Preparations nearly complete

It's not quite 9:30AM here in Vancouver and I've already got the squash and potato gratin in the oven that we'll take to Rocco's office holiday party tonight. I'm imagining other house dwellers waking up and wondering how they could have slept through the day to dinner, judging by the smell. But there was no other time to do it today as I've got a lunch date, an afternoon meeting with some Emily Carr University people, a gym date (yes, you read that right) and in there somewhere I have to figure out what to wear to this party. Our sixth. Yikes.

This is the last party before we get a few days to organize, then fly to Alberta. Last weekend it was madness - 5 parties in 5 days, and that was only the invitations we accepted. On Sunday we could have gone to a Hanukkah party (we did, good dreidling!), a tree trimming party, or a contra dance. Dueling traditions! By the end of it, though we were glad we made it to every party, we were totally exhausted, way over fed, and over-peopled, if you know what I mean. This week was much more relaxed socially but very busy professionally. But, moving on, the holidays are here!

You might remember that last year I had some trouble getting into the holiday spirit. Not so this year. Maybe it was the overflowing bounty of parties, or the act of sending little parcels to fabulous people in my life (one of you has already received yours, one of you should check your mail soon!), or just the anticipation of seeing friends and family at home. Whatever did the trick, I've been looking forward to the break for weeks now. So, a big shout out to those in Alberta or traveling there in the next couple days, call me! We'll ski! We'll snowshoe! We'll hold new babies (C'mon Dawnald, I know you can do it)! We'll get tipsy and wander the snow covered streets! Not at the same time, of course.

Oh man, that squash dish smells soooooo good. Oops, I haven't had breakfast yet! No wonder I'm salivating. Enough stalling, on to the rest of the busy day. I hope you're all ready enough for the holidays and that you get a chance to down tools, put your feet up, and enjoy it this year.

Lots of love,
Liminal Me


Think before you eat

I often visit Worldchanging to see what's up with those fine folks who think so clearly about how we live in the world, and to find out what others are doing about making the world a better place. Recently they posted this public service announcement produced for Japan about national food security and public health.

The original blogger' interpretation of the meaning and influence of the PSA is very clear, and I agree with her analysis, so I'm republishing it here:
If you haven't yet seen this video from the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF), you're missing out. One of the cooler PSAs I've ever seen, it offers an entertaining animated rundown of food security, though the concept is never mentioned in so many words (at least in translation).

The dilemmas: Japan's food culture is slipping away; it depends dangerously on imports from a very small group of nations; Japan's agriculture economy is suffering; and Japanese citizens are unhealthy from eating too much meat and greasy food.

The solutions: Japanese citizens should think before they eat; supermarkets should buy healthy, locally produced foods and label them as such; farmers should produce more of what people need to eat.

What's missing from the minimal dialogue, I think, is a mention of the substantial changes in policy needed to help make all of these good things happen (for a background on that, I recommend Michael Pollan's recent essay).

But effective public education like this very viral video is a great first start. And the dancing cows are wonderfully, weirdly mesmerizing.


Oh me oh my!

Make sure you have the sound on for this one!


Soon to be on the menu

I've been at it again, wasting copious amounts of time on food blogs and recipe sites, ogling food porn and salivating at ingredient lists. Might have something to do with seeing The Islands Project at the Vancouver International Film Festival last week. By the time in the film they started serving an eight course meal of oysters, I was completely maxed out, and the film was *far* from vegetarian friendly, but it gave me an appetite for getting back in the kitchen.

A friend also turned me on to a food blog called 101 Cookbooks. Heidi Swanson realized that her 100+ cookbooks were packed with sticky notes and reminder tabs but that she actually wasn't cooking anything new. She vowed to try new recipes and document the journey, which brings us to her beautiful food blog where new recipes are added every couple of days, accompanied by some of the most tantalizing food photography. This week I want to try her Slurp-tastic Herb Noodles:

4 ounces thin, dried spinach pasta (thin)
1 cup coconut milk (light is fine)
scant 1 tablespoon green or yellow curry paste
1 1/2 cups lightly flavored vegetable broth
~1/4 teaspoon salt (more or less depending on the saltiness of your broth)
6 ounces tofu, cut into small cubes or pieces
1/4 cup chives, minced
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup basil, chopped just before using
pinch of crushed red chile peppers

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. This is eventually going to be the pot you cook the pasta in.

In a separate large, thick-bottomed pot, bring 1/4 cup of the coconut milk to a simmer, mash and stir the curry paste into the coconut milk so there are no lumps. Now add the rest of the coconut milk and the vegetable broth and bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and stir in the tofu. Taste and decide if you need to add more curry paste or salt - if you do want to add more curry paste at this point, make a slurry by combining the additional curry paste and a bit of the broth, working any lumps out - add this to the pot.

Back at the pasta pot, salt the water generously and cook the pasta per package instructions. Drain.

Just before serving stir the chives, cilantro, and basil into the curry pot. To serve, place a nice helping of noodles in the center of each bowl and finish with a ladle of the curry and tofu along with a tiny pinch of crushed red chile peppers.

Serves 2 to 4.

Since that recipe takes 1 cup of coconut milk, I went searching for another coconut milk recipe to finish off the remainder of the can. Luckily I found Spicy Sweet Potato and Coconut soup that calls for seasonally abundant sweet potatoes. Sorry, no picture is available.


* 1 1/2 pounds orange-fleshed sweet potatoes
* 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
* 1 onion, chopped
* 1 (2 inch) piece fresh ginger root, thinly sliced
* 1 tablespoon red curry paste
* 1 (15 ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk
* 3 cups vegetable broth
* 3 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
* 1 teaspoon sea salt
* 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
* 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro


1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Place the sweet potatoes directly on the rack and bake until tender enough to easily pierce with a fork, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan or soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion and ginger; cook and stir until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the curry paste and heat for 1 minute, then whisk in the coconut milk and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for about 5 minutes.
3. Remove the skins from the sweet potatoes and cut into bite size chunks. Add to the soup and cook for 5 more minutes so they can soak up the flavor. Stir in lemon juice and season with salt. Ladle into bowls and garnish with a drizzle of sesame oil and a little bit of cilantro.

But now I really have to get back to work! Put DOWN the food porn, liminal! Pick UP the thesis proposal!


Reader contest!

"Now I'm no meteorologist, but I'm pretty sure it's raining bitches."

First correct response wins a hella prize!



The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain

Since I moved to Vancouver on August 26th, 2004:

MAX TEMP : 29 °C
MAX TEMP. DATE May.17 2008
MIN TEMP : -12 °C
MIN TEMP. DATE Nov.28 2006

From August 27 , 2004 to October 1 , 2008 - Vancouver Airport

Got that? The max temp I experienced in that time period was 29°C and the min was -12°C. But the kicker is that OVER 5 METERS OF RAIN have fallen on Vancouver since I moved here. Yep, OVER 5 METERS!

Fun little toy Rocco found, available at The Weather Network. Go to your city and immediately below today's forecast is a button for Historical Data. Enter the start date of the period you're interested in, or just the date you want to see. Once that data loads you have the option to enter an end date. Unfortunately their idea of "historical" only goes back to 2001. That day really changed things, didn't it?

Go play.

Heirloom falls flat

My heirloom tomato plant has been slowly producing little gems all summer. Some tastier than others which, according to my dad, is due to the fact that I have never mastered the art of fertilizing plants. Tomatoes apparently are highly subject to what you add tot he soil and that will directly affect their flavour. Oh well. I'm getting better at it now that I know that.

Check this guy out.

It grew between the slats in the railing around our deck. I was worried that trying to pull it out would cause it to explode but it's intact! Weird looking thing. It's like in the 70s and 80s when there was a craze to produce square eggs. You soften the shell by leaving it in vinegar for a couple hours then squeeze it very carefully into a mold. After the egg "sets" it should have taken on the shape of the mold. Who the hell came up with THAT?


and another hike!

We've really been cramming in the hiking in the last month, once I realized summer was almost over and we were running out of time!
This Saturday we hiked to Elfin Lakes with Rocco's work peeps; an annual adventure that usually ends up being a pretty small group. This hike was wonderful. Long but not technically hard plus phenomenal views all along the hike and at the huts for lunch. It's a popular hike both in summer and winter so we didn't find the solace of solitude, but it was still beautiful. Here's the album:

But it's not all outdoors and mosquitoes around here! We had a Day Of Culture today, including a visit to the Vancouver Art Gallery to see the final day of Krazy and a show at the Vancouver Fringe Festival. Today we heard an hour-long monologue about mall culture by a brit named Jem Rolls. What a sweaty dude! Entertaining and challenging for sure. Friday we saw Die Roten Punkte, a brother-sister duo (allegedly) from Australia who ruthlessly mocked both The White Stripes and eurotrash punk culture (their name is The Red Dots in German). We're finishing the day off with delicious bottle of 2006 organic malbec by Jean Bousquet - delicious! - and big plates of homemade puttanesca. It's been a great weekend but I'm totally toast!

Oh well, time to look forward and book tickets to some of the Vancouver International Film Fest showings starting a little later in the month. That's after a conference trip for me, a cycle camping trip for both of us, a trip to Whistler with the department, and an assload of work for both of us. Holy crap!


The Lions!

This long weekend we hiked to the base of the West Lion. The Lions are two rocky spires that are visible from Vancouver on clear days and the hike has a reputation for being grueling and dangerous...but we took it on anyway! Ten of us hiked a point-to-point hike after some car shuttling, starting at Cypress downhill ski area and hiking up the Howe Sound Crest Trail, over Mount Unnecessary (it really is), to the base of the West Lion, then straight down to Lions Bay. 9 hours on trail, 1280m elevation change(!), and 24kms later, we were so pooped! Not too pooped to indulge in some tasty Indian food though. All in all, a very long, very difficult, and very rewarding day. Too bad the fog hid the views from us most of the day. At least we didn't get rained on!

Also, here's a link to a google map of the hike with some photos tagged by other random internet weirdos.


Cool tool for trail running

This summer I've really had a great time trail running. The five peaks race series has been fantastic although I had to miss the Whistler race because it conflicted with my fieldwork in Victoria. Booerns. But almost every weekend without a race, with only a few exceptions, my friend Jane and I have been going to the North shore to find some trail. She knows the trails really well as she's been running around these parts for years, so mostly she's been my guide.

Although she's got the experience, I've got the technology. I usually run with my Garmin which is a GPS slash watch slash timer slash heart monitor, etc., etc. Recently I discovered how to upload our runs from the garmin to see them on google maps. THEN I discovered photo tagging on google maps and it just got cooler! Here's a link to our run yesterday around Buntzen Lake out in Port Coquitlam. Open the link then go to the right hand corner of the map image. Those buttons let you fool around with the view, including the option to see photos people have tagged onto the map, or the terrain view that displays the elevation contours. Super cool! Now you can see where I've been running!

Here's another run we did a few weeks ago on Mt Seymour. I screwed up my garmin for the first hour so that straight line across the map is just a default line from where we began on the right to where I turned on the gps unit. We pretty much ran an out and back except...well, see the crazy loop there? That was me getting us lost by taking a superfluous left hand turn. This run is now called The Epic Run because we were out there far longer than intended (due to getting lost) and we both ran out of water almost an hour from the car. To get us home we talked non stop about lemonade and iced tea, and gatorade and powerade. Usually I get through the second half of a long run by describing the lunch we'll have when we're done, but this time it was all liquid, all the time. Anyway, no harm came to anyone and now it makes a good story. Jane likes to let me lead but I'm terrible at trail-finding so we really should work out a better system.

Enjoy the maps! And take a look around at other cities and sites to see the photo tagging in action. Very cool tool.


Gots ta get PAID!

Just filling in anyone who was becoming concerned...after three and a half months of no income, damn if I didn't finally get paid!

I've held a new RAship for two months already and there was problem after problem with the forms to get me on salary for the work I was already doing. Stupid, ridiculous problems like the administrator coming to me and saying, "UBC payroll doesn't have your birthdate and they need that to process the forms." Uh huh. So how did they manage to pay me for the other five jobs I've held on campus over the years, and why didn't they (or YOU, ya donkey) check one of the 52 other places my birthdate is on file in order to find out? Ridonkulous.

The point is, I finally have a (modest) amount of money coming in again on a regular basis so I can rejig the domestic costs distribution Rocco and I had adjusted for my non-income status, and I may actually be able to pay my tuition that will come due in three weeks. PHEW! In the nick of time, I tells ya. The nick of time.


Photo fill-in

Here's what we've been up to this summer:

Hiked High Falls Creek in the Tantalus range in July with our friend Steven. It's an amazing hike with varied terrain including some sketchy climbs with ropes and chains, and a long logging road out. But all along the road you have this fantastic view all the way down the Squamish River valley. Stunning, really.

I've loaded up our new deck with plants and veggies. My favourite is an heirloom tomato plant I bought for 12 bucks that was already bearing fruit. The first massive tomato ripened quickly (it's on the little blue table there). Other things are doing quite well and I've found that Sophie peeing on the chard really forces the chard to perk up and grow like mad! :-)

I went out to Tofino for a quick surf holiday with The Duchess, her mom, and another Yukon friend. I finally got a ride! Three surf rides to my name now and I finally understand why it can be fun! The weather was crap but that doesn't matter once you're in the water. SO good to see D and spend some fun hang out time together.

We hiked up Mount Strachan last weekend in beautiful heat. Just at the start of the trailhead we saw a brown black bear - Rocco's first trail bear! It was pretty exciting, but really the bear had no intention of being distracted from his clover patch by a few measly humans. The view up top is pretty much incomparable, as you can see.

This coming weekend we're off to Vancouver Island so I can start my thesis fieldwork. I'm nervous and excited, and Rocco is to be my esteemed research assistant, thank goodness! Even though we have fit in lots of fun stuff this summer, school has been very, very busy for me and will continue to be for a while. Still, it means stuff is happening and work is being accomplished, and at least I can't complain of boredom. I hope all of you are also having a nice summer filled with adventure!


Something I haven't told you...

Shane gave me a Silvia for my birthday in June! I'm so in love with her! It's taken me a while to find the time to build a suitable premiere of my little beauty, but it's finally done. I feel like I've joined an elite club with this machine.


Freshening up

Before (-ish, forgot to take a true before pic in my eagerness to get started):


It's called Spring Fest and it is only slightly less aggressive in person. It's definitely a fun colour! We'll have to see what it's like in the flat winter light but for now, for summer, it's a great change.


Under attack!

I was walking up 17th Ave toward Cambie just now and two crows attacked me! They were first squabbling in the big trees that line the avenue, making a ruckus, but I thought they were just fighting amongst themselves until they started aiming for me! They were swooping me, getting closer and closer until one of them got his talons on my head! I was totally freaked out! Ducked, ran for cover and used my bag to try and block them, eventually crossed the street, but that wasn't good enough for them. They followed me and continued to dive bomb all the way along the block. Finally I got out from under the cover of the trees and they still followed me, up and around the corner until I took refuge in Caper's grocery store! Holy crap! It was scary!!! The woman behind the Caper's counter asked how my day was going and I had to say something about it; turns out she and her son experienced the same thing yesterday evening on the same block. So obviously the crows are protecting something, maybe new hatchlings, but they were seriously fierce. I'm going to avoid that area for a little while. It was so Hitchcock!



A totally hilarious comedy group from Halifax called Picnicface do sketch comedy and produce these ridiculous, pee-your-pants-from-laughing videos. I'll put two up here (the funniest, in my opinion, and the cleanest) and leave you to watch the rest at your own risk and level of comfort! They are eminently quotable but considering the content you will want to be careful just where you bust out Picnicface lines. Stace, be thankful you'll be released from the bonds of student-friendly language within a few days of watching the videos!

And the followup to Powerthirst:


Oh my

I take no responsibility for even finding this, but I will post it for your amusement. :-)


Magic birthday morning coffee!

It's my birthday!
I normally wouldn't really care that much or advertise it like this but today marks a big one - the big 3-0! And I'm just excited about it all!

I'm starting celebrations early with Bailey's in my coffee. Who's gonna stop me? I'm thirty, after all, so now I answer to no one! HA!

Looking forward to a great, low key kind of day. I want to do brunch, and a long bike ride with friends. And I'm having a joint celebration tonight with an awesome friend who has her birthday tomorrow. We'll be filling the world's cutest little French cafe, likely donning horrendous French accents, and swilling vino while quaffing crepes. Sweet!

I hope everyone is having a great day, too! Especially Elvis Costello and Boy George who also celebrate their respective births today. Go, go gemini power!


current favourite

Two reasons this is a great ad: the eyebrow waggle after the kid gets it, and his hilarious laugh at the end. Perfect!

We're bugged!

I'm sure every one of you reading this knows that we've been seriously thinking about moving to a new apartment simply because this apartment doesn't offer any outdoor space. I would love to have a deck to relax on in the evening with a glass of wine, or for coffee in the morning, and a space for the cats to get some outside air. Pretty much I've been talking about it incessantly since the weather started to warm up this Spring.

Well obviously we're being bugged. The landlords decided that while they had a contractor on site to replace their own deck that was falling apart, they might as well see about building a deck for the upper apartment that is accessible from our fire escape. YES! Since yesterday we've been woken up at 7am by contractors banging ladders against the house and hoisting tar paper and other goodies up to our fire escape. The new deck will extend over the roof that completes the landlord's kitchen downstairs. I'm guessing the deck will be about 5 or 6 feet by 10 or so.

Definitely by the end of June it will be all wine on the deck, all the time! It will face East, Southeast so the container garden will get decent light. Sunshine in the morning for coffee and the newspaper, and shady in the evening for wine and friends. I can't wait! Now all we're plotting is some painting inside and moving the furniture around so the place feels new again. But no expensive move, no massive rent increase since the market has exploded while we've lived here, no worrying about finding a place that will allow not one but two cats. They are welcome to listen in anytime if this kind of action is the result!


Photos from recent events

Another quickie catch up blog with lots of eye candy!

First off, my younger sister came to visit from Edmonton for the May long weekend. We didn't get many pictures except for during a hike up to the first peak of Chief Mountain. Excellent hike! Super hot day and good company.
That's the other four taking a breather on a large sunny rock midway up the vertical portion, and I do mean vertical.

Rocco and I on top of the peak. He took the opportunity to have a quick snooze while I held him upright.

The three sisters conquering the mountain. Apparently there's a hike somewhere further along the sea to sky highway called the "three sisters" so maybe next time K's out here we'll hike that. We all had a great visit which included some shopping time, a rum and bbq party, and pedicures for some. Come back any time, Kath!

And now for the obligatory cat shots:
Boris completely drunk on a recent tuna feed. Note the tuna detritus all around his furry little mouth.

Boris is a fat-ish cat. We feed Sophie up on a bookcase so Boris can't devour her food as well as his own, and his heft disables him from jumping up to get at it. BUT, we are encouraging him to learn to jump and this photo is evidence that he's actually starting to get it! Not sure what this means for Sophie's food...

"I'm in your files, breaching your security." Sophie "the Secretary" adores the filing cabinet. She'll run from the other end of the apartment when she hears it open. Not sure what she gets up to in there, and maybe I'm better off NOT knowing!

And finally a note from this more recent weekend:
I was at the Trout Lake farmer's market this Saturday and picked up some awesome rhubarb. Made up a rhubarb crumble for our dinner guests last night - woooeee!!! I'm a very, very recent convert to rhubarb and I have found that the secret is a fresh, hot crumble laced with cold cream. Holy good times Batman.



This new ad from Huggies is hilarious. Not only is it specifically aimed at dads (how long did THAT take?!), but you can totally imagine it happening to you. You're at your boss' house for a work party and slip into a quiet room to change a diaper, then ... ARG!

The kid looks so pleased with himself!

And just to prove to any non-parents that this does indeed happen, here's an older blog from Marko Polo with golden evidence.


Destroyer of Worlds

My Intel Mac can boot in the Mac operating system or the Microsoft Windows operating system, should I choose to set it up that way. This presents a bit of a problem for sharing files across the platforms because the two operating systems are compartmentalized on the hard drive and don't read the files of the other OS. Lo' and behold, someone built a cool piece of software called VMWare Fusion that allows a virtual machine to be constructed within the Mac OS so that you can run Windows (or another OS) in a window on your Mac OS. Ironic? Oh yes. Useful? Hell yes. Creepy?

Well yes, actually. I love Mac and will always choose it over anything IBM or MS. Trouble is, there is some useful software out there that is still only available for IBM-compatible machines. For a current project we need to be running SPSS which is available for Mac or IBM-compat, but the recent add-on, SPSS with Text Analysis for Surveys, is only written for the Windows version of SPSS. And, of course, that's what I need. So I installed VMWare Fusion and now I have a virtual Windows machine running inside my Mac screen and can run this software on files saved to the Mac. Pretty handy stuff but it is SO WEIRD to see the iconic Windows screen open on my Macbook. In fact, the following cartoon sums up the experience very well as I'm sure other Mac devotees will agree.


Worth watching

This week I managed to catch two very worthwhile films that, if you have a couple hours to spare, you should definitely try to see.

Monday night I saw Young @ Heart, a documentary of the Young At Heart Chorus who sing together in Northampton, Massachusetts. The chorus is a gang of seniors who range in age from 72 to 88 and sing a wide range of music including a Sonic Youth tune, some Rolling Stones, and songs like "Doo Wah Diddy" and "I Feel Good" by James Brown. The documentary is hilarious and astonishing, truly heartfelt and very moving. I won't kid around here, because no one who saw it before me warned that it is also very sad, but trust me, amid all the giggling and cheering you do in the audience, there is also some crying. These folks are octogenarians and older, remember, so health concerns are top priority for most of them. Some characters really stand out, and some of them can still REALLY sing, too! I think Young @ Heart is playing pretty widely so if you have the opportunity to see it at a local theatre, spend the 12 bucks - trust me! Everyone I know who has seen it raves about it, and I'm no exception.

Last night I went with friends to see Carts of Darkness, another documentary but this time about North Shore binners who ride shopping carts down extreme hills at great disk of death and disfigurement. For anyone outside of Vancouver, a binner makes cash to live by collecting bottles and cans and returning them for the deposit. The main guy in the film, Al (pictured), used to be a skateboarder and gets a supreme high from coasting down the steep hills of North Vancouver on a shopping cart going up to 67km/hour! The documentary covers how these guys make a living, where and how they live, jail time, and the motivation to make the film by the director, Murray Siple. Murray used to make snowboard films but was in a car accident a decade ago that left him essentially quadriplegic. This is his first film after a decade hiatus and you can feel his thrill to be back behind the camera and to be...well, you'll see! I doubt this will be circulating very widely since it's a low budget, local film, but it's funded by the NFB so you might be able to get a hold of it through them somehow. Jaw-dropping action, I guarantee you!


The Chief - 2nd and 3rd peaks

Saturday was the first beautiful Saturday of the season and some friends invited me for a hike up The Chief near Squamish. We had a gorgeous day of it and I've decided that this hike is one I will take all my visitors on. It's totally accessible - only a short drive from Vancouver, the views are astounding, and it actually gets easier as the hike progresses so you get the hard stuff over with early on. Plus it has very fun elements like bolted chains to help you climb up rock folds.
Here are some photos one of our group took:

Climbing up a rock fold using the bolted chain.

Reclining on the warm rocks of second peak with a beautiful view.

A gap between second and third peaks showing Squamish down at the bottom.

On top of third peak, admiring the view.


Playing ketchup

Not really. There are very few condiments involved in this post, actually. But it sounded fun and caught your attention enough to read on, right? Ha!

So lots of people came to visit and I do believe a good time was had by all. Mom flew out for a girls' visit and much, MUCH time was spent at cooking ware stores and fancy grocery stores. She and my sister also went to Mama Mia - yabba ABBA doo! It was a great visit, all told.

Next, the Duchess was in town for a family wedding. Well, one wedding but two twin sisters marrying off at the same event. Clever way to do it, plus it scored me some D time. We did a lot of eating and some MEC shopping (two more of my favourite things). A short but sweet visit that should be repeated soon.

Two days after D flew home, Dora arrived for a few unencumbered days of bliss; aka, the big guy stayed home with the little guy and left Dora to travel alone for the first time in years! She has captured much of the visit on her blog so I won't repeat it here. See Vancouver One for a hiking and Toyota FJ adventure, Vancouver Two for pics and description of our fantastic mid-week camping trip (complete with beer chiller stump), and Cameras Are Heavy for a quick recap of our run around Stanley Park and the magnificent blossoms in that area. So we played in the dirt a bit and we also got all cleaned up for a girls' night out with another friend of mine. We went to a semi chi chi club downtown called Lucy Mae Brown and tried almost every martini on their list while solving global issues and delving into our emotional baggage. Damn good. I really adore the big and little guys in their family but it sure was a treat to have Dora all to myself for a few days. Girl trips should never be underrated and should often be repeated (hint, hint)!

The other thing that has recently been keeping me occupied is that I went out and spent part of my tax return getting geared up for my running plans this summer. I bought a Garmin Forerunner 305 that has GPS and a heart monitor. It's super cool and desperately geeky gadgetry! It will map my route, tell me my pace (instantaneous and average), distance from a set point, pulse (instantaneous and average), and even act as a virtual trainer once I set it up with some workouts. It's total indulgence but it will help keep me interested in all the running I hope to do this summer. For the upcoming trail running, I also bought a mini backpack with a hydration system. It's big enough to hold 1.5L, my glasses case and wallet, keys, cellphone, and even a light jacket. I've worn it a couple times now and it's relatively comfortable. That might change when t-shirt weather turns to tank top weather but there's always Body Glide for any chaffing. Here's a photo of me all geared up:

Good thing the overall effect will make people look since I apparently prefer to run blind. The goofiness extends further too, evidenced in this next photo of me trying to figure out how to drink from a camelback. What a dork!

Thanks for reading - it was a long one! And big thanks to everyone who came to visit. I'd been feeling kinda blue and lonely in recent weeks and your visits made me feel all loved up and surrounded by fantastic friends. Come back anytime!



You've seen the Tom Cruise Scientology video, right? Bonkers, mate. Truly bonkers.

And now there are many, many rip offs, piss takes, and generally mockery of the original. This one might be my favourite. A German dude who translated the transcript of good ole Tommy using Babelfish, then reenacted the entire video to the new script. The best part is the 7th cut with "pshooo!"

Tom Cruise Scientology Deutsche original Übersetzung

The maniacal laughter is damn good too, as are his freaky popped eyes. So true!


You try some, you learn some

Wow, it's been that long since my last post? How boring! Sorry folks. Oh, I know, you are on tenter hooks waiting for my next post. You don't have to tell me! So...drum roll please... here it is! And... it's on the same topic as that now stale last post! woohoo!

Tonight I joined a training group for trail running. I'm NOT running the Knee Knacker this year, or perhaps any year, because 50km of hard trail in a maximum 10 hours sounds foolish to me. And to my knees. It is aptly named, after all. But the Knee Knackers organise training trail runs in the months preceding their July race, and people who are not registered in the race are welcome to join in. The official training runs are on Sundays and I'm not convinced that I'll make it out to many of those since weekends fill up fast around here, but the unofficial training runs are on Wednesday evenings, which works out to be a pretty good night for me. Tonight was the first unofficial training run.

Lots of people in the group were new to the training runs and new to the race, so I wasn't out of place. Everyone was really friendly, too, and I've already got a buddy to carpool with next week. The Knee Knacker runs the whole 50km along the Baden Powell trail so most of the training runs are on a section of the BP trail, a different section every run.

I learned a lot of things about trail running tonight, and thought I would share.
  1. When you go trail running in BC, you immediately go straight up.
  2. What goes up, gets cold! It seems like all the other runners had at least a little more experience than me so they dressed in long sleeve shirts and pants. My shorts and t-shirt didn't quite cut it when we hit snow about 2km up the trail! Someone even wore Yak Trax since they knew where the snowpack is these days.
  3. What goes up must come down! Coming down was great - I was keeping up with another runner since we were in a conversation and we just flew down the trail. Light as air!
  4. What goes up...doesn't cover much ground. Distances in trail running can be very deceiving if you're normally a road runner. We ran 8km tonight and, as I always time my runs, I have to just accept that spending substantial time trail running this summer is going to destroy my mileage goals. I've only got so many hours of training time in my schedule and in my legs, so spending almost double time getting a trail run done than I would running the same distance on road will impact my weekly mileage. But...
  5. Trail running is super fun and beautiful and energizing and fantastic! And my bright white shoes that I found on sale for $30 at MEC last summer are finally a little less bright and a little hard-earned muddy. Woohoo!


Race Season

I'm so stoked! I just registered for the 5 Peaks trail running series. For a while now I haven't had a race to prepare for and nothing on the horizon that was really grabbing me as a goal race. The two Vancouver half marathons held in May and June respectively are very expensive and, as I learned in February, racing in my hometown just doesn't give me the charge that traveling for a race does. There's something anti-climactic about catching city transit home after running your butt off through familiar streets. The race in February was great and I'm glad I ran it, but I want something a little more exotic to look forward to.

The 5 Peaks series offers races across Canada. I registered for the 5 races held here in coastal BC and every race is in a different park area, all within driving distance of Vancouver. It's a race a month starting on May 10th with the first race in Golden Ears Provincial Park where we have camped before and could potentially camp the night before the race too. There are a few different options for race distances at each event. Sport distances are between 5 and 6km, Enduro distances are from 8 to 15km. This year they've added a new challenge, a half marathon distance at the final race of the season, September 13th at Buntzen Lake. I've done a trail run out at Buntzen before and it's a spectacular area for running - so I challenged myself and signed up for the longest distance. Hopefully by then I'll have a handle on this trail running gig so the distance over rough terrain won't be too daunting, just hellishly long.

This new challenge is really exciting. Last summer I hoped to dive into trail running with an experienced friend, but she turned her ankle badly when we were out at Buntzen Lake (ironically) and was out for the season. Without her I found it hard to hit the trails, plus I'm not sure you should be running alone in some of the trailed areas around here considering the large animal population. She might be up for joining me in the race series, but even if she isn't, I now have one race every month to look forward to and prepare for. There's a group who do training trail runs every Saturday morning on the North shore so I might join them for a few training runs here and there. Core strength and stability needed for trail running should also help my road running, that is of course if I have a good season of trail running and manage to improve a bit and build strength.

It should be great! Anyone else up for the challenge? Or, what else are you challenging yourself to do as the weather improves?


Fine-ish dining

We had some friends over last night for dinner and a board game. We've done this fairly regularly lately and it makes for a really nice evening of food, friends, trash talking, victory dances, and wine.

We had a kind of rustic dinner with bowls of spinach soup (YUM!), two really nice breads, three awesome cheeses, roasted red peppers, relaxed zucchini (yep, it's true), caramelized red onion, tapenade, and cilantro pesto - essentially build-your-own-sandwiches. Our friends are very, very informed winos, tending towards old world Italian wines and investing pretty seriously in BC wines. They brought over a bottle of Starling Lane marechal foch (2006), a red wine produced on Vancouver Island. Apparently it can only be bought at the vineyard so it was a real treat. Pretty subtle flavours but a really nicely blended taste of strawberries, a little oak, and something darker underneath I couldn't identify.

We supplied a cab sav that came on the recommendation of Katie The Mermaid Girl who I bumped into at the wine store. We've never actually met in person before even though we live about a block and a half from each other, both go to UBC, and she's friends with my sister. A girl was staring me down as I looked over the bottles, and finally asked me, fairly tentatively, "Are you Liminal Me?" To anyone overhearing our exchange it would have sounded really strange, but it was great to meet her face to face finally. It couldn't have been more fortuitous to finally meet her there because the 2005 bottle from the Elderton winery in the Barossa valley she pointed me to was really fantastic, and impressed our oenophile guests. Thanks, Katie!

We played Settler's of Cattan, our new favourite, and the Settler's virgin at the table won only one move before I was going to sweep the game. ARG! AND she didn't even produce a victory dance. What's that all about? One more move and my booty shakin' victory dance would have stopped traffic! Ah well. Maybe since they are new-ish friends she was feeling a bit restrained. Pshaw, I say.

In lieu of a winner's dance, we celebrated her win with an upside-down pear cake. I was still creaming butter and eggs and all that when they arrived so the first half hour of our visit was mostly yelling over the beater. Of course that meant that the smell of dessert baking filled the whole place while we had dinner and during most of the game. It was super tasty, although in my opinion the ratio of pear to cake was way off. I've printed the recipe below but halved all the cake ingredients so that your cake (you're definitely going to make this, right?) will have a better ratio. If you're a stickler for following the rules, just double the cake ingredients to return to the original recipe.

Upside-Down Pear Cake
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter, softened
3 firm pears, peeled, cored and cut into 1/4-inch wedges
1 cups white flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/3 cup butter, softened
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup whole milk

Preheat the oven to 325°. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom of a 10-inch ovenproof skillet; set aside. In the skillet over medium-high heat, stir the brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and 2 tablespoons butter until melted. Add the pears. Sauté them until fork-tender and start to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Pour the pears and the juices into a large bowl and allow to cool slightly. Clean the skillet.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, remaining 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and ginger. In a large bowl, with a mixer set on high speed, beat the 1/3 cup butter and the granulated sugar until fluffy. Reduce the speed to low; beat in the eggs and vanilla until well blended. Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour. Beat just until blended.

Coat the skillet with vegetable spray or butter. Place the parchment paper in the skillet and arrange the pears in overlapping circles. Pour the remaining pear juice mixture over the pears. Carefully spoon the batter over the fruit. Using a rubber spatula, spread the mixture evenly. Bake the cake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 45 to 55 minutes [Since I halved the cake recipe here, it may take considerably less time. Check cake at 1/2 hour]. Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Run a thin knife around the edges to loosen from the sides of the skillet. Invert the cake onto a serving plate. Remove the parchment paper. Serve the cake by itself or with ice cream, whipped cream, or crème fraîche.

Fun times! I hope you're all having an equally fun weekend!


Minted Chickpea Smash

1 small garlic clove
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 (19-oz) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 oz feta cheese
3 tablespoons torn fresh mint leaves

Mince garlic then mash into a rough paste with a fork or pestle. Mix in salt, pepper, lemon juice and oil. In another bowl, smash chickpeas with a fork or potato masher; a pastry cutter works well too. After smashing, the peas will be a mix of rough chop and whole peas, NOT a smooth paste. Mix in garlic dressing with a spoon, then crumble feta into the chickpeas and stir again. Salad should sit for an hour or more so flavours mingle. Tear or roughly chop mint leaves and stir into the salad just before serving. For the vegans among us, this is just as good, and lower in fat, without the feta.


Ok, a little about me and my preferences

I found this list of questions on Epicurvegan's blog and, since I'm a little lacking in substance posts lately, thought I would put a few minutes toward completing it myself.

If you have to choose between locally grown or organic, which do you usually choose?
Being a broke-ass student, organic is often out of my price range. I prefer to buy my greens as organic but very often the lower price of non-organic wins out. In that case, actually in all cases, I do make an effort to buy local and seasonal.

2. Favourite way to prepare potatoes:
I prefer to eat my potatoes roasted but am far too lazy and impatient to prepare them that way myself. In terms of preparation, I don't make potatoes often...sometimes mashed with roasted garlic.

3. Do you press your tofu before preparing/cooking it (if you eat soy)?
I have started to do this but really only with tofu that I have frozen then thawed. A LOT of water comes out and can be replaced with tasty marinade. Tofu that has not been frozen doesn't really need it in my opinion but also doesn't take on flavours in the same way and has a very different texture.

4. Name your favorite recipe that is a tradition in your family:
Zucchini casserole. Oh baby!

5. Any food allergies?
Nope. Just that pesky ethical thing.

6. When you want to go to a fancy dinner, where do you go?
Around Vancouver we have tried Cru, Aurora Bistro, Bin 941, and a handful of others. I quite like splurging on a fancy dinner now and then. Of course there's always stripmall Henry's which offers a happy mix of great food that the restauranteurs treat like fancy stuff but is delivered in a stripmall where the view of parked cars enhances the decor of chalked roosters. My favourite!

7. When you have a cold, what do you crave?
Soup. Garlicky, spicy, hot and sour soup.

8. What kind of water do you drink? (Filtered, spring, tap, etc.)
The kind that comes out of a tap. Anywhere. Even in public bathrooms.

9. Name a flavor of soda you'd love to see:
Tough one. I don't really drink soda plus I'm all about the savoury, not the sweet, so maybe a flavour that is kind of bitter like tonic. Or herbs added to fruit flavours like rosemary-apple.

10. If the recipes you ate as a child were compiled into a cookbook, what would the title be?
Sunday Night Dinners for Forty.

11. If you were allowed to grow one food that can't grow in your climate, what would it be?
Ah cripes. I mean, the Fraser basin is a pretty good place to grow lots and lots of amazing produce, but they haven't yet got a handle on mangoes and pineapple or even really good citrus.

12. Favorite type of mushroom?
I could go on and on here. I hated mushrooms for too long and now adore their subtle muskiness and funny texture. Shitakes - YUM. Porcini - WOW. There are some blue stem mushrooms at a grocer's nearby that I'm dying to try but need to find out how to treat them. Run of the mill mushrooms available on a daily basis? There my preference would be portobellos.

13. Most frustrating part of your kitchen?
I'm pretty satisfied with our kitchen actually. Lots of space, lots of appliances. If anything I would just like some more disposable income to be able to buy some fancy ingredients and some way to speed up dishwashing that doesn't involve a motor or excessive amounts of water.

14. Last food you burned?
Popcorn. How lame is that?

15. Usual response to a veg*n's favorite question, "But where do you get your protein?":
I eat a lot of beans and I have a lot of gas. Well, less gas when the beans make more regular appearances. I sometimes eat tofu but it's not a staple. I drink soy milk but not too much. Stop forcing the cheese on me since it's actually kind of low on the protein count!

16. If you were baking your own birthday cake today, what flavor would it be?
Chocolate. Only chocolate. Always. With chocolate icing. Fudge chocolate icing. Plus icing between the chocolate cake layers. Yum.

17. Favourite brand of chocolate chips?
No idea. Whatever is cheap? I can't remember the last time I made something involving chocolate chips.

18. You have $200 of your tax return reserved for Williams Sonoma - What do you buy?
Like Epicurvegan, I would appreciate a mandoline. We've also been toying with the idea of buying a proper set of cutlery that all match and have a nice weight and balance along the fork/knife/spoon.

19. Do you plan your menus in advance? Any tips to share?
Only in the short term. When we're hosting dinner I'll usually get the idea of what to eat before deciding who to invite. I get cravings, you see, and sometimes the craving is only satisfied by making a huge amount of whatever it is, or the thing can only be made in large amounts - like lasagna. Tips? Always make more than you think they'll eat.

20. You have 3 minutes before you have to leave the house and you're starving - What do you eat?
I spend 5 minutes moaning about how it would be nice to have more time to prepare something then I either grab a yogurt or eat a very quick bowl of cereal or make a super fast sandwich. This is all dependent on what supplies, if any, are available in the house. We're often stranded without any "fast food" but we're getting much better about making at least one large dish like a casserole each week to take for lunch and eat as leftovers or when you need something ASAP.

21. If Martha Stewart, Paula Deen, and Rachel Ray got into a fight, who would win and how?
Martha would win. She's frickin' tenacious and mean. She'd be biting when the other two would still be wrestling. Well, actually, Rachel can probably be pretty vicious when she needs to...

22. If you eat oatmeal, what do you add to it before serving?
Cinnamon and maple syrup.

23. If you got to travel to one country and learn all the traditional dishes there, where would you go (ignore commitments in your current place of residence)?
India (North).

24. Favourite late night snack?
Popcorn, see answer to question 14.

25. Favourite springtime food?
Springtime is kind of hard to answer. My favourite stuff comes out in early summer like peas fresh from the garden and baby carrots. New potatoes? No, too early for them as well. Huh, tough one.

26. Favorite food-related magazine?
They are all a bit disappointing to me. Either they are too meat-focussed or they reuse the same recipe-types over and over and over again. I prefer online recipe searches for variety.

27. Which do you prefer: shoyu, tamari, conventional soy sauce, or Bragg's Aminos?
Different sauces for different dishes. I love the saltiness of soy sauce, the deep, earthy flavour of tamari, the funky complex flavour of Bragg's and actually I've never used shoyu. Depends on the dish.

28. What vegetable or fruit do you dislike the most?
Eggplant. Blech.

29. Name a holiday food you look forward to all year long:
The treats! It's hard to justify stuffing your face with sugar like that any other time of the year. But all the savoury dishes on one table is very appealing. I make them during the year too just never all at once. Oh, oh! Just thought of it. Mom's (aka. Grandma Anne's) onion casserole!

30. If you could convert anyone to veganism with your magic wand, who would you convert?
Well, I can't even convert myself to veganism so I suppose my answer is no one. I try not to proselytize (some would disagree) but I do think most people would be delighted by the benefits and variety of a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet if they gave it an honest attempt. Meh. Every body is different and people have different needs, both biophysical and psychological. These are individual choices to make and luckily
in our largely secular society we have the right to choose for ourselves. I'm glad I have the choice and that you each do too.


Feline flatulence

I know, I know, two cat posts in a row. But COME ON! Doesn't this make you snort, even just a little? Made me snort, so it did.


gumby cat

Yep, Borissimo really does sleep like this. Quite often actually. I suspect we should start saving now for the kitty physiotherapy and chiropractic he'll need as he ages.


Rockin' Rocco!

Happy Birthday today to the one and only

Ok, he may not be the only Rocco out there, in all truth. Some Roccos of note:

Mark "Rollerball" Rocco

Famed chef Rocco DiSpirito

And my favourite of all time, the ever cutie patootie, my very own Rocco.
Much love, sweets.