Ten New Things 2017 – Part 2

And so it continues…

6. Bought a bike – I’ve owned bikes in the past that my parents got me growing up, but I have never bought a bike that I can remember, so it was pretty exciting to get this beauty 1950s Raleigh and bike around the city this summer.  Sadly, it isn’t built for a hilly city like Vancouver and I’ll be upgrading next spring.

Bike

7. Hiked to Garibaldi Lake – This had been on my bucket list for at least 6 years.  This is the hike that everyone in Vancouver talks about.  A beautiful glacier lake in the mountains by Squamish. We went in August with some of my coworkers.  It was about 8hrs round trip with a break for lunch by the lake in the middle.  The forest fire smoke had cleared up the day before, so the timing was perfect.

Garibaldi.JPG

8. Volunteering with seniors – After my two year stint on strata ended I wanted to volunteer somewhere local with people.  I found a nursing home type residence in a local hospital and go in and help on Saturdays.  It is almost all Cantonese, so I’m mostly smiling and saying néih hóu.  This makes it tough to connect to the residence, but I try to and I think they like seeing new faces around.

9. Ate at new restaurants and cafe’s for a month – Dave and I realized we were getting into a bit of a Main Street rut, and decided to only eat a new or long ago visited restaurants and cafes for a month (unless you were invited somewhere by friends).  We finally went to Lucy’s Diner, the German club and the mysterious Japanese Yakitori place I’ve been walking past for 8 years (it was awesome!).

Lucys
Oreo milkshake and cheese burger at Lucy’s.

10. Worked with refugees – Our church owns a house beside the main building that they plan to tear down and replace next year, but in the meantime the main part was vacant, so Journey Home worked with the church to get a refugee family to live in it until it is taken down.  Housing in Vancouver is in a crisis right now, we have thousands of empty condos, but almost no access to them because they are owned by foreign investors, and those few rentals available cost thousands per month.  And with a high volume of refugees coming in from the US this year there is almost no where to put them in Vancouver where many of the resources are for refugees.

Dave and I wanted to learn more about how Canada works with this group of people, so we volunteered to help with the family that would stay in the church’s house.  We took a course to get a better understanding of what their needs would be and how to go through the claimant process to stay in Canada.  It has been very eye opening and really opened our eyes to how amazing we have it in Canada and how hard it is for people to uproot their lives and start new.  Imagine learning a new language, navigating a court system, trying to get kids back in school, waiting months for work permits, finding housing and healthcare and dealing with emotional loss over leaving your homeland and everyone you know.  Now imagine it all happening at the same time and with little to no money.

Working with this family has truly been one of the hardest and best parts of my year.

Refugee
A game we played in our course to understand the order refugees need to do the basics of getting started in Canada.

A special extra!

11. Reading through the Bible in Year – I have never read the Bible cover to cover before. What a great thing to do to finally piece together all the passages and parts of the Bible that I read through and hear in Sermons. It was such an awesome experience and gave me so much more depth and background to my faith. I don’t know why I didn’t do it sooner. Crazily enough, I did this almost completely on my phone on my commute to work (remember that selling the car thing?). Looking forward to diving deeper in 2018. Special thanks goes out to Megan Auld for telling me about the Read Scripture app. Each book of the Bible has a video that illustrates what the book is about, which is really helpful before reading. I highly recommend it.

Extras – Saw Cirque du Soleil (Kurios), bought a Japanese knife (two actually), saw Arcade Fire, got a yoga membership, had a professional headshot taken, made ramen, snaked and fixed a drain, did an Escape Room (and won!), bought a hot dog from the hot dog guy on Main St (finally!), ran into Elijah Wood (3 times), collected eggs from under a chicken and cooked ribs!

Escape Room.JPG

Studio Session-293 (1)

I hope you try some new things in 2018.  Looking forward to hearing your stories.

Dana (and Dave)

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Ten New Things 2017 – Part 1

It’s been a pretty fun year for Dave and I.  We went on one of our favourite trips, met lots of interesting people, and started serving in new ways.  Here are my firsts for 2017.

1 Sold my car – This was something I was not looking forward to figuring out.  Insurance, Craigslist competition, money transfer and most importantly finding a good home for my baby.  Turns out after we figured out the reposting thing on Craigslist so it wouldn’t get buried in the thousands of cars for sale, it was relatively easy.  We had one person come and look, a teenage girl looking for her first car, and she took it on the spot (with only her uncle test driving it because she forgot her license!).  The next night we met at the Superstore with her mom, did all the paperwork at the bank/insurance spot there and it was done.  The only thing left for Dave and I to do was spy from the parking lot as the mom went over the car with her daughter and she drove away.  This was my first car, I drove it around Ontario, across Canada and then from Vancouver to San Diego. It was a great ten years together. I’ll miss you Jude!

IMG_54282. Taiwan and Japan – We did so many things on this trip that were new including singing karaoke in a bar in Osaka, eating wagyu beef (the best in the world), ate conveyor belt sushi, visited Tsukiji fish market (the largest in the world), stayed at a 5 star hotel and made a Japanese meal complete with sushi, miso soup and tamago.

Taroko
Visiting Taroko Gorge in Taiwan, one of the natural wonders of the world.
Steambun
Roadside steambuns and other delights in Taipei
Ramenfor1
Eating in a single stall ramen joint in Tokyo.  Your food comes through a little window in front.
Foodtour
New Japanese friends in a bar in Osaka (that is the entire bar!)

3. Onsen/Ryoken Experience in Kinosaki – Dave and I wanted to do a really traditional night in Japan at a ryoken hotel that provides dinner in the room, which later converts to your sleeping space.  The next morning you have a huge breakfast in a group dining area.  Here I had my first fish for breakfast experience. We did this in Kinosaki which is a town with seven onsens (hot spring bathhouses) that you walk to in wooden shoes and a robe.  They are split into mens and women’s areas because you can only use them naked.  And you get used to it pretty fast.

Keiseki3
These ladies knew what to do.
Keiseki2
Ready for our meal.
Keiseki1
Sashimi boat in the middle.  Dave could not get the eye out of the fish head to eat.
IMG_5749
In front of one of the onsens.  Check out those sandals!

4. Going to a Japanese baseball game – This was so much fun!  We saw the two Tokyo teams face off.  ‘Our’ team the Swallows didn’t win, but it was such a different experience that it didn’t matter.  These games involve weird ballgame food, keg girls, and songs for every player that goes up to bat many with hand actions.

TokyoYakultSwallows

Baseball Food
Not your regular hot dog and fries.

5. Completed Tough Mudder – Dave and I signed up with a bunch of my co-workers for the half distance, which took us several hours and got us very wet and muddy, but it was definitely a fun day.  I have never had so much dirt caked on me that I almost couldn’t scrub it off in the shower.

Tough Mudder

More to come later this week…

 

 

 

 

 

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.