writer’s block

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I’m having so much trouble these days putting together more than half of a sentence.

It might be because of the lack of cookies.

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So, while I considered an entire post of this:

writer’s block. writer’s block. writer’s block. writer’s block. writer’s block. writer’s block. writer’s block. writer’s block. writer’s block. writer’s block. writer’s block. writer’s block. writer’s block. writer’s block. writer’s block. writer’s block. writer’s block. writer’s block. writer’s block. writer’s block. writer’s block.

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I think I will give up on words for now.

Cookies are much more fun. And yes, these were made and eaten before I started the Whole Life Challenge.

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Soft Peanut Butter Cookies

Ingredients

half cup butter, at room temperature
one cup peanut butter (use the cheap brands; I find natural too difficult to mix nicely)
three quarters cup brown sugar
quarter cup sugar
one egg
one and a half teaspoons vanilla
one and a half cups flour
one teaspoon baking powder
one teaspoon baking soda
one teaspoon salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
Cream sugars and butters until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and cream some more.
Sift in all dry ingredients and stir until well mixed.
I wanted miniature cookies, so I used a tiny cookie scoop. Baking time will depend on the size of your cookies; mine took about 6-7 minutes. Watch for the edges of the cookies to set.

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let’s do this.

So, as I mentioned a couple days ago, today is the start of the Whole Life Challenge.

Which means that last night was the last supper.

[A photo of epically unhealthy food was supposed to go here, but I was too busy eating ice cream and brownies and baguette and brie to take a picture.]

While my personal interest in salads is limited at best (and therefore I assume everyone else’s is also), for the next 8 weeks – the countdown to November 7 is on – I’m going to be a cookie-free zone.

And not just cookies – I’ll also be depriving myself of jellybeans, potatoes, white rice, soy, bread, pasta, sugar, and juice. Among other things.

To start this whole thing off, I have to do “before” photos, measurements, and a workout. Luckily or unluckily, our summer performances finished at the end of August and the circus school was closed for a week and I went on a no-working-out-ever / eat-all-the-foods spree, so my “before” is perhaps a little worse than normal. Let’s hope this gets sorted out quickly. And I have faith that it will. Because, points!

Anyway, the point of this post was to let you know that my life is going to be kindof sucky for the next little bit, and I won’t be offended if you tune out for a bit and come back to me when I’m back on the cheesecake bandwagon. So, if you’re not planning to stick around for the next eight weeks: have a lovely September and October. If you are sticking around (and maybe even doing the challenge with me!): we’ve got this. And if you’re still on the fence, just remember: it’s never too late to join in on the crazy.

everything but the kitchen sink

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When I was in high school, my friends and I would do some babysitting for a little bit of spending money. I think that’s pretty standard.

What’s maybe less standard (or, at least, no one wants to admit that we all do it) was that we would do a little bit of snooping. Nothing serious like digging through bedrooms or offices, but I remember one friend who liked to look through makeup bags, and another who liked to scour the bookshelves (she also judged people based on what they read). I liked to go through the kitchen cupboards.

The houses with junk food were my favourite. I’d sneak a graham cracker here, a marshmallow there, a small handful of goldfish crackers and a row of a chocolate bar. I’d be disappointed with the houses that only had apple sauce and NutriGrain bars. I lived for Costco bags of jellybeans.

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You can tell a lot about a household based on their cupboards. Whether they’re health nuts or constantly pressed for time. Whether or not they like to make things from scratch. Whether or not they’re OCD and need to line up their spices in alphabetical order. Whether or not they’re stocking enough canned soup and boxed mac and cheese to survive the zombie apocalypse.

If someone were to judge me based on my cupboards, they would know I make almost everything from scratch. They would know I have the ingredients for s’mores on hand at all times and stored for easy access within one box. They would know I have three unopened bags of cornmeal, four types of rice, five jars of peanut butter of varying levels of fullness, and no canned vegetables. They would know that I would not survive the zombie apocalypse.

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In a couple days, however, I’m starting the Whole Life Challenge. It’s going to be eight weeks of no gluten, no dairy, no sugar, and no fun. In preparation, I’ve been trying to use up all of my baking ingredients so I won’t be tempted to cheat. I was getting down to the dregs of my cupboards when I decided I needed to make chocolate chip cookies. For being entirely unprepared, these turned out surprisingly well.

I might survive the zombie apocalypse after all.

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Chocolate Chip Toffee Cookies

As mentioned, these were an effort to use up everything in my cupboard. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend recreating this recipe ingredient for ingredient, because you’ll end up needing quite a few things. Think of this as an encouragement to substitute and experiment and – most importantly – eat cookies.

Ingredients

seven ounces bread flour
ten ounces all purpose flour
half tablespoon baking powder
half tablespoon baking soda
one teaspoon salt
three quarters cup butter
half cup margarine
half cup brown sugar
three quarters cup coconut sugar
one cup plus two tablespoons granulated sugar
two eggs
one teaspoon vanilla
lots of chocolate chips (I used milk and dark)
lots of toffee bits
flaked sea salt (it’s optional but delicious. If you don’t have flaked, I would highly recommend still using a coarse sea salt)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a few cookie sheets with parchment paper or a silicone mat and set aside.
In a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugars using the paddle attachment. Add vanilla and eggs one at a time and mix until fluffy.
Sift in all dry ingredients and stir until all the flour has disappeared. Fold in chocolate chips and toffee bits.
Scoop onto your cookie sheets and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake for about 12 minutes, or until the edges are getting brown.

Note: These were quite dark coloured (I assume because of the coconut sugar) and they also got quite puffy in the oven, so it was hard to tell when they were done. I took mine out before I was convinced they were ready, and when they cooled they became thin and chewy. If you’re into crispier cookies then by all means leave them in longer, but if you like yours chewy like I do, a little too early is probably safer than a little too late.

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rambles and restaurants

The sunset from Vancouver's seawall

When I was in grade six, my science teacher had us practice public speaking by researching a given topic and presenting a one minute speech to the rest of the class. The goal of these speeches was to hit as close to sixty seconds as possible (and the grade was given out of 60, where each second over or under was a point deducted). The content didn’t matter; in one instance someone informed the class, in a perfectly paced speech, how the name of their topic (some sort of insect) was spelled.

My first one of these presentations was on a daddy long legs, and I almost fainted (perhaps a relative of the spider was not the best choice). My knees went to jelly and I had to lean back against the chalkboard to steady myself. I stared into space and whispered about spindly legs and swiveling eyes for a total of 58 seconds.

In university, through an engineering discipline designed to promote presentation and reporting skills and my (happily forgotten) involvement in student council, I started to enjoy speaking in front of others. Since then, I’ve been told a few times – and I’m not sure if this is a compliment – that I present much like an airline stewardess (flight attendant? Is that what we’re calling them these days?) going through the pre-flight emergency instructions. One of my (many) ex-office-roommates said it was partly because I had a very calm vibe; she thought I would probably be quite authoritative and yet comforting in a stressful situation.

Which (I would apologize for the rather lame segue here but you should be used to it by now) I suppose is why I’m often asked by tourists for suggestions on what to see or do or try in Vancouver. And while I have nothing but love for this city, I am always stuck for an answer.

Having finally put some further thought into the matter, I really only want to recommend places to eat. The following are my you-absolutely-must-eat-here favourites:

1. Chambar
Belgian, romantic, delicious. They also have the longest beer list I’ve ever seen (try the Kwak, if only for the way it’s served). If I was on death row, I would want my last meal to be from here. They are part of a group that owns/operates The Dirty Apron Cooking School and Deli (from which I have taken multiple brilliant classes) and Medina Cafe (also fabulous).
Note: Chambar will be closing at some unknown (to me) point in time to relocate to open at some unknown (to me) point in time. Check their website before you go.

2. Seasons in the Park
I generally have a rule against gimmicky restaurants who lure tourists in with a view and serve mediocre-at-best food, but Seasons in the Park has a stunning view of downtown and the food is brilliant. Last time I was there I had the best oysters of my life – I don’t know about all that aphrodisiac business but I would have kissed the chef to get more.
Like Chambar, Seasons in the Park is one of a group of great restaurants: The Teahouse (which I haven’t been to since my dad’s wedding reception ten plus years ago but I’m sure it’s still lovely); Sandbar (another great place for oysters, and a bit more casual); and Cardero’s (also wonderful. I’m running out of complimentary adjectives).

3. The Eatery
For the younger crowd. The Eatery is loud, dark, and may contain scenes of nudity. It is the original (as far as I know and choose to believe) creator of the deep friend California roll (Cap’n Crunch roll), and was the locale of my first encounter with a deep fried mars bar (washed down with some sugary cocktails that are only appealing to 19-year-olds). We frequented this restaurant a lot when I went to UBC; it may only make this list because of my nostalgia, but it makes the list nonetheless.

4. Vij’s
I have a deep, dark secret. That I am now going to post on the internet.
I have never been to Vij’s. I have, however, heard raving reviews from everyone who has gone. I have also taken a cooking class (at The Dirty Apron, of course) from Vikram Vij himself, and am so inspired by him and his team and their food. Words don’t do him justice. I would eat soil with a worm on top if Vikram Vij promised me it would be good.
Go to this restaurant. (Or Rangoli, which is his as well but slightly more casual). Take me. Then all will be well with the (first) world.

5. Tacofino
In the last few years, Vancouver has developed a great variety of food trucks. While I could write a whole post on foodtrucks, Tacofino is my favourite. It’s generally parked by the Art Gallery (with a second truck focusing on burritos at Burrard and Dunsmuir). Go there. Order two (or three or four) fish tacos. Find some stairs to sit on and dig in. Lick your fingers when you’re done.

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Panama City, Panama

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I had grand plans for my long weekend in Panama City.

Almost none of them materialized.

Instead of walking the seawall and visiting the fish market, I slept off a night spent staring at the city view from an outdoor nightclub on the 61st floor of a hotel. Instead of a picnic in the park and a tour of the biomuseum, I went to the hotel gym and tried to sweat out the remnants of a bottle of whiskey. Instead of visiting Casco Viejo, I lay by the infinity pool and rested my legs from a night spent dancing barefoot in a swimming pool down the centre of a bar.

But, as our friend Jeff somewhat-relatedly pointed out, “we never thought buying a bar in Panama would be good for our health.”

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Recommendations:

WHITE Lounge (no website yet; it’s on Calle Uruguay)
Market
Trump Ocean Club

somebody talk to me

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There’s something about when someone’s phone dies that makes me want to spam them.

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I’m not really sure why, but when an iMessage is sent and I don’t get that little “delivered” below the message, or I send a bbm with a grey check mark and no blue “D,” I all of a sudden think of lots of things that I really need to communicate to them to receive as soon as their phone comes back on. Such as:

I just tried to read a brainless book and ended up in a moral dilemma. Who in my life would I willingly donate a kidney to?

The other day I was on the skytrain and a man with shoulder-length white hair and no shirt or shoes sat down across the aisle from me. He had this little girl with him whom I thought was his granddaughter, until I looked at his face and realized he was probably only old enough to be her father. Or her kidnapper. What if I didn’t call the cops back then and I could have saved her?

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My first boyfriend is engaged.

Wait, that was my second boyfriend.

Oh God, my first boyfriend is married.

Is it ironic to capitalize God if you’re using his name in vain?

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This.

Or this.

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I just learned that the Monty Hall problem as it was taught to me in grade 9 was incorrect. This is why it has never fully made sense to me. I’m not sure if I’m upset or relieved.

Do you have any pink Starbursts left?

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Instead of crack I smoke salmon.

Just kidding. I don’t smoke anything.

I made pie, though.

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She’s My Cherry Pie, from Vegan Pie in the Sky by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero

crazy one more time

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Come on out, Mary-Jane
I’m looking through your window pane
I heard the word – you’re back in town
I’ve got some cheap cigarettes, your favourite beer
Girl wear the dress I always dream about, oh 

We’ll chase the moon, ride the stars
Find the muscle in this car, I know
It’s still got something left
Yeah, come on out, take my hand, feel my heart
Girl understand I got a thunder pounding in my chest

Hey I, can’t see you as nothin’ but mine
And girl, tonight, let’s go crazy one more time

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We’ll park the car, climb on the hood
Turn it up when something good
Starts playing through these rusty doors
And in the sticky sweet air tonight, I’ll kiss you girl till I get it right
Cause I know that’ll lead to more

The weeds have all grown around where I’ll gently lay you down
And I’ll try to tell you how I feel
But you’ll place your finger on my mouth, whisper
Baby, no not now
The night is young and we still got time to steal

Hey I, can’t see you as nothin’ but mine
Girl tonight, let’s go crazy one more time

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With the engine burning through my jeans, I watch you fall
Fast asleep, and this small town sky fade from black to blue
And I wipe a tear from my eye but you’ll never know
Cause baby I’ll smile, as I wave goodbye to you

Hey I, can’t see you as nothin’ but mine
And girl tonight let’s go crazy one more time
Hey I, can’t see you as nothin’ but mine
Girl tonight, let’s go crazy one more time

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I guess I’ll always have this longing in my heart,
And you’ll have a piece of me
But tonight there’s a fire to start in our red, burning hearts
And you’re all that I’ll ever need, yeah

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Peach Pancakes (vegan)

Ingredients

one and a half cups unbleached flour
half tablespoon baking powder
two teaspoons baking soda
one tablespoon sugar
one teaspoon salt
one cup unsweetened almond milk
two teaspoons apple cider vinegar
one tablespoon ground flax
half cup water
three tablespoons canola oil
one teaspoon vanilla
about a cup and a half peeled and sliced peaches

Directions

Sift together dry ingredients (except ground flax). In a separate bowl, vigorously whisk together almond milk, ACV and flax.
Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture, and all milk mixture and remaining wet ingredients (everything except peaches).
Stir until just barely combined, and gently fold in peaches. Let rest for 10 minutes.
While resting, grease and heat a cast-iron skillet over medium heat.
I make my pancakes two at a time using half a cup of batter each. Cook for about 4-5 minutes on one side (or until the edges are drying and the middle is starting to bubble) and flip, cooking until golden brown on both sides (this took me about 3-4 more minutes on the second side).
Serve warm with maple syrup (and whipped cream if you’re not throwing these together on a whim like I was).