Saturday, November 8, 2014


Image via The Everygirl

Lately as I browse through blogs and enter new restaurants, I notice that minimalism has become "the" thing. I see photographs of chic apartments with tons of negative space and barebones decor with usually that one accent piece. Simple, pattern-less clothing cuts accented by simple shoes. White, black, and grey reign.


Stuff in too many books into that bookshelf, throw in *way* too many plants that are needed, mix patterns and prints, and add about five more-than-necessary pictures on the wall and I'm digging it. Call it "bohemian" or "busy", but we all know it's clutter.

Image via Flikr

I feel like with a home full of clutter, it has a story to tell. Things from bygone trips and old friends hang up on the wall or sit as bowls on the counter, and everything has some sort of history. I like places that look lived in, and make me want to get to know the people living there.

Image via Flikr

Image via Nature Homes

Image via Home & Garden

Sunday, October 5, 2014


Strathcona Provincial Park

Have you ever thought about doing something so often that you just ended up not doing it? That's where I ended up with this blog post and so many other things in my life right now. I could spew out all of the cliches about procrastination, and I really have no one to blame but myself. I get anxious thinking about doing important things, then I end up falling behind with those things in life, and then that sheer thought of falling behind with those things is making me even more anxious, causing me to think about doing them more but then I'm suddenly paralyzed. It's a cycle, I know, and the only way to do some of those things is to just do them, so I'm starting with this blog post.

Kathryn observing some lovely views of Sooke Lake and the surrounding mountains

Before leaving for home I had done a few nice day hikes with my friend Kathryn, but since then I haven't been doing as much. This is one of the less important things that I want to be doing, but something I consider very important to my mental and physical health. I'm working long days now and so when the weekend finally comes and I have nothing planned, I find it hard to leave the apartment, even for grocery shopping. I've been spending more time watching movies and snuggling with Mr. Clemens, which is nice and relaxing, but now less time seeing friends. I'm making efforts to do more of this, but without my consistent paychecks balancing out just yet, it makes me anxious to make plans for the sheer fact that I have no extra money to spend.

A stupidly easy hike for a fantastic view. 

Jon and I made plans soon after we got back to Victoria to meet up friends in Seattle. I had a weird pseudo-coming home feel the entire time we were in the city, despite the fact that I had never been to Seattle. Maybe it was because we were in our home country or maybe because I look out almost every day and see the Olympic mountains in Washington, or maybe it was also being able to spend some time with an old friend of Jon's and knowing that he and his partner were only a (albeit expensive) ferry ride away. I intend to make that first trip to Seattle one of many, and I hope they reciprocate our open invitation to come visit us on the island soon.

Our lovely Seattle hosts.

The most exciting thing I've done recently has been a trip to Strathcona Provincial Park. The park, which is the oldest provincial park in BC, sits almost directly in middle of the island and is a vast wilderness playground for anyone from families to very experienced mountaineers. I've been wanting to go to Strathcona since i found out that we were moving here, and I couldn't have asked for a better travel partner than Natalie. I find it effortlessly easy to talk to her about anything, and we seemed to be pretty suited for traveling together (except for my very quick walking/hiking pace!). I also hope that the trip to Strathcona was my first of many during our time on the island, for we only got to hit just a bit of this massive park.

Natalie at a beach close to our camp, nearing twilight

The other slightly big news is that Jon recently acquired a west suit for a steal of a deal, and has been using it nearly every weekend. He's mostly taking it out into various coves and beaches to snorkel a little bit with some thrift-store goggles and snorkeling tube, but it will also be handy to have for whenever we head back up to Tofino or Sombrio for some surfing. I haven't seen him this excited about exploring new places since we got here, and I'm glad this purchase has become a fun, healthy outlet for exploration. 

Jon taking a break from aquatic exploration 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


Crater Lake, at the Delaware Water Gap

Coming home was a big lesson in remembering. The minute we got off the plane I felt the hot, sticky, impenetrable humidity of the Mid-Atlantic, even within the air conditioned terminal. I had forgotten the way the moisture saturates all the smells-- good and bad. As we waited for our shuttle to the car rental place, I glanced down at the grimy sidewalk to see an assortment of gum, cigarette butts, and filth. It's almost as if there aren't enough people in Victoria to make that kind of grossness that 1.5 million people can. As we were carted around the airport in a shuttle bus that blasted bad rap music, I remembered how the site of the Philadelphia skyline could make me want to cry-- and still does. It's a smathering of colonial history, ugly 1970's architecture, ghosts of the PSFS past, and the glass beast that is Comcast. I love that city.

The Shitty!

My parent's house is a site of a childhood simultaneously forgotten and remembered, with details that were overlooked for 25 years, and now have significance and meaning. The ornate and wobbly iron doorknob to my bedroom that still doesn't quite close unless you jiggle it just right. The cracks in each of the ceilings that either haven't grown in the 35 years my parents owned the house or have grown significantly since the last time I was there 10 months ago. The creaks and groans of the floorboards on the second floor landing, the staircases, the dining room. The patch of sandy dirt on the sidewalk just as you turn right from the backyard porch and the different shades of red in the brick along the side of the house, and how those shades changes when you applied water to them to draw as a child. I also remembered all of the hugs of my family-- the excitement and joy from Eric, the silliness and adoration from Brian, the all-encompassing one from Kate, the pureness and wholeness from my Mom, the sweetness and tenderness from my Dad. Slipping back into routine was easy, as I listened to the box fan in my window to my left and gazed at the dollar store glow-in-the-dark universe above my head.

Cape May Arcade

The tactile aspects of places that I visited are memories that are hard to recreate and remember if you're not around them all the time. I loved watching my feet sink into the sand as the warm Atlantic washed over them. The feeling of a hot campfire blazing the hairs off my legs during an August night as I listened to friends' voices again for the first time in a long time. The sensation of jumping into the brackish, cold water of a bay only to swim quickly for relief as I shivered and felt goosebumps on my arms for the first and only time during the hot weeks I was there. The pure and overwhelming sensation of holding my dear friends' child for the first time as I felt what could only be described as unconditional love and happiness for the child, my friend, and her husband.

Sand Dune Tracks

I loved being back home, but I also love being back in Victoria. Every time I said the word "home," I felt split between two worlds. I don't think it's fair to only label one place as home, for the guilt in mentioning that Victoria was my home or the awkwardness of labeling a place where I don't live as home shouldn't be as guilty or awkward as it was. I feel like I can make any place a home, even if it's only for a night, if I'm with Jon and if I try enough, and for now that works for me.

Kicking Ass and Taking Names

Monday, July 21, 2014

Gulls & Home

Our going away party: One year ago today!

I sat on the balcony at usually the time where the sun blazes right into my eyes, but today it's different. The sky was prematurely grey with clouds looming over the mountains in the distance where the sun typically retreats behind every night. There was a patch of a brilliant yellowish pink that peaked out a bit in between the mountains and the clouds, and I knew that somewhere in Washington someone was getting a view of a beautiful sunset.

A sunset from the balcony, on a much more impressive day

Without the fantastic display of colors to distract me, I watched the seagulls, whom I'm convince have houses on every roof in Victoria. Some glide lazily along their way before they flap briefly before touching down on the Tudor-styled building across the way, and others flap rhythmically, as if unable to catch a break in the wind. I now love being surrounded by seagulls; they remind me that we really are living in a shore town. Usually I only heard their calls about twice a year when I went down the shore in Jersey, but now I hear them every day.

Sunrise at the Jersey shore, 2010

The beach here is so different. There's no mile-long stretches of umbrellas, dozens of happily screaming children, or people battling the waves at the end of summer for hours. There's no boardwalk, no "Wildwood '04" hoodies, no loud rap music played for the singular pleasure of teenagers. No, here there's little waves with patches of rocky shores mixed with kelp, drift wood, and rocky formations. A beach comber might find about a dozen or so wanderers like themselves, or perhaps an avid reader plopped on a make-shift driftwood seat. When I used to see straight lines, now I have diagonals.

Dallas Road beach in Victoria

There's only ten days until Jon and I leave our rocky shores for smooth, sandy ones. Ten days until we leave our temporary home temporarily to remember what we little details have forgotten. The unfamiliar has become so common place here so quickly, only within a year, but I now long to see something that is known deep within my bones, and is burrowed in my heart. I love living here, but it's time to visit home.

Bay-side sunset adventure.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Easy Cold Brew Iced Coffee

Fuzzy Mmmmm!

Whoops-- it's been way too long since I've blogged! Sorry about that, everyone (all five of you, I assume). Today I have a tried and true recipe, and my first liquid recipe: Cold Brew iced coffee! And perfect timing, too-- it's been quite warm here and boiling on the East Coast! So turn a blind eye to your hot and steamy coffee brewer and set your sights on some delicious, bold, and refreshing coffee!

Cold Brew has been a happening buzz word in the coffee world, but few people really know the difference or why it's making such a big hit in cafes. While I don't know the exact science behind the perks of cold brewed coffee, some things make sense to me: making a large batch of concentrated coffee is a lot less messy than overflowing your coffee brewer, cold things should be made cold (I'm guessing on this one), and making a batch of concentrate will also help your coffee to have a full flavor, rather than just pouring some coffee over ice and severely watering it down in the process.

This blog was partly inspired by one of my favorite bloggers who featured a how-to on cold brew, but she made it *way* too complicated! So here's an easy recipe for you readers!

Happy family of ingredients with our local star, Discovery Coffee!

Wet, vaguely messy ingredients. 

Stir, baby, stir!

Drain, baby drain!

Draining part deux.

Voila! Done.

4 Cups cold water
1 1/3 Cups ground coffee (medium-fine, as for a regular brewer)

1) Add coffee to your container of choice (large Mason jars work great, but any sort of pitcher is fine).  I spooned most of my coffee into the jar to make a bit less of a mess, but you could use a funnel. Add the water and stir until well combined. I used a spoon stick to create less of a mess.
2) Cover and leave out for 8 - 12 hours at room temperature.
3) Using either a cheese cloth, fine dish towel, or nut milk bag (as pictured), drain the grounds from the coffee twice. First, use a large-ish pot to pour the contents of your brewing jar through the draining device of choice. Then, drain again into the initial container of choice for safe keeping for up to a week in the fridge (see photo "draining part deux").

For making coffee!
As a reminder this is a concentrate, so you don't want to drink this stuff straight-up unless you have a stomach of steel. 

1) I use one part coffee concentrate to two parts cold water, but that can be adjusted per your preference.
2) Add sweetener (I use honey because it dissolves easily in cold water) and preferred milk if desired.
3) Add ice cubes and sip happily, hopefully in the shade with a good book.

Yummy in my tummy!

Recipe via Red Book Magazine.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Life Lately

Admiring the sunset on Galiano Island

Life lately has been full of severe ups and downs, with the ups being minor, every day fun things, and the downs being life-impacting. I feel like the universe has decided that after 10 months of loving life on the West Coast that I needed to get knocked down a peg or two. Trying to keep my head up has been really hard the last two weeks but thankfully not impossible due to my awesome, positive, and inspiring friends, family, and co-workers.

To keep my readers (whom I always assume are mostly friends and family on the East Coast) informed on what has happened, I'll try to go chronologically. On May 6th I celebrated my 28th birthday. Yaaaaay! It was a lovely birthday filled with loving and sincere happy wishes, Mexican food, and boardgames. I couldn't have been happier. Jon, despite his vow to not spoil me, spoiled me with adorable and thoughtful gifts and easily the best part of my day was hiking and lunching by a stream at a nearby park.

Thumbs up for relaxing and beautiful birthdays!

The day after my birthday started wonderfully. I had bought myself a year pass to the Butchart Gardens and I got to go with my friend Skjelse who also bought a year pass. I had been twice before but never during the springtime to see all of the flowers in bloom. That first full week in May had all of the tulips in the prime of their glory and I had so much fun exploring the park with someone who had never been. 

After I got home from the gardens and I got ready for work, I took note that Jon wasn't around. I called him as I was leaving to find out he was on campus, doing meetings to set up his committee for his comprehensive exams. I was (stupidly) on my phone while driving, and just outside my parking lot driveway the police had set up a speed trap. I was pulled over. Long story short, I ended up having to get my car towed back up my driveway because Jon and I were 9 months behind on switching over our registration and insurance and I needed to switch over my license ASAP. This has surely been the biggest hitch since we got out here. We figured we would have to switch over eventually, but thought we could last a year (and go through our insurance from the states), but we were never informed we were supposed to switch everything over within 30 days. Our car is still parked, unable to be driven but perfectly drivable, in our parking lot. I hope to switch over everything next week.

Tulips and fountains at Butchart Gardens

That following weekend I had planned a camping trip on one of the Gulf Islands for my birthday and, despite our car troubles, everything worked out great and I'm quite sure everyone had a blast! This trip was also a little bittersweet, for my friend's partner was preparing to move to Edmonton for work after only a few short months of living here. It was tough because I felt like I was just getting to know him and was having a lot of fun with him by the time we had to say goodbye. I hope he doesn't have to be out in the great north for too long!

Most of the birthday adventure crew (minus one) on top of Mount Galiano!

Amongst all of these happenings, I've been feeling pretty homesick and having feelings of FOMO. Jon's little sister got married last weekend, my dearest friend Tara is pregnant, my sister and my brother-in-law are moving into their own place again after months of being home, my two brothers have started new (and not so new!), exciting relationships, dear friends have married, and I have learned about some secret things all within the last three weeks! I feel like this is the universe's way of saying that I should be going home soon, but our trip home won't be for another 70 days or so.

Dock-side silliness with Skjelse!

The last bit of craziness that has happened is that my phone was stolen from work on Friday. It's a bit of a long story (and I've written a crazy amount on this blog so I'll spare the details), but I have the address of where it was taken to Friday night and suspicions (or hopes) it may have been one of the kids. We had some issues earlier this year about one of the kids taking another kid's toy, and I feel like at this age (5 - 6) they understand, but not entirely, the concept of stealing. I haven't reported it to the police in case it was one of my kids, and I hope that it has been or will be returned to the center that I work at, but I can't hold my breath. 

Meeting up friends at Cobble Hill Mountain

And there you have it: my manic-depressive last three weeks. I hope June brings a more mellow and less extreme changes in my life, but it also means the end of my employment by the 26th due to the end of the school year (things just keep coming, don't they?!). I'll have a new batch of worries by that point, but hopefully a car and phone to improve my standard of living. 

Keeping my head up is easy with West Coast nature!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Mushroom Risotto with Caramelized Onions

Deliciousness in a bowl

Holy moly I love this meal. The first time I made it I had just moved to Boston and while I was making fairly good meals, nothing was really hitting the spot until this one. I nearly went cross-eyed it tasted *so* good! Hearty, rustic, and "meat-y" (as Jon described it), this is probably a good recipe for crisp winter nights, but really wonderful any time of year. 

I will warn anyone who wishes to make this meal: It will take a while. Like, an hour to an hour and a half long. And not like, throw it in the oven for most of that time long, more like watch it and stir often so it doesn't burn type of long. But it is so, so worth it.

And what better way to make this fabulous time-consuming dish than with my brand new Le Creuset braiser! (Tons and tons of thanks to my Aunt Beth for sending this rather belated wedding gift!)

Flame perfection.

Mmmm raw ingredients.

All ready to go!

Gross-looking but delicious caramelized onions


4 yellow onions
1 tbsp + 3 tbsp olive oil, divided 
3 - 4 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 large sprig of fresh rosemary
1 cup uncooked brown rice
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

1) Chop two of the onions and add to a large skillet or dutch oven (such as a Le Creuset!) with 1 tbsp olive oil on medium heat. Cook for a bit and add garlic, cooking for about 8 minutes on low heat. 

2) Turn up heat to medium-high and add sliced mushrooms. Cook for about 10 minutes.

3) Add the rosemary sprig, rice, vegetable broth, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to low and cover tightly. Stir it about once or twice while the rice soaks up the broth.

4) While the risotto is cooking, start making the caramelized onions. Cut the remaining two onions in half then cut them into half moons. Add the remaining 3 tbsp of olive oil to a large-ish pan on medium-low heat and add the onions. Stir often, making sure not to burn, until the onions turn golden brown. The original recipe says this takes about a half hour, I feel like I've spent anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour making these bastards. Maybe it is actually a half hour, but it feels SO LONG.

5) Once the rice has soaked up all of the broth remove the sprig stems. Then, go to town on this delicious risotto topped with caramelized onions. 

Recipe Via Oh She Glows

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Rewards and Snobbery

That's what I'm talking about! At Sugarloaf Mountain

I realized just now while trying to pull this post together that I've turned into a bit of a hiking snob. I'm not sure if that sounds misleading, but by snob I mean I want pretty views. I want my vistas, my waterfalls, my bluffs, my breath-taking "oh wow!" rewards for putting out the effort to get wherever I'm going.

The beautiful view on top of Mount Maxwell.

I realized this once when I went on a camping trip with some of my friends last year, and I went all the way from Boston to just outside Washington, DC. For those who are unaware, that's about a 12 hour trek. The first day we went to Great Falls National Park where we watched the gorgeous and awesome (in the truest sense of the word) Potomac River, which was easily accessible from the highway with only a short walk to the best view. The next day after camping we went on a hike that lead nowhere. Vaguely disappointed, I still had a fantastic time on the trip (it ended up being a surprise bachelorette-ish party for me!), but couldn't help but feel cheated after our lack of majesty that second day. 

I experienced this again two weekends ago during a trip to Salt Spring Island where, after driving up an awfully treacherous road on Mount Maxwell, my hiking buddies and I were treated with the foggiest vista I've ever come across. Boo!

Sad and confused foggy hikers.

Yanno, it doesn't even have to be a particularly majestic thing as a reward, it could be just some type of reward making everything-- the strife, the exercise, the drive, the frustration, the sweat-- worth it! I went outdoor rock climbing for the first time a few weekends ago, and even though I saw the gorgeous Nanaimo River (which probably brings the Potomac to shame) and hiked around there for a while, the feeling of "topping out" on my first bouldering climb trumped the sight of the Potomac River! 

Making my way up!

Maybe it has something to do with personal achievement and empowerment that I need from my adventures, and majestic views are typically the way that pat on the back is given to me by mother nature.

Natalie crossing a wobbly and treacherous log bridge!

Skjelse trying to overcome her fear of heights on a trestle bridge

Looking back on the progress we've made!

My boating treat to Jon for succeeding in his first year in his PhD program!