Our 10-year anniversary in London

I want to start today’s post by wishing my folks a happy 46th wedding anniversary!

My husband and I just celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary this past June. To mark the occasion, we decided to spend a week in my favourite city in the world — London!

Here are some highlights from our trip.

Speedy’s Sandwich Bar & Cafe from Sherlock

I’ll admit this right out of the gate — I chose the hotel we stayed at in London solely based on how close it was to Speedy’s Sandwich Bar & Cafe from Sherlock. During our May 2012 trip to London, we visited the filming location of Shaun’s neighbourhood from Shaun of the Dead. I enjoyed it so much that I wanted to visit another filming location on this trip, so being close to Speedy’s (a real, operational restaurant) was a natural choice since Sherlock is a show we enjoy watching together. After snapping a few touristy photos of the facade, we went inside and ate a traditional English breakfast.

Tower Bridge

On the two previous trips I’ve taken to London, I never spent as much time as I wanted to at Tower Bridge. I rode tour buses that would drive across it a couple times and that was it. Whoop-dee-flippin’-do.

This time we did it properly.

We started from the Tower Hill tube station at the Tower of London and walked across from north to south on the foot path on the west side, finishing at the east end of the Queen’s Walk on the south bank of the Thames. It was spectacular! I took so many photos that I could make a coffee table book of just Tower Bridge!

And I loved every minute of it.

The Champagne Experience on the London Eye

After Tower Bridge, we strolled along the Queen’s Walk towards the London Eye. We’ve both been on the regular 30-minute rotation before, so we wanted to do something special this time around for our anniversary. After browsing their website, I made a reservation for a special package called the Champagne Experience.

With the Champagne Experience, you get to skip the lengthy June tourist lines (in the afternoon of June 2, it was incredibly long), and you board a capsule with a host who carries the champagne and glasses inside a large, wicker picnic basket and serves you the champagne while on board. You still have to share a capsule with other passengers who are also there for the Champagne Experience, but we didn’t mind.

During the rotation, our host asked if anyone in the capsule was celebrating anything special that day. We said it was our 10th wedding anniversary, to which our fellow passengers congratulated us and our host gave us a cork from one of the champagne bottles as a memento. After a couple glasses of champagne and numerous photos of the London skyline, we staggered out of our capsule and into the gift shop. (We truly did stagger. It was really good champagne.)

A poorly framed photo I took of the London Eye while drunk off champagne.

Dinner at The Shard

We really wanted to do it up right for our anniversary dinner. While I was researching different places to visit during our trip, I found out that there are six restaurants located at The Shard — the tallest building in London. We decided to make a reservation at a Chinese restaurant called Hutong on the 33rd floor.

The view was incredible. Both of them. ;)

The food selection was a little different (and pricey) than what we were used to in North America, but we enjoyed the culinary adventure. Our dessert was by far our favourite item. Look at the pretty!

Terrorist Attack at London Bridge and Borough Market

(This was not a highlight, but it was a major event that occurred during our trip.)

I woke up at about 5:30 a.m. on Sunday, June 4. As I reached for my phone that was sitting on the bedside table, my husband gently touched my shoulder to get my attention. He calmly told me about a terrorist attack that happened the night before on London Bridge and at Borough Market. We were in the exact same area a few days prior. I went to bed a little after 10 p.m. while my husband opted to stay up a little longer and watch an episode or two of the then newly released season of House of Cards. He told me that his phone started lighting up with messages from people back home asking if we were okay. Instead of waking me up, he decided to let me sleep and contact our friends and family to let them know we were safe.

After processing what he told me, I switched on my phone to see that I too had a barrage of concerned messages. We spent an hour or so watching the news on the BBC until nothing new was reported. We discussed whether we still wanted to do the sightseeing we had planned. To this day, I am still surprised that I wanted to continue on with the trip as if nothing had happened. I think I was still in the mindset that this was happening “over there”, so I had nothing to be scared of. We got ready and set out for another day of sightseeing.

A map showing the road closures on the morning of June 4.

Oddly enough, our travels that day took us past some of the barricaded roads around London Bridge. We knew we were close, but we didn’t expect to turn a corner and find ourselves smack dab in the middle of a crowd amongst a lot of TV news cameras and police vehicles. (We were walking to the Tower of London because the Tower Hill tube station had been shut down.)

Seeing it all in person was very odd to me, and the gravity of what happened still hadn’t sunk in. Even today, my brain is still far removed from it, but I think maybe that’s just how I’ve subconsciously decided to deal with it. Would I go back to London? I would, but not for another 5 to 10 years. This last trip allowed me to see everything I really wanted to see, so I think it’s time that I visit some other destinations.

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34 random facts

Recently a friend of mine posted 32 random facts about herself on Twitter — one for every year she’s been alive (it was her birthday). I liked the idea so much that I decided to share my own list of random facts.

One for every year I have been alive.

1. I came into the world backwards (I was a breech baby).

2. I don’t dance unless I like the song that is playing.

3. I used to be heavily interested in the lives of celebrities.

4. I have lived on every “side” of Lethbridge, but my favourite is the south side where we currently reside.

5. When planning my first trip to Europe, I was not interested in travelling to London initially. It was a stop on a Contiki tour I was on that included Paris and Amsterdam (the city I was actually interested in).

6. I have loved London since that first trip in May 2004.

7. I do think this is a lucky number.

8. I’m 5’9″.

9. You’d think someone of my height was good at basketball in grade school. Nope, but I kicked ass at doubles badminton.

10. I don’t swear a lot around people I don’t know very well. You will know if I’m comfortable around you if I swear openly and frequently. It also means I’m having a good time.

11. I’m most comfortable in a social setting of only two or three people (including myself). Any more than that and I withdraw from the conversation and become a fly on the wall.

12. I’ve met a few famous musicians, but my favourite has to be Matthew Good. I had the opportunity to talk to him for a few minutes, have some things autographed, and have my photo taken with him — all while hanging out in the front portion of his tour bus.

Photo by Tanya Plonka

13. And I do think this is an unlucky number.

14. I have trouble sleeping in on weekends because my internal clock is used to getting up when I usually do the rest of the week. I’m usually tired and cranky on weekends because of this since I tend to stay up later than usual.

15. Our daughter was named after a historical figure.

16. The longest I have gone without a Coca-Cola is 40 days (I gave it up for Lent one year).

17. After Kill Bill, my second favourite movie is Snatch.

18. My husband and I are fans of the TV show Corner Gas. One year, during the August long weekend, we stayed in Regina and drove to Rouleau to see Dog River in person. We have all the episodes on DVD as well as the movie, and we got to meet Brent Butt when he came to Lethbridge to perform stand-up.

19. Whenever I’m down in the dumps, I search YouTube for episodes of Whose Line is it Anyway? and that always cheers me up, but the videos have to be from when Drew Carey hosted the show.

20. I envy those who have had a best friend for a good portion of their life.

21. I got hooked on singing karaoke when I took Print Journalism at the college. I don’t need liquid courage to get up and sing either.

22. Robert Downey Jr. is my celebrity crush.

23. When I watch TV, 90% of the time I’m watching the Food Network.

24. I hate shopping for clothes and shoes. I rarely find something I like, and when I do I usually cannot find it in my size.

25. My favourite type food is Asian.

26. Minimalism appeals to me.

27. My favourite song is Like a Stone by Audioslave.

28. My favourite colour is blue and I dislike pastels.

29. The social media platform I struggle with the most is Instagram because I don’t take a lot of photos or think of taking photos of every day things.

30. Growing up, I preferred The Muppets over anything Disney. Still do.

31. I didn’t have to take Home Economics in junior high or high school. My mom taught me how to cook and bake at home.

32. My very first concert was Our Lady Peace. The last concert I saw was Matthew Good.

33. I have no tattoos but I have an idea of what I want for two when/if I get them.

34. My brother is 10 years, 7 months, and 18 days older than me.

THE END

The final chapter of Ammena

I remember being shocked and saddened after our dance instructor, Lise-Anne Talhami, announced that An Explosion of World Dance & Music 2017 would be the last annual show put on by the Ammena Dance Company and that the studio would close shortly after. I remember crying too, as did many of my fellow dancers who attended the same showcase night in late-March 2016.  The showcase night consists of snacks, drinks, and Lise-Anne performing short snippets of dances she  choreographs for the interest of the dancers who wanted to be in the 2017 show.

I chose a burlesque piece, as per usual. But I decided to do a second piece as well that was simply titled “Finale” and encompassed a number of dance styles that were performed throughout the years the show has run and showcased the diversity that Ammena has embraced and displayed with pride. Committing to two dances meant I had practice two nights a week, which was a pain for a homebody such as myself and a source of disappointment for my daughter who just wanted Mommy to stay home. But duty, and the stage, called.

Photo by Cameron Aldous

Before I was so lovingly dragged brought into the Ammena dance community by my friends Tanya and Lindsay (they know I love ’em), the last time I had performed in front of an audience was in the fall of 2000 when I participated in two one-act plays for a one-act festival in high school. How a shy, introverted person such as myself enjoys being up on stage I may never know. I had mad-crazy stage jitters for my first Ammena show in 2014, mostly because I had never danced in front of an audience before and I was wearing dance heels to boot. But it became one of those things where if you do it enough you don’t think about all the sets of eyes watching you or messing up the choreography here and there, and the costumes, heavy stage make-up, and even dancing in heels becomes fun.

Then there’s the people you meet and the friends you make: the ray of sunshine who exudes positivity and gives the best hugs, the powerhouse that doesn’t care about what others think of her and jokes about the different versions of her RBF, and the goofball who has a certain way with words and can easily cheer you up just by being her bubbly self. I had never been exposed to so many different personalities as I have with the few years I have been an Ammena dancer.

During the months leading up to the 2017 show, I had grown to dislike hearing the word “last” because it was always said in regards to the show: the last hair and make-up tutorial night, the Iast dress rehearsal, the last post-show get together, etc. I know its obvious my dislike was because of the sadness that came along with the word and the finality of it all, but it was almost like experiencing a slow, painful death. How can we make the word “last” more enjoyable, at least for my sake?

Emotions ran rampant at the Yates during rehearsals the week before the show. We were all happy to be together, we loved seeing the small improvements in our dances, but then someone would point out how we’d be doing something for the last time (there’s that damn word again) and everyone would start tearing up but would try to keep it together for the sake of their stage make-up. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with those who became emotional, but I don’t remember crying at all that entire week. I teared up here and there, but I think by that point I was too focused on avoiding  having to redo my make-up (pain in the ass!) to allow myself to break down. Part of me is mad at myself for not full-out crying the whole time we were at the Yates, but I think back to that time in the studio when Lise-Anne made the announcement and I realize that I had already mourned the death of the show. I was more interested in making it the best show Ammena had ever put on, and my brain wouldn’t allow sadness to distract me from my purpose.

And I think it’s safe to say that it was our best show ever.

Dearest Lise-Anne. Thank you for creating the Ammena Dance Company and, in turn, the Ammena dance family. You have brought together an extraordinary community of kind, loving, and empowering women who I don’t think I would have ever crossed paths with otherwise. I needed Ammena, I just didn’t know it at the start. I have great stories to share with my daughter when she’s older and great friends to share my life with for years to come. You did so much more than teach us how to dance, and if you didn’t know that before, you do now.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Photo by Cameron Aldous

What DO Administrative Assistants do?

Happy Administrative Professionals’ Week!

When I tell people that I am an administrative assistant, I’m often asked what that is.

Now, what I do will not be exactly what the administrative assistant in your office does because responsibilities differ depending on the industry you are in. When I worked in a small grain buyer’s office, I mostly did accounts receivable and invoicing, but when I worked for a large steel manufacturing company, my position dealt with a majority of the filing with a sprinkle of accounts payable work.

(Are you bored yet? I totally understand if you are. Sorry ’bout that.)

In my current position, I have three bosses, which has its ups and downs. These are a few of my job duties:

  • Typing memos, letters, meeting minutes, and company-wide bulletins
  • Scheduling meetings and booking meeting rooms
  • Arranging hotel accommodations and conference registrations
  • Supplying meetings with coffee and water, and ordering lunch if needed
  • Sorting and distributing mail

So, as you can see, administrative professionals take care of many different tasks that help keep the inner workings of an office running smoothly.

Administrative professionals are always learning new things. To help keep my skills fresh and up-to-date, I became a member of the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP), a professional association based in the United States that provides networking and education opportunities to administrative professionals. This year, I decided to jump ship and join the Canadian-equivalent, the Association of Administrative Assistants (AAA), so I could be exposed to content more relevant to Canadian administrative professionals. The one thing I would like to do with my membership in the AAA is help create a branch in Lethbridge to bring back the networking element that was lost when IAAP changed their organizational structure in 2015. I might just start with a Facebook group and go from there. If you are an administrative professional and live in Lethbridge or surrounding area and would be interested in a local networking/education group, send me an email and we’ll set something up.

On Administrative Professionals’ Day, which is April 26 this year, it is customary to show appreciation to the administrative professional in your office with cards, flowers, and lunches (Starbucks gift cards are nice too, just saying.) The thing I look forward to the most on this day is the Administrative Professionals Gala that 94.1 CJOC and 98.1 The Bridge put on at The Coast Hotel and Conference Centre. It’s a night of drinks, appetizers, and prizes, and the last two years I have attended the gala I have won prizes, so I’m hoping for a trifecta this year! (Aaaaand I’ve probably just jinxed myself.)

My husband and me at last year’s Administrative Professionals Gala

So, to all the administrative professionals out there…

Silly Caucasian girl loves bloody revenge film

Author’s Note:  HERE THERE BE SPOILERS! Initially, I was not going to talk too much about any of the scenes or the plot of the movie, but my husband informed me that “if you haven’t seen it within 10 years after its release, it’s your own damn fault”.


Back in my younger, formative years, I would join a group of my friends at the local cinema to see what us young kids called a movie (true story!) Now, I am a thirty-something homebody that cannot remember the last movie she saw in a theatre. Anyway, it was during one of these excursions that I saw an epic movie trailer.

As it finished, I’m pretty sure my mouth was gaped open and my heart was pounding in my chest from excitement. I had to see this movie.

Kill Bill: Volume 1 premiered in October 2003, a time in my life when I was experiencing some personal lows and nearing rock bottom where my mental health was concerned. I saw Uma Thurman’s character as a strong, relentless champion that I clearly was not at the time — but  she was one I could draw strength from.

The movie begins in blackout as the title credits flash in white text, the only sound you hear is a woman’s heavy breathing. A few seconds tick by, the heavy breathing continues as title credits flash on and off of the screen. Throughout the theatre, I heard whispers and tittering as the audience’s imagination concluded we were about to come across an intimate scene. Suddenly, a woman in a wedding veil is shown on screen, her eyes frantically darting around, blood spattered on her face — her laboured breathing making sense now. The audience let out a collective “OH!”, and I was hooked.

One of the things that attracted me to Kill Bill was that it was one woman against everyone who did her wrong or stood in her way. Seeing her go against her enemies and triumphing in such a fantastic (and yes, violent) way was therapeutic for me and helped get me through some tough times. I am a shy, introverted, good-natured person with a strong moral compass — and The Bride is my alter ego.

I have two of these vinyl figures — one at home and one on my desk at work.

Points/Questions I have about Kill Bill: Volume 1

  • How did Nikki NOT freak out when she saw her mother had been killed by The Bride with a knife to the chest? Did her mother prepare her somehow?
  • I own a Pussy Wagon keychain.
  • I have Elle Driver whistling Twisted Nerve as my cellphone’s ringtone (I can’t find the right one of Auld Lang Syne).
  • The scene where The Bride is in her hospital bed and discovers that she is no longer pregnant is so gut-wrenching — a great performance by Uma.
  • I have a Kill Bill-related vanity license plate on my car, but I was not able to get “PSY WGN” for obvious reasons.
  • O-Ren Ishii is my favourite member of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad.
  • Does it not look like it was a young Bill who murdered O-Ren’s father in the animated sequence?
  • I love the sushi bar scene! “Do you understaaaaand?”
  • One of my favourite pieces of Kill Bill memorabilia that I own is a replica of The Bride’s Hattori Hanzo sword a friend acquired for me from a comic book store in Calgary.
  • I was familiar with Zamfir’s song The Lonely Sheppard before the movie. My grandmother had  a few cassette tapes of his music that I would listen to while she babysat me when I was younger.
  • O-Ren’s speech after she beheads Boss Tanaka — priceless!
  • I have dressed up as a Crazy 88 many times for Halloween.
  • The House of Blue Leaves set is my favourite, especially the garden.
  • I own a pair of yellow trainers similar to The Bride’s. They even have fake blood on them courtesy of a Motley Crue concert I wore them to.
  • Tarantino’s music choices for fight scenes amuses me greatly.
  • The fight in the blue room with silhouettes is gorgeous.
  • “Is she aware that her daughter is still alive?” WHUT? I think my eyes bugged out again after hearing that. What a cliffhanger!

I had never seen any of Quentin Tarantino’s movies before Kill Bill, so initially I was surprised by the amount and type of violence I saw. After watching Volume 1 a few more times, I understood his style better and eventually could laugh at some of these scenes — much to the horror of friends who had not watched the movie as many times as I have.

Once I saw Kill Bill: Volume 2 in April 2004, I grew to appreciate the film even more and began my journey as a full-fledged fanatic (say that three times fast!)

Points/Questions I have about Kill Bill: Volume 2

  • I was not surprised to see that Samuel L. Jackson was the “coloured fellow that plays the organ” at the wedding chapel. Not one bit.
  • But I was also not aware that David Carradine played Bill until I saw him for the first time in Volume 2. The last time I saw him in something was when he played Kwai Chang Caine in the television series Kung Fu: The Legend Continues that I watched with my dad on Saturday afternoons when I was younger.
  • I still cannot get over how well done the live burial of The Bride was. Limited visual and mostly sound, transporting the whole audience into the wooden coffin with her.
  • *strokes her imaginary Pai Mei beard and laughs heartily*
  • My two favourite fictional female warriors have had to claw their way out of a grave — The Bride and Buffy Summers.
  • Another character that I have dressed up as is Elle Driver. I even committed to dying my hair blonde just for the costume.
  • Gargantuan. That is all.
  • The eye squishing shot always makes me squirm.
  • The Bride seeing her daughter for the first time. Just wow.
  • Also, how cute is B.B.? Gosh, that kid is a heartbreaker.
  • I love the exchange about the pregnancy test between The Bride and Karen Kim. Just two women who understand and respect each other.
  • The Five-Point-Palm-Exploding-Heart technique!
  • “The Lioness has rejoined her Cub, and all is right in the jungle.” *sigh*

It always surprises people when I tell them that Kill Bill is my favourite movie, but it surprised me as well. I’m usually more of a comedy/romance type person, but inside I think I’ve always been a bit of a fighter. I’ve contemplated learning a martial art or how to sword fight, but then the chicken shit part of me that hates getting hurt kicks in and I forget about it.

I’m just a silly Caucasian girl who loves a bloody revenge film.