Category Archives: Eats

Vocabulary Lesson

Sometimes I get to feeling like an underaged grandmother. This modern world and all it’s trendy concepts and mash-ups has a way of putting me directly in touch with my further eighty-year-old self – you know, the one where I get to grumble out loud without consequences and tell people I think their ideas are dumb without consequence. Even though I’m closer in age to a 15-year old than to my grandmother, I don’t know what a bitcoin is and I don’t want my eyeglasses to tell me whether or not I’m about to have a heart attack or look at buzzfeed posts about the some-number-of-things that something or another. I want to shop at thrift stores and have to take out  shoulder pads from 80s blazers and bake things with whole wheat flour and read books made out of paper.

I do, however, want to see people act better do nice things for themselves and the other creatures on this planet so, when I learned about two new words that, on first glance, sounded like the kind of thing that normally makes me shudder, I had to admit maybe new, buzzworthy concepts aren’t always all bad. The words? Flexitarian and rewilding.

The first one I think I am. Having spent the last ten years going on and off a completely vegetarian diet, I’ve landed somewhere comfortably on the side of vegetables but without the commitment. ‘Flexitarians‘ eat soup made from chicken stock, sometimes grill up some hotdogs, and maybe grab fish tacos once in a while. What they don’t do is have meat every meal, or even every week. That’s important for all the right reasons – health, the environment, your wallet, the ocean, animal rights – and it’s more realistic for people than straight-up vegetarianism might be. There’s plenty of reasons, obviously and obviously, to become a vegetarian, but most people still eat loads of meat so I thought this was a pretty neat concept. Maybe even a starter kit for self-improvement though food choices. I wouldn’t be a true flexitarian unless I asked you to try it, but I do draw the line just before proselytizing most times.

A flexitarian's dinner.

A flexitarian’s dinner.

The other word that’s interesting is ‘rewilding’. I heard this first on one of those radio interviews you catch the end of but don’t remember what station or who was speaking. Then I read about this group who wants to see Europe return to a more wild state. My muddled memory of that radio piece plus what I’ve learned since spells a case for returning (at least parts of) the world as much as possible to the wilderness. And more so than just to an environment similar to the one we had before the industrial revolution – these guys want to return things to the actual open wildness that was before people. This is interesting to me because it seems a drift from the conservation ideas I have come to know as a 21st century human. Not just ‘let’s recycle and eat locally’ but ‘let’s tear down these old buildings and let the trees grow back’.

So the chant is to reintroduce wolves and grizzly bears, connect huge tracks of land  to other huge tracks of land in a way that follows how animals move naturally, and let’s get people back to working the land in harmony with the natural world. Coppicing and harvesting, rather than bulldozing and fertilizing. These people are thinking big and that I can respect. With news like scallop die offs and rhino extinction, it’s probably time for some renegade action in addition to all those re-suable water bottles we’re so proud of here on the west coast.

I’ll still probably keep avoiding facebook games and a new cell phone for as long as mine still works, but I’m happy to have been exposed to some pretty cool new ideas. Good to take your attention away from re-stitch these shoulder seams, I suppose, no matter your age.

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Number 30 on number 31 (Oh and 29 too)

A whole year gone, and I’m excited to say I’ve completed my mission – to taste, make, eat, and share 30 cakes  from birthday No. 30 until birthday No. 31. The last few weeks I was quite anxious that the whole thing might fall apart, but thanks to a delicious (and nutritious?) breakfast on my birthday morn’ and an English treat at one of Vancouver’s finest pubs, the Cheshire Cheese Inn, I can officially stop pestering everyone with photos of cake.

No. 29: Mini, cloud-topped double  vanilla beauties.

No. 29: Mini, cloud-topped double vanilla beauties.

Brambleberry Trifle

And, finally, Brambleberry Trifle.

Double vanilla I won’t sour with an explanation. Just promise you’ll try it… maybe even for breakfast. The trifle, however, I feel keen to explain. Wikipedia says some of the first trifle mentions date as far back as the 1590s and I though that fitting to celebrate my grown-up-ness. Custard,  liquor-soaked bread, brambleberries and a heap of whipped cream makes for an impressive cake indeed, especially when it follows a pint of celebratory lager.

As this  took a whole year to complete, I feel like I should be able to offer more fanfare, but the soft landing of some of our most worthy endeavors often fails to be easily described. The best I can say is that I got to share this year-long celebration of me with some of the very best people I know – sister, husband, friends, and a few quietly with me, myself, and I.  So here’s to being older and to accomplishing even the silliest of goals.

 

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30 Cakes (26, 27 and 28/30)

This week I’ve had a familiar cake from a stranger, and some unfamiliar cakes baked with love by friends. The first one, the carrot cake, was nice enough and made for a happy little afternoon tea-time treat, but made me miss my sister and her version made with apple sauce and a lot of shaved carrots. Shaving carrots takes some commitment, but watching as the roots are stripped and fly like mad confetti into a big bowl is actually one of my favorite culinary experiences. This version is from one of Vancouver’s many great not-Starbucks coffee shops, Koffee. While this was delicious, I’m now really looking forward to getting out the vegetable peelers and talking my sister into making her version while we’re home for Christmas.

Eat your vegetables.

Eat your vegetables.

The second cake, well ‘cake event’, was happily found at the annual holiday party of my wonderful knitting buddies. This Knitmas, the table was filled with sweet treats which included an anise and almond cake and peppermint brownies both made by some really talented knitters I’m happy to know. With a pile of friends celebrating a common interest, a plate full of cakes,  and other holiday parties on the way, it turns out the end of the 30 Cakes is nearly here.

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The superstars are there on the bottom left and top-ish-middle  buried around a few assorted “not cakes”, am I right? Let’s call it a ‘cake event.

 

 

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30 Cakes ( 24 & 25/30)

So, this whole time, since I turned 30 nearly 12months ago, I’ve been foregoing seconds of any type of cake I have already gotten/cooked/or otherwise received. That means no more cheesecake at my  knitting group, no more doughnuts, no more walnut frosted.

I’m preparing to make a concession.

Since moving to Canada, something I’ve really come to enjoy is celebrating two Thanksgivings. One in October, the Canadian one, doesn’t have any of the normal family obligation for us so we usually take advantage by doing something a little out of the ordinary. Black and white monster movies from the 1940s, turkey dinner at a diner, naps and Indian delivery, these kinds of things. The last few years, we’ve been taken in by our Canadian buddies and treated to incredible vegetarian feasts of squash and oh-so-incredible tofurkey. One thing I’m sure to have twice is pumpkin pie.

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Leftovers from the “Canadian” feast with a Charley Harper puzzle – sounds like Thanksgiving to me.

Now that we’re on our way towards American Thanksgiving, formerly known as “Thanksgiving”, I think I’ll go ahead and give number __ to another round of this holiday classic. With every day this week at regular work hours, scrambling to make some sort of acceptable mini feast for ourselves, and make the most of the weird, electronic connection to our families that Skype will offer, I think a little comforting repetition is in order.

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Tips from a Jazz Kitchen just in time for Thanksgiving

Not long ago, I wrote about how many hobbies I’d picked up since moving to Vancouver and since I’ve had a small desire to streamline some of them. For one, I’m going to shut down, or at least stop posting to, my blog about food called Jazz Kitchen. I’d started it in the hopes of figuring out what kind of cook I was and, in defining a set of rules for the kitchen, I think I did. Now I feel like running a separate blog from the kitchen might be a bit much. I’ll repost some of the highlights over the next few months, and then keep up with anything new and interesting from the kitchen here.

Thanks to everybody who checked out the good vibes of stress-free cooking, inspiration, and improvisation of Jazz Kitchen. I’ll see you around here from now on. In celebration of Thanksgiving this week, here’s a re-post of my de-stressed Thanksgiving dinner summary last year –

Originally Published over on Jazz Kitchen on Nov. 22, 2012

– Thankful for Rule #1 –

Today I’m thankful for food on the table and, frankly, the table itself. We  Also for my mom for relentlessly keeping us well-fed every day and for passing on her rational curiosity for food and cooking. On tonight’s menu: roast turkey, home made cranberry sauce, my sister’s version of green bean casserole, sweet potatoes (southern style, as in, with the marshmallows) and a pumpkin pie.

Roasty, toasty.

Roasty, toasty.

This is the perfect day to begin this blog project as Thanksgiving can encapsulate everything fun and good about cooking. You know the food, you can plan in advance, you have room to play with tradition and ultimately you’ll be feeding people you love. I realize that for some, it’s more like hours and hours of prep work and a kitchen full of chaos, but this brings us to Rule #1.Although it’s part of many recipes, I say it’s OK to Skip the Added Stress in your cooking.

Cooking for a large group is hard and can get complicated, but part of this rule entails not taking on more than you can manage. Budget appropriately and don’t decide to try something requiring skills you don’t have. I’m not making a whole turkey cause this year there will only be two of us. This means that instead of the stuffing that I do love, I’ll actually end up with more time to prep casseroles and have a glass of wine. The celery sticks with cream cheese that are always a part of mom’s dinner also got the ax because I don’t see myself cutting up and dressing individual sticks and I don’t really have the fridge space to do it advance. Leftovers are great, but I’m only making half portions so we don’t have them for ages. These decisions made shopping easier and will eliminate frustration during cooking and clean up too. Best of all, the dinner is still going to be delicious!

Turkey for two.

Turkey for two.

Here’s the plan:

Home from work at 4:45 (in Canada now so no time off today!)

Potatoes in the oven – sweet ones just stabbed with a fork and in foil, savory ones cut in half then bathed in a little olive oil, salt, pepper and oregano.

Turkey prepped with a good rinse and dry then a salt and pepper and butter rub with rosemary under the skin. This will probably be about an hour or so in the oven as it’s a smaller size but will need to check on that as we go.

Cranberries cooked up following this recipe. I was super excited about quite a few other ones out there many of which called for liquors, uncommon spices or soaking over night. I’m aiming for simplicity here so this should be a good basic recipe to start with – the more steps and the longer the ingredient list the more time you should give yourself.

I already prepared the pumpkin (split, gutted, roasted with brown sugar for about an hour) so the pie will be home-made delicious and a cinch. The author of this recipe cut out the crust for calorie concerns; I’m more excited about the time it will save!

Two cans of green beans + one can of classic Campbell’s mushroom + s&p into a casserole. This just needs to warm up a bit so it gets last priority in the tiny oven. A few of those crispy onions on top and broil.

Potatoes out – sweet ones mixed with sugars and maple syrup and topped with jiffy puff and then broiled for a few minutes. Savory ones are ready to go.

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Lovely, lumpy marshmallows.

Herbs in the oven.

Herbs in the oven.

Then just a few slices of yummy bread, glasses of wine or maybe cider, and time to call mom back home.
What do you think… Thanksgiving dinner by 7:30? :) Happy Thanksgiving to all!

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 (with my thanks to a very good friend and dinner guest for taking these photos of dinner and being there to celebrate!) 
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30 Cakes (22/30)

Of all the phrases we hear (and use) too often, and I think ‘pleasant surprise’ is one of the ones I like least. This is only because when I actually do encounter one, the phrase kicks in and I immediately stop considering what makes the surprise pleasant. Like the other day when I ordered apple pie and coffee at a sandwich shop as part of my endeavor to eat 30 Cakes in this, my 30th year. It’s a deli so, low expectations, right? Wrong.

Apple pie and sweet surprises.

Apple pie and sweet surprises.

Turns out this sandwich shop (it’s called PHAT, you know, like pretty, hot and tasty) has an apple pie good enough to be tagged as a pleasant surprise. ‘Pleasant’ in that it’s nice to be presented with a something the maker of which cared about, took their time with, and wanted you to like. ‘Surprise’ because we spend so much time noting the petty problems and annoyances of a day, so when something nice comes at you, it’s probably better to drop the over-used phrases and just enjoy it.

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30 cakes (19/30)

Stitches and pumpkin cheesecake.

Stitches and pumpkin cheesecake.

Normally, I’m not a believer in organized fun. Events at work, group concert attendance, meeting strangers at coffee shops to discuss a common interest, none of these are what you might call “up my alley”. Thankfully, I seem to have usually had a nice little circle of close friends – people who are up for whatever and don’t need to plan things in advance. When we arrived in Vancouver, that circle shrank considerably, so I started looking for places to meet people outside work.

Adding to or building up a group of friends can shape your impression of a place. Even on vacation, we often judge the entire place we’re visiting on the few interactions we have with the locals. Where I grew up, people would often say that they didn’t like New York after visiting – “Everyone was so stuck up and busy,” “No one would talk to us” – these kinds of comments are thrown around as the official judgement of an entire city.  Whereas, if you have pleasant encounters on a trip, you tend to head home with warm feelings and happy stories more so than I think we often realize.

Vancouver is sort of notorious for it’s icy attitudes. People I meet here who are from other places often describe their friend-making experience as a challenge. Vancouverites have a class to attend or special interest group work to do or allergies to wheat, all of which can make going to grab a beer with someone more complicated than I’ve certainly ever encountered. Also, it’s a transient city, and that’s something I do know about. Living in a beach community as a kid meant summers filled with new kids to hang out with and weird, empty feelings when everyone went back home. In Tallahassee, where we lived last in Florida, the college atmosphere seems to make people want to “move on”. It was a place where attending going-away parties was pretty common. Since moving here, I’ve said good bye to a half dozen of the buddies who were drug away by work permits, calls to their home town, or jobs far away.

What I did find is one totally excellent group of knitters who are brought together by stitches and coffee and Thursday evenings. This is, technically, organized fun, but I have to say that seeking a interest group pretty soon after we arrived has been one of my best decisions yet. Found originally on meetup.com (Eek! How organized does that sound?) this group has strengthened my appreciation for how good we can be to each other without even knowing it. What you might call general chit chat and laughs over this or that thing we all experience in our knitting or in our lives has made a lovely little impact on me over the last few years. In the midst of people not making eye contact on the side walk or talking to their neighbors, there’s a little cluster of us who bring our own backgrounds and stories while we happily step away from our various jobs and kids and partners for a brief moment.

For this reason, I’m super happy to have indulged in cake #19 with my knitting buddies. When this sweater finally gets finished, I’ll be reminded of a chilly October evening with friends at Trees coffee shop where, by the way, you can get an absolutely delicious pumpkin cheesecake. And, if you’re someone living somewhere new, let me take a moment to tip my hat to those to are pulling together strangers at some coffee shop on some corner in your town. The work of connecting people sure isn’t easy these days, and a little appreciation to the talkers and the planners was given with each of this cake’s bites!

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30 cakes (16, 17, and 18 / 30)

Homemade plum cake, heavy on the egg whites.

Homemade plum and strawberry cake, heavy on the egg whites.

Lucky's doughnuts - lemon creme!

Lucky’s doughnuts – lemon cream!

My own invention - coconut pistachio with brown sugar caramel!

My own invention – coconut pistachio with brown sugar caramel.

September made for a strange collection of cakes – plums from BC made into a egg-white-heavy cake, a delicious treat from Lucky’s doughnuts, and an invented (as in, thrown together from whatever was in the cabinets) coconut and pistachio cake drenched in brown sugar caramel. Not too bad for a month, but still more work to do!

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The Halfway Report: 15/30

With the year mark coming back around faster than I am keeping up with, my plan of having 30 cakes in the first 365 days of my 30th year might need a little recap and refresh.

Luckily, I didn’t have to dig very deep to remember that I started this count at the birthday lunch I had with a wonderful friend who took me out for mini cakes and a palm reading (yes, both services are offered at the same venue – obviously an incredible pal for finding it and knowing how thoroughly happy it would make me). From there I was surprised at work with a chocolate cake breakfast and the ball, as they say, was officially in play.

I’ve since had cakes for Christmas, a famous Vancouver-style cupcake, and a stunning southern classic cake paired with champagne and a healthy dose of my girls back home. I’ve baked a few, including this coconut beauty, and tucked in a couple of  mini treats to what would have otherwise been regular days.

All told, I still have exactly 2 months and 29 days to finish. With the installment of #15 (spiced milk cake with caramel icing) and the incredible looking strawberry cake recipe that I was gifted recently, I think I’ll be well able to note this as a happy 30th year indeed.

15/30 - a classic milk cake recipe (with cardamom, nutmeg and all spice added to the milk) plus a brown sugar caramel icing - helps start Fall off right.

A classic milk cake recipe (with cardamom, nutmeg and all spice added to the milk) plus a brown sugar caramel and elderflower icings to help start Fall off right.

 

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30 Cakes (14/30)

I don’t know if you’ve been around since December, but it was in that month that I had a certain auto-versary. Rather than being filled with dread, the actual day of my 30th came and went riding on a pleasant sense of accomplishment. I decided it would be appropriate to continue the celebration and what better way to do that than to fill this year with 30 cakes.

Unfortunately it’s already the end of August and I’m falling behind. With the “heat” of summer (it’s Vancouver, but things are still pretty saucy out there) it’s just been too much to crank up the oven or encourage the desire for heavy-duty deserts. What to do? A little cool cheesecake seemed spot on, as they say.

Does this count as one or three?

Does this count as one or three?

Number 14 came in a set of three. I don’t know what it is about cheesecake that yields so popularly to sampler flavors – I have and always will prefer ‘plain’. Consumed in in the true spirit of things (with one bite of each to start) this little plate made a nice afternoon break from work the other day at a coffee shop around the corner. It even came with a kinda crazy sharp fork so hooray for that.

Now I just have to make sure I’m happy with my decision to count this as one and not three. Oh, and eat way more cake in the next few weeks! Anyone have a fun summer cake recipe to share? I’m thinking something fruity for number 15.

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Bowl of Sunshine

Here we sit at the height of summer.

Here we sit at the height of summer.

In the last few weeks, Okanagan Valley peaches have been making their way into grocery stores here in Vancouver and I couldn’t be happier or more impressed. When we lived in Tallahassee, we were never far from famous Georgia peaches. Spotting one of those makeshift farm stands under a tailgating-style tent on the side of some dusty road almost always warranted a stop for berries, watermelons, and peaches.

Up here, the peaches are adorned with ‘organic’ and ‘local’ stickers, which wouldn’t have seemed appropriate at all back home. They also lack the warmth of the ones you’d bite into under 90 degree blazing sunshine who’s orange color seemed to hold onto the sun itself. They did grow under a similar sun, though, and they are so incredibly delicious.

This morning’s bowl of peaches, just as sweet as you could imagine, brings me thoughts of those hot summers even under today’s cloudy skies. Thanks for that, peaches. And please do stay a while.

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30 Cakes (13/30)

This year had a good feeling from the start. Perhaps because the dread that afflicted me from about the day after my 26th birthday had finally worn off. Perhaps because it started as one of those years that felt like neat things were going to happen. Perhaps because turning 30 isn’t so bad after all.

Whatever the case, this year calls for more celebration than just one day. How am I celebrating, you ask? Well, by making, baking, or just plain ordering 30 different cakes before my next birthday.

A little more than halfway there, number 13 is one I made myself.

No. 13: Elderflower and Lemon

No. 13: Elderflower and Lemon

It’s been so nice outside lately that I wanted to make something to celebrate blue, cloudless skies and warm sunny lawns. Having recently purchased a new bottle of Ikea’s elderflower syrup and a couple of extra lemons, inspiration was right there in the fridge. The cake is Martha Stewart’s plain vanilla layer cake plus the juice and zest of one lemon. The butter cream has a not-so-little touch of elderflower. Together they turn out to be a perfect pair for the steadily strengthening summer!

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It’s cold, it churns and it’s changing my life.

Ok so it’s maybe not that dramatic, but it’s hard to control my excitement over the newest addition to my household: the ice cream maker.

Churning the love.

Churning the love.

My small kitchen means making ice cream on my writing desk is a thing that’s going to happen. It’s ok to laugh. I sure did.

The results, however, are no laughing matter. Simple, sweet and purely delicious in that way that food can be only when it’s two or three ingredients at most. This first batch of what’s going to be called ‘double-vanilla’ (exactly what it sounds like, but not my idea – I had this once at Mallard Ice Cream in Bellingham and kinda never stopped thinking about it).

I hope to explore some original recipes and will post them to Jazz Kitchen so sty tuned if you to are a home churner or just like thinking about delicious sweet treats!

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The Vegetables of my Labo(u)r

June this year has been kinder than last. I’ve only had to wear rain boots two or three times so far and have switched to my lighter jackets successfully. That said, there’s still a chill in the air and we’ve been spooked out of camping twice so far with temperatures dropping to the single digits (Celsius, people… I’m trying!) still.

That said, one part of summer has already arrived – the happy results of early spring planting.

Bucket of greens fresh from the farm, er, I mean balcony.

Bucket of greens fresh from the farm, er, I mean balcony.

This wonderful little concoction of greens includes some kind of choy vegetable I forgot the specifics of, red and green leaf lettuces and a few pieces of arugula. Having grown up successfully (in spite of a north-facing lack of sun and squirrel who ate quite a few of their seedling brethren) these little greens will keep me from having to buy lettuces for a while.

But not everyone is an enemy!

Garden's friend.

Garden’s friend.

I still have sugar snap peas on the way and fingers crossed for red tomatoes (last year’s were mostly green).  I also have some wonderful flowers starting to come up so come on Summer and bring my little green balcony some sunny days, warmer nights!

Greening.

Greening.

Vegetables of my labo(u)r.

Vegetables of my labo(u)r.

 

 

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30 Cakes (12/30)

In December I turned 30 and to celebrate one day of fun just didn’t seem appropriate. Maybe it’s all the hype with becoming a real adult. Maybe it’s just because I like baking new things. Either way, this year is the year of 30 Cakes.

Number 12 is a nutty adventure – Walnut with Cardamom butter cream.

Spicy, nutty number 12.

Spicy, nutty number 12.

It’s modeled after a recipe found in a baking book left here by a friend of mine who has moved on to more southern climes (Australia, actually, which is almost as south as you can get! ). I modified it a little by adding yogurt to the ground-walnut-based batter and cardamom to the icing a little at a time until I ended up with just a hint of flavor beyond delicious sweetened butter icing.

Made in a loaf pan, this is a tasty little cake that might just wind up as breakfast tomorrow too!

(Hey. You on Instagram? I promise I don’t just take photos of cake!)

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Balcony Gardening

Seed packets bundles of opportunity. They have almost the same likelihood to "dud" as to grow making the ones that do thrive all the sweeter.

Seed packets bundles of opportunity. They have almost the same likelihood to “dud” as to grow making the ones that do thrive all the sweeter.

It’s been about a month since I planted my balcony garden and the seeds are sprouting! We’ve had a few sunshiny weeks in a row starting what will, I hope, become a phenomenal growing season. I mainly planted veggies but this time I’m trying nasturtiums, delphiniums, and the lovely complementary wildflower packet we were given at West Coast Seeds in Delta, BC.  These will live alongside the lettuces, watercress, artichokes and garlic that’s taking up most of the real estate out there.

Our balcony faces north so it’s a bit tricky to grow sun-loving plants. Last year, my tomato adventure yielded poor results (except for the fact that I got to make fried green tomatoes). Two years ago at the old, east-facing  apartment, I grew a heap of delicious and ripe tomatoes from seed. This year I think I’ll  try for a head-start and buy an already-blooming plant.

Phase 1 - Planted

Phase 1 – Planted

That’s the crow’s nest in the pine tree on the right of this photo, by the way.

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Phase 2 – The first to arrive!

More to come once the seeds get going. For now, I’ll just be battling squirrels who, apparently, love getting their paws into newly turned dirt. The weather and the soil here make for easy growing so as long as I can keep them safe now delicious salads and beautiful flowers should be on the way. Till then, hooray for balcony gardens and BC’s incredible potential for planting even in small spaces.

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30 Cakes (10/30)

Best cake name yet goes to this one: "The Diplomat"

Best cake name yet goes to this one: “The Diplomat”

Having your sister in town after finishing an awesome road trip is reason to celebrate so Cake 10/30 came with a few glasses of wine. This one is from True Confections, a desert-only restaurant here in Vancouver. Great idea, huh?

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30 Cakes (9/30)

Everybody needs goals, right? Well mine is to encounter 30 cakes this year in celebration of a certain birthday milestone. With February coming to a close, I’m just enjoying number 9 on a rainy afternoon.

9 of 30

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A Sunny Day in Delta and a Rant about Bird Photography

With spring migrations on the way and the promise of Saw Whet owls residing at the bird sanctuary, a trip to south was in order for yesterday’s amazingly sunny weather. Delta and Ladner are smaller towns built around vibrant farming communities and proximity to the river. In the summer, you can pick or purchase the best berries I’ve ever eaten. In the late winter, you can track Arctic waterfowl and pick up some seeds for a garden soon to grow on your big city balcony.

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Delta, complete with a seagrass T.

At Riefel, a bird sanctuary you arrive at only after crossing a charming, one-hundred-year-old bridge to Westham Island, we looked for regular residents and some stunning visitors that make their flight over this area. I was happy to get a glimpse of the Saw Whet, the smallest of North American owls, that have been living at the sanctuary recently. Unfortunately, the moment was tainted by my disappointment in fellow bird watchers who thought it acceptable to hoot and whistle at sleeping owls. I hate to sound critical, but I think those of us who think ourselves “Nature Photographers” should to take a moment to realize sticking camera lenses in the faces of nocturnal birds might not be worth your capturing of an image that, frankly, is already all over the internet.

I stood behind ten or so people who were testing the limits of the sawhorse fence newly built to keep bird watchers away from the tree where the Saw Whets have been roosting. On this particular afternoon, one of the owls picked a pretty low branch to sleep. Since it was so close, I figured people would look at the bird, maybe take a snapshot and then be on their way. Instead, they all squished together, talked to each other rather loudly, and reached closer and closer to the bird. As if that weren’t enough, several “photographers” then started making noises directly at the bird I assume in the hope it would opened its eyes. That’s the way you do nature photography, right? Following the huddle of people with fancy lenses who appear at popular city nature parks with free parking lots on busy Saturday afternoons? Get a tip from the lady in the office or an email rather than happening on an animal naturally or by your own tracking instincts?

Needless to say, I didn’t feel right photographing the Saw Whets this particular afternoon. They are the cutest little things and I would have loved a photo, but last time I checked, nocturnal animals need to rest during the day so they can hunt all night. We took a good look at him with binoculars from about twenty feet away and found that to be enough for us. I will say that the Saw Whet is worth a trip to see, even if you have to rely on a tip from someone else. You, however, just do an image search for them and get the idea and perhaps that’s preferable to some of what I saw going on today. I’m going to trust that at least some of these photos weren’t taken by people harassing wild birds while they slept.

Thankfully there was plenty else to see including a visit to West Coast Seeds and lunch at Sharkeys back in Ladner. We also happened  upon a flock of snow geese making the most tremendous racket. As we watched, a single Tundra Swan flew over us thinking he’d found his friends. Circling over the noisy group for a hesitant moment, he discovered his mistake and quickly turned away to the south. A few Douglas Squirrels took advantage of little piles of seeds left along the path. A guy in plastic boots and long white hair took advantage of a Vancouver riot to add some depth to his truck bed.

The green gates to Westham Island.

The green gates to Westham Island.

My future garden - complete with free "thank you" seeds and a pair of complimentary gloves.

My future garden – complete with free “thank you” seeds and a pair of complimentary gloves.

All the potential of West Coast Seeds.

All the potential of West Coast Seeds.

So there was this riot and people came to write apologetic notes on the plywood that covered broken shop windows... and then this guy did *this* with the plywood.

So there was this riot and people came to write apologetic notes on the plywood that covered broken shop windows… and then this guy did *this* with the plywood.

Nothing like a little Local Color. What's that on the dash? Oh, right. A Beluga Whale stuffed toy.

Nothing like a little Local Color. What’s that on the dash? Oh, right. A Beluga Whale stuffed toy.

We didn't get the Poutine because I love the fish and chips too much, but Sharkey's is in the contest. Lunch here is always a treat.

We didn’t get the Poutine because I love the fish and chips too much, but Sharkey’s is in the contest. Lunch here is always a treat.

Farm Life.

Farm Life.

A swan flew over to check out the group of snow geese but quickly turned back to find his own kind.

A swan flew over to check out the group of snow geese but quickly turned back to find his own kind.

A flock of Snow Geese making use of a winter field.

A flock of Snow Geese making use of a winter field.

Douglas Squirrel.

Douglas Squirrel.

Winter woods.

Winter woods.

 

 

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30 cakes (8/30)

So it’s half way through February, I’m at eight, and feeling quite good about the 30 Cakes Project. This one is a homemade attempt to rectify the many differences in coconut cake recipes I’ve been looking at for the last couple of days. I kept finding that I didn’t have all of the ingredients for any one of them so came up with a version containing what I did have. There’s apparently a neat way of making coconut buttercream with eggs that I want to try one day, but I’ll need like six eggs to make that work along with a fluffy cake. I only had three eggs and was tired of waiting for coconut cake so I improvised and came up with this beauty.

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It was incredibly coco-nutty and really sweet. I’ll need to do some adjusting to this before calling it a home run. Still, you can’t really go wrong with coconut anything if you ask me.

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30 Cakes (7/30)

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Not the prettiest, but surely the most chocolaty.

Number 7 in the quest for 30 Cakes is my Aunt’s recipe for Chocolate Sweet Cake. Made with buttermilk and a ton of coco powder this is a heavenly thing and a mushy little treat. Dug out of my mom’s recipe box, the card she made for this is yellowed and smeared with chocolate-coated fingerprints. Fun to make and delicious to eat! Check out the recipe on my culinary adventures blog “Jazz Kitchen“.

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30 cakes (6/30)

Thirty cakes on my 30th year. I’ve been missing loads of cake time lately! Catching up now with homemade chocolate lava cake. Small, but oh so gooey and delicious!

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30 Cakes (4/30)

Today’s installment comes from back home with my sister and good friend at the lovely Tallahassee restaurant, Food Glorious Food. They do mostly southern-influenced dishes but with nice adaptations for modern and, well, less country southerners but the main event is desert. I mean, check this out. Creative, delicious and hard to choose from, but glorious indeed. My pick this evening was the Hummingbird Cake (which is something you’d be likely to see at a good hearty southern church pot-luck) and the girls got Perfect Chocolate (a FGF original that I’ll endorse as perfect) and  a cranberry coffee cake in the spirit the season. Cheers with a bottle of champagne and thanks to good friends!

What a spread!

What a spread!

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30 cakes (3/30)

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Welcomed to my sister’s house with a mess of balloons, streamers and delicious sprinkle-flecked cupcakes with delightful Betty Crocker chocolate icing. And she didn’t even know about my cake mission… a sister is the best present!

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