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

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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!

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!

No Sleep Till Brooklyn/New York

Thought I would share some photos from our trip with a few details.  Probably more for my memories than anything.  We arrived Thursday morning and amazingly our hotel room at the Hilton Manhattan East was ready at 11am and they let us put our bags in when we arrived.  We didn’t stay long though because David Chang’s Momofuku Noodle Bar opened at noon and we knew it would get busy.  We had to get our New York on!

Waiting for yum at Momofuku Noodle Bar.
Waiting for yum at Momofuku Noodle Bar.

Dave’s loves himself a bowl of noodles and this one had a nice smokey flavour with a delicious egg yolk sitting in the middle.  I had a delicious soy sauce egg to start followed by an al pastor steam bun sandwich.  For dessert we had chocolate chip passionfruit cake soft serve.  What a great first meal in NYC.

After trying to go to the Statue of Liberty, but realizing tickets to get on the island were sold out, we wandered around the Freedom Tower and World Trade Center site, visited Trinity Church and Wall Street then headed back to clean up at the hotel for our ‘fancy’ dinner out at Dan Barber’s Blue Hill our first dinner at a Michelin starred restaurant.  His Upstate New York Blue Hill restaurant is in the top 50 restaurants in the world, so we knew the New York version had to be good.

Do you remember that dinner table scene from What About Bob?  Well this dinner went a lot like that.  Dish after dish after dish, followed by the most embarrassing moans of delight.  Best meal we have ever had.  They don’t allow phone use in the restaurant so, sorry, no pictures of the epicness.  Seeded butter, fermented rye bread, turnips, baby butternut squash with bacon marmalade and oh, green beans like you couldn’t imagine.  And I think green beans are boring!  Mmm, Faye this is delicious!

The next day was the big reveal at Rockefeller Centre, where we ‘ran into’ our Australian friends, Ben and Megan Auld and their daughter Charlotte.  We surprised them outside of Magnolia Bakery and it was like Megan saw a ghost, she just couldn’t comprehend what was in front of her. Tears and hugs flowed, then we headed over to Thomas Keller’s Bouchon for some mmm mmm pastries…and then back to Magnolia for a cupcake and Banana Pudding (mom, this is the recipe I made at the cottage this summer).  

You might think I'm eating like I have a marathon in two days or something.
You might think I’m eating like I have a marathon in two days or something.
Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

We split up so Dave and I could do a food tour in Brooklyn and Ben and Megan could get their bearings and run some errands.  They had only arrived the night before.

We saw some great street art, had more awesome food and learned a lot about the Hasidic Jewish community in Williamsburg.  Did you know families have from 6-8 children, and the woman wear wigs.  It was like they all had the same hair colour and haircut.  I think the most interesting thing we learned was that the leaders in the community put up posters saying that watching the marathon is not tolerated.  It has too many people running in promiscuous clothing. There should be no watching of it on the street and you must keep your children away from the windows.  The area was pretty quiet when you ran through it, but there were a couple little girls enjoying it from a stoop.

We met up with the Auld’s and did some shopping in Brooklyn, then had dinner at Diner.  After Dave and I took a detour and walked the Brooklyn Bridge at night.  What a great view and a nice walk.

The High Line
The High Line

The next day after picking out our race kit, we walked The High Line.  It is an old rail line that runs through the West Side of the city.  It was a nice, but crowded, walk that finished close to April Bloomfield’s The Spotted Pig, a Michelin starred pub.  What could be better for lunch!?!

April Bloomfield's The Spotted Pig - Can you see the pig?
April Bloomfield’s The Spotted Pig – Can you see the pig?

After a late lunch and more banana pudding from Magnolia Bakery, we split ways from the Auld’s and went back to Brooklyn in the evening for dinner at applewood, a restaurant I had read a book about last year.  It was Halloween and there was craziness everywhere.  The street by the restaurant was even shut down as kids and parents ran from store to store trick-or-treating. When we came back to Manhattan after dinner we took a short walk through Times Square to see some more costumes then headed back to the Hilton to watch the Mets and try to get an early night before the race. (This never really happens before a race.  You can’t sleep very well no matter what you do.)

Sunday was race day and you can read about that on my last post.  It was a hard run and I still think about it.  I talked to Megan yesterday, who just got back to Brisbane, and we both are still running it through our heads.  How would we do it again knowing what we know now?  We both feel like it isn’t a run to repeat.  No more uphill!

Monday morning we met for a late coffee and pastry at Frisson Espresso (we had been finding some great coffee shops, shout out to Blue Bottle Coffee and Devotion).  We had some final fun with Charlotte who had been a very good girl the whole trip and put up a lot from us old boring people.  Apparently, after Dave and I left she pointed out some runners who looked like me and has convinced her mom that when she is 20, Megan and I have to do a race with her.  So be it.  She has a tough momma and Auntie.

We’ll miss our Aussie friends a lot, but we are already talking about the next adventure in 2017. Dave and Megan have their eye on the Tokyo Marathon and I think they are kind of mad.

These two don’t look like they have work the next day.  Back to reality!

Über Salads

Let me preface this by saying, I don’t really like salads.  But this has been the summer of salads for Dave and I. I’m not talking your rinky-dink greens with dressing, I’m talking about the über salad.  The salad that has soul and guts (and sometimes meat!) and fills you to the brim.

I came across the idea of the über salad in Australian Matt Preston’s book Cook Book.  He had a salad section and then a section where he takes them to the next level, and boy, do they look good.  So I’ve been taking hearty salad ideas from a few cookbooks and making a lot of them this summer. 

The first one I started with was a warm middle eastern herb salad with zucchini, pumpkin seeds, crispy chickpeas and a lemon tzatziki dressing from Cook Book.  

Next, I had some pork belly sitting around that was begging to be cooked.  It’s such a cheap cut, and completely unhealthy, so why not pair it with a salad to balance things out.  So here is a sticky pork belly salad with a cabbage and herb slaw. (recipe from Cook Book)

This next one came from a new cookbook I got called What Katie Ate on the Weekend by Katie Quinn Davies.  It’s supposed to be a prosciutto, fig and grilled peach salad, but fresh figs are so hard to find, so I went without and it was still turned out well.

Mmmm, this next one was a winner, potato salad with bacon and crispy corn from Matt Preston’s book.  The bacon is cooked and finished with maple syrup.  It is delicious and filling.

Next up, nectarine’s and tomato salad with toasted pecans and feta.  This one came from Erin Gleeson’s The Forest Feast, an absolutely unique, beautiful cookbook.  She does water colour on each page and shows images of all the ingredients.  All the meals are simple and involve very few items.  Great book for parties and small get togethers. Love it!

Other than these, Dave and I have been eating a lot of tomato, cucumber and feta salad from a simple recipe I found in Luisa Weiss’s My Berlin Kitchen book.  She has a lot of great recipies in it with a split between her Italian, German and American background throughout the book.  I have a pint of quark in my fridge just begging to be made into a cheesecake soon.  Next on my list, but right now, it’s time to get dinner on and a salad made!

Cheeky

I’ve been getting nosey.  Mostly at the grocery store.  I’m eyeing up the items on the shelves, looking at different cheeses and produce to see what is available that I’m just not aware of.  I read so many recipes where I think, “I’ll never find that in the grocery store.”  It feels pretty limiting sometimes.

I have come across a few good beef cheeks recipes and have seen them cooked many times on Masterchef Australia and My Kitchen Rules, so when I was nosing around the odd and ends section of the butchers my heart about leapt out of my chest to see beef cheeks on display!  The cheeks are a very muscular part of the cows face.  They do a lot of chewing work, so there is a lot of tissue to break down, perfect for a braise in the oven. 

I had read a great recipe involving bacon in Matt Preston’s Cook Book called Beef A La Mode. What’s not to like about half a bottle of red wine, bacon, beef and lots of shallots and celery?

The picture above is after I pulled it out of the oven with Dave standing close by to make sure I didn’t touch the scalding pan with my hands or my arms like last time.  I will have that scar for life.

I paired it with some deliciously roasted carrots from Jamie Oliver’s Cook with Jamie.  I tested them on Friday and they were awesome, so we had them again on Sunday night with the cheeks.

With the beef in the middle, bacon lardons on top, carrots below and a lovely rich sauce, Dave crowned this meal the best I’ve made yet.  The cheeks  just melted in the mouth. I know on all the cooking shows they chuck the veggies that were stewing with the meat and plate up with fresher sides, but I can’t throw away anything.  So they may be dark, brown and mushy but they still end up tasty and in my belly.  

So don’t be afraid if you see them in the store, they are cheaper than steak and cook up like a dream….you just have to get past all the muscle tissue you have to pull off first!  :)

Moo!

Special delivery for the Prescotts!  Our quarter cow finally arrived.  We ordered if from our favourite butcher, Windsor Meat, about 3 weeks ago and now we have a freezer full of meat. Just to be accurate, we did split this with another couple and a family.  There was no way Dave and I could eat up 150+ pounds of meat.

We got a really great variety, including a flank steak, stewing beef, ground beef, bones for broth making, osso buco, and four roasts!  One roast is slow cooking right now and it smells lovely. Sunday dinner is on! With some Pure Bread’s Disfunction Ale from the farmer’s market we are good to go.

There was also an exciting development at the farmer’s market a week ago.  They now have beer, wine and hard liquor vendors there that are doing samples and selling their product.  I have somehow managed to buy two bottles of wine at the market in two weeks.  Amazing BC wine of course, but a little pricier than we normally go, but it’s SO good!   I love pulling out a good bottle when friends come over and sharing in something nice around the table.  

If you are in BC, I’ve bought Siren’s Call 2012 Vognier and a Robin Ridge Red Blend.  Both great flavoured wines I would get again.

We are heading to China in just over two weeks.  Perhaps I’ll get one more blog in, but if not, keep praying for us as work has been extra stressful leading up to the trip. I’m really looking forward to the change of…well, everything!