Monday, November 25, 2013

Brick Interior Walls

I helped some friends move into a new place today, and they moved into a great character building. Their place, although smaller than our's, has tons of more character with its exposed century-old wood and brick walls, and has some charming wheeled-out windows that peer onto the adorable street below. It made me wistful of the red brick that I'm used to from the east coast and excited for my trip back home in three days. Until then, I'll dream of some adorable apartments and houses with exposed brick and endless possibilities...

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Exploring the Island (part II)

A view of the Vancouver Island Ranges on a Tofino dock

I've been spending the last few weeks getting to know the island a bit more intimately. I've seen the salmon spawn again, played on the abandoned railroad tracks of the island, travelled to the Gulf Island called Salt Spring, and took a five hour road trip up and across to Tofino. I'm growing every day in my love for this place, and I'm slowly meeting more interesting people to add to my growing perspective of the world.

Abandoned railroad tracks of Vancouver Island. No rail system is in place today.

What I love so much about this relatively small island is its diversity. I can go up a fairly easy mountain hike, to finding star fish by the sea, to petting the moss on a 800 year old tree, to traversing through temperate rain forest, to gazing at snow peaked mountains, all within a fairly reachable distance of one another. I may be romanticizing the place because I just moved here (actually, I'm certain that I am), but there really is a lot to do here if you enjoy the outdoors. Jon surfed for the first time while we were in Tofino and I've been hiking more than ever. As of right now, despite being underemployed, I couldn't imagine a better place for us to be. 

The 155 foot tall Little Niagara Falls in Goldstream Provincial Park

Sail boats on the way to Salt Spring Island

One of the many tiny vineyards on Salt Spring Island

Surfers in Tofino

Starfish on a Tofino beach

"The Big Tree": Over 800 years old, 250 feet tall, and 30 feet round.

Jon hiding away on a fallen tree

Glacier run-off pool. I've never seen water so clear.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Skillet Gardener's Pie

I learned two very important things while making this: 1) I need to learn to read directions more carefully and 2) You really can't screw up mashed potatoes. When making the mashed potatoes, I forgot the potato water *and* the almond milk, and ended up making them with vegetable broth and splashes of almond milk. They still taste like mashed potatoes. 

This dish is perfect for those blustery fall days and when you and your roommates/partner are in competition with mother nature to see how long you can hold out before you turn on the head. This is sans-meat and potatoes type of food that is full of wonderful veggies and will leave you happy and full!

Bad family photo. You can't see the potatoes, carrots, or onion!

This is how I measure "packed" spinach. 

Spreadin' on that good stuff!

All done!

2 pounds Yukon gold or red potatoes
2 cup soy milk (or other non-dairy milk
salt and pepper, to taste
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 large carrots, diced
8 ounces mushrooms, diced
2 cups fat-free vegetable broth
16 ounces (1 can) or 1 1/2 cups cooked kidney beans, drained
2 cups green beans, cut in 1″ pieces (may use frozen)
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, minced (or 1 tsp. dried)
1 1/2 teaspoons thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried sage
2 cups baby spinach leaves, packed
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons water (or veg. broth)
extra rosemary for garnish

Scrub the potatoes and cut them into cubes. (I leave mine unpeeled, but if you want you can peel them before dicing.) Place potatoes in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer until potatoes are tender. Reserve a cup of their cooking water, if possible, and drain. Place in a large bowl, add the non-dairy milk, and mash until smooth, adding a little of the potato-cooking water if they seem too dry. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste and set aside in a warm place (I put them in the oven on a low heat).
While the potatoes are cooking, make the “pie” filling. Heat a large non-stick or cast iron skillet on a medium-high burner and add the onions. Sauté until onions are translucent. Add the garlic, carrots and mushrooms, and sauté for 3 more minutes.
Add the vegetable broth, kidney beans, green beans, and herbs. Simmer on medium heat for 20 minutes and all vegetables are tender. Add salt and pepper to taste. There should still be some liquid in the pan, but if it has become too dry, add a little of the potato-cooking water. Add the spinach and stir until it’s completely wilted. Mix the corn starch with the water until smooth, and add it to the pan. Cook, stirring, until mixture has thickened.
Spoon the potatoes evenly over the top of the filling and sprinkle with chopped rosemary. If potatoes have cooled, put the skillet under the broiler for a minute or two. Serve immediately while hot.


Recipe via Fat Free Vegan

Friday, November 8, 2013


Butchart Gardens

Jon's mother and her partner were with us last weekend, and they had the special honor of being our first guests out west! It was so so nice seeing them and catching up while finding new restaurants, showing them around town, and exploring new (to us!) parts of Victoria. Jon and I haven't done much of the tourist-y stuff so far, so it was great getting to explore some of Victoria's well-known gems. Typically when people get here they do two things: have high tea and the Empress hotel and go to Butchart Gardens. I was happy to check both of those things off my "to do" list, but I'm sure we'll be back to both places as other guests slowly trickle in and out of the region. That being said, it was magical to have those experiences for the first time, and I'm so happy we had Laurie and Ralph to join us. 

We also got to watch the salmon swim up stream to spawn, which is something while not super tourist-y, was still very interesting and exciting. It was sobering to see some of the fish struggle up the river, and some of the fish who weren't as fit laid on the river banks dead. I went to the stream a few days later with another friend only to find more fish expired along the edges of the river, signifying that their trip uphill was possibly wrapping up. Jon had some morbid philosophical ideas and thoughts about the whole process, but I'll leave that job to him.

Our lovely guests

The Japanese garden

Friday, November 1, 2013

Cute & Kitschy Kitchens

Maybe it's because I've been spending too much time at home, but I've been really attracted to kitchen decor and aesthetics recently. I love the bright colors that some decorators have used, the rustic woods, and the beautiful natural light. It's probably kitchen-envy. My current kitchen, while LOADS bigger than our previous one in Cambridge, still lacks some desperately-needed character. I suppose I'll just keep adding to the bit of cute accents that I have to finally achieve the look that I want : )