Sunday, 28 October 2012

Happy Halloween

It is the season for candy and horror decorations. Last Sunday morning (sadly it has been that long since we've blogged) Matthew and I pulled back the blinds to discover the first snowfall of the season on the nearest mountains. Perish. The. Thought. The shocking sight of snow quickly disappeared under thick clouds (read: constant rainfall) until today when a rare spot of sunlight revealed all the snow had washed right off. But still.

View from our balcony. SNOW! I know, right?

Last week was categorised 'crazybusy'. I had night class on Tuesday evening (as usual), and Matthew had gaming on Thursday evening (a new tradition), and I surprise had to chair a meeting on Friday afternoon which also meant baking a cake on Thursday evening. Plus regular work and study. It doesn't sound dynamic, but it felt like it at the time.

Additional work this week included: decorating my communal office space with this awesome print from Brisbane Art Gallery, courtesy of my sister Jessie. It livened up the bare office walls just in time for students to pour in for appointments this week.

By the time Friday evening rolled around we were both in need of something out of the ordinary. Luckily the ever-proactive Rebecca, Sheila and Rachael from UBC had organised a Halloween bash in the reading room. Thank you, colleagues! Matthew drove from work to join me, we knocked back a glass (or should I say jack-o-lantern-decorated paper cup) and checked out everyone's perfect costumes.

Jack-o-Lanterns decorating the UBC campus. My fave is Hello Kitty, obvs.

Saturday was vile so our plans to go Downtown got scaled back to Granville St. Luckily, the secondhand bookstore which has been promising to go out of business for months finally reduced its general fiction, so we came out of there with the following:
Love in the Time of Cholera
A Moveable Feast
A Passage to India
Prodigal Summer

I also convinced Matthew to buy me a second springform cake tin (my reasoning: all future cakes will be layer cakes... Matthew didn't need any more convincing). In the evening, while baking a carrot layer cake in my two matching cake tins, I got started on Hemingway. By this morning I was convinced we needed to go out for a French Brunch (which we did, on Kits 4th Ave, and it was over-the-top rich), and by the afternoon I had finished Hemingway. *Le Sigh* New favourite book. I'm very annoyingly going to tell everyone I know that I've read it, and also tell them 'it will change your life, and you'll instantly want to eat/drink/speak French'. My favourite parts were the Fitzgerald chapters, and my second favourite the Stein chapters.

Wednesday we are heading to New West to help distribute candy magnanimously to the local youth. Secretly, this is my favourite way to celebrate Halloween.

Friday, 19 October 2012

As the weather reasserts itself...

Ladies' late luncheon at the Urban Tea Merchant in Alberni Street, downtown Vancouver.
Last Friday afternoon Mum was still in town, so after teaching, I skipped out on uni and we met at a tea shop in town for proper afternoon tea. Outside the rain was pouring down. Inside, the tea service was very fine, with tiered plates and all the accessories. We were so busy eating that we didn't take a picture until afterwards. There were 150 different teas, and a floor-to-ceiling water sculpture with tea pots pouring down into one another. When we arrived at 3pm the place was empty, but soon after it filled. Mum caught me up with news from the home front, and we pretended like we do tea every Friday afternoon.

After afternoon tea, I met up with Matthew and we went to my friend from UBC Sheila's house in East Van for a Musical Evening. Sheila has a lovely voice and some very catchy tunes, and I recommend checking her out here! Party was awesome, we actually met several British folk who had made the move to Vancouver and never looked back, and Sheila's house is the most magical space ever.

Book club was at Chelsea's house on Sunday, and our read of the month was Wild, by Cheryl Strayed. I confessed to a fellow grad student that it was the first time I've ever bought a book with Oprah's sticker of approval on the cover, and he replied 'Isn't it annoying how she just chooses such good books!'. We ate homemade pumpkin cheesecakes, and homemade cherry-jalapeno jam with goat cheese on crackers, and talked about the book for approximately five more minutes than we usually manage. In the other three hours, we covered Life, The Universe and Everything. So just a typical book club, really.

We went to Uncle Dan and Aunty Leslie's house on Sunday evening for whole family roast, and it was great to see everyone in one spot.

Now Hilary and Kath are both back in Australia, we are a bit light on for visitors in the near future. Although this sounds lonely, I am a bit relieved as I need to Get Serious about university work in the coming months. Also, after a prolonged summer of sunshine and delight, Hilary stole the sunshine when she left last week. It has been overwhelmingly chilly and wet for all time since then. No fun, no good for tourists.

Next week my goal is to reapproach the gym. Last week I went a couple of days, and even jogged 2 miles on one day. Then on Saturday my injury said, 'No, Zoe.' in a firm tone. And I have been aching and slacking off since then. Let this be a cautionary tale to my future self.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Thanksgiving Weekend


In the morning we finally smashed our piggy bank (the Canadian $2 coin is big enough to go in the slot, but too big to fit out the hole in the bottom!), which Matthew had been waiting to do for several months. We took our extremely impressive sum to the bank and spent it all and more about two hours later.

I tried to give Matthew a CD, but CDs don't exist any more. I got an iTunes gift card and wrapped it in this red bow :(

Matthew took Hilary to Van Dusen Gardens in the afternoon because the weather has continued warm and sunny for simply weeks.

I stayed home and baked a Pumpkin, Pecan & Rum Cake (because I couldn't locate any Bourbon in all of Vancouver!) to take to Thanksgiving Dinner. Aunty Leslie had got in early and already claimed Pumpkin Pie, so this was definitely plan B, but I am always happy to experiment with pumpkin themed desserts.

Proof that pumpkin pie happened, Thursday evening

Cupcakes from the Pumpkin Pecan Rum cake that didn't fit in the tin.
(Funny story: pumpkin spice lattes are all the rage in North American come September, and Matthew has enjoyed a couple, but I just can not appreciate them. Perhaps, Matthew suggests, it's because I ask for them without whipped cream. But whipped cream on an already-decadent drink? No bueno.)

In the evening Matthew and I dressed up for the first time in what seems like forever and walked to a new restaurant that has opened up a couple of blocks from our home. We kicked off the evening with a champagne because... 6 years! Matthew and I have been together for six years this weekend. We have done a lot of stuff and been to a lot of places. After dinner we walked a further one block to our favourite fancy cocktail place. Since our last visit (admittedly over 6 months ago... I told you we hadn't dressed up in a while!) there is a new bartender. So the drinks list has been utterly purged of anything pink, sparkly, or otherwise sweet. Not to be dissuaded, we had a couple. Particularly memorable were Matthew's Ardberg of medium peat, and my Old Fashioned.

Old fashioned. Not girly at all.

Matthew with a Vancouver-named 'tail.

Self portrait. Excellent photography, right there.
Half way through our evening, a man in a ponytail sat behind me and told the bartender how to do his job for the rest of the night. Matthew and I gazed into each other eyes, etc, etc. Happy six years, Matthew my love xoxo


It goes without saying that Matthew and I were a bit under the weather on Sunday morning, but we rallied. Matthew painted the Warhammer and I iced the pumpkin cake, and then we drove out to the airport to meet my mum Kath. Mum has organised for a hire-car, so Matthew left us and Mum and I drove to Gramma's house. After that reunion, I bussed it home asap and arrived just in time to meet my friend Aimee from UBC at the bus stop. Aimee is from the UK, and when I ran into her at uni on Friday afternoon I was distressed to discover that she had never experienced a Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner before! So naturally I had to invite her! We dashed home, I got my glam back on (literally -- same dress as last night *shame*) and we gathered the cake and the vino and jumped in the car. We (Matthew, Aimee and I) picked up Hilary from Yaletown and we all drove out to Burnaby to see All The Family for Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner.

Aunty Lorraine's door opened and the strong aroma of roast turkey wafted out and greeted us warmly. Gramma and Mum had already arrived and were helping Aunty Lorraine with Turkey Prep. Then the Grays and Aunty Eileen arrived (and their dog -- there were two dogs and two cats roaring around the house entertaining us all night! crazy!), and we wined, dined, and desserted for the next several hours.

(Funny story: Aunty Leslie decided at the last minute against a pumpkin pie*, so she made the most delectable Pumpkin Praline Torte and Apple Caramel Cheesecake -- we ate so much cake we could barely move!)

*See above, re my own decision to bake a pumpkin cake rather than pie.

Monday (today)

This morning Matthew and I slept off all that turkey (yeah right) and enjoyed the unseasonably warm sunbeams with a walk to the local market. On the way we saw no less than five neighbourhood cats in various gardens. One particularly alarming sighting involved a young woman dashing out a rooftop gable barefoot along the roof tiles and snatching her cat from a neighbouring gable window. We were holding our breath with the danger of it.

One of the many neighbourhood cats we saw/
In the afternoon we collected Hilary from Yaletown and drove along Beach Avenue to Stanley Park for afternoon tea at the Fish House. Ironic: we had initially planned to have afternoon tea at the Stanley Park Tea House, but when I called to book, they said they don't actually do tea (...I know, right?) and directed me to the Fish House instead. Yep.

After tea, scones, and a big juicy burger (Matthew), we wandered around Stanley Park gardens and the Sea Wall, and Hilary took lots of amazing photos.

These piles of rocks are Inukshuks. There are heaps in this picture, but the tiny ones are hard to spot.

Looking towards one of the Points at Stanley Park
We drove back home along the sea wall, procured some white from a local bottle-o that we have yet little explored, and are all now relaxing and internetting pre-dinner.

Happy Thanksgiving Weekend, all!

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Pie Season

Today turned out to be a bit of a fail day: I cancelled a meeting and my friend cancelled a lunch. So I sought a little retail therapy at Oakridge. (...To no effect. When will I learn that 'retail therapy' doesn't actually exist?).

This afternoon it has been Pie Making Action in the kitchen. And by 'making' I mean, uncanning a can of pumpkin and unboxing a crust of pie. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Themed Afternoon Tea at UBC and I'm looking forward to multiple pie samples. I know for certain there will also be an apple pie, so I'm excited.

 To ingratiate myself to my students tomorrow I am offering a milk and dark autumnal leaf chocolate selection. They will just have written an exam, so they deserve it.

 A bit off topic, but the other day I found this eccentric display in the alley. Someone has cleaned out their wacky aunt's tea pot collection. It's charming and sad, just how I like my local casual art installations.

 Also not on the theme, last Saturday Matthew and I went to the Vancouver Art Gallery Cafe and ate a two course meal. We weren't planning on it, but we were ravenous. Isn't it always the way? It was actually a gorgeous day. All my recent grizzling about disappointing weather a little while back has turned out to be a bit melodramatic. We've had more than a fair share of blue cloudless idyls for September. (Pity that work and school mean Matthew and I have witnessed the glory from indoors for the most part.)

Last night we met Hilary and Kevin and went to a groovy Indian-Middle-Eastern-fusion restaurant in Kitsilano. We sipped Chai and even ran into my friend Corey from UBC! It was satisfying and again we ate so much we practically rolled out of there. Good news: this morning to recover from the gluttony, I finally revisited the old gym. Anyway, last night in Kits was Kevin's last night in Vancouver, so Matthew drove us all along the beautiful beachfront of Cornwall Avenue, just at sunset. Sigh. Breathtaking views of English Bay and the North Shore. Actually, I have just fetched a photo from my phone of that very view, just a few hours earlier, which I took while picnicking with Jenny a couple of weeks ago. Jenny has since flown the coop to Germany, so I hope to have gained an old fashioned pen pal.

Pie Number Two is in the oven as I type. Matthew is closely Warhammering on the other side of the table, and Hilary is emailing. We are in that pre-dinner moment which always seems longer when you're hungry. Matthew is putting the finishing flourishes on his wine-cork-sized Trajan's Column:

 See what I mean? It's worth clicking to enlarge, because you get all the awesome detail. Which is sculpted by Matthew's own hand. Impressed.

Next Week:
  • My mum Kath is making an appearance on Sunday
  • We are all convening at Aunty Lorraine's house for a Turkey Feast
  • Long weekend of eating followed by short week of 1. reading and 2. working out and 3. nothing else. I mean it.