Sunday, September 27, 2009

This week I have mostly been reading..... The Last Lecture.

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch.

Tim leant me this book to read and I'd also heard about it from quite a few friends. Perfectly justified in their recommendation.

I absolutly loved this book.

Randy Pausch was a professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University in the U.S. He specialised in virtual reality. He was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer and died in July of this year. After hearing his diagnosis he decided to give a 'last lecture' at the university, which he both attended and was a professor at, called "Really achieving your childhood dreams". The book accompanies his lecture (which you can find on youtube here). Both the lecture and the book, instead of focusing on his impending health diagnosis, are more about how he lived his life, what inspired him and how he inspired others. He seemed to genuinely be an all round 'nice bloke'. He had 3 small children and his lecture and book were also aimed at showing this children what kind of person their father was and contains advice that he wished he would be able to of given in person.

Some of my favourite bits:
  • When there's an elephant in the room introduce him.
  • Brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to show how badly we want something.Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want something badly enough. They are there to keep out the other people.
  • If there’s anything I want to do so badly, I should have already done it.
  • We can’t change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand. If I’m not as depressed as you think I should be, I’m sorry to disappoint you. 
  • Work and play well together.
  • Tell The Truth. All The Time. No one is pure evil.
  •  Be willing to apologize. Proper apologies have three parts: 1) What I did was wrong. 2) I’m sorry that I hurt you. 3) How do I make it better? It’s the third part that people tend to forget…. Apologize when you screw up and focus on other people, not on yourself.
  •  Show gratitude. Gratitude is a simple but powerful thing.
  • Find the best in everybody…. Wait long enough, and people will surprise and impress you. It might even take years, but people will show you their good side. Just keep waiting.
  •  If you want to achieve your dreams, you better learn to work and play well with others…[you have] to live with integrity.
  • Collaboration, treating others with respect.
  •  Never found anger a way to make things better.
  • Loyalty is a two-way street.
  •  Get a feedback loop and listen to it. Your feedback loop can be this dorky spreadsheet thing I did, or it can just be one great man who tells you what you need to hear. The hard part is the listening to it.
  • Persistence and hard work.
  • When you are doing something badly and no one’s bothering to tell you anymore, that’s a very bad place to be. Your critics are the ones still telling you they love you and care.
  •  Don’t bail: the best gold is at the bottom of barrels of crap
  • Don’t complain, Just work harder.  The latter is likely to be more effective.
  •  Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted…. I probably got more from that dream [of playing professional football] and not accomplishing it than I got from any of the ones that I did accomplish.
  • Fun, wonder, living your dream.
  • Decide if you’re a Tigger or an Eyeore. I’m a Tigger.
  •  It is not about achieving your dreams but living your life. If you lead your life the right way, the karma will take care of itself, the dreams will come to you.
  •  Never underestimate the importance of having fun. I’m dying and I’m having fun. And I’m going to keep having fun every day, because there’s no other way to play it….Having fun for me is like a fish talking about the importance of water. I don’t know how it is like not to have fun…
  •  Never lose the child-like wonder. It’s just too important. It’s what drives us. Help others.
  • Risk-taking.
    - Better to fail spectacularly than do something mediocre. (Randy Pausch gave out a First Penguin award each year when he was teaching to the biggest failure in trying something big and new because he thought this should be celebrated. First Penguins are the ones that risk that the water might be too cold.)
  • Living.
  • Be good at something; it makes you valuable…. Have something to bring to the table, because that will make you more welcome.
  • I’ve never understood pity and self-pity as an emotion. We have a finite amount of time. Whether short or long, it doesn’t matter. Life is to be lived.
  • To be cliché, death is a part of life and it’s going to happen to all of us. I have the blessing of getting a little bit of advance notice and I am able to optimize my use of time down the home stretch.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Continuing along the Lighthouse Route in Nova Scotia

Continued from here

We left Lunenburg the next morning and continued along the Lighthouse Route. This is the road that winds along the coast as opposed to the highway, all along the south shore of Nova Scotia. We joined the route at Lunenburg that day and followed it to Halifax, stopping at Mahone Bay, Chester, Queensland Beach and Peggy's Cove.

The route is a great one to drive, winding coastal roads, almost always with the sea within view to one side. As the route takes you though lots of little towns and villages it's really easy to just stop and get out whenever there’s something that takes your fancy.

Not far from Lunenburg is Mahone Bay, a pretty little town set at the end of a small inlet. Lots of yachts were all moored up in the bay. We carried on to Chester. The guy that ran the B&B that we were staying in had suggested we stopped there, so thought it might be a good stop for a late morning pit stop. He was of course right. I really liked Chester. It’s a very picturesque, clean, idyllic little town. (almost stepford wives but not quite!) The houses were all perfectly painted and the place just seemed super relaxed. There’s a yacht club which I can imagine gets pretty busy in the high summer season, and a nice headland which you can walk around. We came across the Kiwi Cafe, and boy am I glad that we did. I immediately felt at home, from my days in New Zealand. The cafe is bright and cheery, with super friendly staff and a great atmosphere. I sampled a Nanaimo bar and a fresh lemonade and Tim had an espresso, apparently so good it was in his top three best espresso's ever, so that’s saying something! They had some yummy looking things on the menu too, all beautifully fresh and organic. Highly recommend stopping there.

After feeling refueled we headed back onto the road and came across Queensland Beach, in Hubbard’s Cove. Gorgeous white sandy long stretch of beach grabbed our attention and made us stop for a walk.  We had a lovely time playing in the sea and wandering along the beach. Some crazy souls were even brave enough to get out into the water!

Our penultimate stop of the day was Peggy's Cove. We had made sure we had the whole afternoon there to check this infamous place out. Peggy's Cove is a tiny settlement of about 50 people, a small fishing community and its main attraction is the lighthouse set on top of the rocky outcrop sticking out into the Atlantic Sea. It s a pretty busy little place, there were a couple of tourist buses there whilst we were, but it wasn't too bad, I wouldn't imagine it’s that fun during the main summer season. There are a few houses, most of which are gift shops or art galleries. There’s the main gift shop, post office and restaurant up next to the lighthouse. Tim and I got a hearty feast to take out from there of actually reasonable fish and chips, and a lobster roll (the main staple of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick it would seem!) sat ourselves down on the rocks and had ourselves a lovely afternoon chilling out. There was a pesky giant seagull that seemed intent on stealing my chips but I was having none of it. It is quite a special place, I really felt happy there. We had been blessed by beautiful sunshine for our whole trip, but just as we sat there on the rocks some clouds came rolling in off the sea which made from some quite cool photos.

We ended our trip to the Maritimes with a night in Halifax and then Moncton. Which was pretty odd for me as my younger brother had done his initial pilot training in Moncton a couple of years back. Small world. And possibly one of the only airports that I know where you can buy live lobsters to take home with you….

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Cupcake Challenge - Crave vs. Buttercream

I love a good cupcake as much as the next girl.
So when I moved to Calgary I was overjoyed to discover Crave , the ultimate cupcake shop on 17th Ave SW. (They also have a shop in Kensington)
They sell normal sized cupcakes, mini cupcakes (my fave!) and also cookies too. You have a choice of a chocolate or vanilla base and then a multitude of toppings, my favorites being Va Va Vanilla and The Princess on vanilla cake. I prefer the mini ones, the large ones seem just too indulgent, but the mini ones seem to have just the rate ratio of topping to cake, in a handy two bites. The mini ones also handily fit into my cupcake holder that Crave also sell.
Recently a rival cupcake shop has opened on 17th Ave, Buttercream. I thought I would take it upon myself to find out which was better and would I be converted.

On Saturday I hit up Crave first, getting my two favorite minis, they had been freshly baked not long before, and they put them in a box for me (which irritatingly was too big for them so they fell over in my bag and go squished, hence the less than elegant photos below!). I then went on down to Buttercream, They had lots of the big ones left but not many minis. When I asked the lady for just one vanilla one she went hunting out the back and found me one.

I must of looked like a lunatic carrying my precious cupcakes in my hands down 17th Ave, but I found a park to sit down in to conduct my experiment. First I had to put my squashed ones back together. I tried the Buttercream one first, the sponge was nice and light, the topping was also quite light, still tasty though. The crave one again had a light sponge, slightly crisp too, the topping is pretty rich and you can definitely taste the butter cream. Both pretty damn nice.

In conclusion, although the Buttercream cupcake was a bit lighter, if like me, you treat yourself to a single cupcake every now and again, if you're gonna do it, do it properly, and go for the most indulgent taste of the two and that would my old friend Crave! Yay!

So Crave still holds me for now, and next time I must remember not to try my cupcake challenge for breakfast....

Friday, September 18, 2009

Ferry to Digby and lovely Lunenburg

Next stop - Nova Scotia!

On Monday we left our lovely luxurious room in the Rossmount, jumped into our hire car (which I discovered had xm satellite radio, so that I could listen to my favorite BBC Radio One. Hurrah!), and drove back up the coast to St John where we caught the ferry that crosses the Bay of Fundy and goes to Nova Scotia, stopping in Digby.The ferry took just over 3 hours to do the crossing. Tim and I found a nice spot at the back of the ferry shielded from the wind outside and settled there, apart from the hour where I whopped his ass at Uno and he whopped mine at Mastermind. Grr.
Dibgy was holding a motorbike festival just before we arrived so as we went onto the ferry its seemed like a never ending line of bikes came off.

We had to charge across the middle of Nova Scotia to reach Lunenburg where we were staying for the night. I always entertained me on our trip just how many places have the same name as places I know in the UK. I'm guessing given where Nova Scotia is, people from the UK sailed across the Atlantic, landed in Nova Scotia and thought "hmmm why name it something different lets just name this place after my town". As a result I drop past Bridgewater, Truro, Alderney, Londonderry, Chester, Bedford and Dartmouth just to name a few.

It was nice to be driving on roads that have curves and corners again, although not sure Tim was as impressed as I was. Next time I shall take a wee sports car.
We arrived in Lunenburg in the late afternoon. We stayed in a lovely B&B, The Alcion, a large white house on a corner in the more residential part of Lunenburg. We found it a bit weird staying in a B&B, chatting to a bunch of people over breakfast isn't always my idea of fun when I've just woken up, but the breakfast was lovely. The room was gorgeous too, we were in the Dragonfly room, light and airy, and with a lovely bathroom with a hydrotherapy bathtub.

Once we'd dropped off our stuff at the B&B we walked into the main part of the town just in time for sunset over the dock. It's definitely a fishing and boat making town, so I felt right at home! There's an idyllic seafront, there's the harbour level and the rest of the main part of the town is set on a steep hill over looking the harbour. The houses are all painted different colours and seafood is definitely the main item on the menus. It was labour day so we were a bit worried no where would be open, but fear not we found a couple of places. Tim had his first lobster of the trip, and I had some tasty fishcakes. The lobster eating kept me pretty entertained throughout the meal anyways.I really like Lunenburg, it seemed so relaxed and chilled out. The town was really pretty, lots of tree lined avenues in the residential areas. Next time will spend at least two days there.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

St Andrews and the Lau/Sallis Wedding

Last week I used the event of Andree and Jason's wedding in New Brunswick as a damn good excuse for a week off and a chance to visit the east coast of Canada. Tim and I visited New Brunswick and Nova Scotia and then to Chicago for the weekend where we caught up with my friend from Uni, Danielle, who was travelling round the states for the summer.

I was super excited to be on the coast again and couldn't wait to see how different the opposite side of Canada is. I'll break up our trip over a few posts.

Tim and I flew to Toronto to meet each other and then caught a flight out to Moncton, NB. We drove the 3 hours or so in the dark down to St Andrews ready for the wedding the next day. Was weird driving all the way without being able to see much of the landscape around us, especially seeing as we know that the sea was just there... It was a beautiful night, a full moon and clear skies. Was great being able to see all those stars again.

The wedding venue that they chose was the Rossmount Inn in St Andrews-by-the-sea. A beauftiful house turned hotel set up on a hillside looking out over the bay. Most of the guests from the wedding were staying at the Rossmount too. The food there on a normal day is supposed to be sublime, although we didn't get a chance to sample it this time. Next time!
St Andrews in a little town on the Bay of Fundy. It's pretty touristy, thankfully we were there towards the end of the season so it wasn't too busy. The town is made up of wodden houses of all different colours and shapes. Theres a nice little pier with fishing boats tied up to it too.
Saturday brought Andree and Jason's wedding. It was honestly the most beautiful wedding I have been too. The day was relaxed and laid back and seriously seriously enjoyable. We were blessed with a beautiful cloudless blue sky, and it was lovely warm day. Andree and Jason had obviously planned the day so well that it seemed effortless. The ceremony was out on the pool deck of the hotel, a record 8 mins of some beautiful vows and my two friends were declared husband and wife. Swiftly followed was champagne and lots of lovely canapes out on the pool deck, Oysters, Goats cheese tarts, salmon, raspberry refreshers and more...
The programming language themed table plan was also a lovely touch. Definitly an 'in' joke. Andree had picked out some lovely options for the dinner, Tim had a pretty damn tasty Lamb dish and I went for the yummy fish. On our tables Andree had left us some really thoughtful party favours. Some how she had managed to find a picture of each of us and Andree or Jason, and put them into photo frames. Such a lovely idea. I was honoured to be part of their day, and they both looked radiant and so meant for each other. Yay.
We spent the rest of the weekend in St Andrews too. The post wedding brunch the next day was pretty fun, more food than any of us could ever manage (even Andree's Dad!), and great wrap up from the day before. Tim and I then took a boat trip to go whale watching. It was brilliant to get out on the ocean again, miss being on a boat. (ironically my brother was sailing with my Dad and stepmum at the time too). We went with Quoddy Link Marine, it was refreshing to see that they were really concerned with letting the whales be whales, they didn't want to crowd the whales like all the other boats were so we went off in search of some more whales. And that we did, we saw quite a few of the massive Finback whales, and also a whole load of seals sat on a rock that gets covered by the massive tides in the Bay of Fundy.
That night saw us having a chilled out evening with those left around from the wedding party.