Friday, July 17, 2015

Summer Days

Wednesday evening I declared the Summer 2015 the best summer since 2008. I made the declaration over at some friends' house where we were preparing a salad collected entirely from their garden (save for apricots that they brought back from their trip to the Okanagan). We were sipping on glasses of white wine before starting the meal, which was paired with Hillside Merlot-Malbec. (Hillside is my favourite BC winery because they made a Muscat Ottonel that is very similar to my favourite wine, a Muscat Sec from France.)

Summer 2008, I recalled there in the kitchen, was a good one. I was subletting a place on Fraser and 12th with a colourful kitchen and spent many evenings that summer drinking Chardonnay on the back patio with Anna. I also quipped that the financial meltdown hadn't yet happened, so we didn't know our job prospects as young professionals were about to be doomed. (In a bit of back-to-the-future, there's debate again about whether Canada is entering another recession.)

In an entry that summer, I wrote:
I've been in my sublet for almost one month now and started my job at the museum almost two weeks ago. ...
I really like my place. It's big. Much better than the closet I looked at in the West End. It has a big turquoise kitchen with a blue formica table.
That was the summer I was beginning to discover my love of cooking.
I was reading a piece about food the other day. The author argued that produce bought locally always tastes best and that we should try and eat what is locally grown rather than what is imported from around the world. ... I'm nowhere near ready to embark on the 100 mile diet, but I will try my best to buy fresh Canadian-grown produce.
If we take the school's-out definition of summer, so far I've:

1. Been to Mexico
2. Visited Peter in New York City for three-and-a-half weeks (more on that soon!)
3. Visited my friend Jacky in Washington, D.C.

Then that lovely meal on Wednesday was icing on top. Or rather, I brought dessert--a Black Magic Bundt Cake from Whole Foods (my favourite chocolate cake), and seasonal black cherries, which we paired with a late harvest dessert wine. It was so delicious.

I was feeling a little overwhelmed with all the uncertainty in my life, what with the post-graduation multi-city job search and not knowing where I'll be sleeping in a few weeks from now. Fortunately I've got the latter sorted out for now (which is a big relief), and the former is going pretty well.

I was had lunch with a friend yesterday who is in a similar situation to me, having just finished law school. I remarked, it's actually kind of an exciting time in our lives, really. It is. Amid all the uncertainty, the story of our lives is unfolding and we just have to enjoy every day and trust that it will end well.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

On Being Bicoastal

Tracking my latest flight from Vancouver to NYC.
Last spring, before I headed out to Ottawa for a summer internship, Peter and I had a house cooling party. We had never had a house warming because he'd already lived in his place for a number of years when I moved in. But a house cooling felt appropriate because--according to the plan at the time--when I came back from Ottawa, he'd have already moved to NYC for grad school. I'd be moving when I got back because the place was going to be sold, so we were effectively preparing to close up our home together.

We'd done long-distance before--the year I'd lived in France, or his tours with bands--so I wasn't worried about it. Also, with me writing my master's thesis and he just starting grad school 7 years after graduating undergrad, maybe some distance would allow each of us to concentrate. 

Last summer, Peter visited me in Ottawa, then he was playing Osheaga in Montreal and we had a fun time hanging out there. Before returning to Vancouver, I visited him in New York over the Labour Day weekend. We next saw each other for his birthday (conveniently close to the Remembrance Day holiday) in November. He was then home for a generous six-week Christmas break.

It's been hard, but we text and talk or facetime every day. I think the saddest I felt was for a moment, when we said goodbye after he had visited over his spring break for my birthday. Then in a split second, thinking about when I'd next see him, I realized it would be in three weeks in Mexico City! That was honestly the best realization: that we didn't have to visit each other in our cities, but that we could choose to meet anywhere.

I've been in New York now for nearly two weeks now. Newly graduated and job searching, it's nice that I can do that from anywhere, including New York, thanks to technology. I'm looking for opportunities pretty much anywhere, in an attempt to get closer, but we may end up being bicoastal for at least another year.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Soup Challenge

It's taken over a month, but I finally feel like I've got my kitchen groove back.
Living alone this past year while in school I often had a bare kitchen. I love cooking, but I didn't have the time while writing my thesis. At Christmas break I thought maybe trying to make large batches and freezing portions might be a way to avoid those busy weeks where I don't have time for cooking and therefor eat out. Though well-intentioned, that plan didn't work out.

So the day before yesterday, feeling like I had nothing to eat in the house, I gave myself a what's-in-my-kitchen soup challenge. Kitchen Sink soups are great and I think I rose to the challenge quite well.

Food politics, as I call it, has been an interest of mine since I moved out in undergrad. Eating local in an environmentally sustainable way, but also in a way that recognizes that the cost of organic foods are not within everyone's reach. I currently live in a non-market rental situation in an expensive neighbourhood so my grocery store tends to be pricey. I prioritize what I buy organic using the Environmental Working Group's Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists (apples are the main thing I buy organic). A magazine article I read in 2009 even got me thinking about food waste beyond discovering something past its prime in the back of the fridge, but about the fact that many foods are still edible past their Best Before date.

I feel like I normally waste little food. I usually make trips to the grocery several times a week and buy only what I need for meals I have in mind. But with school and living alone this year, I've been a pretty bad offender. I've felt better about my food waste now that my building has compost because it's returning to the earth, but still (I'd been carting it to school in an old salad box to compost there during the fall term).

So what were the results of my kitchen sink soup challenge?

Chicken Soup-inspired Vegetable Soup
~3/4 of a red onion, diced
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
3+ stalks of left over, wilted celery, including leaves, chopped
half of a leftover zucchini, sliced
~1 bunch of parsley
~1 cup of frozen peas
1 carrot, peeled and diced
~1/4 tsp each of thyme, sage, rosemary
~ 1 tsp poultry seasoning
a few shakes of cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste

Chicken stock is usually my go-to for soups, but I didn't have any stock on hand. Instead I used of spices that google said are used in chicken soup, before remembering that I have poultry seasoning. I sautéed the onion and garlic in butter before adding the celery. After adding the other vegetables, I added enough water so that they were just covered, about two cups. Bring to a boil then simmer for 20 minutes. Taste and correct spices as needed.

I blended the soup. To serve, I stirred in one spoonful of Greek yogurt to give it a creamy taste.


I think this soup challenge re-ignited my passion for cooking; now that I'm done school and it's not a functional chore, I can enjoy it again. Last night I made a Niçoise-ish salad for dinner (didn't have eggs), and tonight I think I'm going to try my hand at making a paella because I saw mussels were on sale for $2.50/dozen.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Viva México!

I realize I haven't maintained this blog since going back to school. But last month I defended my thesis! So to celebrate being done I went to Mexico.
The view from the plane on descent to land
The all-inclusive resort thing has never appealed to me (although a nap on an Ottawa beach last summer has persuaded me of the merits of such vacations--if an Ottawa beach can do that, then a white, sandy beach must be exponentially better, right?).

If you'd asked me this time last year my planned grad trip destination, I would have told you likely Savannah, Georgia. But then some friends of ours told us to save the date because they'd be getting married in Mexico. As the bride's family is from Mexico, this was not going to be the Mexican destination wedding thing.

Our trip was short but sweet. The bride and groom did such a wonderful job planning everything, and had such great taste in friends(!), that it felt more like a vacation in which there happened to be a wedding, rather than the wedding being the sole purpose of the trip. The other exciting part is that it was the first time that I realized that Peter and I, now  being in a bicoastal relationship, could meet up in cities other than Vancouver and New York.

The bride and groom were married in a village outside of San Miguel de Allende, which is north of Mexico City. We flew into Mexico City, from which the bride and groom chartered two 20-passenger vans--one for the out-of-town guests and one for the groom's family. We all stayed at Casa Carmen bed and breakfast, so we had the place entirely to ourselves.

The courtyard of Casa Carmen had orange trees!
San Miguel was magical. The cobble streets were lined with warm-hued buildings. Days there seemed to go by at the perfect pace--not to fast and not too slow. 
Our visit to Mexico definitely whet  my appetite to see more of Latin America!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

La canicule qui n'a pas été

I could forgive you for mistaking this view from out my living room window as having been taken in April rather than in August.

When I first arrived back in May, I was told that about la canicule.

canicule (can-knee-k(y)ule) : heat wave 

Indeed, summer here feels hotter than in Vancouver because of the humidity. On Canada Day is was 30°C, but felt closer to 40°C with humidity. Despite the oppressive heat and humidity, which I think Anna and I's patriotism enabled us to survive, we were told that it gets hotter. 

But then in mid-July it cooled down and again this past week has been grey and rainy. It's been an unusually cold summer in Ottawa this year. Being accustomed to Vancouver's temperate and rainy climate, I've felt at quite at home. I've even jokingly teased my Ottawa compatriots about how they always say they want to live in Vancouver, well, this is what it's like in Vancouver.

In all honesty though, I worried a little when I spotted the first autumn leaves appearing on the trees outside my window yesterday. Although autumn in Ottawa is supposed to be beautiful, I didn't pack an autumn wardrobe and I hope summer isn't over by the time I get back to Vancouver!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Canada Day

Anna is one of my oldest, dearest friends. My best friend, you might say,  if that's not an immature label to use at 27 years old. We met in grade 8 and have been close ever since.

When we graduated from high school I started undergrad at UBC and she took a gap year and went to England. That summer after graduating high school was pretty great, pretty much as close to coming-of-age-movie-perfect as it could be. At the end of that summer I quit the part-time job I'd had for during high school--at the concession of the cinemaplex--and taken a new one at the mall. I remember I'd gotten that job, where I was making a whole 25¢ more than minimum wage, in order to save up to visit Anna in England.

I remember the excitement and anxiety of saving up--would I make enough to afford to go? Working maybe 12-16 hours a week at 25 cents more than minimum wage made it a challenge. In the end, I made my savings goal and booked my flight to London for the late afternoon following my last exam.

As I recalled in a travelogue post at the time:

As I began my exam on April 22nd, I was relieved to see that I knew something about everything asked of me on the exam, and as such began writing furiously. Such erratic scrawling got me discrete looks from my friend ... I finished my exam 20 minutes - half an hour early, and was off to the airport.

Nine hours later I was landing at Heathrow Airport in London, England.
I think I once heard that the island of Britain is either the same size or smaller than Vancouver Island. However, England makes itself big in part due to how difficult it is to travel within the country. Four hours after having landed, Anna and I arrived at her cottage in Oxfordshire, after having taken a supplemental bus from Heathrow to the Underground, the Underground to Paddington Station, a train to Oxford, a bus, and a taxi. Once we arrived, I was given fifteen minutes to shower and get ready for a dinner invitation at Anna's Irish coworker's cottage. 
Anna and I walking through some English ruins on our way to dinner at said Irish colleague's cottage.

So remembering that excitement I felt when I visited Anna in England, I was thrilled when she told me she was going to visit me here in Ottawa for Canada Day.

Anna was here for just three days, but we packed those three days. Anna had a wedding the weekend before Canada Day, so she took a red-eye flight and arrived in Ottawa Monday morning. After meeting at the airport we took a bus directly to my place and went for breakfast at the Baker Street Cafe in Westboro. Afterwards Anna had a nap, while I went to the grocery store; my fridge was bare and the grocery store was going to be closed for Canada Day.

That afternoon we visited the War Museum. I thought it was really well done; I recommend the temporary exhibit Witness, which features paintings by soldiers of World War I scenes. Afterwards we met up with her cousin-in-law, John, at watched the Germany prevail over Algeria in the World Cup. We concluded the evening by having a drink on a patio in the Byward Market.

For Canada Day, Anna and I had had the idea of getting matching Vancouver, Canada tourist t-shirts.

Anna is actually only 2 inches taller than me, but for some reason looks way taller in this photo.

We started Canada Day off with brunch at some intern colleague friends of mine. Downtown was bustling. By the time we made it to Parliament Hill, we actually only caught the last of Serena Ryder's act and then my room mate's boyfriend's swing dancing demo. We hadn't realized that there was nothing much happening on Parliament Hill between the noon show and the evening concert. So we spent the rest of Canada Day barbecue-hopping, hitting three in total.

The next day I had to go into work, despite feeling a bit of the after effects of my patriotism. Anna met me for lunch and then visited the Canadian Museum of History. After I finished work, it was time to head back to the airport and see her off.

It was an amazing short, but sweet visit. Love that girl!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Il pleut à boire debout

Il pleut à boire debout (eel pluh ah bwar duh-boo) : it's pouring rain; it's raining cats and dogs

The literal translation is it's raining so as to be able to drink standing up. This has always been one of my favourite idioms because of the mental image it evokes. I've always imagined it raining so much that the puddles flood up to one's mouth. But in reality the idea is that it is raining so hard as to be able to drink by turning your head towards the sky.

As I work on the Quebec side of the National Capital Region, I have today off for la Saint-Jean-Baptiste. Mais il pleut à boire debout. While the seemingly endless months of grey rainy weather in Vancouver seem oppressive, I've discovered I quite enjoy the occasional Vancouver-style downpour in Ottawa. This is something I first realized about myself the morning after I got back from Toronto last spring and it was raining. It hadn't rained at all while I was in Toronto, so it seemed too dry.

Last week I did an Indigenous walking tour of Ottawa in the pouring rain. I hadn't anticipated the rain so I was caught without an umbrella. Despite the rain, I really enjoyed it. As I have been saying: I'm from Vancouver, if we waited for the rain to let up, we'd never do anything.

(photo of Paris in the rain by Rebecca Plotnick available as a print via Etsy)

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Yellow House

Last weekend I finished The Yellow House: Van Gogh, Gauguin, and Nine Turbulent Weeks in Provence by Martin Gayford. It had been on my list of books to read for a while, probably since hearing about it closer to its publication date, so I decided to bring it along as my reading on my flight to Ottawa.

The Yellow House is beautifully written. Gayford sweeps the reader away with his storytelling that one almost forgets the tragic ending that awaits. Even though I've long admired Van Gogh's art, after reading The Yellow House, I feel I understand him and his artistic mission better. He was trying to capture emotion in colour.

Despite the tragic end, Gayford doesn't leave his reader on a down note (something the Van Gogh Museum might improve on). Gayford discusses Van Gogh's posthumous success and recognition as a great artist, his mental health as it likely affected his art, and the fate of the Yellow House in Arles. Gayford leaves us with the impression that Van Gogh's brief stay in Arles was in medias res in the history of the town and art.

While in France, I had taken a brief trip to Arles to retrace Van Gogh's footsteps. The town of Arles actually has a "Van Gogh Trail" pamphlet that indicates a number of sites that the artists painted so you can compare the view. Like Les Alyscamps:

There are 10 sites marked on Van Gogh route, though we didn't visit them all. As I recall, it was a bit tricky to find some of them, or some were a bit on the outskirts of town. You can see the other sites here.

One thing I couldn't believe was that Van Gogh's Yellow House no longer existed. It had been bombed during the end of the war. Although there is a gallery dedicated to Van Gogh's time in Arles, la Fondation Vincent Van Gogh Arles, I am shocked that nobody has undertaken the task of building a replica of the yellow house to serve as a museum, akin to Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in London.

(Van Gogh's paintings of the Yellow House and Les Alyscamps public domain via Wikipedia)

Monday, June 9, 2014


I've now been in Ottawa just over a month so I thought I'd share a few of observations about how it's been so far.

  1. I didn't really have any preconceptions of what Ottawa would be like before arriving. I'd visited before -- once as a child and again on my way back from France in 2011 -- but both visits were only a couple of days. All I knew was that Ottawa is a government town.
  2. But Ottawa is so much more than the obligatory snapshot of the Peace Tower.
  3. In fact, I find it a lot like a larger version of Victoria in terms of architecture and vibe. 
  4. I've managed to survive the heat and humidity--so far! When I first arrived at the beginning of May there was still a bit of a chill in the air; it was almost as if I had gone back in time season-wise. The following weekend, however, spring came in full force, lasted for about a week, and it's been summer ever since.
  5. I'm liking the frequency of the lightning storms here. It's not a spectacle we often get in coastal Vancouver.
  6. I live a 5 minute walk from a river-front beach that is just about as gorgeous as Vancouver beaches.
  7. I've also enjoyed lake swims. In fact, I think I am discovering a love of lakeside beaches. I think I'll be spending more time in my bathing suit this summer than the previous several summers combined.
  8. Compared to Vancouver, the cost of everything here seems way cheaper! It's almost become a running joke with my intern colleagues when I remark on how much cheaper something is in Ontario than Vancouver. Apparently that's just what things cost when you don't live in one of the most expensive cities in the world.
  9. All of this has made me realize that there are other places in Canada in which I could live happily. 
  10. I think this might be part of my long break-up with Vancouver, because wow is my home city getting me down these days.

Monday, May 26, 2014

On Sexism, Sexual Harassment, and Misogyny

I don't usually post political things as I do plenty of thinking and discussing about such things in my offline life, but I can't help but feel really disturbed as I read about the massacre that happened in California over the weekend.

Though I've told this story to friends and acquaintances in person, I have never written about this on this blog because I didn't want to speak ill of France and give a bad impression the town I was staying in, my friends there, and my experience, but now I feel compelled to share.

When I was living in Saint Étienne in 2010-2011, I experienced nearly daily sexual harassment and sexism by men and boys hanging out in the streets. There was the time I wore red-orange nylons at American Thanksgiving and was chased after down the street by an adolescent boy shouting «Madame! Madame! Vous avez des belles jambes!» There was the time I was on my way to the gare early in the morning when it was still dark out and a man asked me if I wanted to «sucer» him. There was also the time I was out for a walk with a friend wearing the blue shirt (pictured in my American Thanksgiving post) and another adolescent made sexual sounds at me. There were other times too, that were less memorable because it happened so frequently. The men were persistent and relentless. Often they would engage you under the pretense of asking you a benign question. You were damned if you answered them and you were damned if you ignored them. It got to the point that at one point I decided to change my birthstone ring to my left ring-finger, recalling something my room mate had said about travelling in West Africa. But it didn't matter, the men would just say that well, your fiancé isn't here, right? I remember that time I ran to the Méliès café and hid out from that one aggressor. 

It also got more violent. A friend of mine was grabbed in the crotch by a complete stranger. One of my room mates was mugged by two teen boys. One time, a group of four of us was walking home when one of our friends walking home with us who is gay was threatened to have his eyes and tongue cut out. It had never occurred to me until that point that they would be armed. It got to the point where I was afraid to go out after dark, even in spring time. My fear of being out after dark persisted for a while after I returned home to Vancouver. I was particularly afraid walking home in the dark from the seabus, which is less than a 10 minute walk. It took me a while to feel safe again. But I still often look over my shoulder when walking alone at night no matter where I am. 

I tried talking to my colleagues at school about it. They sympathized. One said that his girlfriend got it worse because she was of North African descent, so "one of them," so they held her to a higher standard.

It got to the point where walking to the train station to head to Paris for the marathon I thought to myself "I'm dressed like a slut," when I was only wearing a modest dress without any nylons because it was a heatwave. The heatwave lingered, during which time I felt the need to wear jeans and a sweater in sweltering heat in order to try and avoid the harassment and nearly gave myself heat stroke.

Me, in Paris, wearing the dress.

This is in part why I think France is over-romanticized. But this is nothing particular to France, as we can see from the massacre in California, or the hundreds of missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada, or the suicides of Amanda Todd and Rehtaeh Parsons, or the 1989 massacre at École Polytechnique in Montréal.

I'm really shaken. J'en ai marre.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Great Glebe Garage Sale

Saturday was the Great Glebe Garage Sale. Every year the whole Glebe neighbourhood puts on this giant garage sale. I can't tell you how many square kilometers of garage sales it works out to be, but it's huge!

I had two missions for the garage sale. First, as I don't yet have a key chain for my Ottawa keys, I wanted to find the tackiest key chain ever. Second, for my book club that is happening in June in Vancouver (which I plan to Skype into), we're reading Fight Club. But as I've read it already, I wanted to find a second-hand copy.

I didn't find any satisfactory key chains nor a copy of the book Fight Club (though I did find a VHS copy). I nevertheless had a great time snapping pictures of odd finds (not pictured: a giant ziplock bag of daily contacts), and witnessing Simon (pictured above-right with a retro citrus juicer he scored) haggle for lower prices. He got my roommate, Flynn, a tie for her boyfriend for a fraction of the original cost, from $3.00 down to 25-cents.

The weirdest find, however, was probably this:

Nobody in our group bought this curious object, but I wonder if it found a home with someone else.

There was food, music, and many of the garage sales were advertising that they were donating the proceeds of the day to charity. I actually had so much fun, I think I might end up becoming an extreme garage-saler when I get back to Vancouver.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Charles Edenshaw

Museums in Ottawa are free on Thursdays after four o'clock. I plan to take full advantage of this throughout my summer here. Today I was fortunate enough to be able to catch the Charles Edenshaw exhibit at the National Gallery before it closes on Sunday.

Having grown up in British Columbia, I am familiar with the art of BC coastal First Nations, but don't know anything about it from an art history. That's why I thought the National Gallery's Charles Edenshaw exhibit was so fantastic, because it had plenty of explanatory texts. (I'm sorry I didn't make it to the exhibit when it was at the Vancouver Art Gallery this past winter as it looks like it included more pieces.) The UBC Museum of Anthropology, which I visited just before leaving for Ottawa, has an extensive collection of BC First Nations artifacts but relatively few interpretive panels so I found it overwhelming. 

I especially liked Charles Edenshaw's Elephant Cane Handle, which the exhibit explained was inspired by circus publicity that Edenshaw saw in a newspaper. Too often I feel that mainstream society sees First Nations as solely historical. What I like about the Elephant Cane is that it is evidence of Edenshaw responding to European influence and thus the dynamism of his (and maybe more broadly Haida and First Nations') art.

(Photo of Charles Edenshaw's Elephant Cane Handle via Vancouver Art Gallery)

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Ottawa Odyssey

I've been in Ottawa just over a week now. Today I ventured out with my friend Hannah to Gatineau Park for a hike. It was super awesome, but getting to and from there was a bit of a transit odyssey.

Until now, I've found transit in Ottawa to be super awesome. I live just off the transit express way so it takes me maybe all of 15 minutes to get to work in the morning. Today being Sunday, though, I failed to anticipate reduced service. This wasn't too bad on the Ottawa side. The 8 was only running every half hour across the Chaudière bridge so I walked. But this meant I missed my STO bus connection. After waiting un quart d'heure and trying to text for the bus, I figured an alternate route using the STO's mobile site (which is actually pretty good). Not entirely knowing where I was going because Google Maps doesn't know STO bus routes, I watched my blue dot approach my destination.

Hannah and I hiked partway to Pink Lake before turning around and deciding Lac des fées was more attainable (Pink Lake is a 16km round trip).

On the way back I met an awesome woman d'un certain âge waiting for the bus. Her name, I later found out, was Jocelyne and is able to say "hello" in seven different languages, including Portuguese, Spanish, Chinese and Yugoslav. She also seemed to be an expert on the Ottawa-Gatineau bus system so she took it upon herself to be my guide. She chatted with me about all sort of things, including la charte de laïcité right up front, Ottawa's history, as well as more personal subjects including how the ambassador of South Africa came to be her coffee buddy. It was un plaisir to chat with her and certainly made for a more interesting ride. She seems to be a figure in the city. She said she knows many of the bus drivers and that many of them call her ma tante. I hope to run into her again later this summer to catch up!

Thursday, March 20, 2014


The first flower in my balcony garden was this daffodil that bloomed March 8th (three weeks behind last year).

Spring has been in the air for a few weeks now, though today is the official first day. Last week it even felt warm enough to walk to the grocery store without a coat. It's interesting to think how warm even just 10°C feels now, when in in six months 10°C will feel cold. I'm sure there's a scientific explanation for that. 

My favourite thing about spring is the freshness. A few weeks ago I was down on myself for having let breakfast salad because I haven't been in the mood for it (this is a great blog post about why it's okay not to want to eat salad in winter), so I'm really excited to be craving fresh vegetables again.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Carte Postale: Back to School

After a three-year hiatus, I had my first day of school earlier this month (not counting when I was the on the other side as a language assistant in France). I can't believe school has already been in session for three weeks. So far grad school is exciting and is already becoming very busy so I'm not sure I'll have much time to post. The decision to go back to school when I had a job I love was a difficult one, especially when these last years have been so difficult for my demographic to find meaningful work that is related to their degrees. But ultimately I went back with the idea of furthering my career and am able to stay on part-time. It also happens that the school is on an urban campus and that my job is across the street.

This postcard Jacqui sent me while I was in France was a bit of an odd full-circle moment for me. The postcard looks west down Water Street toward the Harbour Centre. Her note was about how she had taught political science at the Harbour Centre campus when she was a grad student (the arrow she drew is actually pointing out the Lookout, the campus is obscured by the trees). It almost seems like the postcard was somehow foreshadowing because I am now a grad student there.

Monday, August 5, 2013


Peter and I spent the long weekend at his parents' lake house--I managed to get up (but not stay up) on water skis! On the drive back we heard an episode of The Current on CBC about how baguette consumption has declined in France. Though 98% of the French eat baguette, they're only consuming about half as much bread as they did a generation ago. The worry seems to be about the threat to cultural identity.

L'Observatoire du pain, France's bread lobby, has launched a Got Milk?-style campaign asking: Coucou! Tu as pris le pain?

My favourite part of the baguette is the crusty pointed ends. Costing only about 80 centimes in France, it was one of the biggest shocks coming back to Canada where a baguette costs about four times the price. The other thing I noticed when living in France is that people would carry the baguette simply tucked under their arm. Here cashiers will try to awkwardly stuff the long shaft of bread into a grocery bag. I always pull it out and do as I saw in France.

(photo by Carl Monus)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


I'm basking in the second day of afterglow from our weekend getaway to Portland.

Shortly after Peter planned a brewery tour bachelor party in Portland for his friend Josh (who eloped in Positano!),  a group of us started planning a weekend trip to Portland for the beer fest.

With six of us going, I looked up rentals on Airbnb and found this lovely yellow heritage house located in the historic Ladd Addition neighbourhood--check out the aerial view of the neighbourhood's cool diagonal pattern.

The home was lovely, spacious, and beautifully decorated. I especially loved the vintage map of Stockholm at the top of the stairs (undoubtedly a nod to the owners' Swedish roots) and prints of Ladd and Portland bridges. The best part about staying in a house together rather than in four separate hotel rooms was the group feel. In the mornings Peter made us his delicious egg breakfast sandwiches and we ate them at the table on the porch.

I would definitely rent a house for a group vacation again. We even talked about doing Portland again next summer.
Saturday afternoon we headed to the Portland Beerfest. We sampled at least a dozen brews (fortunately they were only 4-ounce pours). I had fun learning how to identify the tasting notes and diagramming them in a beer tasting book I bought for the trip.

I have to say I was really impressed with the festival. Initially I had thought it would be a brewery pub crawl, so when I found out it was in a park I was a bit worried that it would have a beer garden vibe. It was so much better than I had expected. There wasn't beer garden vibe at all. Craft beer lovers (some in clever beer t-shirt or costumes) came together to enjoy 4-ounce samples. The organizers also deserve props for the eco-friendly glass tumblers we got with our admission--I'm sure we diverted thousands of disposable cups away from landfills.

Otherwise, we just scratched the surface of Portland. We browsed Powell's Books, ate at food carts, and Anna, Patrick, and Dan braved the 45-minute line so we could sample Voodoo Doughnuts.

I hope to go back again soon.

(top photo mine; Instagram via Anna)

Thursday, July 18, 2013


Tomorrow we're driving to Portland with four of our friends for an extended weekend getaway. Peter and I stayed in Portland in 2009 when we roadtripped down the Oregon Coast to San Francisco, but we were only there for a night so we didn't see much of the city.

We rented a super cute house with a hot tub on Airbnb. I haven't really planned anything otherwise. We'll be checking out the beerfest and I want to browse Powell's Books. I'm also armed with my friends' Josh and Colene's google map of what they consider Portland's best.

Have you been to Portland? What are your recommendations? We haven't yet made any plans for dinner Friday, Saturday, or Sunday nights.

(photo via Design*Sponge)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Les bleuets

bleuet (bluh-(eh)) : blueberry

Summer has set in, which means locally and seasonally available fruit. Peter eats apples daily and that they are not in season is readily apparent in the produce aisle: the apples on offer are either the rump end of the last year's harvest or flown in from New Zealand with a heavy carbon footprint.

A few weeks ago I went out to Westham Island and bought local strawberries from a farm stand. Strawberries' short peak season is drawing to a close, but blueberries are now coming into season. Last weekend's market had the season's first local blueberries for sale.

I have a very particular memory associated with blueberries. This particular childhood memory consists of visiting my Grandpapa in Québec during the summers in the 90s. I don't remember what kind of car her had, but it was an older model from the 70s or 80s and had the option of seating three in the front seat. My Grandpapa lived in the Québec countryside. Grandpapa, dad, my two sisters, two cousins, and I would pile into the car and drive up a gravel country road to our ancestral lands. I remember it was a bumpy ride and occasionally a small rock would ping the side of the car, as happens when driving on gravel roads. My Grandpapa would then lead the way and show us to where the wild blueberry bushes were and we would pick blueberries. Cueillir les bleuets. So many blueberries. This is one of my fondest childhood memories and I recall it whenever I eat plain blueberries.

But when I got to France, les bleuets were not les bleuets. Instead they were called myrtilles.

myrtille (meer-tee(l)) : blueberry

In France, bleuets were a type of flower. Basically indistinguishable to the average person, the blue berries called myrtilles and bleuets are related, but different genera of Vaccinium.

(photo of blueberries by Ashley of Hither & Thither featured on Cup of Jo; flower drawing by Carl Axel Magnus Lindman, public domain via Wikipedia)

Monday, July 8, 2013

Before Midnight

Last week I saw Before Midnight, the third installment in the story of Jesse and Celine. I loved their dialogues in Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. This time the conversation included other characters and one raised equally interesting questions about life and relationships.

There was one line in particular near the end of the film that really struck me. I can't recall it verbatim, but at one point Jesse says this is real life, not a dream world.

I mulled this sentence over after leaving the movie. I feel it succinctly describes what I've been at a loss of word of how to say about my time abroad. I enjoyed my sojourn in France.  In fact, it was a year where I literally lived out a dream to live in France and travel around Europe. But when I got back, I felt a strong urge to deconstruct what I've come to feel is a romanticized myth of France. My intention is not to disparage a country that I again find myself under its spell. But there is seemingly an industry manufacturing dreams of a place where you'll be swept off your feet by a cute Frenchman and live happily ever after on a vineyard. Rather, I sought to come to terms with France as a real place, grittiness included. 

(photo by Cynthia K.)