea of where we can go that’s central to all three and would have stuff to do. I was nervous about going because I don’t like being around big crowds of people and I especially don’t like it when those people are very drunk. I apparently forgot that I would most likely be drunk myself the entire time.
When we decided that Vegas was the place to go, I started looking into things to do. Other than shows, gambling, hookers and blow, I didn’t really know what there was to do. I didn’t see myself being happy with gambling all day long, even while drunk. Over the years I have learned that drunk Steffy is even more frugal than sober Steffy and I knew she would be looking out for me. I started looking up things to do because I have nothing better to do with my time. I looked at shows but they all were expensive and as neat as it would be so see a Cirque du Soleil in Vegas, it just seemed like too much money for something that I probably wouldn’t remember because alcohol. So, I went deeper into the interwebs and came up with tours. I like tours. They make my happy but these tours were all really expensive and incredibly long. The tours that looked most interesting were the Grand Canyon and the Hoover Dam but I really had no interest in going on a 8-12 hour tour. And neither did my sister or dad. So, with those tours out, I went even further into the webz. What I came out with was what I thought a joke. I saw that there were many shooting ranges that had packages for all different guns. They even had children’s packages! So, to be silly, I suggested this to Jenny and dad and to my surprise, they jumped on it. So, after going back and forth on the different packages they offered (dad said absolutely not to the Femme Fatale) we decided on the World War packages which had a 1911, a Tommy gun and an AK-47. My only thought after buying the package was What. The Fuck.
Now on to what I remember of the weekend.
We stayed at the Paris. It was what I expected from a hotel in Vegas. It was nice with a small layer of crud and smelled of smoke, stale alcohol and despair. But it made for pretty pictures on the outside.
I arrived a couple hours before my dad and decided to wait at the airport instead of heading to the hotel since we wouldn’t be able to check in anyways. After we met up and got the the hotel, we decided to have a drink at a little bar in the hotel that he would end up going to a few times that weekend. While enjoying the first of many Manhattans, I saw a sports coverage of horses and remembered that the Belmont race was the next day and that American Pharoah was going for the triple crown. This is something that hasn’t happened since 1978 and while I didn’t think he wold win, I was something fun to watch. We decided to put $60 ($20 each) on him to win. For me, $20 was a reasonable amount to throw in the garbage because I assumed he would lose.
After we bought the tickes and checked out the slots a bit it was time to meet Jenny. After our many hugs and excited squeals we dropped our luggage off and went to have a drink while we decided on what to have for dinner. We decided on the Gordon Ramsay restaurant that was in out hotel. We were all apprehensive about the quality of food being worth the price, as we assumed we would be mostly paying for the name. Were we ever wrong! The food was so good, probably the best food I have ever had, and I have had some very good food.
After dinner we dropped our leftovers at our room (they were huge portions because ‘Murica) and went to play some slots.
Saturday we woke up Pretty early (around 7:30 or 8). I woke up at 5:30 because I was still on Michigan time. This continued to be a trend throughout the entire weekend for me. Stupid Michigan. Around 8:30 dad called us from his room and we went down for breakfast at this little cafe in the casino. I got a small fruit plate that wasn’t small at all. I had to take it home and add it to our little fridge already full of leftovers.
We decided to walk around the other casinos to see what they’re like to kill some time before the big race at 3:50. As it turns out, time moves rather slowly in Vegas. I don’t know if it’s near a black hole or what but we would wander around and look at lots and it felt like we were doing a lot but only 30 minutes had passed. It was strange.
We checked out Caesars, Bally’s and the Bellagio.
Dad wanted to go to the Bellagio for the seafood buffet for dinner that night so because I am me, I wanted to go find where we were going so I could get back there later that night. We also went into the botanical garden in the Bellagio. It was really neat seeing all their displays made from flowers.
These jellyfish were on the ceiling in the lobby and were all made from glass
She was just too creepy to not take a picture of.
So, after we wandered around for what felt like 5 hours but was really only 2, I decided I wanted to go to M&M’s world because I had always wanted to see all those M&M’s sorted into their colours. So sexy. Anyway, I found where it was and it didn’t look too far away so we started making our way over. GPS said it was a 19 minute walk and we figured we could do that. Well, 19 minutes in 95 degree heat really feels like 40 minutes and we gave up after about 10 because it felt as though we hadn’t gotten anywhere. We decided to have lunch instead. The place we went to was booked solid due to some sort of sport event but the hostess suggested we go to Bubba’s. Bubba’s turned out to be Bubba Gump’s shrimp. Yes from the movie and yes it was all shrimp.
It was really good shrimp and they had drinks in specialty glasses you can take as a souvenir. Normally I don’t like those kinds of things because they are usually silly and a waste of money but not these ones. If you got the Tennessee Tea, it came in a mason jar gobbet. Of course I had to get it!
It’s kinda hard to see but it says Bubba Gump’s on it.
After lunch it was close to the time for the race so we made our way back and managed to get a table where the sports betting takes place. It was lucky we did because it filled up really really fast! I guess everyone was there to watch American Pharoah win the triple crown.
When we sat down, the screens were full of all the other sports going on.
But pretty soon, all the screens turned to the Belmont race and the place got busy and loud.
Once the race started people were everywhere! American Pharoah took the lead but not by very much and it was all very exciting!. He was running his heart out and staying just a tiny bit ahead until the last turn. After the last turn he shot out from the pack and everyone went wild. He ended up winning by at least a length and I just sat there in disbelief. Watching a horse win the triple crown happens once, maybe twice in a generation and we were a part of it! Plus, we won some money! Woo!
We ended up winning $45 on our $60. Not a bad return! And of course Jenny, with her financial wizardry, calculated our return if we did that every day for a year. Silly.
After the excitement of the race, It was time for dinner. I was excited about the seafood buffet because fish in the Midwest is gross. I ended up having a lot of king crab legs and some sushi. I also had one Yorkshire pudding but I don’t think Americans know how they are supposed to be because it was rock hard and not eggy or fluffy or soft at all inside. It was almost like it had been cooked, then deep fried after. I was disappointed but not surprised.
I also had grits and mac&cheese because a small part of me has become very very American.
We went to see the fountain a couple times outside the Bellagio. It was a lot more cool than I was expecting. I don’t really know what I was expecting though… In order to see the video, you’ll have to click on the youtube links because I couldn’t convert them to a video format that wordpress likes.
These are what we shot minus the add-on because it looked too scary.
I was extremely nervous about shooting guns. I guess the small part of me that’s very very American is balanced out by a small part of me that is very very Canadian. The nerves were present while we were waiting to go in and they were kicked into high gear when we went to the range and there were two other guys there shooting a fucking shotgun. Even with ear protection those things are so loud I can’t even. Every time he took a shot I jumped. Not just a little flinch but a full jump where a couple times my feet were off the ground. I thought that only happened in cartoons. I guess cartoons and Steffy. Sigh.
I definitely didn’t want to go first and luckily I didn’t have to because dad and Jenny were both all for it. First was the 1911, then the Tommy and last was the AK-47. We took turns shooting the hand gun (1911) and the Tommy and then after he took out the AK-47.
So, I was shaking like a leaf this whole time and the poor guide could see the fear in my eyes. Part of my shaking was from the AC blasting but most was fear. He was really good about it and didn’t tease me or acknowledge it at all, which I greatly appreciated. What surprised me most wasn’t the kick back as I had been expecting that. It was how hard it was to actually aim AND pull the trigger. Yes part of my trouble aiming was shaking but I did a pretty good job getting all my bullets on the target. I even managed to hit my target in the junk.
Pulling the trigger was a lot harder than expected. you had to really yank on it. I liked that because I didn’t feel like I could accidentally pull the trigger. I had to actually try.
Here is a nice shot of aaaalllllll the guns in their case.
Again, you’ll have to go to the youtube link if you want to see it.
After the guns, I definitely needed a drink so we headed to a Mexican style place on the strip. I think I had taquitos…
We had planned on spending the rest of the afternoon at the pool so that’s where we ended up for…most of the day? I’m not really sure. The mixture of adrenaline I still had and alcohol made that day very hazy. We ended up renting a cabana and sharing it with a work friend of Jenny’s who just happened to be staying at the same hotel as us. When we were finished at the pool, we went to dinner where Jenny ordered smothered fries, which were really poutine. The waitress was so surprised that we knew what poutine was and we just said “We’re Canadian.”
It was a very fun trip, guns included. It was wonderful seeing my sister and dad again. Not sure if I would go to Vegas again any time soon but I did enjoy myself so who knows.
Three weeks ago, I left Tyler at home to watch the cats and jetted off to Seoul, South Korea to visit my friends Aya and Daniel. They moved to Seoul almost 2 years ago for Daniel’s job and Tyler and I had been talking about visiting them. We had wanted to go last April but with our move to Kalamazoo, he didn’t feel comfortable taking 2 weeks off work when he had only just started so our trip got delayed. Aya and Daniel’s time in Seoul is almost up so we were running out of time to go there. Then, a few months ago I got a message from Aya saying she was pregnant! Yay! Her and I talked about Tyler and I coming out to visit but the end of the year and start of a new year was coming up, and since we had people coming pretty much all of December to visit us, we couldn’t come then. Tyler didn’t want to use all of his years vacation at the very start of the new year so he and I decided that I would go visit Aya by myself. I felt bad that Tyler wouldn’t be joining me but with Aya being pregnant, we wouldn’t be doing a lot of touring around Korea or even eating out that much anyways.
I had never really had any interest in going to Korea, but Tyler wanted to go just to eat. Daniel eats Korean food every day for lunch at work and has no real interest in eating it for dinner and neither he or Aya like spicy food so we never really ate much Korean food anyway. Tyler didn’t really miss anything. I brought him back a couple different kimchi and a soup base that I made for him a couple days after I got back. It was super spicy, even for Tyler!
Having had no interest in visiting Korea, I didn’t do any research on what to do or see or places to eat or shop. I wasn’t there to see Korea, I was there to see my best friend. On the plane, however, I was regretting not learning how to say hello, or please and thank you or even any numbers so I could pay for things. But I decided that this wasn’t my first time going to a foreign country where I didn’t speak the language so I would get by by speaking the language of not speaking the language. It’s quite a good skill to have, I must say.
My flight from the U.S. was on JAL, which I was really excited about. I love flying JAL. The food is actually edible and the seats are comfy and the flight attendants aren’t dicks. It was a really really long set of flights and by the last flight from Narita to Seoul, I had been traveling for about 20 hours or so. One of the pluses of being on JAL is that when I’m so tired my brain doesn’t function in English anymore (it does the same when I’m super drunk, just ask Tyler) I can switch to Japanese without any issues. That is another good skill to have only when I’m around people who speak Japanese. Doesn’t work so well when I’m trying to talk to Tyler and he has to keep telling me I’m speaking Japanese haha.
Anyway, I planned a stop in Narita for the sole purpose of getting canned coffee. Ridiculous I know but oh my god I love that damn coffee.
Aya and Daniel sent a car to come pick my up because they were worried about me taking the train by myself (a common theme, I soon found out). I said it was ridiculous and they didn’t need to but they insisted and I’ll admit that after such a long day or travel, it was nice to not have to think about where I was going or what I was doing. Once I got to Aya and Daniels’s, we chatted for a bit then went to bed. Pretty eventful I know!
The first few days I was there, we didn’t actually do much of anything. We stayed in, ate come cooked food and played card games (I beat Daniel every time we played Innovation that entire trip hah!).
The first dinner out was a couple days after I got there. We went for Thai food and I think it was some of the best Thai food I’ve ever had. I even ate the curry and didn’t hate it, it was that good!
Daniel wanted to try this dim sum place that apparently is really good so we went there. It wasn’t open yet so we went to a department and since Aya was pregnant, she was hungry so we had some delicious snacks. One was taiyaki but made with strudel pastry and the other was a hot dog wrapped in fish cake. They were both soooo good!
After we walked around a bit we went back to the dim sum place. It was really really good!
On the fourth day, we went to their grocery store. It was a Saturday so it was pretty busy but it was still fun wandering around. They showed me the store that always makes them think of me (awwe!) and of course I had to take a picture!
Lunch that day was ramen, which I was pretty excited about because I love ramen. It did not disappoint! I posted a picture of it on Facebook for Tyler and he commented that his 25 cent ramen almost was that good. Hah!
For dinner that night, Daniel and I got some sashimi and Aya made mabo tofu for herself. Haha sorry Aya!. The sashimi was good, but Koreans like their fish kind of chewy, which to me, feels like eating bad grade sashimi. It still tasted good and I was happy to be eating it since the sushi in Kalamazoo is not good.
Can you see a theme with our food?
A couple days later Aya and I ventured out to a book store and went to have some lunch. The book store had both Japanese and English book so of course I got some Japanese pattern books. Lunch that day was tonkatsu. Like pretty much everything else I had eaten there so far, it was delicious. But still not Korean.
While we were out, we saw the palace and a statue of…I forget his name but he was the person who created the Korean written language. The palace was closed that day so we didn’t go in and instead went to Starbucks.
The next day, I finally had my first Korean meal after being there for only a week. we had Kamja tang, which is potato soup with braised pork bones. It was really good. Not spicy at all and had really good flavours. It tasted like something I would happily make at home.
The place we ate at was this little cafe like place in Namdaemun Market. I had gone to this market on my own to look for some fabric because it is the place where you can find anything. I never did find the fabric place because this market is so freakin huge that I couldn’t find anything haha! Oh well.
The next day, Aya and I went to, in my opinion, the best thing Seoul has to offer. A cat cafe. You go in, Pay like 8 bucks, and get to have a coffee while cats roam around you. You can pet them and give them treats (you buy those separately which of course we did) and enjoy their company. Daniel doesn’t like the cat cafe because he says they are snobs, which they were. A little. But only because they are used to people coming in and feeding them treats. The cats weren’t really snobs to us because we had lots of treats for them. I decided that if Tyler and I ever visit Seoul or for whatever had to move there, I would be there every day. Every. Day.
I am aware that was a lot of photos. Deal with it.
To celebrate the cat cafe, we went out for okonomiyaki. I love okonomiyaki and was really excited about it. Again, I was not disappointed! We had 2 different okonomoyakis and yakisoba.
The one and only tour I did was a tour to the DMZ, which is the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. I had been mulling over doing it for a couple day because it seemed really interesting but there was a lot of security involved so what if something happened. I decided that the chance of something happening was pretty slim so I signed up. You had to sign up at least 2 days in advanced and give your passport number so they can give it to the U.N. You know, just in case the North goes bat shit crazy. Yeesh. There were also a lot of rules to follow.
The first stop on the tour was the War Memorial of Korea. I had wanted to go to this anyway and was happy to see it included in the tour. It was a really well done place and had very interesting displays. There were a number of things I didn’t take pictures of, such as graves and bones of soldiers. It felt disrespectful.
There was a lot to see but I focused my pictures on Canada’s contribution to the war because reasons. I also took some video but I can’t upload it here. It is on my Facebook though.
I met some friends on the tour because I don’t have a very effective resting bitch face. The two guys sitting beside me were American and one of them did grad school in Michigan. They were nice and one of the first things they asked me when I said I was Canadian was “So Trailer Park Boys…” I said that I fucking love Trailer Park Boys and having lived on the east coast, it’s not that much of an exaggeration. He thought that was the best thing ever and we spent the 45 minute bus ride to the lunch place talking about the show. The place we stopped for lunch was…gross. It tasted like Americanised Korean food. It was sweeter than it should have been and just not very good at all. I didn’t take any pictures because I didn’t feel it deserved to be remembered in photo form. Talking to my new pals (one of which has lived in Seoul for 6 years) agreed with me that it was not good. The place we stopped had a convenience store, and, of all places, a Popeye’s restaurant (an American fried chicken place).
It also had a creepy run down amusement park.
The next stop was Camp Bonifas, where we had a briefing on the DMZ. We got more (the same) history on the Korean war. More stories about how the North is crazy and more info about how the South wishes to unite with the North. No, not wishes. How they will unite with the North. It was a little weird. We all signed our lives away to be in the hands of the U.N. and made our way to the Joint Security Area on the border of the North and South.
The reason there are no pictures except for the paper where I signed my own possible death certificate is because pictures were not allowed. Once we got into the Joint Security Area, we had 3 minutes where we were allowed to take pictures of the guard (South only) and the cement slab that represents the border between the North and South. While in the Joint Security Area, we were allowed to wander around the entire building (for 3 minutes), which means stepping over the cement slab, technically placing us in North Korea. So, I am allowed to say that I have officially been to North Korea and have a could be death certificate and pictures to prove it. I thought that was pretty cool! And scary. But mostly cool.
We did see a North Korean guard but he was in the tan building behind the Joint Security area, peeking out every so often. There was also another guard in the guard tower to the right but we weren’t allowed to take pictures and the tour guide wasn’t allowed to point him out because pointing can be taken as an act of aggression. No joke.
Once we had our 3 minutes inside and another 3 minutes outside, it was time to go. We drove by the Bridge of No Return and were allowed to take pictures of it. This is the bridge that, after the war, prisoners of war were exchanged. They were allowed to decide which side they wanted to go to (but weren’t allowed to know which sides their families were on) but they weren’t allowed to cross back over.
After this, we went back to Camp Bonifas where they had a gift shop (I was tempted to buy some North Korean money) then we went back home. It was a long day but I really enjoyed the tour and was happy I decided to do it.
The next few days we just lounged about. I did some shopping (by this time Aya and Daniel were confident I could travel alone by myself) and found a Japanese fabric store in a mall that I got lost in trying to find a new charging cable. The next day we went back to that mall to go to the e-sports stadium where they broadcast League of Legends and Starcraft games. These are games that Tyler plays and I like watching the broadcasts because they are done in a way that sounds like sports (Seoul has 2 TV channels dedicated to e-sports). Unfortunately, there was some sort of special even that you had to have a ticket to get into so I never got to watch a game, which I was disappointed with but what can you do!
I went back to that mall the next day to buy some Gundam!
The next day we went out for Korean BBQ. I think this is the meal Tyler was most sad about missing, for good reason. It was really really good!
For my last day in Seoul, Aya and I went to a grocery store so I could get some kinchi for Tyler and we had lunch at McDonald’s because they had curly fries.
She showed me where I get the train to the airport the following morning and then we just went back to hang out and play games. It was a great end to a wonderful trip!
On the way home, I got another canned coffee in Narita because why not!
When I was finally back in Kalamazoo, Noklop ran away from me after sniffing me. Usually, he is the one that is really excited to have us home and doesn’t leave me along for like 3 days. Apparently, my smell changed while I was in Seoul. Noklop noticed it, Tyler noticed it and even after showering a couple times, my friend Megan noticed it. She walked by me when I was at her house and said “You smell different!” I hadn’t yet told her that Noklop sniffed me and ran away or that Tyler thought I smelled different. Crazy.
So, it’s been a while. I can’t really say that I was too busy to post anything because, really, I wasn’t that busy. Well, I was but not busy enough to justify not posting anything. It’s just that, summer here is really hot. The kind of hot where, after walking 3 hours and being completely soaked, the last thing I want to do is sit at a computer and made a post. It’s a shit reason but there it is.
Now that it isn’t disgustingly hot and gross and I’m not sitting in a basement full of spiders, I can update y’all on what we have been up to (even though if you are friends with us on facebook you’ll already know). The last post left off with me starting volunteering. It was a lot further away than I was expecting and since driving isn’t an option and the bus took just as long to get there, I walked. For 1.5 hours each way. I think the only good thing that came out of that horrendous walk was that I got into shape. Which is nice.
I went to Toronto for May Long to visit my step-sister Jenny. We drank and walked around and drank and went to Niagara and drank (notice the theme). It was a lot of fun and nice being back in Canada, even if it was just for a weekend.
Around Tyler’s birthday in July, his parents came to visit us for a couple days. We were in the middle of our house hunt so we took them to a few prospective houses and a few that we hadn’t seen before. We thought that we had narrowed it down to our couple favourites. After they left, we went to look at our favourite houses again and were ready to put an offer on one of them. unfortunately, the morning we went to go see it, it had been sold. We were thinking of putting an offer on the other house but before we did, our Realtor took us to see another house that had just come back on the market, and was down a street from the one we were going to put an offer on. Pretty much as soon as we walked in the house, Tyler and I knew it was ours. Then we walked into the kitchen and I knew it was mine. I didn’t even remember the rest of the house because I was so distracted by the kitchen. Tyler remembered that the master had a walk in closet. I did not.
We thought about it for a little bit and then made an offer. Happily for us, it was accepted! We had about a month or so to get the financing etc and get ready to move. Well, kind of. In the middle of August, Tyler and I returned to Victoria to watch his brother get married. It was a wonderful wedding full of family and friends and love. I was asked to be MC for it, which I happily did. It was a lot of fun and I was honoured that they would ask me. The only embarrassing thing I did (at least I think it was the only thing, you’d have to ask Tammy…) was I gave the biggest y’all ever. Immediately following my American outburst, I dug into my Canadian roots and appologised for sounding so American. For those of you who haven’t talked to me on the phone or face to face, I have picked up quite the Michigan accent. Of course it is muddled with Halifax, general Canadian and a little bit left over from Japan so basically my speech is just a mess. Oh well.
We took possession of our new house about a week and a half after we got back from Victoria. Which meant I had a week and a half to pack. The reason I had so little time is because the sellers asked if we wanted to move up the possession date and of course we did. We didn’t really think of the consequences, we were just excited to move in. Somehow though, we got packed up and ready to move in the short time we gave ourselves. Our friends David and Megan helped us move, which is nice. We learned that moving my piano is a pain in the ass and that paying $200 to move it is a really good deal!
It’s taken us a while to get settled and unpacked. We had no furniture so had to buy a few things. We are still missing a lot of furniture but don’t mind waiting till we find something perfect.
We are very happy with our little life here in Kalamazoo and are excited to see what is in store for us in the future. In the mean time, here are some pictures!