Ten New Things 2016 – 2

Continued..

6. Doing a home renovation

You hear so many horror stories about renovations and how it can cause rifts between spouses, but this one went pretty well.  We got everything we asked for and Dave an I only argued about a couple things, which worked out well in the end when we compromised.  We love the new bathrooms, but the kitchen is the best part.  It is so nice to have lots of counter space and a more open space to entertain.  Already we have had more people over for dinner or to hang out than we had the first 6 months of the year.  We’re just looking for a couple stools now to complete it all.  Thanks again to all our generous friends who let us sleep on their beds, their floors or had us for meals.  It would have been a lot harder and more expensive without your help.

Next year the bedrooms…

The only disappointing/bad decision we made was the height of the toilet.  We had been told to get comfort height, and we completely forgot when we found toilets in our price range.  Turns out they were tall height and my feet can’t fully rest on the floor.  Word to the wise: Get the comfort height!

7. Hosting a proper wine and cheese party

Our friends here do a fairly regular Friday night get together, which usually involved happy hour at some restaurant after work.  We had just completed our renos in November and I wanted to have people over to our place for an alternative to happy hour, so we hosted our first wine and cheese night.  I had been inspired by some amazing cheese I had at some friends business opening celebration a couple weeks before and picked up some delicious cheeses (St. Agur and Saint Andre). I also picked up some great rosemary marcona almonds at Trader Joe’s and Le Meadow’s Pantry Strawberry Balsamic Jam.  All amazing things to go along with the cheese.  I even bought cornichons to make this wine and cheese night the real deal.  It turned out to be awesome and we had a great time sitting around and stuffing our faces with great food and wine. We definitely will be doing this again.

8. Reading through my library list

The Vancouver Public Library has an area within your account where you can save a book “For Later”.  I had a lot of books on that list going back to 2012.  I would always make an excuse as to why I wasn’t going to read those books that had been on my For Later shelf, but didn’t want to take them off my list for some reason.  So early in the year I told myself I’m going to start at the bottom and read up the list.  If I didn’t want to read the book and skip it, it meant I had to take it off the list.  At the time I’m writing this I read about 23 books and have got up to May 2015.  Some of the best reads this year included The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield, Blood, Bones, and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton, Le Road Trip by Vivian Swift, My Kitchen Year by Ruth Reichl and Rice, Noodle, Fish by Matt Goulding.

9. Baking bread on my own

Pretty surprising that I have never made bread on my own.  True, I made pizza dough and baked a loaf with my program at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts, but I hadn’t made bread on my own at home before (or at least that I could ever remember).  I borrowed the book Hot Bread Kitchen from the library after seeing it at Powell’s in Portland and wanted to give focaccia a try.  It is probably one of the best starter breads to make as it is hard to mess up.  It turned out really well and it has gotten me over that hump of ‘bread is too complex to make very well’ idea I had in my head.  I’m hoping to make naan bread soon and move on to some loafs.

10. Going to an Ordination Service

Our friend Allan Tan was ordained in the Anglican Church yesterday and we attended the ceremony.  I don’t think I’ve been to an Anglican service before.  It was a mix between the tradition and ceremony of a Catholic service with the more personal/relaxed side of a Protestant church.  The Bishop was there to ordain Allan and was wearing a really pretty robe and head piece.  There was a 20 page bulletin that we followed through reading scriptures and singing classic hymns.  We’re really proud that after 18 years of our friend being guided to this role, that he is finally, officially a Reverend.

Next year has more new firsts (there are always more), as we are planning a big trip to Japan and Taiwan which will hold all kinds of fun new things. I’ll also be selling my car and transiting to work. Dave is definitely going to be helping with that piece.  I’ve had my own car for 11 years, so it will be a big change, but we’re happy to finally go down to one vehicle.  I’m also hoping to get involved with some new volunteering after my strata tenure is over in May.  It’s exciting to think of what a new year will bring and I hope it is exciting for you as well!

Happy New Year

Ten New Things 2016 – 1

I realize it has been a very quiet posting year.  We have been busy and my interest hasn’t been in writing and posting, but I still want to do my annual Ten New Things.  It will likely be my last post on this site.  It isn’t really worth paying for a site that I use a few times a year.  I’ll keep you posted another way on interesting things.

Not posting didn’t mean things didn’t happen this year.  It was actually a very “get things done” kind of year for Dave and I.  We decided to stick around North America and put some money into things that required some upgrading and just getting done, like putting up new blinds and buying a fridge, or getting Dave some oral surgery he had been putting off for several years.  It was time!  The only thing on our list that we didn’t complete was creating a will.  Very exciting, I know, but still needs to be done.  Here are some other things we got up to.

1. Donating my voice

I blogged about donating my voice in February.  It was a way for me to volunteer on my own time that held meaning to me.  Since then my voice has three potential matches.  I’m hoping that it gets used.  It would be incredible to know that someone has their own sound which deepens their identity because I spent the time to donate my voice.  If you want to learn more check out the Vocal ID website.

2.Negotiating buying a new car

Ugh!  No likes doing this, but it had to be done.  Dave’s car had been hanging on for about 3 years and we kept putting off buying a car so we could save more money to get the one we wanted.  It literally rolled into the scrapyard in March with very little life left.  We had to do a patch up job on the breaks in January to hold it out until the new 2016 redesigned Prius came out.  

When I bought my last car in 2006, my dad did the negotiating, I had no idea what I was doing.  I just picked the car that made the most sense for me and my budget and I promised myself my next one would be a hybrid or electric or something that didn’t depend on gas.  I figured by 2016 there had to be more options.  And there definitely are today.  But the process of negotiating prices and going to dealerships was stressful, but I managed to pay hardball as best I could with the information I could gather.  The sales lady said I played a hard game and I wanted to tell her that I would have gotten her lower if I hadn’t been too exhausted by that point.  

 

We love the new car, it saves so much money.  At the time we bought it Dave had to drive to Surrey each day for work and spent 1.5hrs a day in the car.  This was going to save us $100 a month.  This January, my office is moving to a more transit friendly location and we will sell my trusty Pontiac Pursuit, that I will have had for 11 years by then and, finally, we will be down to one car, which I have been wanting to do for years.

3. Visiting Prince Edward Island

On our trip out East this year we visited family in Ontario and New Brunswick, but tagged on a little side trip to PEI where we stayed for three nights.  The island is lovely and you can tell people take great pride in keeping their yards and homes in good shape.  While we were there we had another first, where we stayed at a really nice rustic hotel, Inn at Bay Fortune, that included a multi-course meal by the chef/owner Michael Smith.  It was a fantastic meal at a long table and we met some really nice people.  Before dinner we also got to walk around the property and eat appies served in the yard and back herb garden. We even talked to Michael Smith, which was also another first (talking to a celebrity). It was the highlight of our time in PEI.

There is a Bothwell in PEI and it is even smaller than the Ontario one.
There is a Bothwell in PEI and it is even smaller than the Ontario one.

4. Going to Austin and Waco, Texas

We had a surprise trip to Waco and Austin, Texas when Dave’s old roommate from the Men of Marpole house, Mark Mayhew, got engaged early in the year and set his wedding for August.  We had a great time with friends at the wedding in Waco.  There was a big BBQ for the engagement party and a delicious spread at the wedding at the botanical garden’s there.  The live band was amazing, the best I’ve seen.  Everyone was dancing until the end.

Canadians represent at the wedding.
Canadians represent at the wedding.
The American's challenged the Internationals to a dance off, so we pulled out our secret weapon, the orange men, and easily won.  (Orange men's names will not be disclosed.) Photo above with the lovely couple, Jenn and Mark.
The American’s challenged the Internationals to a dance off, so we pulled out our secret weapon, the orange men, and easily won.  (Orange men’s names will not be disclosed.) Photo above with the lovely couple, Jenn and Mark.

After the wedding we did a quick stop at Magnolia, the market and outdoor area created by the couple who host Fixer Upper on HGTV.  I don’t know much about the show, but it was the only other thing to do in Waco.  We then headed back to Austin for a night were we checked out a cowboy boot store, stopped at a brewery, ate some awesome tacos and had amazing BBQ at Terry’s Blacks BBQ.  We also went down and watched the bats that live under the bridge fly out at dusk.  There are about a million of them.  It was a fun time checking out the city before heading back to Vancouver.  Our last little highlight was seeing all the commotion of Trump’s motorcade coming into town.  They shut down the highway so that he and about a hundred police offices in cars and bikes could escort his 10 black cars into town for the Republican convention there.  What an unnecessary show of importance.  

5. Building my spice tolerance

When people have me over for dinner and ask what I don’t like, I say spicy food, salmon and goat meat. (Just kidding on the goat meat, I actually don’t have a problem with it.)  Dave loves spicy food, but it has been something I just had no interest in in the past.  Even in China, we had a spicy and non-spicy table at every restaurant, so Dave and I ate most meals apart so he could get his spice on.  This year something changed in me though.  Something clicked and I needed to figure this out.  I think I’ve watched enough Anthony Bourdain to realize that if I want to experience what the world has to offer for food, I need to get over this spice problem.  So I have and I realized that with spice used the right way, it doesn’t just add heat, but it also adds to the flavour and I think that is what I’ve been missing.  Everything spicy I tried when I was young just killed the flavour, it was spice for burning your lips off and making your nose run, but not to enhance a dish.  Now I know the difference.

We make this awesome dinner of Malaysian beef rendang.  We love it and it was the perfect dish to gradually bring up my spice tolerance. We started with one Thai chilli and have moved up to six, with the seeds.  It has opened up a whole different variety of dishes that I can enjoy at restaurants or at home and because of that I’ve been cooking a lot more Asian dishes.  Last year I would never have owned fish sauce, hoisin, Kaffir lime leaves, or turmeric, but those are staples in the house now.

More to come!

Catch Up

It has been a very busy start to the year, mostly with work, which had me coming home exhausted and not very motivated to do much. But things are calming down there. I have a new co-manager who has really taken a load off my plate and I finally get to spend time with my employees and get caught up.  This results in less stress and more time to do things outside of work.  And thank goodness, because this summer is going to be a doozy of activity and fun.

It all starts in a couple weeks as we get to see our favourite musical comedians (not a big category, I know).  Heck, they are probably my favourite comedians, Flight of the Conchord.  They’ve both been busy working other projects for the past several years, but have come back together to tour with some new material and old classics.  I’m so excited!  If you want a little taste of them, watch this and if it doesn’t make you laugh, I don’t know you. 

The day after the concert we are heading out to Ontario, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island to visit family and take a mini vacation on our own.  It’s part of our Year of Family.  We were already in Calgary on the Easter long weekend visiting Dave’s brother and sister-in-law, we just had Dave’s mom and step-dad visiting here and we will hit up my family in Ontario and Dave’s sister and family in New Brunswick.

We’ll get away by ourselves in PEI for 3 days and have some fun things planned for there as well. PEI will be a first for both of us and hopefully we will find some relaxation on the trip. I’m looking forward to biking on the Confederation Trail and eating some shellfish. It will be the first time Dave and I have vacationed by ourselves in two years and I’m pretty excited about that, even if it is just a couple days.

I’ve also been on a kick this year to ‘read down’ my library wish list.  The Vancouver Public Library allows you to save books to read later on their website and app.  I’ve saved books for years, but haven’t ventured back to the start and ticked many off.  So this year, I started at the oldest book on my list and told myself, I either read it or remove it.  Its been good and I’m currently working through 2013, the year I quite obviously started cooking more, because I have so many cooking books on the list that year.  It’s been great though and I’ve read some good books including Gabrielle Hamilton’s autobiography Blood, Bones, & Butter, Vivian Swift’s Le Road Trip and, finally(!) Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale after putting it off for about a decade.  Next I’m working on Edward Rutherfurd’s epic London.  I’m expecting this to take a couple months and hope it will make good vacation reading.

There will be more about the summer I’m sure and hopefully some photos from all the places we go.  Canada, you’re so beautiful…you could be a part time model.

A Different Kind of Volunteering

I heard a Ted Talk by Rupal Patel early last year about the need for people who can’t speak to have more than one robotic male or female option for their voice when they speak using a computer. A good example is the robotic voice sound used by Stephen Hawking, familiar and generic.  It isn’t age specific or regional.  Now imagine if you could donate your voice and it would be matched with the sounds made by someone who can’t form words.  This is essentially what Rupal Patel’s organization, Vocal ID, does.  I was so inspired by this that I set about donating my voice for the past year. 

This really seemed like the perfect way for me to volunteer but not have to commit to a specific day or time, as I already feel committed enough to things, but wanted to do something outside of work or church.  It would also be awesome to go at my own pace, even thought it took a year to complete.  

Above is an example of what the set up looks like on the Vocal ID site.  I would hit the record button, read the line, stop the recording and submit the sentence.  It took about 10-15 seconds per line and there were about 3500 sentences to say, or repeat when the recording was too loud or noisy.

My goal screen.  I first felt really daunting to see 3000 sentences still to do.
My goal screen.  I first felt really daunting to see 3000 sentences still to do.

Here are examples of some of the ridiculous sentences I had to say:

Once you are real you can’t be ugly.

An ugly black imp appeared.

He came in gorgeous array.

He made them cross-bars of a scaffold.

He hoisted the coffin to the top of the scaffold.

He thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive.

He’s a capital fellow.

He was merely a delayed meal.

He tied a burning pine-knot to his right hand.

I'm done!
I’m done!

Vocal ID even takes into consideration where you are from, your age, and your accent, to really give a better chance of fitting in in every way.  Once I finished I could already see that there were potential matches for my voice, which was really inspiring.  

If you are interested yourself, all it takes is a computer with a mic (usually already built into your device) and a quiet room.  You can do the recording faster than I did if you have more time.  It certainly doesn’t take everyone a year to complete, but it allows you to move at your own pace, which was perfect for me.

Check out Vocal ID for more information and get recording!

 

 

2016 Is Going To Be An Offal Year

That’s right, this year I will be digging deeper into offal.  The offcuts of meat that North American’s rarely use.  Kidneys, sweetbreads, beef cheeks, tongue, those are on the menu this year.  My sister, Bre, gave me Sarah Wilson’s newest print cookbook, Simplicious for Christmas and it as a section on cooking offal.  I have dabbled in this a bit in the last year and think it’s time to kick it up a notch. 

This is a great way to save money while still having quality meat in our diet. Buying a quarter of an animal certainly helped, but they never include the offal (other than the pig’s trotter).  I assume they just don’t think people want those cuts or know what to do with them.

I’ve already cooked the Chinese Beef Cheeks from this book last weekend and will admit I didn’t love the flavour and have done beef cheeks better, but I will be trying the following recipes:

  • Mum’s Steak and Kidney Stew with Herby Dumplings
  • Sweetbread Tacos with Easy Slaw
  • Homemade Bacon

My butcher is going to love me.

Ten New Things 2015 – 2

Ten New Things cont’d.

6. Discovered the Sunshine Coast – Our church small group goes on a retreat each year and this time we rented a massive house on the Sunshine Coast that slept 16 people.  I had been to the Sunshine Coast once years ago, but only to the town you arrive in at the ferry drop off, so it didn’t really feel like I had experienced the Coast.  We had fun watching jellyfish off the dock, Dave went out on a late night canoe run to stare at the stars and the phosphorescents in the water.  We did a hike up a small mountain and had a spectacular view of the area we were staying in and relaxed in an outdoor hot tub.  It was a fun weekend with friends and we’ll be back in the future.

7. Surprising my family at Thanksgiving – Given the opportunity to take a work trip home at Thanksgiving, I knew that I had to go the extra few hours to see my family for the long weekend. The look on moms face was worth it, she was so surprised and so were all the kids.  Amazingly, it still ended up being really busy as I quickly made the rounds to see my big family, but it was really fun to just ‘pop in’ for a little bit.

8. Going to Brooklyn – I was super excited about getting to go to Brooklyn. I had been to Manhattan before and did all the major tourist things, but never strayed across the river. We learned a lot about this borough through a food tour and saw all kinds of awesome street art. It really reminded me of Vancouver, just more of an East Coast feel. I know we’ll get back again soon for some good coffee, food and hopefully next time a brewery or two.

So much great street art in Brooklyn.
So much great street art in Brooklyn.
Mmm enjoying a coffee at Devocion in Brooklyn.
Mmm enjoying a coffee at Devocion in Brooklyn.

9. Eating at a Michelin starred restaurant – This was such an awesome experience.  Dave and I don’t like to buy things; we would far rather spend our money on an experience that we can share and remember with happiness later.  Eating at Dan Barber’s Blue Hill restaurant in Manhattan was one of them. A sister site also exists just outside of New York City and is one of the 50 best in the world, so we knew this was going to be amazing.  It was1If you have a chance to watch Chef’s Table on Netflix, there is an episode all about Barber and how he sources his food and focuses on flavour. Best restaurant meal we have ever had. We followed that up a couple days later by eating at The Spotted Pig, which has also received a Michelin star for its amazing pub food.  It was a food lovers paradise for us in NYC.

10. Running the New York City Marathon – My hardest marathon bar-none.  For years I have seen a picture hanging in my aunt’s house of her and her sister crossing the finish line of the marathon in 1993. So it has been on my bucket list for a long time:  Run NYC, one of the Big 5 marathons.  I finally got the opportunity to run it with one of my closest friends from Australia, Megan.  I thought it would be my best run ever and my training had been my best.  I was faster, my body felt good, I was ready to roll.  Reality was, we both found it super challenging; the hills, the bridges, the long, long sections of street and the endless crowds.  I finished in 4:11:41 and I wish I could go back and do it all over again, because I know I could do better. But I’m proud of what I did despite how it turned out because I pushed until the end and never even considered giving up. For now though, I don’t want to think about another marathon for a long time.

Heavy into the merchandise at the Expo.  
Heavy into the merchandise at the Expo.  
Brooklyn at km 16.  Brooklyn is the first half of the race and THEN you hit four bridges! Talk about a brain buster!
Brooklyn at km 16.  Brooklyn is the first half of the race and THEN you hit four bridges! Talk about a brain buster!

What will 2016 bring?  Hopefully a new province to visit and maybe some new BC experiences. We’re calling it our Year of Canada!

I hope you did some new things in 2015 as well.  It keeps you young and bring lots of fun to life. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Ten New Things 2015 – 1

Looking back on 2015 I can think of so many things that are new to me.  We had some wonderful trips, I grew in my role at work and my cooking has continued to improve as I start moving into Asian cooking more and more. Here are the highlights!

1. Travelled to China – This was my first time in Asia and it was such a rich, exciting adventure for Dave and I.  We did so many new things while there.  We ate all kinds of new foods (frozen yogurt with beans, YUM!), explored the Forbidden City, survived the driving, bought steam buns from holes in the wall and sped through the countryside on a bullet train.  The country is vast and the people so kind.  I’ll remember Dave constantly getting his photo taken, line dancing with the locals, bean smoothies, the painful Chinese massage and the corn that came topped with sugar and sprinkles.  I suspect we’ll end up back there soon.

Before the pain of the Chinese massage.
Before the pain of the Chinese massage.
Enjoying street food with Megan and Shannon.
Enjoying street food with Megan and Shannon.

2. Worked with disabled and abandoned kids – This was such a highlight of the year.  In Sanmenxia, China, I was placed in the baby room and every day I would spend time with these wonderful kids who struggled with various disability, showing them love and attention, which they desperately desired.  Since coming back, Dave and I have continued to support the baby room at the orphanage we were at.  I hope to one day get back to see how these children have developed, and even better, not see them because they have been adopted into a loving home.

The centre where the kids lived in Sanmenxia.
The centre where the kids lived in Sanmenxia.

3. Touring the Terra Cotta Warriors and The Great Wall of China – Seeing these sites always seemed like a far off reality.  I didn’t anticipate that I would even see them in my lifetime since China wasn’t really on my list of places to visit. But we did, and we loved it, and we saw these great wonders. I really enjoyed The Great Wall and would have loved to spend more time there. It really was beautiful seeing the ruinous area that stretched as far as you could see from the clean, safe, tourist section. It was like there was an adventure waiting right over the next hill. 

Into the forbidden zone!
Into the forbidden zone!

4. Joined our strata council – When we bought our condo a couple years ago I knew I wanted to join the strata council to be apart of decision making and the care for our buildings (there are 3 large condo buildings and 4 townhouse complexes – 165 units total).  So this April when we had our annual general meeting, I signed up for the standard two year term.  My goodness, I had no idea how much work and communication would be involved.  Within just the first 2-3 days I had about 50 emails back and forth about issues.  You’ll never know what is going on in the background until you get on council!  It has been trying at times, but a good learning experience so far.  

5. Grew into a manager at work – The first year as a manager is pretty challenging.  Every difficult conversation you have with am employee seems painstaking for the first while, but then you get used to it (thank goodness) and you are able to sleep at night knowing what conversations will take place the next day.  I pray a lot for wisdom in my job and the ability to be fair and consistent with my employees, to coach them through failures and praise them in success.  At the start of the year, I didn’t enjoy being a manager, and while I still have lots to learn, it has become easier and I gain more confidence in my abilities each day.