Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Holidays!

I made it!
Through the term, through the marking (festive coffee helped here), and over the Strait of Georgia to my hometown on Vancouver Island. Ah, the Island, where everyone has backyards, no-one drives defensively, and six people can go out for beers and music trivia for a grand total of $39!

My grandma, before she passed away, used to make Ukrainian cabbage rolls every Christmas Eve. We've morphed the tradition into Greek food, and are trying this healthier but hopefully still tasty moussaka tonight. I'm also going to make this favourite at some point - a healthy and tasty spinach and artichoke dip.

Otherwise, we'll be taste-testing various butter tarts, watching the Queen, and taking long, slow walks around the block while the dog sniffs every ditch. Happy Holidays, everyone!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Apple Loaf

I have found the perfect apple loaf! 

It's not photogenic, but it's delicious. Hopefully, I can now avoid the lure of the 3 o'clock Tim Hortons chocolate chip muffin. (It's really more of a personal cake than a muffin, let's be honest.)

I used this recipe. Based partly on viewer suggestions, I used 1 tsp of cinnamon, 1 cup of grated apple & 1 cup of grated pear, and 1/3 cup of canola oil instead of 1/2 cup of butter.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Fall Food: Eggs and Soup

Here in Vancouver, there's leaves on the ground and snow on the mountains. My boyfriend is out of town this week, so here's what I have been eating for lunch and dinner:

First: poached eggs on toast with spinach and goat cheese. I have graduated from cracking the eggs into a big spoon to cracking them right into the water. Progress!

 The bread is from a local chain where I can stick my head in the door and call out my order while keeping the dog company on the sidewalk. (I'd tie him up, but he'd pull over their sign... he knows how to throw his 6 pounds around.)

Second: easy Fall/Winter soup, adapted from the Rebar's Chunky Winter Vegetable Soup. I will never make this kind of soup (or chili) again without beer. (All the alcohol evaporates, so it's appropriate for work and pregnant friends alike.)


1/2 onion
3-4 cloves of garlic
1 carrot
1 celery stalk
a selection of seasonal veggies: squash, parsnips, turnips, sweet potatoes, savoy cabbage, etc.
some kind of bean or grain, like 1/3 cup quinoa or a can of white beans
oregano and/or fresh thyme
red chili flakes
a splash of apple cider vinegar
one bottle of dark beer
1 carton of low-sodium vegetable broth


Saute the onion, garlic, carrot and celery for a few minutes. Add the other veggies, bean/grain and spices. Saute for a few more minutes. Add vinegar, beer and broth. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 30 minutes.

Serve with crackers and cheese or cheese toast. (The Rebar suggests blue cheese on pumpernickel, but cheddar on whole wheat is also delicious.)

I foresee this will be an excellent antidote to holiday over-eating!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Quel book: Fifth Avenue, 5 A. M.

The subtitle of this book says it all: "Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany's, and the dawn of the modern woman."

Author Sam Wasson charts arc of people and events that came together to create the movie: Truman Capote's late-night/early-morning trips to Tiffany's with one of his muses, to his novella based partly on his absent mother, the Givenchy-only clause in Audrey's contract, the making of director Blake Edwards' hilarious party scene, and both the scandal and the impact of Holly on Audrey Hepburn and on viewers.

I highly recommend reading the book first and then watching the movie again, darlings. 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Vegetarian Split Pea Soup

By the end of the summer, I was tired of grilling and salads. 
Now that Fall is here, I can start making soup!

This soup is from the excellent cookbook of the apparently now defunct Tomato. It's filling and freezes well. I usually make a half recipe and just throw it in whatever I happen to have that day, like sweet potatoes and extra spices.


1 large onion, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil or unsalted butter
5-6 small potatoes, diced (I use sweet potatoes)
2 stalks of celery
2-3 medium carrots, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp fresh oregano
1 1/2 tsp salt (I skip the salt)
1 tsp pepper
2 cups dry split green peas, rinsed
1 bay leaf
8-10 cups of vegetable stock or water (I use low-sodium veggie stock)


Saute the onions until soft in oil/butter in a large pot on medium heat. Add the veggies and spices (save bay leaf) and saute for 10 minutes. Add split peas, bay leaf and stock. Bring to a boil and simmer for 40 + minutes until the peas are soft. Skim the foam from time to time and stir frequently. Add extra water if it gets too thick. Goes well with toast and grilled cheese sandwiches.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Becoming Queen by Kate Williams

I watched the Royal Wedding, did you? 
Will there be a baby soon? Will Harry marry next?

Try more than 10 royal princes and princesses with no legitimate heirs. Becoming Queen by Kate Williams follows the British monarchy from randy Georgian lows to the cusp of even-piano-legs-are-modestly-clothed Victorian highs. It does so by looking at the lives of two princesses. Charlotte died in childbirth before she could become Queen. Victoria survived what could only be described as mental abuse from her mother and her mother's "advisor" to finally become queen in 1839.  

All the fun of the tabloids and none of the shame. 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Make your own desktop calendar

I'm a huge fan of Shanna Murray's desktop calendars, but you can also make your own here with your favourite photos.

Here's a September calendar with a picture of Plaza de Espana from our trip to Spain last year.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Things my boyfriend and I have argued about: Interior decoration*

My boyfriend's style is Asian/modern/huge pieces of dark wood furniture and mine is hand-me-down antiques/yellow walls/old European travel posters. 

He has ceded the den to me and I have ceded the living room to him, but the bedroom is ground zero. However, we are learning to compromise, and the Internet is helping. 

Recently, we bought Nichole's collection Paris in Black for the bedroom.

(In the background, we have dark wood + Moorcroft. Compromise.)

*Title inspired by this funny book.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The best whole wheat pizza crust ever

How have I never made pizza until now?

This pizza crust rocks. Canadian celebrity chef (is that an oxymoron?) Rob Feenie even cooks his on the barbeque to impress his Italian friends. Because our barbeque wasn't big enough, our pizza wasn't this pretty, but it tasted delicious... and moderately healthy.

Laura Leyshon for the Globe and Mail
There's an error in the recipe and I changed a few things, so here's what I did. It makes 4 personal pizzas.

- 1 cup lukewarm water
- 1 tbsp dry yeast (I used one packet)
- 4 tbsp honey
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 1 lb whole wheat flour (about 3.5 cups)
- 1 tsp salt

Combine water, yeast, honey and olive oil. Wait for yeast to activate. Mine took about 7 minutes. It gets foamy; you will definitely know. Mix flour and salt in a separate bowl. Slowly add wet to dry and combine with a wooden spoon. The dough will form a ball and release from the side of the bowl. One time, mine was a bit dry, and one time, it was a bit wet. Both were fantastic. Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover the bowl with a damp towel. Let rest for 1 hour. Punch down dough (this was fun!) and knead for 1 minute on lightly floured surface. Separate dough into four balls. Leave them in the bowl until you are ready for them.

1 398-gram can of plum tomatoes, crushed with your hands (I used half a glass jar of strained tomatoes because apparently there's nasty things in cans)
2.5 tbsp of olive oil
1 bunch of fresh basil
Salt to taste
(I added 1 clove of garlic and 1 pinch of red chili flakes)

Cut the basil into thin ribbons (it's called "chiffonade," apparently). Cook basil in olive oil for 30 seconds and then add everything else. Simmer for 5-10 minutes.

Building the pizza:
The suggested hand stretching of the dough was difficult, so I alternated hand stretching with rolling with a Costco travel mug. Classy. Spread the sauce almost to the edge of the dough. One time, I didn't do this and the toppings "shunk" towards the centre. Add any toppings you like. Rob recommends proscuitto, basil and bocconcini. He barbeques his pizza for 5 minutes at 350. I baked mine in the oven at 425 for 20 minutes and then broiled it for a few minutes to crisp the crust and the cheese.

Enjoy with red wine and salad. Try to eat it all that night. You'll manage.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

More Wine Tasting

One my favourite parts of summer in British Columbia is our annual trip to the Okanagan for sun, lakes and wine. Here are some pictures from La Stella in Osoyoos. Our lovely tasting lady gave us many interesting details about the winery that I (shockingly) don't recall, but I do remember the beautiful scenery and the fact that these grapes at the bottom are Merlot. 
Although La Stella was beautiful, it wasn't my favourite. Desert Hills has tastier wines and Hester Creek has a beautiful terrace. Now, the wine rack is full and my Scottish skin is a little less pale. Yeah summer rituals!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Cypress Falls

I have a new hiking partner - a downhill mountain biker who must temporarily slow it down while pregnant. We've been hitting up some of the gentler hikes on Vancouver's North Shore. 
 A few weeks ago, we went to Cypress Falls. It was stunning... 
 ...and sunny. (We've been having a terrible summer here on the West Coast, unlike the rest of the continent. Send us your heat! We'll trade you.)

Monday, June 6, 2011

Amazing Things: June

1. The computer industry creates as much carbon as the airline industry and concrete buildings create five times as much. In all honesty, I could be a bit more strategic about much of my internet use - from emailing coworkers who are in the same room to idle minutes hours online.

2. Baked Eggs Benny at Acme Cafe. Pesto and hollandaise together. It works.

3. McDonald's coffee is delicious!

4. When you use your own mug at McDonald's, they still use a disposable cup to transfer the coffee from the machine into your (obviously diseased and filthy) mug. Apparently, this is the "Standard Operating Procedure."

It's not that delicious.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Spring is in the air

Lilacs are my favourite flower, for both their colours and their scent. Most of the year, I wait while Mozart sniffs the flowers (and the grass, trees, building corners, cigarette butts, etc.). In lilac season, he waits while I sniff lilac bushes.

In honour of lilac season, I'm auditioning new perfumes. (Strangely, I don't like lilac perfume.) Yesterday, I tried Jo Malone's Nectarine Blossom and Honey. Loved it. Today, I tried Orange Blossom. Not my scent. I feel like I'm being stalked by jasmine. 

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Royal Wedding Tea Party

The tea cups came out of storage. We watched the Royal Wedding on Saturday morning in a tea party, complete with egg salad sandwiches, pound cake and scones with jam and Devonshire cream.

We made it from Thursday night to Saturday morning with varying degrees of discipline. I lost. I saw the dress on the news and I saw the kiss on the front cover of the newspaper. Emily, off whom Mozart is mooching below, won. She saw nothing. 

My favourite part: the glance at each other when the bishop referred to "making a decision."

 I'd also like to take this opportunity to display to you one of my prized possessions: a Winston Churchill tea cup made during the Second World War to boost patriotism. Bottoms up!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The $340 Granola Recipe

1. Make granola from a recipe loosely based on this recipe and your sister's version: 3 cups of oats, 1/4 cup peanut butter, 1/4 cup apple sauce, splash of maple syrup, splash of canola oil, handful of diced apples, teaspoon of cinnamon, and a handful of raisins. Bake for 30 minutes at 350. Cool.

2. Begin to transfer to a plastic container. While in complicated mid-pour, watch as a raisin falls on the floor and your dog darts into the kitchen and eats it. 

3. Google, "Are raisins poisonous to dogs?" Answer: yes.

4. Of course, the regular, very reasonably-priced vet has just closed for the evening. Decide not to fix the situation yourself by driving very quickly around the block in your friend's Mazda 3 with your dog in the back. 

Take dog to emergency vet clinic to induce vomiting. Total cost to you: $340.

Friday, April 22, 2011

How I Made My First Wedding Cake

32 eggs. 24 cups of grated carrot. 15 cups of icing sugar. Yes, I made my first (only?) amateur wedding cake last weekend.

It's based on an Epicurious carrot cake that the groom remembered from a potluck long ago. The recipe is very forgiving. I made minimal adaptations, adding 1/2 cup of coconut and subbing 1/2 cup of apple sauce for some of the oil. I also had to bake the bigger cakes for an hour in order to get the centre to cook.

The first cake went into the oven at 8:30 am. The last one came out at 7:50 pm (granted, I went to work for a few hours). The cakes finally went into the fridge at 11:30 pm in their little nests of paper boxes lined with garbage bags.

Keys to success / mental stability:

1. A long skinny spatula.

2. The help of my lovely boyfriend. Not only did his mother teach him how to iron as a teenager, she taught him how to ice a cake. She is awesome.

3. Lots of practice cakes, which were consumed by my charming co-workers.

4. Accepting that I am an amateur baker, and it will look like an amateur cake. Yes, there were a few little flecks of cake in the icing. C'est la vie.

Saturday, March 5, 2011


Camp for adults.
That's what we needed and that's what we got when we spent a long weekend at Long Beach Lodge on the West Coast of Vancouver Island.

Weather on the West Coast is strange at the best of times. As you can see, we got all possible weather variations in one day. Above, snow on the beach at breakfast.

Above and below, sun at lunch, Chesterman Beach.

Below, clouds and waves roll in at sunset, Cox Bay.

For three days, we walked, played Scrabble and drank Phillips Chocolate Porter. Our only concerns were not to lose the room key and not to hog the Scrabble.

Friday, February 25, 2011


I love this scarf from local designer Smoking Lily because of its colour and because it's silkscreened with the face of Pierre Elliot Trudeau,

awesome Canadian Prime Minister, human rights-protector and stylin' guy. Here he is at a football game in 1970. Swoon.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Meiji jingu

While in Tokyo, I went to the Shinto shrine of Meiji-jingu. It reminded me a lot of Parc Mont-Royal in Montreal, where I lived for a year. Huge, beautiful, peaceful, well-used by local people, and holding its own next to the hectic city.

A wedding party.



Last fall, I went to Asia for work with my fantastic Japanese-speaking Korean friend Jenna. Early in the morning on my last day in Tokyo, Jenna took me to Asakusa. Above, looking down the shopping street leading to the Buddhist temple.

Classy lantern-billboards.

(Note: shop in Korea. Especially at the Lotte department store. And tie your trenchcoat in the back like the Korean girls. Revolutionary. You will look polished and not struggle with your belt.)