Saturday, 30 June 2012

Summer in Vancouver so far

During my short time away from the blog, Team Beavis has been enjoying Vancouver summer to the max. Last Sunday the first of the Australians arrived, Jess and Aaron. Fresh off the plane, we took them to the new Cactus Club which just opened right on English Bay beach. The weather was sunny and breezy, and all the ships were in the bay, and it was a perfect introduction to the beauty which is Vancouver waterfronts.

On Wednesday we went to the Vancouver Art Gallery and saw a travelling exhibition of Matisse and other Early Modernists (Gaugin, Picasso, etc), which was part of a collection of two women in the 1920s-30s called Dr Claribel and Etta Cone. They were 2 of 13 siblings, from German immigrant parents, who despite a large gap in their ages and education, built a life of European travel and art collection together for decades. They had many famous and high-profile friends, including Henri Matisse and Gertrude Stein. And the art was excellent.

On Thursday we went to Trout Lake for a picnic, and saw two leaping rainbow trout! And some adorable ducklings. Then, since the day was young, we skytrained back into town and did Gastown boutiques and an awesome vintage pin-up dress shop.

Yesterday, which was Friday, Jess and Aaron went to Montreal for the weekend, so Matthew and I met up with my dad (who had just flown from Melbourne in the day before), Patrick (from Granville Island), Colin (from just around the corner), and Wayne and Lois (long-time friends of Dad). We all rendezvous'd in North Vancouver and finally, after much big talk... Did The Grouse Grind! For all the non-Vancouverites who might read this, I just want to make it clear that we climbed a mountain  yesterday.

Some Grouse Grind facts:
Length: 2.9 kilometres (1.8 miles)
Elevation Gain: 853 metres (2,800 feet)
Base: 274 metres above sea level (900 feet)
Summit: 1,127 metres (3,700 feet)
Total Stairs: 2,830

We also got chirped at by a squirrel and saw a raccoon walking down the street!

Last night Matthew went to a launch party for Warhammer 40k 6th Edition Rule Book. It is a real game changer, he tells me. This morning we are having a dining table day, reading (just started Vanity Fair, so good!), Warhammering, and blogging.

Jess and Aaron will return from their French Canadian adventures on Monday, and before that is Canada Day and also Jazz Festival. Suffice it to say, summer has arrived in spirit, if not actually in weather!

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Temper Trap Concert

Last night Matthew and I met up with the cousins (Carolyn scored free tickets at the last minute! What a winner!) and we went to Malkin Bowl, which is an open-air concert stage and garden in Stanley Park, to see Australian electropop band The Temper Trap.

Things that we liked about this concert:
  • The frontman is as cool as a little cucumber. He had a superdaggy Hawaiian shirt, and didn't do too much chatting, just got down to the serious business of singing.
  • The vibe was so relaxed, it was the most mellow concert I have been to. And I have been to see Ben Folds play with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. That's how mellow this concert was.
  • The venue was very intimate. We were expecting something the size of a football oval, but instead it was like someone had rigged a stage in the middle of a garden (Malkin Bowl is adjacent to the Stanley Park Rose Garden and the Tea House). Everywhere had an excellent view.
  • There was not as much obviously public dope smoking as I expected, although of course there was still some. Since the venue was non-smoking and so confined, there were some very mean looking security guards prowling around putting offenders' little lights out. No police to speak of. This is Vancouver, after all.
  • The summer evening was perfect, just a couple of delicate clouds gradually filling up the sky as the sun went down. Bonus about Vancouver open-air concerts: no bugs, flies or mosquitoes.

Sadly Matthew and I declined an offer of cake and coffee on Denman St, because it was getting a bit late (we are massive nannas). Next time, I hope!

Apart from that, things have been so quiet as to be unreportable. Matthew is working today, and I am continuing my Victorian novel-a-thon.

So far:
Jane Eyre
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (and Through the Looking Glass, just because it was included in my edition)

Yet to read:
Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
A slim and curious book called Flatland
Howard's End
Mrs Dalloway

When Matthew and I were in Sechelt, we went into a magical secondhand bookstore with floor-to-ceiling shelves covered with dust and dirt cheap books. Matthew stocked up on Warhammer, and I found a couple of Evelyn Waugh's that I had never head of. I also came away with Vanity Fair, because it was good and long, and because I enjoying the movie version from a couple of years ago. I'm looking forward to comparing it with Jane Eyre. The Intro to the edition of Jane Eyre that I picked up says that CB was a wild fangirl of Thackeray. (This intro was written by a Q. D. Leavis -- the 'Q' is for 'Queenie' -- who happened to be wife of F. R. Leavis... they worked together at Cambridge for years, and even wrote books together. So romantic! *Swoon*)

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Hammam, Gommage and More!


After finally submitting my last essay for the academic year last Sunday, I really felt like it was time to celebrate. So on Friday I finally booked my birthday gift from Mum and Dad, which was a trip to Vancouver's first and only authentic Moroccan Hammam and Gommage. It was fabulous.

'Hammam' is a private, fragrant steamroom where you lie on a marble slab in very low lighting. 'Gommage' is where you are mercilessly scrubbed down like furniture being sanded. Both parts together made for a  very relaxing and invigorating experience. But it doesn't end with the scrubbing; I was also massaged and given tea and cake.

It was perfect and quite unlike any spa experience I have ever had before. And I have to say that in regards to spa-ing, I have done quite a bit of it over the last couple of years.


In the evening Matthew and I had a long-overdue catch up with our friends Laura and Mike. We started on Granville Island at a cute pub called 'Cats Socialhouse', where we watched the rain dripping down the windows and the adorable ducks playing in the grass beside the pond outside. Then we walked up to the Afghan Horsemen restaurant, which is  apparently Vancouver's first and only authentic Aghan restaurant. Food was hearty and bellydancing was a sight to behold! It was good to see friends again after what has seemed like a quiet couple of months barricaded indoors essay-writing (although this blog may reflect otherwise, the truth is we have been living incredibly quietly for the last couple of months).

Today, Sunday

Matthew and I had pretty epic food hangovers (which is expected when you eat half a lamb for dinner at 10:30pm the night before), so we slept in. Then we wandered down to the Dragon Boat Festival at the Olympic Village at False Creek. (The Olympic Village is quite a lot like Docklands in Melbourne: picturesque and close to the city, but strangely empty and ghostly). It was not ghostly today though, as all the dogs (we spotted the best dog ever: an Italian Greyhound puppy, it is love, we want one) and children and people where thronging there to witness the festivities. There were lots of tents filled with things for sale, and a brass band, and a bagpipe band!

Eleanor was just about to compete when we got there, and it was her last race of the weekend. We were so proud to be there to cheer her on. Her team placed well, and we met her beaming after her race. Go Eleanor!!

The roiling clouds over ScienceWorld and the DragonBoaters

Then we walked home past an 'Historic Victorian House c. 1894', which had been converted into a cafe called 'CittaDella'. The weather was threatening but not storming, so we took a seat on the verandah and enjoyed the garden view. We will definitely be returning; the food and coffee was delicious, the ambiance spot-on.

This week holds
1. 'Temper Trap' concert at Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park with Elly and Bryreton
2. Cheesecake Girls Night Out with Kelly from UBC in the city
3. Reading lots of Victorian novels (really, all weeks should include this activity, it is so rewarding)
4. Work: Matthew is kicking goals at work recently, and I am immensely proud of him, as always.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Photopost: Cars, cakes, and Living Like a Tourist

Matthew's handcrafted minis in their parking spaces on his work diorama. They are true representations of various models! For reference, they are about as big as Matthew's thumbnail.
 Aunty Lorraine's Birthday
Cousin Eleanor and Bryreton slicing up their homemade strawberry marshmallows! These were delicious, and had a really strong natural strawberry flavour. They were also perilously sticky.

Cousin Carolyn proudly presenting Aunty Lorraine's birthday smorgasbord: marshmallows and cake.

Magical Midweek Adventures

On Wednesday Matthew had the day off. I charged out of bed at the crack and did the most Vancouver thing ever: went for a morning run in the pouring rain. (So glad I didn't look out the window before I left, otherwise I never would have done it!) When I got back, Matthew was like, 'hey let's get coffee!' What started out as an innocent coffee and errand-run at Granville Island turned into a leisurely stroll along False Creek.

On a whim, we decided to walk from Granville Island to Scienceworld along the waterfront. We got within eyesight of a cute pub right on the marina and decided: impromptu fish and chips for lunch! (This is one order, which we asked to share. It was still a jolly lot.)

One man. Five Afghan hounds in one hand. A baby in the other. Just strollin'. (Cambie Bridge and Stadium in the background.)

This is a work of compostable public art. It used to be a giant steamroller made of wheatboard. The infosheet says it will stay there until it fully decomposes. Neat!

Giant sparrow sculpture at the Olympic Village. Olympic Village was a flurry of activity setting up for the Dragon Boat Festival this weekend!
When we got to Scienceworld, we decided to walk up Main St, because Matthew had a need to visit the games store on Main & 22nd.

Outside Starbucks, on Main & 14th. An eccentric man with a good sense of humour was enjoying a latte and showing off his pet rabbit. As you do on a Wednesday afternoon. It was so tame! We were allowed to play with it! So cute.
By the time we had hit up the games store, we were pretty wrecked, so we repaired to a pub for some refreshment. Then we walked home. All together, our round trip was 12 kilometres! And since I had done a dash earlier in the day, I personally logged 17 kilometres. I can't tell you how bone-weary I was the next day. I felt positively ancient. Matthew was pretty spry, though!

Monday, 11 June 2012

Taking the Stairs

Hello friends! Today is proper summer weather, and the mood at Chez Beavis is very much lifted. We are grateful to be alive, even!

Yesterday, Sunday, Matthew's day off, started excellently with a marathon sleep for Matthew and a marathon (quiet) baking sesh in the galley kitchen for me. When I left for the shops at 10am to stock up on sugar and "jello" crystals and all that important stuff, I noticed the elevator wasn't working so I took the stairs.

When Matthew surfaced at the luxurious hour of 1pm, the cakes were doing their cooling thing, so we decided to head out and make the most of his day off with a coffee and 'splore of Granville Island. Again, we noted that the lift was off, so we took the stairs.

When we got back, two and a half hours later, carrying a most heavy load of
1 x Bottle of White Wine
4 x Cans of Guinness
1 x Triple Brie
1 x Shropshire Blue
250g x Artisan Goat Cheese and Asparagus Angolotti
Sundry Other Things
we noticed that the elevator appeared to be in top condition once more.

So we hopped in. Up it cranked, as usual, until... it lurched to a [expletives of your choice, I certainly didn't restrain myself to only one] stop.

I was pretty much howling swears at this stage, and gave our Bldg Mgmt a super cranky phone call. Matthew put down the wine, took a leisurely seat on the floor, and won another top score on Angry Birds.

About half an hour later a very bald, very burly man (who looked like one of those 'strong men' in a circus picture book) turned up, twiddled around for a while, and then shouted, 'Right, I'm going to have to go to "Plan B"...Shucks'. Yes, friends, he really said 'Shucks'!

He gave us instructions for how to open both the doors (inside door and outside door). We were stuck half way between two levels. 'Plan B', he said, involved 'Letting off the brakes', and Matthew hastily veto'd this and shouted back, 'I'm pretty sure we can climb out!'

The floor of the elevator was about four and a half feet from the floor of the building. So he came and lifted us one by one, like little children, out of the elevator.

Rescued! *sigh of relief* (Recently we had watched two scary movies in which people get set on fire or crashed to their death in an elevator, these vivid cinematic scenes rushing through our minds during the whole ordeal.)

Life lesson: As long as you are fit, young and able, you should always take the bloody stairs

Then we high-tailed it to Aunty Lorraine's house for an evening of roast turkey, home-made strawberry marshmallow chocolate fondue (this was succulent), and birthday cake. The birthday cake decoration was a bit NQR, but we tried really hard, and sang 'Happy Birthday' really loud, so I think that made up for it. Happy Birthday, Aunty Lorraine!

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Close encounters with a skunk

Last night Matthew and I went to the West End for my friend from UBC, Rebecca's birthday party. On the way there, we were walking from the bus past a construction site and a man was walking towards us.

Suddenly, out came a beautiful little skunk, in between us and the man (but much closer to the man than us, thank goodness!). The skunk got a bit of a fright and quickly turned his back on us and lifted his tail...

We literally held our breath. We knew that if that skunk decided to go for it, our evening would be over very quickly, and we would not be having any parties at all.

Luckily he decided we weren't worth the trouble. It was a very close call.

I can't really describe the look of a skunk. It has a very fine little face like a ferret but much prettier, and a neat front-half of the body with lovely sharp white stripes. But the back half is excessively fluffy and plump and the sharpness of the stripe gets lost among the overall dag of the tail, which is just as wide and fluffy at the whole of the body. Very strange thing.

And the fear, the utter dread, of being sprayed... We have smelt enough local skunks to be very afraid.

P.S. Of course we made it to the party, and the birthday girl looked totally fabulous, and her friends (a couple of which I also know from UBC) were chatty and delightful. I think we appreciated the evening even more because our skunk encounter reminded us that we were lucky to be there!

Friday, 8 June 2012

Rainy Friday

It's like Vancouver tried summer on and decided it didn't fit. It's 11 degrees and raining. Luckily it was still sunny when Matthew left for work this morning, and I got to and from the gym without being rained on. Try harder, Vancouver!

Wednesday-Thursday was Matthew's weekend this week, and his mission was to put new tyres on in preparation for our road trip to Seattle in July. This means he went in to work on both those days, albeit only for a couple of hours, and only to work on his own car.

Wednesday we had a lovely lunch with Gramma, and in the evening we caught up with the cousins for our long-planned Avengers movie night. Stuff exploded, one-liners were delivered. Good time had by all. Before the movie we all met up at a Japanese restaurant on Burrard and Alberni (right in the centre of the city) which it turns out Matthew and I had been to twice before! It is full of cute nooks and crannies which are curtained off, so it feels like you are private dining. Unfortunately we weren't organised enough to book ahead, so we got a regular old booth-table.

Yesterday was beyond quiet. Diablo III happened for about half the day, and coffee+cake happened briefly before Matthew went to work on the car, and then it was sort of over... Fizzle. But at least the low-key-ness allowed me to crank out a couple of hundred more words.

Progress report:

Essay: Pfft. Every day (except about 3 days in the last 4 weeks) I write a little bit more. I know that I will probably finish it, because I have finished every other essay I have ever started to write. But as for the finer points, like when, and how many pages/words, who honestly knows?

Fitness: I took some days off this week, because I had been going pretty hard at it. But I've managed to keep at 5 days a week, and mornings only. So that's good. I haven't done any outside runs recently because the weather has been vile and because I don't feel like it. But I have made 5ks on the dreadmill the new daily effort. So that's good too.

Baking: I've left the best one till last. Tuesday's Key Lime Pie (with Ordinary Limes) was a smashing success. It was delicious in every way. And it mellowed; the limey sharpness of Tuesday was totally replaced by a gorgeous limey sweetness on Thursday. Also, it's Aunty Lorraine's birthday on Sunday, and she was responsible for making my succulent Maple Pecan Birthday Cheesecake, so I am looking forward to trying to return the favour. I hope to spend most of tomorrow researching cakes on the internets.

Other than that, we are preparing an epic list of tourist activities for when The Australians arrive. We have finally made a calendar map of who is coming and when, and it's going to be unreal. Starting 24 June, we will be partying with:
Jess and Aaron
My Dad Steve
Ruth and Lorenzo
Gavin and Tegan (we are taking the party to Seattle for them)
Matthew's Mum Hilary
My Mum Kath

...phew. It's going to be a rad summer. Did you hear that Vancouver? Time to get your summer on, or else, eh?

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Key Lime Pie

Mum, this post is for you.

On Sunday Matthew and I walked over to the trendy fleshpots of 4th Avenue Kitsilano for cake and coffee. In a fit of nostalgia, I ordered Key Lime Pie. I remember mum making it a long time ago and that it was a special occasion, and that it was delicious.

What was served to me was a giant pile of gelatinous scrambled eggs, still wobbling. Matthew was as unimpressed as I was, and he had never even heard of Key Lime Pie.

So I vowed to make my own. Today is the day. We don't have any Key Limes (a special, sweet variety, Google tells me) so I made do with some regular ones. Also, the recipe is American, because Key Limes are a Florida specialty, and so it calls for one-and-a-bit Canadian-sized (smaller than American-sized) cans of sweetened condensed milk.

Do you know what I love about recipes that call for one-and-a-bit cans of condensed milk? You can pour the rest of the SCM in your tea or coffee. I vividly remember enjoying the glorious taste of SCM in my tea after mum had been baking a recipe like this. So that's what I'm doing right now.

End note: The recipe and pictures are from a fantastic and very irreverant cooking blog called 'The Pioneer Woman'. It's run by a woman who grew up in the burbs, met a cowboy, moved to a ranch, had four boys(!!), and is now a blogging entrepreneur! I think we can all learn something from The Pioneer Woman.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Quick update

Hi team! We have not dropped off the map entirely. Things have been a bit slow because of work and study. I regret to say that my final paper is not finished. Boo. Hiss. So blogging may continue sparse until I have submitted.

Last night Matthew took me out on a lovely date. We bussed over to Cambie (which turned out to be such a ridiculously short distance that we walked home at the end of the night). We had a delicious dinner at a little Italian restaurant, and then saw 'Moonrise Kingdom' at the cinema across the road. I cannot speak highly enough of this film. Wes Anderson is a favourite of mine, and even though this film had lots of child actors (a difficulty) it was very funny and heartfelt, and didn't seem strained. Plus, as Matthew observed, the film's commitment to the superficial is truly impressive. Everything was carefully beautiful and decorated. Nothing too sad happened. And there was a kitten. What more could you want from a date movie?

Today we are walking to 4th Avenue for a coffee and cake, and Matthew is going to check out a CD shop. We are going to see The Temper Trap when they come to Vancouver in a couple of weeks, and we are taking cousins! Matthew is loving their old album, but wants to preview the new before the concert. Also, it's an outdoor concert, with a 'rain or shine' policy. I hope our first outdoor concert in Vancouver is clement! But if it's not I'm sure we can dance just as well wrapped in plastic rain-things. We'll see.

I really want to do a 'cats in our neighbourhood' post. Since the evenings have been longer, Matthew and I have been 'sploring the 'hood (sometimes just on the way to procure icecream, but hey, whatever gets us out-and-about). Last week we were walking by a block of apartments, minding our own business, when we were seriously hunted by a massive ginger cat. He came shooting out of the shrubbery and only decided against the kill when he was about two feet away from us. Then he came over to apologise and allowed us some hands-on time. Hilarious!

Okay, well that's the most recent news. This week will involve:

1. Work work work and study study study.
2. 'The Avengers' cousin date with the girls. (Despite my misgivings. I have been softened up by our 'Moonrise Kingdom' date last night.)
3. Two birthday parties! Lucky us!