Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Listening to Swedish twee

I really love I listen to it at work, and it has introduced me to a lot of new music. If you haven't used it before, you can start by checking out my profile.

Lately, has me listening to a lot of Swedish twee. It knows me pretty well. Anyway, I thought I'd share a couple of my favorite songs (both of which just happen to have cute videos).

First, You Can't Hurry Love by The Concretes:

Second, Black Cab by Jens Lekman:

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Look what we found on the street, one block from our house!

The lamps are a little worn, but I don't care because they have changed my life. I always knew that I needed more light in my house, but dang, lamps are expensive. It turns out I was right to wait.

Also, I made sweet and salty cookies.

Making sweet and salty treats

I've finally jumped on the sweet and salty bandwagon and made Smitten Kitchen's crispy salted oatmeal white chocolate cookies. Success! I've always been a fan of the sweet and salty combo, but I've only really experienced it on popcorn and chocolate covered caramels. Now that I think about it, I'm pretty sure I had one or two of these cookies too.

Anyway, I'm almost sure that I've never baked any sweet and savory treats in my day, and I learned that I could have been more liberal with the salt. Since these cookies spread out so much, you can afford to add some extra flakes.

Truth be told, I didn't chose these cookies because of their sweet and salty nature. I just needed to whip up a quick recipe after work, and these were the simplest thing I could find. So really, they were successful on two fronts: taste and time. I'm going to make them again.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Eating well on $50 a week

You should probably read this article from Macleans: Eating well on $50 a week. It features my buddies Jillian and Chris and what they eat. Read the comments too, because even though they're critical, they're surprisingly constructive and thoughtful. The story also features a photo by Jillian, who is thinking about doing some professional photography on the side. I think she should start a blog to feature her mad photography skills. She thinks I'm cute.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Things to do in Tofino

As promised, I've collected some tips for your next trip to Tofino. There are no secrets exposed here. Really, I've just compiled the advice I usually give my friends so I can direct them to this post next time they ask. I'm a very efficient person.

For those of you who don't know, I lived in Ucluelet for six months and Tofino for seven months about five years ago. Michael spent the summer with me in Tofino, in between semesters at SFU.

1. Surf some waves
I didn't go surfing during this last trip to Tofino because I guess I've realized that I'm not really into the wet suit and the salt water in my nose. That being said, I really think everyone should give it a try at least once. Even if you don't manage to stand up, catching a wave is still exhilarating from a horizontal position. I've taken two surf lessons in my day, and I think this is the best way to introduce yourself to the sport, the local conditions and the etiquette. I don't have a particular surf school to recommend, so let me know if you do.

2. Splurge on a trip to Hot Springs Cove
If you want to get on a boat at some point, I think a trip to some hot springs trumps whale watching and fishing. The boat ride is followed by a 30 minute boardwalk hike. I've only been once, in the winter, and it was glorious. Ananda and I joined a small group of volunteers who prepare the hot springs for public use (the winter waves fill the springs with all sorts of debris).

3. Treat yourself to a steam at the Wickaninnish Inn
I had the pleasure of experiencing the steam room at the Ancient Cedars Spa when it first opened, and I've been talking it up ever since. It costs 15 bucks for locals and 30 bucks for everyone else. That price gets you a locker with a robe, towels and sandals and access to the small peppermint-infused steam room, tiled showers (and all manner of Aveda products) and an outdoor area where you can take a break from the steam and listen to the waves and/or look at the stars (we went after dark during this last visit). This is a luxurious treat, friends. I couldn't find any information about it on the hotel website, so you'll just have to trust me on this one.

4. Hike through the rain forest
My favorite hike is the Willowbrae Trail. Even though it's in the Pacific Rim National Park, you don't have to pay to park at the trail head. You'll find Willowbrae Road 2 km south of the Ucluelet/Tofino junction. There is no sign on the highway, so be on your toes. Turn west onto Willowbrae Road and drive straight to the parking lot. It takes 15-20 minutes to get to the Florencia Bay beach. Parks Canada tells me that this historic trail was part of a two day travel route between Ucluelet and Tofino before the road was built in 1942. The tide was in last weekend, so we just shivered at the bottom of the stairs before heading into Ucluelet (see next tip).

5. Make some time for Ucluelet
You should really visit Ukee, even if it's a quick stop on your way to Port Alberni (hey, it's only a short detour). Things have changed since I lived there, so I can't recommend any specific restaurants or shops, but I can tell you that it is a beautiful little town. Also, the Wild Pacific Trail is worth the trip all by itself.

6. Read some local publications
The Westerly is the little newspaper that I worked for when I lived in Ucluelet and Tofino. You should pick up a paper copy at the Co-op for some local happenings. You can see the modest office if you follow my advice and head into Ucluelet. Tofino Time is a great monthly magazine that features local events and columns.

7. Watch the sun set over some dessert at Long Beach Lodge
I had the best dessert of my life at Long Beach Lodge: a cherry chocoate pudding cake made to order. I could leave it at that, but I'll also add that the Great Room, where you'll eat your dessert, is great (as in grand), and the view is exactly what you might imagine.

8. Fill your belly at SoBo
SoBo was closed for the winter during our latest visit, which ruined our plans to eat every meal there. We were sad. Michael was lucky when he was in Tofino for work last fall; he had two meals at the new(ish) location near the Common Loaf Bakery.

9. Wake up with a croissant at the Common Loaf Bakery
Zoe and Ananda introduced me to this weekend tradition when we all lived in Tofino. Zoe, Michael and I prefer the chocolate croissant and Ananda is all about the almond version. She's crazy. During this last trip we had croissants hot from the oven on Sunday after a walk down to the Main Street Dock. Even if you don't get a croissant, you should probably go to this bakery because it's a Tofino staple. I like to check out the community bulletin board whenever I'm in town.

10. Enjoy a chocolate or two from Chocolate Tofino
This chocolate shop opened when I still lived in town, and since I wrote a story about it and its lovely owner, it will be forever endured to me. His parents were working when we popped in, and they were so sweet. We just got a couple of chocolates for a little treat, but I hear they have great sundaes in the summer. You'll find the shop outside of town, in the subdivision where Beaches Grocery is located.

Do you have anything to add? Mom and Dad? I'm sure you have a few suggestions up your sleeves.

Friday, February 13, 2009

I like the stories about animals when they've escaped from the zoo.

I've been laughing about this all week, so I thought I should probably share it with you, friends. Jim Gaffigan! On Flight of the Conchords! Jim Gaffigan of my greasy lover bacon fame!

Oh, and there's a new post over at Things Worth Making, if you're interested.

Making cheap art

When we put up the new art earlier this month, we had to take down our trusty bulletin board. Ananda thought it was the end of an era. And while Michael is a little tired of the bulletin board and might have been happy to prove her right, I decided it would find a new home in the office.

We've used bulletin boards as a cheap way to decorate our walls since we moved into our first apartment in Vancouver. That'd be about, oh, eight years ago. Back then, we had three of these giant bulletin boards lined up in our living room, and they were full of cards, flyers, photos and posters. So much design goes into little bits of paper. It's fun to have a place to collect it all.

When we moved to Victoria, Michael convinced me to leave two of our boards behind. They weren't bulletin boards per se (cork board is expensive on such a grand scale). Rather, we bought these sheets of cork-like board at Home Depot from the flooring section for under 10 bucks each. They shed a little dust, but have otherwise served their purpose.

Now that I've taken these photos, I wish I had captured the original boards as they evolved. They can feature such funny moments. That photo of Michael wrestling the deer, for instance. It was taken on a shooting range when we lived in Whitehorse (the deer isn't real, friends).

I also love that picture of my Uncle Stephen(s) in the bottom photo. He used Photoshop to capture his three citizenship identities at once. I'm just plain old Canadian, but I have tentative plans to have more fun with Photoshop.

Heck, I love everything on the board (especially since I updated it during the move to the office).

So there you have it. The bulletin board collage is such an easy way to decorate, I couldn't let it go.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

TV only softens the brain, like a ripe banana

Even though my other blogging friends spotted this before me, I'm going to go ahead and post it because, well, I'm the biggest Alec Baldwin fan of all. (And I've been ranting about TV a lot lately.)

Monday, February 09, 2009


I'm planning to write a post about what you should do when you visit Tofino (or Ucluelet) by the end of the week. I think we've got it down, and I want to share the wealth. I've emailed tips to friends on a number of occasions, so I figure I may as well get everything down in one place before I forget I lived there. Tofino is one of those places that you can enjoy without knowing the dirt (e.g. see photo from Long Beach, above), but knowing the dirt makes a good thing even better. Stay tuned (and hold on to your own tips until the official post is published).

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Making a Dutch baby

This isn't the best photo, but I hope you can see how this Dutch baby pancake is a show stopper. You should have heard the exclamations when I pulled this out of the oven for Sunday brunch. It's basically a giant yorkshire pudding! But sweeter!

I have happy memories of baked pancakes because we used to eat them on Christmas morning when my dad could still eat wheat. The main attraction (other than the name) is the efficiency of the meal. First, there are only four ingredients. Second, you don't have to hover over the stove flipping pancakes to enjoy the pancake experience. I understand that some people (e.g. Jen) enjoy flipping pancakes (she loves Smitten Kitchen's recipe for blueberry pancakes), but not me. I bake my pancakes. Save the frying pan for the bacon. (I think I might have to put those last two sentences on some T-shirts.)

I found my recipe for the dutch baby pancake in the Joy of Cooking, but I found an online version for you here. I made the double dutch version, which entails doubling the recipe and using a 9x13 baking dish intead of a cast iron frying pan. I suggest you top the pancake with icing sugar to liven it up a bit, and maybe even try adding some apples to the batter for some variety. We served the pancake with whipped cream and maple syrup, and there were no complaints.

It's really good, friends. I hope you give it a try.

P.S. This recipe resembles one that I put in the cookbook we made for Christmas, one that I have never tried but wanted to keep on my radar. I haven't made it because it requires a cast iron frying pan, which I don't own. It looks like I've got a reason to get my act in gear.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Checking in

I'm sure you've noticed that I've been favouring Things Worth Making lately (I just published a post about my new scarf). What can I say? I've been productive!

But I've been up to other fun things. I had a great weekend where I finished all of my chores on Saturday morning so I could completely relax for what remained. Michael, Jen and I had a lovely afternoon shopping around town and eating at Pig. We needed the iron, yo.

We had friends (including a baby friend) over for brunch on Sunday, and I made a baked pancake that I'll be writing about (on the other blog, obviously) in the near future. It was such a great weekend that I forgot that I had to work on Monday. Monday morning was hard on me. So was this morning, come to think of it.

I'm already looking forward to next weekend because we're going to Tofino with Ananda, who planned the trip with her upcoming birthday in mind. None of us have been back much since we lived there three years ago, which is a real shame. Here's to correcting the error of our ways! Michael and Ananda are planning to surf, and while I was against the idea at first, I might be warming up to the notion of jumping around in the waves. We'll see.

Making a scarf for myself

Remember that scarf I started a while back (i.e. in October)? I finished it! I'm taking a hint from Robyn and keeping it for myself.

It was nice having an easy, no-pressure project on the go for a few months. I just picked it up whenever I had time and took a break whenever I got annoyed with the fact that a scarf can take so long to knit.

I've never blocked a knitting project before, but it was necessary this time. Usually one doesn't need to block a simple scarf, but in this case the lacy pattern looked a little wonky, and I wanted to even it out. I laid the scarf on my futon, got it damp with a spray bottle, pinned it into shape and let it dry overnight. It worked! If you don't want to pin a project into your upholstry, I hear other people pin their projects onto a towel.

It's warming up around here, so I might put the knitting needles away for another year. At least I made it through one project, as planned. Next winter I might focus on neck warmers and big needles, to save myself some angst.