Let's go adventuring
Sunday November 23rd 2014

Back to the Gulf Islands

When I told my cousin Heather that we’d seen killer whales from the ferry to Victoria she was a little incredulous. She’d been making the journey for nearly fifteen years and had yet to experience the cheapest whale watching tour around. Several months later, and armed with a much better camera, Chris and I were again hanging over the side of a ferry on our way through the Gulf Islands trying to capture the proof as the arched dorsal fins bounced through the waves. The bonus…we had two sightings in the one day.

Three Orcas playing among the islands

The wildlife sightings didn’t stop there. Our first stop for the day was Mayne Island where my cousin Richard and his wife Barbara live. Richard took us on a tour of the island where we had him reversing up roads and peering into peoples gardens to see the deer which roam free, all of which was unnecessary as a visit to Richard and Barb’s house was all that was needed. Four of the furry creatures were hanging out in their front garden within 20 minutes of our arrival along with a very fat and contented looking bunny. A visit to one of the islands lighthouses also gave us the opportunity to see a couple of seals as they popped up for air while diving for food amongst the kelp; and we’re pretty sure we have photos of a bald eagle digging into lunch.

first deer sighting on Mayne Island

As part of tour of Mayne Island we were taken to the beautiful Japanese Gardens which were designed to commemorate the Japanese who settled and worked on the island from 1900. They were removed from the island to British Columbia’s interior, suspected of being spies. Most didn’t return to the island after the war.

Tha Japanese Gardens on Mayne Island

Feeling small in The Japanese Gardens

Back in Victoria the following day we drove out to Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse. Well worth the visit if you get the chance, as the sun was out and the views were spectacular. The history of the lighthouse keepers was an eye opener as well. Hard work and crummy pay without a day off for years. One guy took the job for ₤500 only to discover he was only going to be paid ₤320. Any complaint or request for replacement of worn out lighthouse property was met with a response of “suck it up princess.”

Fisgard Lighthouse

Chris gives his best Cher impersonation on a cannon at Fort Rodd Hill

 

Chris was convinced at the last minute to join the rest of the family at my cousins ballet concert. Brooke is an extremely talented dancer but I don’t think Chris really appreciated the ‘culturing’ we were providing him with. (I do not accept culture from people who use the word ‘culturing’ – Ed.)

The final full day in Victoria was spent down town where we started with a little tour of BC’s Parliament House, the highlight for me was in the main entry hall. Looking straight up is a mural showing four of the main industries of British Columbia; lumber, farming, fishing and mining.

The Soda Shoppe sits in Victoria’s harbour and offered a beautiful view while we ate sensational ice cream. Instead of my Green tea and mango creation Chris opted for a chilli covered hotdog that had more topping than dog.

We couldn’t continue without a quick look at the maritime museum where my ‘Canadian grandmother’ Elizabeth is a volunteer. She also spoiled us with a few lovely martinis at the colonial style Bengal Lounge at the spectacular Empress Hotel, after which we teetered our way back up the hill.

Elizabeth gave us a ride in the oldest operating birdcage elevator in North America at the Maritime Museum of BC

Thanks to Elizabeth for spoiling us rotten again. Also to the rest of family, we’ve loved getting to know you and hope it wont be too long before we see you all again.

Elizabeth, me, Barb and Richard on Mayne Island

More photos are being uploaded to our Flickr account as I type, so if you’re curious you can see them here.

Super Saturday

With the conclusion of the English Premier League last weekend, other options would have to be explored to fill my Saturday sport quota.

As footballing schedules would have it, the final of the European Champions League coincided with New York Red Bulls visit to Vancouver to take on the Whitecaps — the perfect tonic for the football tragic.

We had originally intended to go to a pub nearby the Whitecaps home field to watch Barcelona take apart those horrible devils from Manchester, but we had missed all of the first half and with people lined up out the door as we drove past, we decided to park and see what we could find. Thankfully another pub with room to stand was found just in time to see Messi score.

After watching the pinnacle of footballing grace and style destroy some English brutes, it was time to head into relative footballing sewer and watch some Major League Soccer.

I had been waiting for the New York visit for quite some time; the opportunity to watch the legendary if aged Thierry Henry in action was too mouth-watering to pass up. But come the Thursday before the match, reports said that Henry would miss the trip, and that all the decent players were out on national duty (Rafael Márquez), and freaks weren’t good enough for selection (John Rooney — Wayne’s brother).

Faced with this disappointing news, we would have to make do with only the greatest view from a footballing stadium, an afternoon in the sun, and a match that Vancouver now had a chance of winning.

Not a bad view at all

True to form, the Whitecaps took a lead, managed to hold it for mere minutes, and finished with their 6th draw from 12 games this season; the ‘Caps have failed to win since their opening day victory and their manager was sacked this week. A complete over-reaction if you ask me, it’s not as though relegation exists in the MLS so they cannot be worried about that — they are an expansion team, and have suffered from injuries and marquee players called Eric Hassli having brain explosions and being generally lazy up front.

On the plus side, I managed to pick up a Whitecaps scarf that completely blows away the horrible quality scarves I possess from the A-League.

Post Whitecaps, we drove out to Langley to have a BBQ dinner with Heather, Mike and the boys — where I was wrangled into playing a game of street hockey.

It was amazingly good fun and even though my field hockey experience would only amount to a few hours, I had to remember that I could backhand and that there was ‘proper’ side of the stick to use.

If only I knew how to skate, I'd carve

Hockey fanaticism is reaching fever pitch here in Vancouver, as the Canucks have reached the final series for the Stanley Cup against Boston. It’s going to be a great series (that we will win), and I am looking forward to the riot that is guaranteed to happen, win or win.

Boarding Vancouver

In case you had not noticed from our previous posts, Claire and I have a little obsession going on with the art of snowboarding.

Over the winter we visited two of three local ski slopes within a half hour drive, namely Mount Seymour and Grouse Mountain.

Rather than waffle on about the sheer awesomeness of it all, I have compiled a few of our video highlights into the below vid:

Now we are far from the best riders on the slopes, but considering that we both started at zero experience going into this season, I think we have done rather well and are truly hooked to this fine winter pastime.

It doesn’t hurt to have the sort of scenery to look at that Vancouver offers either.

Easter

Hello friends, it’s been a while since we last checked in so thought I would drop by and let you know what we’ve been up to.

Chris and I have both been working our butts off the last few weeks so when Easter Friday came along with some beautiful sunshine we headed out to the botanical gardens at UBC to do the Canopy Walk. The walkway of the canopy weaves it’s way through the trees up to 50 ft in the air and it was here that I noticed Chris isn’t entirely happy off the ground. He didn’t say anything but the tentative shuffle and look of intense concentration gave him away.  We checked out the rest of the gardens, playing with the camera as we went, trying to get the auto focus to get the flower and not the stem.

Playing in the trees

Sadly Saturday was spent cleaning up our tip of an apartment until it was shiny and new again but Sunday brought new hope with the arrival of the Easter Bunny. The Vancouver branch of the family was invited for dinner which gave me an excuse to get cooking so I had fun making roast lamb, cookies and the best damned chocolate cake I’ve ever made. You’ve got to try this one, a tin of beetroot was the trick to make it mouthwateringly moist.

cookies and cake, oh yeah!

There was a real Canadian flavour to dinner as the Canucks are in the playoffs for the Stanley Cup and the game was at dinner time. Chris has become quite the ice hockey fan so he and the boys oohed, aahed and outraged with mouthfuls of potato until the Blackhawks scored in overtime leaving the score at 3-4. Canucks need to win the next game or bye bye Stanley Cup.

Hope you had a Happy Easter.

P.S. Like most of my sporting teams, the Canucks are notorious chokers, and we are talking Norman-esque choking. My thoughts on the current series is best summed up by this picture. A do or die game is on tomorrow night if the Canucks are to make it past the first hurdle. — Chris

The Vegetarian Challenge

Last week Chris informed me that his workmate Dale had recently decided to try out vegetarianism for a while. Before Chris could get any further into his story I turned an accusing eye on him. “You’ve been giving him a hard time about this, haven’t you? And trying to make him drool over the meaty lunches you’ve been eating?” Chris met my accusation with a guilty but cheeky look. You all know the one I’m talking about. So to make him see the error of his ways (and to give me a new project in the kitchen) I decided we would be eating vego for an entire week.

So for five days we have been cooking, buying and eating vegetarian food. We decided not to go completely vegan so eggs, cheese, milk and the like were still in, but no fish, shellfish or anything else that was once breathing.

First up was “shepherds pie”/mushroom parmentier. This was inspired by my favourite Canadian chef Laura Calder and happened to feature on her show French Food at Home the day after we made the decision. Shepherds pie is a favourite of Chris’ so the mushroom version seemed like a good first meal. I used enokitake and some brown mushrooms and next time I would add some peas and diced carrots to give it more of a fresh flavour.

take these ingredients and cook 'em

put it all into a casserole dish then add mashed potato

grate over parmesan, bake, enjoy!

Chris made chilli for dinner last week so I made the vegetarian version this week; one tin of kidney beans (drained and rinsed), one small onion, one tin of diced tomato, cayenne pepper, one small red chilli, some spicy Mexican sauce, and salt. Caramelise the onions, add everything else and simmer to reduce liquid. Serve on a baked potato and grate cheese over the top. I made enough for dinner and Chris’ lunch the next day but he enjoyed it so much that lunch was used for seconds at dinner. Never fear, another potato in the oven was soon cooked and there was just enough chilli left over. Loved this meal, it was quick, very tasty and covered in cheesy goodness.

mmmmm.

Spinach and ricotta triangles have always been a favourite of mine —  it’s the combination of flaky pastry with the gooey mixture on the inside. I left the pine nuts out of this recipe as Chris doesn’t really like them, you could also add some grated cheese to the mixture. They are great with some sweet chilli sauce and a cherry tomato, avocado, lemon juice and parsley salad.

hot and crispy straight out of the oven

A curried egg sandwich pleased Chris’ appetite for lunch another day.

My next dinner was another Laura Calder inspired dish: vegetable terrine. I have been wanting to make this for months and finally got around to it. I hit a few hitches with this one. I don’t have scales so had to guestimate on the amounts a bit, consequently the flavours were not as strong as I would have liked. I didn’t have a terrine dish so used a stainless steel bowl instead which would have worked out fine except that I should have cooked it an extra half hour so that it cooked all the way to the middle. It was a little bit too runny but held it’s shape pretty well. Next time I make this I’ll add fresh mint to the pea layer and maybe some lemon rind to the carrot layer. We ate this cold as a starter and followed up with a quick cheese tortellini in tomato and red wine sauce.

line mould with greens

spoon in the layers of vegetables

after final layer, bake then refrigerate

turn out onto plate

eat warm or chilled




Research on eating out was to prove unexciting. Vegetarian options are limited with most places only offering some dips and grilled vegetable sandwiches, but others seem to have a good amount of tasty sounding meals. We tried out a usual haunt of ours, The Black Frog, a pub near Chris’ office, sharing a vegie burger with sautéed mushrooms and onions served with garlic and potato soup and a thai vegetable curry over fries, both were enjoyable but not mouth watering. Chris did give a vegie sandwich and soup a go for lunch on Friday.

Vegie Burger

Thai vegetable curry




The grand finale was my favourite, a quiche made with filo pastry filled with leaks, peas, garlic, baby tomatoes and goats cheese. So creamy with the fresh and zesty flavour of the tomatoes cutting through the richness of the cheese.

my favourite

So what’s the verdict? Well I can’t say that we’ve seen the light. Chris missed meat in his diet and went straight for a lamb sandwich at breakfast on Saturday morning. I feel fantastic and while I intend to make a few meals each week without meat I just can’t give it up completely. I did enjoy my little project though.

Getting Garied on the slopes

There’s a particular unpleasant sensation that one feels when you are learning to snowboard, it happens when you are moving at pace and land flush on your butt. But the pain from your butt cheeks is the least of it — the real pain is the feeling that someone has managed to hit you with a baseball bat square on the sphincter.

That pain has a name, and Claire and I choose to call it ‘being Garied‘ — it’s that pain in an uncomfortable place that can sometimes occur from a night with a friend of ours known only as Gary.

The site of the great Garying

The site of the great Garying

So it was that last week we were up on Mount Seymour for a serving of night boarding, when we were getting Garied from falling over (and attempting jumps when I am clearly not good enough to be doing that) and I decided at 9:45pm that it was time to go home. The mountain closes at 10pm anyway, and my ego and Claire’s knees were bruised (the result of a fight with the chairlift).

Little did we realise that for the next two hours, we were about to get Garied in many, various ways.

The problems started when we went back to the car and discovered that we could not get into it.

Claire and I have been using Zipcar to get around Vancouver, and they use RFID cards to open the doors and mobilise the engine since the actual car keys are kept in the cars themselves. It’s not a bad idea, especially for a car sharing service, but Claire’s card has been rather flaky in the past — something that I had attributed to “user error” as the same card had never given me any trouble, until now.

Never fear though, for Zipcar has a backup plan; they can remote unlock the car from their ZipBunker somewhere in Ontario. However, being on Mount Seymour, they claimed that the car was outside of their carrier’s mobile phone coverage range, and therefore couldn’t unlock the car for us — an action that would have quickly ended this saga.

Of course, we only learned this news after a good half hour of trying to get into the car to no effect, and listening to the awfully long menu system on Zipcar’s phone service.

If you are still following this story, it is 10:30pm and we learn that we will need some roadside assistance sent out to us. The car is still locked and contains both of our phones, house keys, wallets and non-ski clothes.

Thanks to the extremely helpful staff on the mountain, we are allowed to wait it out indoors and simultaneously keep some of them from getting home to their families. We were told on multiple occasions that we would not be left alone on the mountain — I imagine that that wouldn’t be a good PR exercise for them.

So for the next hour we make smalltalk with the staff, all the while waiting on a phone call from a worker at the bottom of the mountain who would let us know when the roadside assistance was on its way. We wait and I am running through backup plans of what to do sans phone, wallet, and cash, should this roadside assistance fail to materialise.

An overwhelming feeling of being Garied by the universe was constant by this point.

At around 11:45pm we finally get the call that we have been waiting for, the truck was heading up the mountain. Claire, the two remaining staff members left, and I head out to meet him.

The truck eventually arrived and took all of five minutes to breach open the door and allow us to retrieve our belongings. We will finally be able to go home.

But still the universe has other ideas and steps on the Gary pedal again.

I take the keys to the car, switch the ignition to ON, and the dashboard lights up. I move the key to START … and nothing. Thinking that I have missed something obvious, I reset the location of the ignition, put my foot on the brake pedal, make sure the car’s auto transmission is in park, and switch it to START again. Still nothing.

It was that engine immobiliser doing the job it’s supposed to — not letting someone that has broken into the car, drive off with the damn thing.

So now the car needs to be put on the back of the truck and carried back to its parking spot nearby our apartment. A solid hour away in a flat-back truck with a Mazda 3 on it.

On our trip down the mountain, the nice driver tells us that he didn’t get the call until 11pm and was only told the address was 1700 Seymour, not the more descriptive “Mt Seymour Resort”. It’s annoying but I guess we should be glad that he got the call at all.

At 1:30 am we finally unload and push the car back into its designated parking spot. Claire calls Zipcar for the third time that night, and they remotely lock the car now that we are back in mobile coverage and Claire’s card continues failing to register with the vehicle.

Getting off the phone to Zipcar, Claire is reminded to ‘keep the car clean during your Ziptrip’.

Seriously, after all we’ve been through tonight, does the person on the other end of the phone really need to be made to read from a script?!?

Claire and I both agree that whoever makes people say stupid shit like that needs to be royally Garied.

As for us, the saga is over, all is well and no one was forced to eat anyone else to stay alive — but the thought did pass my mind.

Social Bites – Bella Australia

The best way to meet new people in a new place is take part in as many local events as you can. Get your finger on the pulse of the city through blogs, newspapers and whatever other local media happens to be on hand. Chris spotted Social Bites on Twitter shortly after we moved into our apartment and suggested we take part. When we contacted social bites we found out the organiser, Annika Reinhardt was going back to her home town in Germany for a few months and the event would be taking a pause. On her return, however she contacted us to take part in the Downtown/Yaletown event.

Social Bites is a dinner excursion where you take part either as a hobby chef or as a guest. There are four hobby chefs for each event who create a dish (or a few) to serve in their own home. You serve dinner to four guests over an hour, have 30 minutes to reset and then do it all again with a second lot of guests.

The guests attend two of the four dinners and then score the two meals based on taste, presentation and hospitality. After the second dinner everyone heads to a nearby location to meet the other guests and hobby chefs. This can be somewhere to have dessert or do a chocolate tasting or in our case at one of our local bottle shops, Marquis Wine Cellars, for a cheese and wine tasting. We were served three delicious cheeses from Benton Brother Fine Cheese paired with three desert wines.

Benton Brothers Fine Cheese

Chris and I had our idea perfectly planned out with preparation to be executed over Friday and Saturday but fate was to play another hand. I was asked to do an extra days work on Friday and knowing that I would still have Chris to help me on Saturday, I accepted. Of course when Chris came home that night he found out his soccer game had been rescheduled to the middle of the afternoon on Saturday. Foiled! So Saturday brought a rush of activity, I ran out to pick up my last minute fresh items and left Chris to do the washing up before he had to run out to the game. Thankfully we’d had a friend for dinner the previous night which meant the apartment had already been tidied and not in it’s usual state of disarray.

Chris walked in 40 minutes before the first guests arrived, enough time for him to help move the big table from the basement, (as at Christmas) set it, shower and welcome in the guests. To his credit he did come clean about his contribution to the days events and got stuck into the washing up between dinners.

Chris and I served up an appetiser of grissini wrapped in prosciutto followed by cannelloni filled with ricotta and four colour capsicums (or bell peppers as they are known over here) cooked in a vegetable, herb and red wine sauce, topped with bechamel sauce and finished with a parmesan crisp. All made by ‘us’ from scratch.

The pasta sauce took a bit longer than anticipated. When I went to blend it up my blender, which already had a small crack in it, completely broke in two so I had to finish it in minuscule amounts in my spice blender. The finished result was pretty tasty if I may say so.

For our first sitting we had the pleasure of hosting Laura, Matt, Yvonne, Eric and event organiser Annika. Our second sitting we were joined by Liz, Helena, Matt and Christine. Matt turned out to be a member of local band Treelines and Christine is a local photographer who especially loves food photography and also takes some of Treelines photos. Those of you who joined us for our Christmas party may remember we played Treelines version of “Little Drummer Boy”. Check out the bands Christmas photo on their web page, apparently Christine couldn’t take more than one shot at a time without bursting out with laughter at the boys in their long johns.

Our first group of guests. Check out the empty plates.

Unfortunately we didn’t take out the grand prize but we are told the points between the four teams were close. Congratulations to Whitney and Jens who won with their Urban Classics Menu: “Tomato basil soup topped with goat cheese and herbed wild mushroom crostinis, followed by gorgonzola encrusted beef tenderloin with a syrah shallot reduction, garlic pomme puree and green beans. For the urban classic finale: cheesecake lollipops served with the “cuddler”- a hot chocolate with peppermint snaps”

Thanks to Annika and Christine for the photos. If you are interested you can see all the photos on the social bites facebook page http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=264903&id=39714204778&ref=mf

There is also this interview with Annika from Social Bites on Co-Op Radio http://www.coopradio.org/content/storytelling-show-39

Chefs and guests at Marquis Wines

Thanks Annika for organising such a great event, this is one of those ideas we intend to take with us on our travels. Chris is already planning an Australian Extravaganza for the next West End event with pie floaters, mini aussie burgers and some pavlovas.

John Fluevog Shoes

Is it wrong to dedicate a whole post to a pair of shoes on this blog? Absolutely not, especially when you have a genetic predisposition to loving shoes like I do. Kelly and Mum, don’t try to deny it.

I have been drooling over one particular shoe shop since I discovered it early last year. Nine out of ten times when I walk past the shop I make a quick detour to look at my latest wish list promising myself I would buy at least one pair of these fantastical designs before my departure from Canada. Luckily for me I was able to get my greedy little hands on a pair even sooner than this. The funny part is that the reason I got mine was because Chris saw a pair that he wanted and the store was having a sale. It was an opportunity too good to pass up.

John Fluevog is a local Vancouver designer who creates these cheeky, rebellious and fun designs. I really want a franchise when we make it back to Sydney one day.

Chris didn’t tell me where we were going, in fact the day had been sold as a wander round the city with breakfast, coffee and a little shopping but all of a sudden we were outside the shop and then… Chris walked in. He didn’t tell me where we were going so I didn’t have too much time to dream about all the shoes I wanted.

He bought a fabulous pair of shoes, I especially love the bright blue laces. I ummed and ahhed over which ones to adopt. My favourite pair, a sensational pair of red boots with black trim were not part of the sale so sadly had to stay on the shelf. Another pair beckoned but on trying them on, just didn’t look right on me but one pair had my name on them.

New Years Day: Polar Bear Swim

While New Years Eve in Vancouver is a disappointing event at best compared to festivities in Sydney, at least on the morning following the night before, there is an activity to scare your hungover, and possibly your genitals, away — that event is the Polar Bear Swim.

To ruin your expectations straight away: neither Claire or I went in.

There go the suckers, I mean swimmers

This was mostly due to our collective concern over the temperature of the water in the depths of winter. In mid-summer Claire convinced me to hit the beach with her, and while it was a nice temperature on the sand, the water was bitterly cold for someone raised on warm Pacific currents. It took a great deal of resolve to finally put my head under the water and the results were not worth it. Even in July, English Bay is a cold, sausage-shrinking place.

Yet here we are on the first day of the new year — decked out in scarves, jackets and gloves — to watch some crazed locals throw themselves into English Bay.

Vancouver New Years beach wear. Note the number of bikinis and shorts on display.

Maybe its a case of proving one’s intestinal fortitude, or more likely it is a form of national psychosis that leads the participants and spectators to believe that such feats will make the world bow before them and respect the bare-chested Canadian love of cold temperatures. It was the singing of O Canada, the national anthem, that led me to believe that I was witnessing a collective delusion and that I was surrounded by people who thought it was better to have a quiet ushering in of the new year and then throw oneself into the freezing North Pacific rather than get completely shitfaced on New Years Eve and sleep on the couch for all of January 1.

Therefore I thought it best to take some pictures of the costumes, laugh to myself over the shivering masses returning to the beach, and enjoy a nearby bowl of pho.

Rating: 1 star.

Christmas in Vancouver

We had hoped for a white Christmas this year but instead found ourselves on the receiving end of a traditional Vancouver rainy Christmas instead.

Determined to have a great time regardless, we decided to have our own traditional Christmas dinner with all the trimmings and share it with some of the new friends we made this year.

Years of ‘training’ with my mum cooking a big traditional dinner had prepared me well for this occasion and so Chris and I set about pulling it together. I giving the orders and Chris reluctantly doing what I asked, just like mum had taught me. I’m not sure she would have approved of our mismatched wine glasses and cutlery though.

We borrowed the giant table that is kept downstairs in our building and wrestled into our little apartment. Chris’ work lent him some chairs, and our friends Peggy and Rick donated some forks to the evening. Every last plate and glass in the place was used. Chris set up a beautiful table and we managed, just barely, to squeeze everyone in to what turned out to be a fabulous night.

We served turkey with stuffing, marmalade glazed ham, as well as some vegetables for sides.

Tada

For dessert I made Chris’ favourite, tiramisu, and a pavlova for a bit of sweetness from the southern hemisphere. I can’t have Christmas without some panettone and my friend Annette brought some traditional German stollen.

Dessert

Thanks to Rick, Peggy, Angie, Charlie, T, Annette, Andre and Paige for making it a fantastic Christmas Eve.

The Christmas Eve gang

After recovering from our excesses of the previous evening with a sleep in and some Christmas movies (Star Wars), Christmas Day was spent enjoying another sumptuous Christmas dinner with my cousin Heather and her family. Heather’s mother in law, Jan, spoiled us as always with great food, plenty of wine and Chris fell in love with her turkey stuffing.

Jan's Christmas Tree

Hope you all had a great Christmas. Love from Chris and Claire

Us

P.S. remember you can check out all our Christmas Photos at Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/51265585@N00/

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