Not To Be Trusted With Knives

The Internet’s leading authority on radicalized geese

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The Agony of Da Ankle

Hey, remember that time I rolled my ankle one week before the Scotiabank half marathon, but I was all “it’s just a little tweak and I’m totes going to be fine to run 21.1 km in a week”? Yeah, so, apparently that “little tweak” was a “grade 1 sprain” and I was totes not fine to run any number of km on Sunday.

On Monday and Tuesday I was in denial that this was really a sprain and was convinced I’d be fine by mid-week.

On Wednesday I realized that I probably shouldn’t play my hockey game, as my ankle was still swollen and I didn’t want to aggravate it such that I wouldn’t be able to run on Sunday1.

Ankle.PNGOn Thursday, I slowly started to come to the realization that I might not be able to run the race I’d just spent three months training for and it made me really sad. Like, I was on the edge of tears much of the day. Frustrated that I wasn’t going to get to add a new medal to my collection, despite having done my three months of training. Frustrated that the Scotiabank half marathon has a “deadline” for withdrawing from the race due to injury that is *two weeks* before the event, as if you can’t get injured in the 14 days leading up to race day2. Frustrated with yet another health issue that, while minor, was enough to screw with my running season this year. Wishing that I’d gone running last Sunday, when it wasn’t raining, instead of Saturday, when it was pouring to hard that there were giants puddles to hide such things as uneven bits of pavement on which an unsuspecting running might roll their ankle.

By Friday, with my ankle still just as swollen as it was on Monday and still not able to walk, let alone run, without limping, I had accepted that I really, really wasn’t going to be able to run. And I found myself in the bizarre situation of having to justify to a variety of other people that it really wouldn’t be a good idea to run on an injured ankle. Usually I’m the one who is all “I can just walk it off” and everyone else is all “Don’t be silly! You’ll make it worse and then put yourself out of commission for even longer!”

I went to the race expo on Friday to pick up my race package – since I wasn’t able to withdraw my registration due to injury thanks to the Scotiabank half marathon’s absurd deadline for such withdrawals, I figured I may as well pick up my race shirt – it is now officially the most expensive shirt that I own!

When I try to look on the bright side, this is actually the first race I’ve ever missed out on due to injury. And when you consider that I’ve run 13 half marathons, as well as 13 races of other distances, over the past almost 10 years since I started racing, that’s actually not a bad track record. And while I missed out on a medal, this year’s Scotiabank half marathon medal doesn’t really look much different from the medal I got from running the Scotiabank half in 2014, so it’s not like I missed out on an exciting medal for my collection.

Other random thoughts about my ankle predicament:

  • Not being able to do any physical activity for the past week and a half has been killing me. When you are in a routine of doing regular exercise, you get really antsy when you can’t do it. I only just occurred to me the other day that, while I can’t do any of my usual forms of exercise – running, hockey, or biking – I could use this opportunity to do some upper body weight training (while sitting, so as not to aggravate my ankle. In fact, I’m going to head down to my building’s exercise room to do that right after I finish this posting).
  • Also killing me is that I’ve had to wear flat shoes! Last week was particularly bad, as it was too cold and wet out for sandals, and I discovered I really only have one pair of non-sandal flats that I can wear to work. Clearly, I need to do some shoe shopping!
  • Even hobbling on a gimpy ankle, I’m still faster than at least half of the people in the Skytrain station.
  • Even with a bandaged ankle, precious few will offer you a seat on the bus or Skytrain… there were even people who I saw look at my bandaged ankle and then go back to reading crap on their phones. On one Skytrain ride a woman got up to give me her seat… and she was pregnant! I said I couldn’t take a seat from a pregnant woman, but she refused to sit down, insisting that both her legs were at least working. All around sat many non-pregnant, non-bandaged people watching this conversation, until finally one person actually offered to give up her seat as well.
  • When my mom heard about my sprained ankle, she suggested I try out Voltaren, a topical gel that works to decrease pain and swelling. I’d never heard of it before, but when I mentioned it to some people at work they were like “OMG, it’s the greatest thing every invented!!!” I’ve been using it since she suggested it; my sister asked me today if it was working and I said “I don’t know. I have no control ankle to see how it would have healed without it.” Her reply “Common Bethy…sprain the other one along with that one when it heals to test it out!” Obviously, I have failed as a scientist.
  • Speaking of Voltaren3, I keep forgetting what it’s called. I may have said that I’m putting Voltron on my ankle at one point, and I may also have said that I have to put some Virtanen on my ankle a few other times4. Jake Virtanen, for the uninitiated, is an adorable player for the Vancouver Canucks (who just so happens to have been born in New Westminster!).

My ankle definitely felt better this week compared to last, so I’m hoping that another few days of rest will have the swelling gone. I’m going to start rehabbing it with some ankle strengthening exercises. And I’ve already looked into another half marathon to replace this one: the Kelowna Wine Country Half Marathon on Labour Day weekend. You get to run through Kelowna, which is beautiful, you get to go to a wine festival afterwards, and there is a medal (though I don’t know what it looks like, I do know it will be one I don’t have yet!).

OK, I’m off to go do some biceps curls now!

Image credits:

Drawing of ligaments in the ankle. Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1176993

  1. In retrospect, I think this was the “bargaining” stage of grief “If I skip hockey, I’ll get to run the race” – I seemed to have skipped right past the “anger” stage of grief. []
  2. I think they should at least let you transfer your registration to next year if you can produce a medical note to verify your injury. Because these races aren’t cheap! []
  3. Which autocorrects to Voltaire. Autocorrect, you are so pretentious! []
  4. The first time by accident and the other times because I thought it was hilarious. []

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Dear My Old Passport

Dear My Old Passport

You came into my life just over five years ago and I promised to take you to all sorts of wondrous places. And while I didn’t take you to most of the places on the list of places I said I would like to take you, I took you to a bunch of other places instead. Because I’m spontaneously like that.

We did go to London – the only city on the list – but then we went to a whole bunch of places I didn’t even think to put on the list. In addition to the stamps from Heathrow, you have stamps from Dublin, Zürich, and Geneva – the latter two of which were just stopovers in airports – and you accompanied me to France and Monaco, though we got no stamps in either of those places. And of course, there were trips to the USA – you got stamped when we went to Hollywood, California, to San Francisco, and to Kansas City, MO by plane – and you didn’t get stamped when we went to Portland or to Seattle by car. It’s not nearly as much travel as I would like to have done in the past five years – noticeably absent from this list is any glorious tropical locations – but I truly did enjoy all the places we went.

As much fun as our adventures have been, our time together is coming to an end. Your expiry dates looms and that means I have to trade you in for a newer model. I’ve had my terrible passport photos taken and I’ve filled out my Simplified Renewal Passport Application, and I’ll drop those things off, along with you, at the Service Canada office tomorrow and then will eagerly await your replacement, which will be valid for a glorious 10 years.

Untitled

But I’ve specifically checked the box requesting you be returned to me:

Untitled

The next time I see you after that you’ll be mutilated – a big red “Cancelled” will be stamped in you and your corner will be cut off so that no one will mistake you for a valid document. But you’ll still have your stamps of the places we went together – and as you were the passport that was with my on the first time I left the continent, you’ll always hold a special place in my heart.

Yours most sincerely,

Your Loving Owner

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One week until the Scotiabank half marathon…

… and this is what my left ankle looks like:

Swollen ankle

🙁

While out for a run yesterday, I stepped on an uneven bit of pavement and went over on my ankle a bit. I felt the tweak at the time it happened, but it didn’t hurt and so I continued on my merry way. And I was actually surprisingly merry given that it was a torrential downpour that I was running in! When I got home, I was so wet that I looked like I’d jumped in the river! My socks contained 57 ml of water1! Later in the day, I could definitely feel that I’d done something to my ankle, but it looked fine. I’ve kept off my feet as much as possible yesterday and today, but this afternoon I looked at it and saw it was quite swollen. I’m sitting with some ice on it right now and that seems to be helping.

This just seems to be par for the course for my training this year, which has gone something like this:

  • went running on Jan 9, then got a really bad cold that kept me from running
  • went running 3 times in a week (so think I’m really getting my training going) in mid-Feb, then got food poisoning and then before I got back to running, I got zombie eyeball disease

In March, I finally got back into running regularly, but it’s just been… hard. I usually have most of my runs where I feel great, whereas this year I feel like I’ve had at least a run every two weeks that’s been tough. My zone 1 pace (which is where I am supposed to do most of my training – keeping my average heart rate at ~148) has been much slower than I’d like and though it’s improved a bit, it’s not improved as much as I would have liked. Halfway through last week’s 19 km run, my IT band started killing me (though foam rolling this week seems to have helped). And now it’s a week before the race and I have an injured ankle. I was really hoping to do some good little race prep runs this week, but now I think I’ll hold off until my ankle feels better… or until race day comes – whatever comes first.

OK, I think it’s time to switch to a heat pack on my ankle.

Also – don’t forget that there’s still time to sponsor my run with a donation to my fundraiser for the Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Organization!

  1. My socks were soooo wet that I just had to weigh them and then I weighed an identical pair that I have that were dry – the difference was 57 g, which means there was 57 ml of water in my socks! []

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10 of 13

I have officially been to all of the Canadian provinces! And before you ask, no, I haven’t been to all three territories… yet – I’ve only been to one of them – but that’s why I said all of the provinces1. Some of the provinces I’ve spent a lot of time in, others I’ve just driven through. But I have set foot in every single province and none of them were only in airport stopovers, which, I understand, is the only way many people have experienced a given place2. For the record, here are my experiences of the 10 provinces (and one territory… so far) in the order that I’ve been to them:

  • Ontario: I was born in this province, so I have spent of time there, both in the 23 years that I lived there and on many, many trips to visit family and friends (and occasionally for work meetings in Ottawa) since I left.
  • Quebec: Both of my parents grew up in Montreal, so there was many a family vacation to La Belle Province in my childhood. I’ve also been there on work trips and, mostly recently, the run the Montreal demi-marathon last year.
  • Prince Edward Island: My childhood best friend moved to PEI, so I went on a trip there in the summer after grade 8. I remember liking Cows Ice Cream and the Anne of Green Gables house. I also met my first boyfriend there – he lived in my hometown and his family was visiting my best friend’s family at the same time as I was visiting.
  • British Columbia: My first trip to BC was with the man who would later become my ex-husband (MWWLBMEH), to visit his Mom, little brother, and little sister who were living in Chilliwack, when he and I were living in Ontario. I ended up moving there to do my PhD (mostly because the MWWLBMEH grew up there and wanted to move back) and liked living here so much that I stayed.
  • Manitoba: I drove through the province of Manitoba when I was moving from Ontario to BC. We only stopped in Winnipeg to grab something to eat, as we decided to drive from Thunder Bay, ON to Regina, SK in one day; thus, the only thing I know about Winnipeg is that it has a Pizza Hut (or, it did in Aug 2000 anyway).
  • Saskatchewan: Also have only been here on my moving trip across the country, when we spent a day in Regina, as the MWWLBMEH had friends there that we wanted to visit.
  • Alberta: My first time in Alberta was on the cross country move and we had a less than fantastic time in Calgary (the car we were towing behind our moving truck came off its trailer and we had to get help from a grumpy tow truck driver whose driveway we were inadvertently blocking. This would be a harbinger of future trips to Calgary – suffice it to say that Calgary is not favourite city. I’ve also been to Edmonton for work and Kananaskis for someone else’s work – Kananaskis was amazing! As was driving through the Rockies on my initial trip through Alberta, now that I think of it.
  • New Brunswick: I went here for a conference – the conference was good but I was underwhelmed by New Brunswick, though admittedly I was in Fredericton and have been told that St. John is much nicer.
  • Nova Scotia: I went to Halifax (which is, coincidentally, my mother’s birthplace) for a conference last year – I was expecting Nova Scotia to be more quaint, though I’ve since been told that you need to leave the city of Halifax to find the quaintness.
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: My 10th and final province, that I went to for a conference. My great grandmother (my dad’s, dad’s mom) landed in Harbour Grace, NL when he immigrated from England to Canada, so it was kind of special to be able to go there.

Bonus: 1 Territory

  • Northwest Territories: I went to Yellowknife for work in 2008. I was teaching a course at UBC at the time, so I could only go for the two days of meetings that I had to be at and then had to come right back to teach. Wished I’d had a chance to see more than just the meeting rooms at the hotel and a tiny bit of the city when I walked to the store (though I was very cold!)

So now I just need to get to the Yukon and Nunavut. Living in Vancouver, I feel like tit should be relatively easy to get to the former, but the latter will probably prove to be a bigger challenge!

  1. I can’t count how many times I said before my trip “Once I get to St. John’s all have been of the provinces!” only to be greeted with “And all the territories??” as if having traversed the second largest country on the planet isn’t cause enough for celebration! []
  2. For example, lots of Vancouverites have told me they’ve only been to Toronto airport (which isn’t even in Toronto). I’ve been to Switzerland twice – once in the Zurich airport and another time in the Geneva airport, so though I’ve technically been there, I don’t think it *really* counts []

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Trip to Newfoundland and Labrador

Except I didn’t actually go to Labrador, but the province is officially called “Newfoundland and Labrador”, so it’s technically correct to say I went to Newfoundland and Labrador without setting foot in the Labrador part. It’s kind of confusing, but there you have it.

Canadian Provinces and Territories

Map of Canada highlighting the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. The island is Newfoundland and the part on the mainland is Labrador. Image source: By TUBS

The reason for the trip was to attend the Canadian Evaluation Society’s 2016 conference being held in St. John’s, NL from June 3-6. I won’t bore you with all the conference stuff1, but I will tell you that my sister and I did a pre-conference workshop on a project we’ve been working on together, along with her partner, Jeff, and it got a fantastic reception2. As well, I did a presentation on my big project at work that also drew a good sized and much engaged audience, which made me happy.

The most exciting non-work part of the conference was the screech in ceremony at the closing reception. Screeching In, for the uninitiated, is a Newfoundland and Labradorian tradition whereby people “from away” (i.e., not from NL) take a shot of screech3, say some NL phrases, and kiss a cod and are then declared an honorary Newfoundlander and Labradorian. Everyone was quite excited by this event and I have to say I quite enjoyed it, though the screech was probably the worst rum I’ve ever had and kissing a cod is disgusting!

Screeching in ceremony at CES 2016 conferene

My sister and I with our shots of screech

Screeching in ceremony at CES 2016 conferene

Me, just after kissing the cod (Didn’t manage to capture the kiss on camera). It was truly disgusting.

Screeching in ceremony at CES 2016 conferene

Official certificate to provide that I have, in fact, been screeched in. I will frame it and hang it next to my Official Irish Whiskey taster certificate.

Since we’d flown such a long way to get there and neither Inor my sister had been to Newfoundland before, we decided to tag on a couple of vacation days to check a bit of it out. NL is actually quite huge, so we only got to explore a tiny fraction of it, but we did get to:

  • Dildo: Seriously, there is a town in NL called Dildo and I made my sister drive there just so I could take this picture:

    Dildo, NL

    There is nothing in the town of Dildo. You pretty much just go there to take a photo with the town sign.

  • South Dildo: Somehow, I think South Dildo is even funnier than Dildo. Sadly, we did not see a town sign when we drove through South Dildo, but I took this screen shot of Google Maps as we drove through it to prove we were there:South Dildo, NL
  • Harbour Grace:My Great Granny Snow (my dad’s dad’s mom) lived in Harbour Grace when she immigrated to Canada from England, so my sister and I decided to go check it out. We had no idea where exactly she lived beyond the fact that it was a house on the water near some trees, which describes pretty much every house in Harbour Grace4. It’s not a very big town and we drove along the aptly named Water St, so we think we probably drove by where her house would have been. The day we went to Harbour Grace was my dad’s birthday. While we were looking around we saw a big church that we wanted to check out, but it turned out to be under renovation and had a gate with a “no trespassing” sign on it. Anyone who knew my father will tell you that he viewed a “no trespassing” or “do not enter” sign as not so much a notice that you should not go to that place, but as an indication that you probably should. “They wouldn’t put a sign up saying to “stay out” unless there was something good in there that you would want to see!” he used to say. So I decided to take this photo in his memory5.
    Trespassing in Harbour Grace, NL

    Me, trespassing in Harbour Grace, on my Dad’s birthday. He would be proud!

    My sister said she was spending her vacation driving around taking photos of me for my blog. She was not wrong in this statement.))

  • The Easternmost Point of North America: which is in a place called Cape Spear, which is quite close to St. John’s. Though, as my friend Linda (who was the first person to mention this place to me as a place to go) pointed out, you aren’t *actually* at the most eastern point since this viewing spot that says “You are at the Easternmost point of North America” is not actually at the shoreline, but I think this can be considered the easternmost point of North America that you can safely go to, as that ocean looks scary! So I say it still counts. I took a selfie of me there because of course I did.Me at the eastern most point in North America, at Cape Spear, NLCape Spear also has a cool old lighthouse that you can visit and learn about how the light keepers lived in the old timey days (as well as a new, functioning light house that still provides signals to ships that they are getting close to St. John’s Harbour and also don’t come over this way because it’s super rocky) because GPS can fail you sometimes.

    Cape Spear, NL

    This is the new lighthouse. I didn’t get a good photo of the old timey lighthouse, though we did go into it.

  • The Eastern Terminus of the Trans Canada Highway*: While we were meandering around NL, I got a Facebook reminder that three years ago today, I was at the Pacific Terminus of the Trans Canada Highway.
    Beth at the Pacific Terminus of the Transcanada Highway

    Three years ago

    So I thought it would be super cool to go to the Eastern Terminus of the Trans Canada Highway on the same date! Unfortunately, there isn’t a marker anywhere to show you where the Trans Canada Highway ends in St. John’s – it just sort of ends out of nowhere:

    TCH eastern terminus

    So I took a bunch of selfies as my sister drove through that section and so one of these photos has to be correct. They basically all look like this:

    Driving through the eastern terminus of the Trans Canada Highway

    At the Eastern Terminus of the Trans Canada Highway. Probably.

  • Snow’s Lane: While we were looking for the eastern terminus of the Trans Canada Highway, we noticed on the map that there was a street called “Snow’s Lane”. So naturally we had to go there. The road itself was nothing much, but at least we can say we’ve been there!Snow's Lane in St. John's, NL
  • Signal Hill: This was the hill upon which Marconi received the first ever trans-Atlantic radio signal6Signal Hill

Other random things about our trip:

  • Every restaurant we went to in St. John’s was fantastic! My favourites were Yellowbelly – a brew pub that makes the best french fries I’ve ever eaten and a pretty solid wheat ale – and Oliver’s – a fancier place where we had amazing sea scallops, I had a bourbon chicken and risotto to die for, while my sister had Atlantic salmon7, and we shared a delicious creme brûlée. Other great restaurants included the Celtic Hearth (my sister got a turkey soup that was like homemade, I got an excellent club sandwich on the freshest of breads, and I tried Quidi Vidi Iceberg beer, which is made from water harvested from icebergs! At first sip, Iceberg seems like a meh lager, but then a fraction of a second later it hits you with an outstanding flavour8. I highly recommend it!
  • It was bloody cold in St. John’s, to the point that on Wednesday it felt like biting winter cold. We were told it was unseasonably cold and it wasn’t helped by the knowledge that I was missing out on 30 degree9 weather back home in Vancouver!
  • I took this photo for my Uncle Harry. Don’t know what Harold Snow of Newfoundland was advertising, as this sign literally just said his name:IMG_2720

When I set foot in St. John’s, I officially completed my quest to visit every Canadian province. Now I just need to visit the two territories that I haven’t been to yet (Yukon and Nunavut) and I’ll have been to every part of the country!

  1. If you are interested in reading about that, you can check out my professional blog where I will be writing about that in the coming days – I’ll update the link to the specific blog posting once I post it. []
  2. I’ll probably blog about it more once it’s ready for prime time – right now it’s in a beta phase. []
  3. i.e., crappy Newfoundland rum/ []
  4. Not to mention that it’s entirely possible that the house isn’t there anymore []
  5. And, of course, to add to my collection of me doing things that signs say not to do. []
  6. For some reason, I always thought he sent the first trans-Atlantic radio signal, but he did not – he received it. []
  7. I’m a bit of a salmon snob, in that I much prefer Pacific salmon. I tried some of my sister Atlantic salmon, just in case the Atlantic stuff is better when it is fresh (which I don’t get in Vancouver), but it just isn’t as good as the Pacific stuff, imho []
  8. I’m sure the water harvested from an iceberg thing is gimmick rather than being what makes the beer awesome, but it really is an awesome beer. []
  9. Celsius. []

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Random Thoughts on the Plane (From Many Days Ago, Which I Appear Not to Have Posted)

I wrote this on the plane on June 3, when I had no Internets to post, totally thought I’d posted it the next day, but I just discovered that I did not, so I’m posting now (after adding in a few links).

  • As I waited for the plane to get going (our pilot was late coming from his previous flight, so we boarded and then had to wait for like 20 minutes), I flipped through Facebook on my phone. Facebook has this thing now where they go “Hey, remember this thing that happened on this date in the past?” and then show you stuff you posted on this date over the years. The first thing it showed me was a posting I made cheering on the Canucks in the Stanley Cup finals in 20111. That reminded me that just about 5 years ago I got on a plane to go to a family reunion in Ontario (as I was bitter about leaving Vancouver the day before game 7 (the trip had been booked long before I knew the Canucks would still be playing in June!), as I was sure they’d win the Cup and I’d miss the big party the city would have… oh how wrong I was on that!). That trip would be the second last time I saw my dad alive – and the last time I would see him before we found out that he had a massive brain tumour and needed surgery. It’s his birthday next week. I really miss him.
  • I remember on that flight in 2011 that I sat next to a guy who was on his way to start his residency as an anesthesiologist – he told me that I had nice veins in my arm that looked like they’d be easy to get a needle in. June is that time of year – my friend Martha is soon to be moving to Winnipeg to start her residency as a pediatrician. I can’t imagine her telling a stranger on a plane that they have nice veins though!
  • People always complain about being seated near crying babies on a plane. There’s a baby in the row ahead of me that’s crying and I don’t find it annoying at all. All I can think is “Poor baby! I bet his ears are hurting him and he doesn’t understand why and he doesn’t know how to fix it!” I find more grown ups on the plane way to be annoying. Especially the ones who try to cut into the lineup to get on the plane – get to the back of the line, lady!
  • I really hope that the half hour delay in getting going doesn’t make me miss my connection in Toronto to St. John’s! [Spoiler alert: It didn’t]
  • I mentioned the other day that I often choose new things to bake based on ingredients that I have and want to use up. Yesterday I choose something to bake based on an ingredient that I didn’t have. I wanted to bake something for my cat sitter – I figure that it’s the least I can do to thank the friend who is watching my babies for me! – and I was going to bake chocolate chip cookies because (a) really, who doesn’t like chocolate chip cookies? and (b) I needed something I could bake quickly and easily since I also had to pack and work on my conference presentations and organize my herb garden into my bathtub2. But then I remembered I had run out of white sugar and I was too lazy to run to the store3, so I googled around to find a recipe for easy cookies that don’t require white sugar and discovered that “brown sugar cookies” are a thing and I made them and they were delicious! Plus I get to add another new item to my list of “new things I baked in 2016“, which I wouldn’t have if I had just baked chocolate chip cookies.
  • Speaking of chocolate chip cookies, have you seen this commercial?I freaking love that commercial.
  • I’m glad I actually got done everything that I can possibly do on my workshop slides on the plane (to finish them off, I need a bit of time on the Internet and then I need to work with my co-presenter/sister, which I can do tomorrow when we are both in St. John’s), so now I can just write blog postings. I feel like I have a whole bunch of blog postings sitting in my brain that have been wanting to pour out, but I haven’t gotten to them because I’ve been too busy with so many other thing lately. [Spoiler alert: I did write some stuff
  • The number of times I’ve thought “I should Google…” or “I should email…” or “I should do some other thing that requires the Internet”4 on this flight before remembering that I’m too cheap to pay for the wifi is shocking. And I’ve only been out of range of the Internet for 2 hours so far. It really goes to show how integrated Internet access is with my daily life.
  • Having an empty seat next to you on a flight might just be one of the greatest luxuries of modern life. My window seat is sans power outlet – but I’m plugged into the one in the vacant middle seat. The inhabitant of the aisle seat and I have an unspoken agreement to share the middle seat’s tray to store our drinks as we both are using our own trays for our laptops. This is living, people! This is living! [Spoiler alert: On my next flight, which was Toronto to St. John’s, I got an empty middle seat AGAIN. Truly, it was a miracle of epics proportions for this to happen on two flights in a row.]
  1. Not something I wanted to be reminded of, Facebook, given the spectacular game 7 loss and the ensuing riot and the fact that we didn’t even make the playoffs this year! []
  2. The plants were all in my office with door closed the previous day, because I needed to be abe to use my shower, but I didn’t want the poor kitties locked out of the office for the week I’m gone. My condo isn’t that big of a place for them to roam so I don’t like cutting off a whole room. []
  3. See previous list of other things I needed to do last night. []
  4. Like adding something to my Google calendar, adding something to my to do list on Trello, etc. []

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At the Airport

Everyone I’ve interacted with so far today – my taxi driver, the security guy at the luggage screening, the security guys who randomly selected me for the thing where they swab your luggage for chemical tests – has been super duper friendly. I feel like maybe they are trying to get me ready for Newfoundland where, I am lead to believe, everyone is super duper friendly.

My strata has decided to power wash and paint all the balconies in my building, which meant that I had to take everything off my balcony. So I currently have my BBQ and all my patio furniture in my living room and my herb garden in my bathtub, as it’s the only place the cats can’t get it (as my bathtub has a sliding door on it rather than a shower curtain). Watson really, really wants to eat my plants! I suppose the timing of this isn’t too bad, as by the time I get back it should be all done, as opposed to having to spend a week living with my BBQ, etc. in my living room1.

I already miss my cats!

If any criminals are reading this, I have a cat sitter, so don’t even think of breaking into my place while I’m away. My cat sitter is big and scary and could totally kick your butt.

  1. The cats, on the other hand, are loving having all this crap in the living room. Probably because it smells like pigeon! []

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One Week Today….

… I’ll be co-presenting a workshop in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador with my sister! I am very excited about this for a number of reasons, including (but not limited to) and in no particular order:

  • the content we are presenting on is very cool and I’m excited to share it with colleagues
  • the conference that we are presenting at is a good one – I always learn a lot, meet great people, and have a lot of fun
  • I get to hang out with my sister
  • Newfoundland and Labrador is the only province I’ve never been to, so when I go there I will have collected the entire set of provinces in my travel history

The one thing I’m not excited about is the weather forecast. St. John’s is going to be cold while we are there:

St. John's forecast

And in the meantime, I’ll be missing out on summer weather in Vancouver:

Vancouver forecast

I’ll have to make sure to pack some warm sweaters and my coat!

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Macaroons vs. Macarons

As you know, I like to cook and bake and I like to try making new things. My decision-making process for what to make usually goes something like this. “I have ingredient X that I need to use up. What can I make using ingredient X?”1 Case in point: I had leftover shredded coconut from when I made some coconut squares for a bake sale at my office2, so I decided to try making macaroons for my hockey team’s season end wrap up party. Making macaroons requires egg whites, so then I had an opened carton of egg whites that I needed to use up, so I decided to try making the thing that is sometimes confused with macaroons: French macarons – which I brought to my Arts Council Board meeting. Now I have a giant Costco-sized bag of almonds that I bought to make macarons, so I need to come up with another recipe that requires lots of almonds…. or maybe I’ll just make a lot more macarons, because omg they were delicious!

In case you are wondering what the difference is between a macaroon and a macaron:

Macaroon:

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Macaron:

Macaron

It’s easy to see how the two can be confused: their names are very similar and both are meringue-based pastries. I’ve only ever known macaroons to be made with coconut, though Wikipedia tells me that it was originally made with almonds and can also be made with other nuts. Macaron are typically made with almonds, but you can make a coconut macaron (though the recipes I’ve seen for this still use almonds as the base, but add coconut extract to flavour it). So I guess the real difference is that macaroons use big chunks of whatever nut you are using and are shaped in a mound, whereas macarons use very, very finely ground almonds, are shaped in small circles and have a smooth top with signature “crinkly feet”, and you make them into a sandwich with some sort of filling. As I was reading about this, I got to thinking “Well, what’s the difference between an almond macaroon and an amaretti?”, since an amaretti is a mound shaped cookies made from meringue mixed with almonds? And then I found this article, which actually gave a bit of a history of these cookies. In short:

  • original macaroons: almond meringue cookies similar to what we call amaretti today, believed to have been created at an Italian monastery
  • coconut macaroons: evolved over time from the almond macaroons (first by mixing almond with coconut, then coconut replaced almond completely); Italian Jews made them for Passover, since they didn’t use flour or a leavening agent
  • amaretti: invented in the mid-17th century by Francesco Moriondo, pastry chef of the Court of Savoy
  • French macarons: invented in the early 20th century by PierreDesfontaines Ladurée

The other interesting thing I read in that article was that “two Benedictine nuns, Sister Marguerite and Sister Marie-Elisabeth, seeking asylum in the town of Nancy during the French Revolution (1789-1799), paid for their housing by baking and selling the macaroon cookies, and thus became known as the “Macaroon Sisters”” – being a Mary Elizabeth myself and having a sister named Nancy, I found this amusing!

I read quite a few different macaron recipes to figure out what I needed to do to make them and read in a few different places that they are really easy to screw up, so I was pleasantly surprised when mine turned out well. I decided to do half my batch as just plain (i.e., not coloured cookies) with buttercream icing as the filling and the other half as pink with raspberry buttercream icing (because I happened to have some raspberry jam I could use to flavour the buttercream icing). The only issue I had was that rather than split the beaten egg whites in half and put the pink food colouring in at that stage (as the recipe suggested), I made the batter, split that in half and added the food colouring to the batter – this meant that the pink batter actually ended up being mixed beyond the optimal mixing point (the recipe specifically says to fold it 35-40 strokes!), resulting in the batter losing some of its stiffly beaten egg consistency, so that when I piped the pink batter onto the cookie sheet, it spread out a lot, resulting in much bigger cookies than I intended. They still rose and got the crinkly feet, so all was not lost. And they tasted great, so no one complained about the size.

Macaron

At any rate, I’ve now added both macaroons and macaron to my list of “new foods I made in 2016” – one of my goals for 2016 is to make 16 new food or drink items that I’ve never made before. And the macarons were so freaking delicious that I think they are going to become one of my go-to fancy desserts, alongside my chocolate amaretto cheesecake and mocha cupcakes with ganache and mascarpone whipped cream topping.

  1. Another criterion I use is: “How much do I like the taste of the batter and/or the taste of an individual ingredient?” Because I often like the taste of the batter more than the actual cooked product, so licking the spoon or eating a piece of the raw dough is part of the pleasure of baking. Or, in the case of an individual ingredient, I might want to, say, lick the lid of a can of sweetened condensed milk while my mother says “You are going to cut your tongue on that! Even if she’s not there when I’m baking, I can totally hear her say that! []
  2. Coconut squares are one of my tried and true recipes from my mom. See also: cherry squares. []

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Oh How My Garden Grows

Hey, remember that time I planted an herb garden on my balcony? Well, other than the basil, which is now completely dead, my herbs are growing like gangbusters!

Before:

My new herb garden

Now:

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Before:

My new herb garden

Now:

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And the “now” photos don’t even account for the fact that I have used a bunch of the herbs!

It looks like I’ll need to take up another new hobby in addition to gardening – the hobby of drying herbs! Because omg, how much marjoram can one woman use??1

In addition to the herbs growing, my garden has also grown by one tomato plant. My friend Tig gave me this tomato seedling, which she grew from seeds given to her by our MP’s wife (true story):

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Apparently this is a heritage tomato plant, which the Internets tells me is a.k.a., a heirloom tomato.

The Internets tells me that tomato plants grow large root structures, so it’s important to put them in big pot to allow that to happen, so planted it in this:

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I also threw in some parsley seeds to see if I could grow some parsley in there too (another suggestions from the gardeners of the Internets – grow some herbs, which have shorter root structures, around your tomato to fill in the extra space):

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I decided to forgo the potato barrel (or potato bag, as I read that you can also grow potatoes in a bag on your balcony) this year because shortly after planting my garden, I got notice from the strata that they are coming around to power wash and paint all our balconies and so when they get to your condo, you need to clear off your balcony of anything that could be damaged by power washing. I figure I can bring my plant pots inside that day (I’ll have to lock them in my growlery, so that a certain pair of green vegetable-loving cats don’t each the whole garden), but bring in a soggy bag of dirt and potatoes would be less pleasant. You’ll have to wait until next year, potato bag!

  1. In related news, if you need some fresh marjoram, let me know. I can totally hook you up! []