Monday, August 31, 2009

Destination: the Steveston dikes on bikes with dykes

While Mister Man was busy being sick, I headed out with a most fabulous group of women for a bike ride that would take us from Main Street to scenic Steveston via the brand new pedestrian/cyclist Canada Line bridge. Here's part of the group now, getting ready to go. Well, really they are lounging. But they are ABOUT to get ready to go!

There were 2 fearless leaders on the ride. Mini P was one of them. Here she is. Fearless.

I was the other. And I was quite fearless until some woman in a black SUV almost gunned me down in an intersection!! I was halfway through the intersection, heading straight on a green light, and she was turning right. I stopped when I caught her in my peripheral vision and heard Tamara yell "LOOK OUT". After I stopped, the driver stopped.
The weird thing is that there was a line of us (9 cyclists in total) that she whizzed by on her way to the intersection, so it's not like we popped up out of the blue! It made me really, REALLY mad. And it made me a bit shaky. I have become a cautious cyclist over the years after a close call with a speeding van on a country road. I shoulder check. I signal. I don't tend to venture into traffic unless I can see the whites of the driver's eyeballs.

Missus in the SUV pushed my clearly marked buttons. I was in a BIKE LANE for cryin' out loud! I did yell at her to pay attention. And she waved her arms apologetically. But seriously. As a driver who is also a cyclist, I know I can say I am hyper aware of cyclists around me. It's NOT THAT HARD people!! (sorry for the rant..... but bear with me for a moment because I'm not quite done.) And, at the end of the day, more cyclists on the road means that there are less cars. So even if you move this from an environmental platform, you can look at it this way: we make more space for those vehicles that need/want to be there. We are like Draino for traffic congestion! We make it all move through the pipes a little more smoothly.

I know there are some bad cyclists out there who don't signal, or wear a helmet, or aren't well marked or who ride on the sidewalk. But they are the minority!! This I know, because I pay attention to cyclists. I give them a wide berth. I don't turn in front of them. I nod when they look me in the eye to let them know I'm aware of their presence. Not hard. That's all!

Okay. Enough of the rant. Thanks for listening. And now -back to our regularly scheduled blogging. Here's a bonus photo for listening to my rant.

We were joined by Tamara (of "T and A" wedding fame. She broke her toe on the journey home from PA and can't really walk or run. But she sure can ride!) (Oh - and Andrew gave me the thumbs up on being the "A" in "T and A".) It was GREAT to have her join us.

Translink has this handy dandy route planner thingie that will map out a route for you based on bike paths. While some of it was a bit strange (i.e. at one point, we were going from Garden City Road to "UNKNOWN Road".... which turned out to be a bike path!! At another point, we did this weird jog off a major street for a couple of blocks). But mostly it was pretty good. In particular, the last stretch, which took us along the water on a quiet country road, was brilliant.

The new Canada Line bridge is fantastic (though I would have thought it might be a little bit more interesting in terms of architecture?) Also, Andrea is far braver than I. I would not peer over that edge for love nor money.

But of course, the destination is what really sold me on our ride. Pajo's may not be *quite* as delicious as Go Fish, but you can't beat the surroundings. I mean really, you're buying your lunch on the water! Gateway to paradise?

Don't these folks look like they're on the deck of a cruise ship? Nope! They're just getting ready to chow down on fi' and chi'! (Clearly, I've never been on a cruise ship).

These guys drifted by, making us all feel like we were on some exotic island in the south. We all agreed that you'd really have to have your act together to pull this off. One false move and BAM.

At Pajo's, they cut holes in the table to fit their lovely fish and chip cones! THAT is some pretty smart engineering!

Here we are in all our post-ride/post-feeding frenzy glory.
After the close call with missus in the SUV, I opted not to ride my bike back, but rather to jump in the truck with T and A.

I did love this last image however, of the crowd gathered around a map, planning a route home.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

One Sick Puppy (One Awful Patient, One Terrible Nurse)

Mister Man is sick. At first, I thought it was the dreaded MAN COLD (i.e. a wee case of the sniffles that insists upon bringing the world to its knees). But when I heard him coughing this morning, I realized that Mister Man is actually really sick. I don’t think it’s the swine flu or the west nile virus, but he is a hacking, snorting, sneezing, wobbling mess.

Most of all, he’s a terrible patient. And I am an even worse nurse. BECAUSE I BELIEVE HIM WHEN HE ANSWERS THE QUESTION “Would you like me to make you some sorbetto” with “Yes. Blueberry?”.

And then when I actually MAKE the fruity blueberry sorbetto, he doesn’t want it. When offered a little bowl of the home made vitamin C rich and refreshing fruitiness, he makes the poo face (you know the one in which a simple offer of delicious food is greeted with an expression that might be more appropriate had I handed over a big ol’ bowl of cow poop smothered in cat pee?)

Silly me from the school of bad nursing. I WANT TO HELP HIM and then when he makes it clear that he'd rather have his eyelashes plucked off rather than accept the help, I become a bit sulky. Bad nurse. (Moments later, of course, he actually WANTS some help. Bad patient.)

He has tried however. He did drink the Abundant C smoothie I brought back from the grocery store. And eventually, he ate a couple of spoonfuls of the fruity sorbetto, but only under Nurse Ratchet’s stink eye. My friend Donimo, sent me this image. I think it says everything about who I would LIKE to be.

This is who I fear I AM.

Needless to say, we had a quiet weekend. Though I did do a destination bike ride with a great group of women. I’ll write about that later. Now, I must attend to the patient and force him to drink some orange juice and eat that bowl of cow poop......

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Most Delicious Fruit of the Season

Might I take this opportunity to introduce you to the most beautiful fruit in the world? I'm not talking strictly appearance, though it is a beautiful wash of pale yellow and red wrapped in a gorgeous tight smooth skin... I'm talking taste.

This is a nectarine. But not just ANY nectarine. Gentle readers, have you met the White Nectarine? Because if you have not, you must really drop everything and get thee to a produce stand ASAP. They are only in season for a short time. And you don't want to miss out on them, because they embody the truth of fruit.

This white nectarine is sweet and succulent beyond belief. It tastes like love. And summer. And maybe even the Summer of Love! (I don't actually know if this nectarine tastes like the summer of love because, though I am no spring chicken, I was practically an infant during the REAL Summer of Love ) It tastes like nectarines and peaches only WAY better.

[Sidebar note: I have never been a lover of peaches. The fuzzy skin makes my teeth recede into my head like a turtle in its shell. I find it entirely too creepy for words. I know I am not alone in this.]

Speaking of creepy, I have no idea why my fingers look like they've been soaking in beet juice in the above image. It's a tad strange I'll admit, because this is not the way my fingers appear in real life. The nectarine, however, looks EXACTLY as it did in real life before it went to its final resting place in my belly!!

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Snap of Fall

Fall. It is almost upon us.... This begs two questions:
1. Where did summer go?
2. Why does my heart skip a beat as fall approaches?

I love fall. It's my favourite season (next to the FESTIVE season of course. But, after the folly of the festive fondue pot , I did promise Mister Man that I would speak no more of it. So mum's the word on decking the halls until at LEAST October.....)

Back to the fall. What is it about waking up to a crisp breeze that makes my heart flutter? I guess I associate the fall with beginnings. Historically, it marks the time for new school supplies, a pair of new shoes and a new class! It's when theatre companies rev up for the season. It's when van loads full of young actors head out on school tours. It's about nesting. And cooking stews, and soups, and macaroni and cheese and all manner of comfort food. It's about thanksgiving (and don't you know that roast turkey dinner with stuffing and mashed potatoes is one of the finest meals of the entire year). It's pure coziness. It's about leaves going crunch underfoot. Exercise is brilliant in the fall because you don't pop into a sweat with the mere thought of stepping foot into your running shoe.

I love the colours and I love the chill in the air. The fall to me, has always been about promise. And I *love* that. The sun is gorgeous in the fall. The colours are so intense, you can almost taste them.

These are some photos I took last fall when Mister Man and I went on a day excursion to Squamish.

Doesn't this look like a painting? Or
Jello 1-2-3? Remember that stuff?

Lookit Mister Man, wand'ring lonely as a cloud.

And, as an added bonus, fall is just THAT much closer to the best season of all: the festive season. But let us speak no more of that. (For at least another month......)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Chocolate Sherbet

Mister Man gave me my beloved favourite kitchen appliance, the Kitchen Aid Mixer, which he later tricked out (on Valentine's day) with the Kitchen Aid Mixer ICE CREAM MAKER extension thingie! Who knew that such a simple object could make ICE CREAM!

Of course I had dreams of whipping up fruity sorbettos all summer long, but somehow, I was inexplicably sidetracked by baking squares, and more squares, and a few bars too....

In any event, the other night I had a hankerin' for something cold and smooth from the chocolate food group, so I whipped up this lovely sherbet a la my new boyfriend David Lebovitz. (Okay, okay, I know he's gay and living in Paris, but at the very least, I like to imagine that he is our neighbour and we're all on each other's "pop in" list.)

Right now, my friend and fellow blogger, BunkleLife is hanging out in Paris. I imagine that she's strolling down the Champs-Elysees eating fabulous pastry and strolling arm in arm with the fabulous David Lebovitz..... I'm holding out for the photos.

Last winter, I made a few batches of delicious ice cream in the new Kitchen Aid Ice Cream Maker for guests. I discovered that real French Vanilla Ice Cream is that special, elegant shade of pale yellow because it involves an abundance of egg yolks. And it's delicious because it is made with cream, and lots of it!

Meanwhile, where did summer go? Did I make even one fruity sorbetto? No I did not! So now I am desperately scrambling. I have pulled out The Perfect Scoop by my new BFF David Lebovitz, pouring over the pages in a desperate attempt to cling onto the last vestiges of summer.

Here's the Chocolate Sorbet recipe from David Lebovitz's website. It was mighty tasty (though I regret not putting it through a food processor at the end of stage one, because it was, in the words of D.L. "a little gritty".) But still, it was delicious.

Chocolate Sherbet

You can use either Dutch-process or natural cocoa powder. I actually used BOTH (1/4 cup of each). The most important thing about the cocoa, is that you use a top-of-the-line brand, because it's all about the taste.

The shot of Kahlua added a lovely je ne sais quoi (and apparently helps the texture). It's not necessary, so can be omitted.

2 cups milk (whole, low, or non-fat)
1/2 cup (100g) sugar
pinch of kosher salt
1/2 cup (50g) unsweetened cocoa powder
4 ounces (115g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped (I used 2 ounces of each)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
optional: 2 tablespoons KahluĂ  (it really adds a nice hint of flavour)

In a medium-sized saucepan, warm half (1 cup) of the milk with the sugar, salt, and cocoa powder.
Bring to a full boil while whisking, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for 30 seconds.

Remove from heat and stir in the chocolate, the vanilla, and the coffee-flavored liqueur. Then add the other half of the milk

Taste, and if the chocolate is a bit grainy, puree it in a blender to smooth it out. (I didn't do this, but in retrospect wish I hadda!)
Chill thoroughly, (I chilled it over night)
Freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Let it melt in your mouth and enjoy the fact that it's still summer out there.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Destination: Deep Cove

We went for a spin on the weekend, out to Deep Cove and back. This is a bike ride that Wee Sarah and I have done many times, but it was new to Annie and Lara. And though Annie was apprehensive about riding with traffic (and not on a designated bike route), and Lara was nervous about the hills, they both enjoyed themselves immensely. Turns out neither the traffic nor the hills are nearly as bad as one might think, plus there are perks at the half way mark. And who doesn't love a perk where exercise is involved?

There is shopping!! And there is Honey Doughnuts and Goodies featuring Vancouver's best doughnuts. Okay - maybe the Roly Poly doughnuts from Honey's are neck and neck with the Honey Dew doughnuts from Lee's on Granville Island, but they are certainly AMONGST the best that Vancouver has to offer. They are in the top 2. Let's leave it at that.

Have you ever thought about (I mean REALLY thought about) how weird the word "doughnut" actually is? I mean - look:
Dough. Nut.

Weird, right? (Somehow, the alternative spelling "donut" doesn't seem quite as strange to me...)

Sadly, this doughnut didn't even last long enough to be photographed in all of its glory.... And let me assure you - there is a LOT of glory involved with these doughnuts.

What's that? Why yes, maybe that IS a second, EMPTY doughnut plate in the photograph. Would you believe that it was left there on the table by a previous doughnut eating guest? Harumph. Well, if you MUST know, the three of us shared a measly 2 doughnuts! It could have been worse. Trust me.

In any event, the ride to Deep Cove is a beautiful ride. With rewards. And a view! And that's the way we like to roll around here.....

It is amusing to me that the word "ice cream" has been stricken from the sign with tape, but the pointing dog is still clasping one in his paw!

Ain't life sweet.....

Key Lime Squares

For some reason, I seem to have a fixation on squares this summer. I find this a bit odd, because I associate squares with winter....

Perhaps I'm all over the squares because of the winter-like conditions in my office where the air conditioning blasts frigid bursts of life into the atmosphere? I dunno.

I DO know that this recipe is kind of "the bastard love child of Pioneer Woman and David Lebovitz". I've borrowed the key lime filling from Pioneer Woman, and paired it with a little blast of David Lebovitz's meringue. The crust is a standard graham wafer crust (with a little sugar thrown in because who doesn't love a little sugar?) Also, the sweet crust when paired with the tart lime, is divine I tell you!

I wanted something that could do double duty. I needed a bit of a dessert that I could take to a tea on Sunday afternoon, but from which I could steal a few slices for a dinner on Saturday night. This fit the bill.
I can't say I mastered the meringue. In fact, if I were one of the contestants in Hell's Kitchen, Gordon Ramsey would have my arse on a platter. I think that the egg whites might have "cooked" a bit during the double boiler part! So the meringue wasn't as smooth as it should have been. I'm pretty sure I know why though. I didn't use an instant read thermometer, so I think the temperature of the egg whites was higher than the regular-read thermometer indicated..... I mean, it was fine for piping a wee blast on each tart, but wouldn't have really worked well in other contexts. I do plan to master this at some point in the future though. Mark my words! [shakes fist in the air] "Meringue, you will not bring me down!!"

All of that being said, these were perfect for a tea - pretty and wee and properly bite sized. They went beautifully with the cucumber sammiches.

Start by buttering a 13 X 9 X 2 pan
Preheat the oven to 350

For the crust:
44 graham wafer crackers
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup butter
Pop 44 graham wafer crackers into a food processor and crush!
Melt 2/3 cup butter in a small pan
Mix graham wafer crackers, melter butter and 2/3 cup sugar together.
Press into the bottom of the pan
Bake for 5-7 minutes until golden brown

For the filling:
2 Tbsp lime zest (key limes if you can get 'em)
1 cup key lime juice (I bought mine at a specialty gourmet shop)
4 egg yolks
2 cans sweetened condensed milk
Mix lime zest, lime juice and egg yolks. Add condensed milk and mix on high until it's thick. And smooth. Pour mixture into the crust and bake for 15-17 minutes until the filling is "set".

Remove from oven and cool. Refrigerate for at least an hour before cutting.

For the meringue: (good luck! Report back!)
2 egg whites
5 Tbsp sugar
pinch of kosher salt
couple o' drops of vanilla extract

Whisk together the egg whites, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water and whisk as it heats. Check it with an instant-read thermometer. Once it reaches 60C or 140 F, transfer the bowl to the standing mixer and beat at high speed until cool, scraping down the sides of the bowl midway through mixing. Add the vanilla at this time. Whip until light and fluffy (the meringue - not you).

Turn on the broiler.

Scoop the meringue into a pastry bag with a star tip, and pipe a floret of meringue on each "square".

Pop the pan under the broiler and keep your eye(s) on it as it will brown super quickly. When the broiler has done its work, remove and cool completely and then refrigerate before cutting.

Prepare to be admired. And loved....

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Bliss of Mister Man

Mister Man is SUCH a good sport. When I came into his life, he embraced my wacky world in its entirety. And I can assure you that I did not tiptoe into his universe - I kind of stomped into it like a Girlie Godzilla with little alligator arms a swinging! (I have never been the quiet, graceful type - though I've had aspirations.....)

He welcomed my eclectic group of friends with open arms. He jumped onto the art/film/theatre bandwagon and has joined me on all manner of outings, from the weird and wild, to the more sedate. He has lingered with me at student art shows, sat next to me in chick flicks listening to me snort and snivel, and come to performance art events. He's read books that friends have written, listened to songs they sing, and watched films they've made. He once stood on the sidelines in the pouring rain carrying a sign that read "Run Forrest Run" as the running posse and I hobbled through the Vancouver Half Marathon. He wasn't feeling well that day, and we found out later that he actually had pneumonia! He's made special play lists for events that we've hosted, and he's cooked amazing meals on a number of occasions for his new found friends and family. He even makes cheescakes for special events and special people. He is great with my family and he brings me coffee every single day in bed.

Yes, he has been an all round supportive partner.

When he wants "Mister Man time", he finds his bliss in fishing. On occasion, I get to go with him, but mostly, he loves the solitary pursuit of sitting on a lake in his little inflatable boat or standing on the shore casting. As the fall approaches, so does fishing season, and on the weekend, I came home to find him sitting at the table tying flies.

It's an art really.

Here are some action shots from the past, taken with my lens baby (more on that later).

He is so happy.

And at peace.

This is Mister Man in his bliss.