Sunday, August 20, 2006


So not many of you will know that this past week, we had a visitor: one Wayne Helgason, father of the lovely Karla.

After busting through customs with some possibly illicit Canadian beef (just kidding--it was totally legit--sort of), Wayne met Karla for her birthday at one of her favorite Wellington eateries: Crazy Horse Steakhouse.

All of this was part of a devious plan concocted by the aforementioned Wayne Helgason and yours truly. See, Karla had no idea her Dad was coming to visit.

Here's how the whole plot unfolded...

  1. Wayne has been making plans to come to New Zealand for quite a while now. Almost every time we chatted on the phone, I'd hear: "Looks like things are coming together for my little trip...". This put me in a tough position --I couldn't tell Karla what was going on. But then it's kinda fun to pull a fast one on the one you love , isn't it?

  2. As the day approached and the exact scheduling became clear, I had to make sure of that she didn't decide she wanted to go to Fiji or Australia or somewhere far away to celebrate her birthday. Occasionally she would send me 'hot deals' emails from Air New Zealand about warm, fun, faraway places she wanted to visit. I countered with: "I am deciding what will happen for your birthday. Plans are already advancing. Leave it to me, Missy." Happily, I think she liked my manly decisiveness rather than second guessing my intentions. Crisis averted, in any event.

  3. The next thing I had to contend with was Karla's announced intention to take the day off around her birthday. Originally, it was the actual day of her birthday, August 14th, which fell on a Monday. "No problem," I thought. "She'll just have the day to hang out with her Dad." But then things changed. "I have so many meetings on my birthday!" said Karla, about a week out. "I think I'll take the Friday off instead." This posed a problem, since Wayne was scheduled to arrive on the Friday, and we'd already decided we wanted to suprise her at the restaurant. The last thing we wanted was for them run into each other at the house before the restaurant surprise--that'd just be no fun at all. Cunningly, I'd already made plans to send her to a spa on the day she wanted to take off, so I had a perfect excuse to get her out of the house on the Friday her Dad arrived. Crisis averted, yet again (am I good or what?).

  4. With plans in place to have Karla occupied and out of the house on the day Wayne arrived, I now had to secure the cooperation of the restaurant to make the ruse complete. What Wayne and I had talked about was to get him dressed as a waiter, and then bring out the water/bread etc at which point Karla would see him and be super excited. As it turns out, my friend and workmate Alisa is great friends with the owner of Crazyhorse, and she arranged for us to all sit down and talk about "the vision" Wayne and I had concoted. Luckily, John was more than pleased to help out, and we spoke to his manager, Rebecca, who was also really keen. I also had a brainwave: what if Wayne could bring in some Canadian steak? Would they be willing to grill it for us? Karla loves and misses her Canadian beef, so I thought this would be a nice finishing touch on top of everything else. John said they'd be happy to, which was really great. All this took place while Karla thought I was at rugby practice, so I had to make sure that I looked properly dishevelled when I came in while also being fully dressed. I told her I had been 'out for beers,' which was true. It's just that the beers had happened at Crazyhorse, no more than a block from our house.

  5. Having set all the pieces up, the rest of the time before Wayne's arrival was spent trying not to knock them over. Honestly, keeping myself from letting the plan slip was the hardest part of this whole thing. It was the mundane thoughts and conversations that were the really dangerous ones. Looking at our liquor cabinet one day, I mused out loud: "Geez, I'm going to have to pick up some rum." Karla looked at me funny: "Why? You hardly ever drink rum. You're a beer guy." This is true, so I made some lame excuse about missing the rum slurpees that me and the boys at 222 Gladstone used to drink over the summer. Luckily, she seemed to accept this. But I didn't end up picking up the rum since I knew she'd be wondering what I was up to. Aside from this little episode, there were a tonne of times I wanted to say, "When your Dad is here..." but managed to bite my tongue. Phew.

  6. Finally the day arrived. I hadn't told Karla anything about what was happening to her that day, insisting everything would be a surprise (which made her sort of nervous, I think). So I arranged breakfast and a little card for her that gave her instructions about where and when she was supposed to be, and when I was going to pick her up. I'd also borrowed Alisa's car (she's so nice!) so that I could pick up Wayne from the airport.

  7. The airport took a little time, since Wayne had to do some fast talking to get the Canada prime ribeye steaks through (yumm..). New Zealand customs is notorioulsy tight about plant and animal products. But the regulations were on his side, so he managed to make it through with steaks intact. We then went on our way home, got cleaned up and headed to Crazyhorse. After catching up with Rebecca and the chef, Carlos, I went and got Karla from the spa, while Wayne made all the final preparations at the restaurant.

  8. Karla looked radiant when I picked her up. She looked happy, relaxed and (as usual--I am such a lucky man) drop dead gorgeous. There was a sudden rainstorm that nearly soaked us, but we managed to get a cab to the restaurant without too much trouble.

  9. So we arrived. The manager, Rebecca, called Karla by name, which worried Karla: "Do I know her?" she whispered to me nervously. They seated us at a table near a window, with Karla facing away from the door where Wayne would emerge. We'd also hidden a video camera that Wayne had brought under the pillow where I was sitting. After Rebecca had told us that our waiter, Wayne, would be out to tell us about the specials, I pulled out the camera and started filming.

  10. The next thing we heard was, "Where are those Canadians?" in a booming voice from the back of the restaurant. Karla turned around, already dazed and confused by the appearance of the video camera, to see Wayne strolling towards her. It was a magic. She was so surprised and so happy to see her Dad. She'd even said, just a few days before, how much she was missing her parents and family. I still haven't been able to wipe the smile off my face from helping to give her such a good birthday. The "best ever", according to the lady herself.

Anyway, that's enough from me for now. I'll try and find a way to post the video of the surprise with a little help from Wayne, and provide a few more details of the week. Will be back again soon!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Ok, yes, I'm kinda getting into this...

My favourite website for checking current times around the world also offers a customizeable countdown tool.

I always swore I wouldn't be one of those brides-to-be who could talk of nothing but wedding planning... but who'd have thought the topic was actually so interesting.... ^_^

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Winter Gardening

Maybe it's my Canadian Prairie blood, but there's something downright peculiar about plants growing, and even blooming, in winter.

After spending the remainder of our summer tweaking the garden out back, it is finally starting to take shape. I'm glad I followed the advice of the saleslady in getting some "winter-flowering" plants -- "Winter flowering!" my inner voice had retorted, "Pull the other one, eh?". But sure enough, midwinter is here and the white native jasmine is a monster, and a happily blooming one at that. It definitely brightens up the garden.

There's also this wild, purple weed that is in bloom, and it is terribly cute. The picture just doesnt do it justice... it's this lovely light purple colour with darker purple around the edges. And yet, it's a weed here! (Note, that cute weed is NOT the same cute weed marked in my garden... that one is an autumn-flowering hot pink daisy that can and will grow anywhere, but still responds favourably to being removed from one area to another.)

Other than that, the garden picture speaks for itself... except for, perhaps, the zombified herb garden. We buy potted herbs, and watch them die slowly and horribly on our sunny kitchen windowsill despite our best efforts to pamper them. When the plant death-rattles start, we put them out of their misery by burying them in the backyard. Then, lo and behold, they come back, livelier than ever! The oregano and chives are doing well, but we're still waiting on the basil to rise from its grave. Hooray, undead seasonings!