Author Archive for Phyllis

No Money Trees in Vancouver

When you meet up with friends or strangers what is the hottest subject being discussed???  

If you live here in Vancouver, it’s real estate and the ridiculous prices! Will interest rates go up? Will prices come down? Detached home prices seem to have fallen a bit but not the condo/apartments/townhouse market.   Sellers won’t even consider subjects such as “subject to financing” or “subject to inspection”…what???

When I was a kid there was something called The Irish Sweepstakes.  And I remember hearing the dreams and seeing the stars in the eyes of ticket holders at the thought of winning $100,000! Isn’t that incredible? Back then, in our minds, when we thought of $100,000 we saw a wheelbarrow overflowing with money! It’s chump change these days! Like what would you do with such a huge $100,000 windfall? Ha!

Just about everyone we know are real estate millionaires. “Millionaire” has a nice ring to it! Remember back in the day, fantasizing about how great it would be when you had your first million? Well, those dreams have definitely become just that, dreams for the average buyer. In Vancouver near the downtown core, where we live, 2 bedroom apartments are ringing in at over 1 M. and these are not high end places!  And often require renovating!  These are scary times for not only us but a number of our friends who need to find a new home.

We sometimes watch a programme called House Hunters. OMG…I mean a whole house for a few hundred thousand…you must be joking…reality check time…here it would be several million dollars.

You might ask…How do most people afford to live in your lovely city? I don’t know. Another thing I don’t know is how the hell are first time buyers going to be able to buy in the lower mainlaind.  Vancouver is the third most expensive place in the world to buy housing. Click here for a recent statement by the head of the Royal Bank of Canada to see more.  And click here and here for more info. on where we might “hopefully” be headed in this market!

How do you fit 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms into 800 square feet anyway? Oh, I know…you actually can’t fit a bed into the bedrooms or open and close the doors.  MY GAWD!

Rant done!  Wish us luck!

2 “R’s” of Spring

Ramps and Rhubarb!

Yes, we are up to our knees in both! We fired up the stove at #5 this week stocking up our larder and freezer using these delectable spring delicacies.

You can’t go wrong with rhubarb muffins or rhubarb coffee cake.  A must in our house is making the annual batch of rhubarb ketchup.

Ramps aka wild leeks are hard to get in some areas but if you do have a “connection”…by all means try out a few of our favourites!  For my money they have more of a garlicky flavour rather than the taste of leeks.

 

Ramp buttermilk biscuits are another springtime must around here. And then there is an amazing “pesto” that we toss with spaghetti and sprinkle with toasted breadcrumbs. Not to mention a ramp Italian sausage risotto.  Or, you might consider chicken braised with ramps…sort of “white coq au vin.” Certainly went down a treat here!

If you would like to learn more about ramps, check out my blog post.  Click here for the link.

 

 

 

 

While Visiting Victoria

Last weekend we made a quick trip over to Vancouver Island.  It’s been about three years…far too long!

Back in the day, before we really got the travel bug and when we still had a mortgage to pay off, we used to go over quite often.  Vancouver Island is very beautiful and if you get the chance, do try and go…the ferry ride from Vancouver alone is spectacular and worth the journey!

One of the things we used to do for fun was travel around the Island searching for new and exciting food stuff…duh, what else would we be doing!  So, in our travels we found new cheesemakers, bakers, wine makers, artisanal butchers and interesting restaurants.  Chefs were sourcing locally made and grown products.  Cooking this way seemed to be happening more in Victoria than here in Vancouver back in the mid-eighties.  We would pick up the Vancouver Island Eat Magazine each time an issue was published, pour over it with anticipation hoping to discover new places to visit on our next trip over.

And so it was with great pleasure that we “discovered” a new-to-us funky little place on Quadra Street called Part and Parcel.  First thing is to find a place to sit down then sidle up to the counter and choose from the days’ offerings on the chalkboard,  grab some water, order wine or a craft beer if you like, sit yourself down and wait!  We decided to share a kamut fried chicken sandwich stuffed with house-smoked bacon, coleslaw and pickles, confit pork cheek topped with shaved fennel and a dollop of rhubarb “jam” and Moroccan fries.   We weren’t sure what to expect but when our choices arrived and we tucked in, we were pretty impressed!  The chicken in the sandwich has a kamut coating;  the other components are house made and it was wonderful.   When we read that the fries were scratch made, dusted with that delicious Moroccan spice mix, ras-el-hanout and came with harissa mayo dip, we had to have some!  But oooh, that confit of pork cheek paired with the rhubarb…outstanding!   I need to make confit of pork cheek!  Turns out Part and Parcel won the Vancouver Magazine Victoria Restaurants “Silver” award!  Who knew!

The staff is a friendly, easy-going bunch;  know their stuff and we had a lot of fun chatting with them.  We walked out two very happy kids and you’ve gotta love that!

My Freezer

We’ve always had a stand-alone freezer. And…FYI…

I’ll freeze just about anything that isn’t standing still!  I don’t know how we would live without one!

Do you freeze whipping cream? Are you nuts you might ask…hang on…I do all the time and it’s proven to come in handy. Thawed out in the fridge, it can be used in cooking. One time, for a lark, I even tried to whip it…guess what? It bloody worked!

Over the years our habits have changed, for one thing we no longer stock up on large amounts of meats to tide us over the fall and winter, as though we live in the bush or something! We just don’t go through that much meat, nor do we entertain as much as we used to. Sure the freezer still gets a work out because of all the breads and other baking, the fruits of summer, grains and nuts used for baking and god knows, those handy-dandy, thank-god for them, leftovers.

Speaking of leftovers, that freezer paid for itself 100 X over in February and March this year! I needed to have TKR (to the initiated that’s Total Knee Replacement Surgery). The surgery was supposed to take place in November then January and finally took place in February! The good news, there was loads of time for me to stock up the freezer so that my poor husband wouldn’t have the burden of looking after my needs and cooking everything from scratch. And although he helps in the kitchen, being married to me for all these years he’s gotten out of practice with preparing our meals. Therefore, it made sense to keep loading up the freezer…and it worked! I think he ordered in twice during those months! Everything is long gone but…

And it’s the perfect time that it has, as one’s fancies are turning to lighter fare and best of all barbecuing and grilling, at which Joe excels!

Make Some Meatballs

You’ve just have to say yes to these juicy, succulent morsels!

When a friend posted that she was making meatballs,  I figured I’d better get busy and make some too!

I’ve probably made  hundreds if not thousands of different meatballs in my former chef life! The big plus being, they are easy to eat from a  toothpick with one hand while clutching a drink in the other!

If you’re looking for a really easy and yummy dinner, meatballs baked in tomato sauce are the ticket. At our house we serve them as a second course with a veggie or salad, preceded by a small pasta course, but I think they would be absolutely delicious with some crusty bread and salad. The last time I made these meatballs our primo was spaghettini dressed with EVOO, garlic, pepperoncino, lemon and parsley** But you can simply toss some of the meatball sauce with the pasta for a really easy primo! Save some pasta cooking water, just in case the sauce is a bit too thick. Pass the Parmigiano please!

The Spanish, Asian, Indian and Greek** meatballs make great appetizers any time. They ‘re a great appy to serve at home or to take to get-together’s. Meatballs have the added advantage in that they can be made a few days ahead or even frozen for a month or so. Not a bad thing to have hanging about in the freezer over the holidays!

The Greek meatballs make a delicious meal topped with either tzatziki or tahini sauce, some chopped tomato, onion a bit of lettuce all wrapped up in warm pita bread.. I have been known to put them on skewers and barbecue them, heat the pita on the grill, add a Greek salad and voila!

If you would like to make the meatballs in tomato sauce, click Baked Meatballs In Tomato Sauce.

If you would like to see some other meatball recipes, click Meatballs, A Hostess’ Friend & Anne’s Meatballs.

If you would like to make the pasta, click Spaghettini With Lemon And Garlic.

Sea Change?

I must admit that writing and posting on my blog has not been as productive over the last 6 months or so as I would have liked!

For us 2017 has begun with a bang minus the fireworks!

My knee replacement surgery, first scheduled for January 19th, then January 23rd has now been changed to February 6th.  Our condo has every possible space available filled with the necessary medical equipment needed for when I get home from the hospital.  I have to admit, I’m not enjoying looking at things like bath seats, raised toilet seats, walkers, arm crutches and the like…it feels weird to think that I will be needing them all in a few weeks!  Not that I’m unfamiliar with the stuff…my Mother required a lot of the same things in her last few years…who knew we shouldn’t have got rid of her walker!  Actually her walker was kind of cute…we decked it out with lots of bows and ribbons.  Mom had a thing for saving bows and ribbons for as long as we could remember, so we figured it was appropriate!

Our large freezer and two fridge freezers are crammed with things that require reheating.  The only hard part is boiling the water for pasta, cooking it and choosing what sauce we feel like defrosting!  My husband, poor soul, is going to be looking after that end of things for a bit so I’ve tried to make his life as painless as possible, even making an inventory list of what’s in the different freezers.  God knows there’s soup, soup and more soup!  And…there’s a pizza place half a block away and a Chinese delivery place down the road!

On top of the surgery and all physio appointments to get my new knee fully operational, we’ve the task of finding and buying a new place to live!  I know…crazy right?

We had been talking about selling, knowing it was getting time to re-locate.  So, when an opportunity presented itself to sell the entire building at a very good price the owners all agreed it was time.  BUT, we’ve lived at the “Del Rey” for just about 32 years so it’s been very emotional for everyone.  We have been happy here, made friends here, cooked and shared food with so many, enjoying living in a character building that we lovingly renovated, updated and turned into a very comfortable home.  Luckily, we have made arrangements for a six month lease, with an option for another six months if needed.

NOW we need to find a realtor and get out there, going to open houses and praying we find something.  The fly in the ointment is going to be that my surgery and recovery will limit the search for a while, whereas we should be in full-blown, heavy duty search mode!

Both Joe and I are longing to go back to Rome this year, hopefully around September…it’s the “carrot on the stick” that will make us work even harder finding a new home, moving and getting a bit settled.  As long as the bed’s set up and the kitchen functional and the wine glasses are unpacked, I’d be quite happy leaving behind the remainder of the unpacking and heading to Rome for a month!  Who cares…we won’t be there to see all the boxes still needing to be dealt with!

Happy 2017

Joe and I would like to wish you a very Happy New Year filled with much love, joy and many blessings!

A quiet New Years Eve at #5 this year…enjoyed a nice lunch out and then back to our cozy apartment to enjoy Prosecco and appy’s and watch the snow fall.

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Hope you and your family enjoyed your time together over the holidays!

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It’s Almost Christmas!

Only 5 more sleeps!

I want to wish each of you a very Merry Christmas/Buon natale, Happy Holidays and much joy during the season, sharing good times, good food with friends and family…a toast to you all!  Here’s to an amazing 2017!

 

special-ocaasion

 

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Christmas Spirits?

DSC_2126 nx2We’ve got our tree!

We love going to our favourite “lot” every year and picking out the “perfect” tree. The first year my Husband and I were together we drove all over town looking for “that” tree! Oops… the law was laid down and “we will never be doing that again”. Did I mention that we ended up back at the first place we went to! Yikes.

The following year I was given a time limit to choose the tree! We have it down to around 10 minutes and only look at a few because “they are all nice”. After spending time chatting up our tree guy, Mario and his family and after wishing everyone buon natale, we are off home with our little beauty.

Aah, the aroma of  a Noble fir; just close your eyes and sniff, wonderful.  Up go the twinkly lights and decorations, off goes the living room lighting, on comes the little electric fireplace. It’s a little fairyland and I simply adore it!

A number of years ago, early one morning around 3:00am we heard a crash? Sounds like it’s coming from the living room! OMG, it is coming from the living room! The tree fell over! So, clean up the broken decorations, right the tree; not too much damage. Back to bed; fall asleep. Crash…it did it again!  Do the whole clean up thing again. Whew, this time it stayed up!

We think it was a signal of things to come  in the new year because there was a huge change in my career! Guess it will remain a mystery forever. Our building was constructed around 1929, hmm…wonder if it was the ghost of the Del Rey paying us another visit?   Could be…strange things have happened here every once in a while!

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Escape Hatch

“A Change Is Gonna Come.”  

Some of us of “boomers”, you know the group, where 60 is the new 40, are on a mission; that’s to create the next chapter of our lives.

dscn8222-nx2We’ve  watched our parents’ age and here’s a little secret, while they were so have we!  But, then 60 being the new 40, well…let’s try not to think about it!

I’m guessing many of us are familiar with “Independent Living” or “Assisted Living?”  But can someone please tell me how the heck that’s going to work out?  Ya…didn’t think so!

These days, for the most part, aging parents aren’t living with their kids and their families, probably being a big pain in the butt but part of the family scene!  Then there’s some of us who haven’t made that lifestyle choice or have no kids to move in with.

dsc_1443-nx2What’s to be done???  What’s next???

When I think about it, I can’t for the life of me, see not being able to cook.  I endured 6 pain-filled weeks a while back that kept me from“my domain”…I was one miserable cook, to say the least!

Cooking has been, for me and many others, our way of life.  We get a huge amount of joy from cooking and feeding family and friends.

The question is, how’s it going to be possible to go from a full kitchen to a microwave and a kettle?  And what about those marches to the dining room at some ungodly hour like 4:30 or 6:00 for dinner?  They’ve got to be kidding!  No one we know eats that early and certainly not at a prescribed time!  Not only that…we enjoy cooking and eating our own food and get satisfaction from testing recipes and trying out new ideas.

I wonder if I’ll wake up in the middle of the night sweating, my hand clutched as if holding a whisk?  Is that just me…don’t think so!

UNLESS…we can come up with a cunning plan…we have to come up with a cunning plan!

dsc_0915-jpg-nx2-edit-nciHmmm…speaking of cunning plans:  a few friends of ours are talking about forming a commune of some sort and Italy would be first choice!  My husband and I think this is a brilliant idea.  Those who want to, can cook, or lend a hand in the kitchen or do other stuff. There will be a garden with fig trees because they’re so good to eat and they epitomize the Mediterranean’s climate, food and way of life.  An amazing garden with loads of veggies and flowers for cutting, or just admiring will be planted.  We’ll hire people to do the heavy lifting of course, including housework…sounds pretty great to me!  Instead of  those organized bus trips to a mall or wherever, there would be trips to check out a variety of local festivals happening throughout the year. We could set up chairs outside our villa on warm nights and watch movies on a huge screen.  Heck, some of us could take up drawing or painting.  And because there has to be a pool, there will be ongoing pool therapy and exercise programmes to keep us in fighting form…sounds like a pretty fantastic community to me!  Who knows, we might even be vetted by a film director who wants to make a documentary about our little community!

Would someone be kind enough to pass the Prosecco please? Oh and I’ll have some of those figs too!

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