Trump wins…

Honestly, I don’t know how this happened. I mean I do, but it can’t be real. Mostly I am just glad that I live in Canada and for the time being things are ok. We have a decent Prime minister and he has managed to go one year without majorly screwing up the country.

This just proves that targeting the lowest common denominator can win you an election. This election has been dragged out around the world for more than a year and while this time last year it was still funny to think of trump as president, the reality of this actually happening is grim. Although it’s great to be in Canada and not in the direct line of fire, I am almost certain that we will feel the pain in some way or another. I feel like we are standing on a corner as a car drives past splashing mucky water at the American in front of us while flecks of mud manage to keep going and hit us in the head as well. What really worries me is that the last 8 years of change that the US has seen is about to get almost entirely flushed down the toilet by a misogynistic bigot who has no moral compass whatsoever and Hillary Clinton did not fight hard enough to keep him from doing it. I watched some of the debates that happened and I can see why things went this way, how do you debate with someone who refuses to let you speak? Or a person who will continue to point fingers in the same way a 9-year-old would if they felt they didn’t get their way. I mean really, this is a grown man with grown up (and equally ridiculous) children, how is this acceptable in any circumstance? Let me just suspend disbelief for the moment though and consider what led to this moment.

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Is it sad that the Simpsons predicted this?

From a Canadian standpoint, I would say it comes down to a few key areas. Timing, Economics, Fear mongering, and in the words of Danny Bhoy “the rise of the idiots”. When Obama came into office in 2008 he was taking on a monstrous task involving the general cleanup of the shitshow that was Bush. That combined with the economic recession around the same time leading to a poorer and more disillusioned America. That is no shocker and Obama continued to go on to be reelected four years ago, which is great, he would get a real chance to improve things. But then along came Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump of all people. Both intent on winning, both somewhat unlikeable, but there is a clear difference between the two. Trump should never have made it this far, he trashed the Republican party, he abused democracy and he pushed the limit on what is socially acceptable adult behaviour. And yet, here we are Wednesday, November 9th,2016 a world reeling at the realisation that somehow he got elected.

But hey 2016 has been a ridiculous year for politics. Brexit happened! Yes, it did, and we were in shock. Even those guys who wanted it were shocked when it happened and quickly started to back off as reality set in. A huge part of me hopes Trump faces the same thing sometime in February, and that he sort of disappears from the public eye as he begins to realise that the US does not have a big enough budget for the wall he wants to build. I look forward to some kind of scandal while he is in office, I relish the hope that he will be found guilty of something completely unheard of and awful.

Keep this in mind because it just happened:

“The next wave of fascism will come not with cattle cars and camps. It will come with a friendly face.” – Bertram Gross, “Friendly Fascism”

 

 

Bus entertainment 

Like thousands of others I take the bus to work, and like almost everyone I can agree that it is not without its own version of entertainment. I don’t mean watching things through the window, I mean the things people do on the bus. The bus I take is compared to other routes a generally tame one, in the morning it’s more of a library than a bus, but occasionally human nature explodes. However, my fiancé used to take the bus through east Hastings almost every day and that is a bus that almost lives and breathes. We joke that it’s sometimes like going on safari, that’s if the safari were to sit next to you and start rambling. 

East Hastings buses, for those who know Vancouver that’s the 16, 14, 135 and others. 

My younger cousin is a country guy, with impeccable luck and an adventurers sense of direction. He visited Vancouver for the first time   a couple years ago and came spent nearly two hours and three busses to get to my house. Part of me was concerned, I mean it’s a long way in a city he doesn’t know, but in the back of my mind I kept saying “it’s ok he spent his 21st birthday on a boat on the Amazon, he will be fine” obviously he was fine, nonetheless he described it as a trek. Especially bussing through East Hastings at 2 in the morning. I have to agree, there are places in poorer countries than Canada that have at least marginally better transit. Problem here seems to be that we pay Translink staff more than the Primeminister and then expect them to work hard. But anyways I digress. Not my story though so I’ll leave it at that for now. Catch you next week. 

A paperless conference for Luddites

It’s Wednesday. Generally the dullest day at work, usually my catch-up day. For whatever reason no one seems to schedule meetings for Wednesday, works for me. After a month of chaos and preparation for our annual conference it’s over and I think I’ve almost made up for the lack of sleep over the long weekend. I feel human again, and it’s a beautiful sunny fall day. I love this weather, crisp and bright. Sweaters and scarves, toques and sunglasses. I’m ready! 

Last week was the conference, months in the making and honestly a momentous one for us. We went paperless, which sounds simple enough. But who knew people liked name tags so much. It was particularly different this year because we launched an event app and mobile check in. So, no program, no name tags and an app to learn. For me this sounds pretty simple but the demographic at this conference tends to err on the side of the Luddites at times. I believe I may even have seen a flip phone, to each his own. 

In spite of that, we had almost 75% of people using the app. It also even helped get more involvement for question segments. This is even better than I imagined, the app is here to stay. 

Here’s to next year! Hopefully it’s even better ( might have to bring back name tags). 

Travels

Summer always seems to rush by, in spite of sleepy deadlines and a quiet office, it just disappears. We recently came back from our two week vacation (for the first time in over two years) and were thankfully not too bombarded by crazy at work. Even so, the first week back is rough.

You get used to living on a vacation timetable, and to getting up when you feel like it (even if it just as early as your alarm for work). Somehow its different though when that alarm goes and you have to get up. On Monday, I noticed just how slowly I am capable of getting ready, how I manage to find one more thing I should try to fit in before I catch my bus, just one more, one more, and before I know it I’m 30 minutes late. Luckily,  my work is OK with this and I can mostly decide when I want to come into work. But still.

Back to vacation, it was beautiful. We drove across the province and into Alberta, visiting family, friends and finally taking the last few days to enjoy the wine country of the Okanagan Valley. My family had always driven through BC in summer so knew the route to a certain point, driving it though, is a whole other thing. As someone who doesn’t drive much it was a good test.

Part of me is still in shock that there are only a couple weeks left until summer ends and things around the office get back to being busy as we prepare for the next big conference. But hey, savour it while it lasts.

Balfour Ferry
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Alberta Driving
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Frank Slide

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then the sun came out….

….and tricked us into a false sense of “Spring”, but I guess that’s our own fault forgetting how unpredictable April is.

So, I few weeks ago I planted veggies and some more a couple weeks after. Low and behold they came up at virtually the same time, because we suddenly had a heatwave. That’s beside the point, my plant babies are pretty cute right now, I can only hope  they actually produce something.

Lettuce, Mustard Green, Rainbow Swiss and Kale in the far pot, a week ago

 

There is a bit of a background story on this, so we live in a North East facing suite, which means not much sun. Which sucks for me since I really love having a garden, so I have gotten quite creative with this little space. Initially though I wanted to get a plot in the community garden, which at the time had a wait list of 50 people. That was a year ago and I stupidly didn’t put my name on it until now; now that list is 140. At the rate they currently have for turnover that means I might wait 5 years. So, clever me I thought maybe the landlady would let me plant some sunny plants on the South side of the building (where there is an amazing space). Unfortunately, the property management company that owns the building is particularly irritating to deal with and she had to say no. Mainly because she is tired of dealing with their antics, I mean these guys hardly do the minimum for longtime tenants, they only care about the renovated suites since they are charging sometimes twice as much rent for them. I know why they do it, I mean from a financial point of view it makes sense, from a human point, not really. Our building isn’t new, and those “new” suites aren’t actually better, they just look pretty. But they still have the same old balconys, the same single pane windows and the same weird heating system. Greed, that’s all it is.

 But my plant babies are ok and I might at least get a delicious salad out of the many greens that will definitely thrive. As for the building, I’m working on that. Any dealings I’ve had with the property management company have been bad and all I can do is feel for my landlady and all the crap she puts up with. One final note on the weather, that heatwave ended pretty quickly and it got a whole lot colder ( but then 24 in April is  record) and rainier. The plants don’t seem to mind too much though.

Spring weather

I’m on the ferry now, coming back from a long weekend with the family. Seems as good a time as any to write. We’ll see if anyone actually reads it. Anyway, the ride is beautiful today I’m actually too hot and worried I might have a sunburn on the tops of my feet (there’s something that’s been off the radar for months).

 It’s always wonderful at the farm, my sisters ‘ kids are such fun and I love the forest and quiet for a weekend. So it’s always a little sad when I have to got back to busy city life. Even the ferry seems a nice reprieve when the weather is nice enough to be outside. This weekend it dawned on me that I really should start planning our wedding, my family like to know what’s going on and my vagueness seemed to bug them. I’m a generalist so I have an overarching n idea but no details ( who can blame me though the wedding isn’t for more than another year). Society says I should already have it halfway planned, it just seems so far away right now I don’t have that sense of urgency yet that gets things moving. It will come, and then my efficiency will show. Not til next year though. I’m really not willing to spend crazy amount of money or stress on a wedding when so many other things that come after that day will be just as exciting as getting married. Travel, new house, babies, career changes. This is one piece of the puzzle, a big one, but not one we want to be paying for for years.

So back to the farm. My sister and her husband live in a beautiful piece of land in the Comox valley, they are a couple years away from opening their Blueberry farm. For now you can get just eggs and veg from them until the blueberries are bigger and have more fruit. I think they have a really wonderful future there, with three kids who will grow up with a love of the land and an appreciation of the energy that goes into making it. I can only hope to have the ability to empart that with my own children one day. Hopefully they will live going to the farm as much as I did as a kid. The mud pies and forts and cousins running around. I’m a bit slow on the uptake of the kids aspect but that’s ok.

Of Food trucks and new beginnings

After watching the movie “Chef”, my fiance has wanted a food truck. I can see why, that movie made me hungry, inspired, but mostly craving a cubano.  It did make me want a lineup causing busy like hell food truck, and a social media page full of delicious photos of the food we would make. I saw the movie described as food porn and I would have to agree, its right up there with Mostly Martha *, Chocolat and Eat Pray Love (I admit it… and the only part of the book I managed to read was Italy and only because of the food).

The thing about chef is, although it doesn’t look easy, the guy has the start-up cash and the backing to get this food truck going. He also has free “marketing” labour in the form of his son. So yes, they make it look doable and far less terrifying than the usual starting of a small business. That’s how they can look like this:

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Happy, with a bustling business selling cubanos in the south. But travel back to 1996 Ireland, and you might remember The Van. Also about food trucks, but that one ends up being driven into the ocean to save a friendship.  There was definitely no sugar coating it there, they look like tired Irish people trying to make some money with with fish and chips. If you haven’t seen it, you might at least recognize a certain Star Trek character, the guy who came after Scotty. I digress, but I sometimes thing my own food truck would end up more like the one in The Van, than that of Chef, and it would be me driving the truck into the ocean. the_van

So, after the movie, I kept hearing about food trucks for a few weeks and then it kind of disappeared from discussion. Which brings us to today, as I find myself researching food trucks and licensing costs.

* Now, a quick rant. Mostly Martha is definitely a movie that always makes me hungry, and the story has me in a better mood by the time I finish watching it. However, dear America had to go and ruin the charm by creating No Reservations, which follows such a similar story it could hardly be coincidence. Why do they do this? Is it really so hard to read subtitles?

 

Granville

I walk Granville street most days, and over time have gotten familar with who sleeps in which doorway or under what awning. There are couples and singles, lost people, people who didn’t mean to end up there, but they did. I can’t say I know their stories, but I know who is quiet, who to walk past quickly, who I wish I could help and who seems beyond help. Granville is usually less busy, and something about it feels better to me than Burrard or some of the others nearby.

When I walk to work, sometimes I feel like I’m invading their privacy, like I’m peering through their bedroom window. Catching glimpses of their lives. There are couples who sleep in, curled together under sleeping bags. There are the ones who are up already, but still groggily looking at each other. There are those who are already up and cleaning their few belongings, ready to move on.

A dog is curled under one of the sleeping bags, only his head and front paws sticking out. He sleeps peacefully next to his owner who is still fast asleep. There is also a guy with a cat, but I don’t see him often. Being homeless and alone, from everything I can see, is worse than being homeless with a companion.

People have their spots and I see generally the same people every day. Sometimes a new few emerge, and then disappear the next day, missing kid signs pop up (or don’t) and life moves on. I wonder sometimes where they go? Most of the awake homeless residents seem to be cleaning up their sleeping areas there are always those who seem to wander, semi aimlessly like they haven’t actually gone to sleep at all. They walk with a lost and confused look trying to find a fix, maybe they didn’t sleep and maybe they aren’t even homeless but they are always a little unnerving. There is always an agitated sense of desperation that follows and I honestly don’t know how to react, so I generally just don’t.

Was Vancouver always like this? It has certainly had a reputation for a while, but just seems like it can’t get worse. And then somehow it does. The housing market keeps going up, renting becomes unnafordable and those who were clinging on by their last pennies can find themselves homeless. Nothing justifies the cost of living here, weather cannot cause a doubling in housing costs, or at least it shouldn’t. Even so-called “affordable” housing sits well above what many can afford. Why should the poor and lower middle class be pushed out of the city centre? It’s the diversity of the city which gives it life. If everyone is busy just barely getting by, what is left? You find a downtown like Vancouver with the extremes of wealth and poverty living on top of each other. In my opinion this is a recipe for disaster. Maybe not now, but in the near future. Less and less decisions are made based on long term plans, but rather on how to make the most right now. Everyone has fallen victim to it at some point. When my property manager decides to increase the rent on incoming renters by 30% this is a very short sighted approach. Suddenly a crappy building needs to attract people who can afford that, but they  are so often transient and desperate people who will pay anything. In our particular building, many suites around us have been renovated, but only cosmetically. The building is still poorly ventilated, there is mold in some of the suites, windows have not been replaced since the 60s and are still single pane. It’s only a bandaid fix and because those cosmetic changes are done cheaply they will fall apart before anything else. But they don’t care, it’s making some money now, even though these suites take twice as long to rent out. It’s not surprising though since there are other suites in the neighbourhood for less that have had structural upgrades done. Anyways, that’s my two cents and a bit more rambling than necessary.

 

Last Winter

I’m sitting in Nelson the Seagull, drinking a coffee and eating an overpriced mediocre danish. Nothing warrants the prices, but the coffee is good and the atmosphere is calm. I have made the mistake of asking the price of the bread they make. 8$.

Across the street I watch a homeless couple cosy up behind a kids wagon before shooting up. The woman laughs and hides her face. They sit there, they never stop fidgeting. He flips through a notepad, she scratches at her head. All the while, sitting outside a gated building. The wealthy and the bums living side by side.

A few blocks up on East Hastings, the worst of it converges near pigeon park. I walked through it today, reminded of a crowded bazaar where the vendors are drunks and addicts, and their wares are “found” items and drugs. As I walked through that block, I realized among them I was alone and suddenly feeling vulnerable. So I held my bag close,stone faced and walked through the crowds.

The homeless couple are gone now and my cappuccino is finished. Not quite time to leave yet though, I’m warm and the place is getting busy again.

A father and daughter sit across from me, there is a strange vibe with the man. He seems just a little too attached to her, they sit a little too close. But who am I to judge.

I don’t understand this city, how can so many people end up marginalized, forgotten and left to rot while others buy 8$ loaves of bread and 12$ sandwiches? Where is the middle?

Welcome Back Salty Coast

This, and the three previous entries come from a previous blog that I have since closed up. These are taken from my time in Montreal. Hope you enjoy!

Life has taken a new direction and I have moved a few thousand miles with my cat Sasha and my most prized possessions. We are embarking on a new adventure. I hope that this new place will open new doors and lead me closer to my dreams. I am trying to find some clever way of incorporating all my skills into one job, time will tell. For now, I cut to the chase. My parents celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary this week, and I cooked one of the most decadent chocolate tarts I have ever made. It was a crowd pleasing velvety tart that was pretty easy to make. I will be enjoying the last piece tonight on my own with a nice glass of wine, while my parents enjoy their anniversary trip.

On the subject of desserts, I met Canada’s Gold Medal winning pastry chef Melinda Patrice Burke on the plane while setting off to my new adventure. I hope to see her again soon and possibly learn a few tricks about pastry and baking! I want to improve my baking skills, I almost always find something to be missing but this cake was a winner! This recipe comes from Gourmet Magazine September 2008.

 

Chocolate Glazed Chocolate Tart

Ingredients

For crust:

9 (5- by 2 1/4-inch) chocolate graham crackers (not chocolate-covered), finely ground (1 cup)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar

For filling:

1 1/4 cups heavy cream
9 ounces bittersweet chocolate (not more than 65% cacao if marked), chopped
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

For glaze:

2 tablespoon heavy cream
1 3/4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 teaspoon light corn syrup ( I omitted this as I prefer not to use corn syrup)
1 tablespoon warm water

Equipment:

a 9-inch round fluted tart pan (1 inch deep)
Preparation

Make crust:
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.
Stir together all ingredients and press evenly onto bottom and 3/4 inch up side of tart pan. Bake until firm, about 10 minutes. Cool on a rack 15 to 20 minutes
Make filling:
Bring cream to a boil, then pour over chocolate in a bowl and let stand 5 minutes. Gently stir until smooth. Whisk together eggs, vanilla, and salt in another bowl, then stir into melted chocolate.
Pour filling into cooled crust. Bake until filling is set about 3 inches from edge but center is still wobbly, 20 to 25 minutes. (Center will continue to set as tart cools.) Cool completely in pan on rack, about 1 hour.
Make glaze:
Bring cream to a boil and remove from heat. Stir in chocolate until smooth. Stir in corn syrup, then warm water
Pour glaze onto tart, then tilt and rotate tart so glaze coats top evenly. Let stand until glaze is set, about 1 hour.

Winter Vegetable Soup

Squash Soup

My favourite winter soup. Freezes well and easy to play around with the flavour.

This is the basic list of ingredients, but I like to ad sweet potatoes, pears, carrots (basically any fall veg plus pears) I also like to add a dollop of yogurt, a drop or two of olive oil, cayenne (if i’m feeling some spicy) and a little chopped fresh basil

1 large onion
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp oil and/or butter
4 cups chopped squash/pumpkin (seeded and peeled) – I also usually roast this in the oven with rosemary, butter and pepper and occasionally some brown sugar as well.
8 cups chicken broth
1 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Pepper

pinch of each of the following depending on taste:

  • Curry
  • Basil
  • Thyme
  • Ginger

1 cup milk

Once all the vegetables have softened, remove the pot from heat and blend in cream and milk with a hand blender. Serve with yogourt, and fresh basil. Also add a little cayenne if you like some more spice.

Heat Wave With No Leaves

Spring finally came, and with a vengeance, full of sneaky little tricks and strange weather. For a week we had a taste of summer yet to come, in the sun I could feel the kind of summer heat that we will face in a few months. Sticky, sticky, sticky. Before our heat wave came to an end I was able to enjoy a few refreshing treats.

A year ago they built a lovely new ice cream parlour in my neighbourhood, it seems a part of the gradual gentrification that is happening, I was glad to see it open and tasty as always. Le Gourmandin, has also made some nice improvements, such as adding crepes and speciality coffee to their menu. This definitely adds a little more versatility to their business. As delicious as ice cream is, sometimes its not what we are looking for, I also believe that it helps them to stay alive in winter when they stock only a small selection of ice cream (compared to their usually very large selection). It is the place to go for ice cream that comes in many shapes and sizes. They range from Bilboquet sorbets to various kinds of sundaes and frozen delights. I personally treated myself to a raspberry frozen yogurt, which has long been one of my favourite things.

I thoroughly enjoyed my much needed ice cream on Thursday when the heat was still in all it’s glory. I was rather disappointed though that shortly after the ice cream, the weather began to cool down. There was enough time however for a refreshing little drink from the Canadian Living Summer Cookbook (2009).  It is a simple and delicious way to liven up a pitcher of water.

I have so far tried the Cucumber Lime.

4 cups water

1 sliced cucumber

2 sliced limes

Cover and refrigerate for at least 5 hours for flavours to infuse. Makes about 4 servings. Enjoy!

In spite of all the wonderful heat it is still strange to be out in a short sleeveless dress enjoying the sun, all the while sitting near shadeless naked trees. Just a little taste of summer, an appetizer shall we say.