Archive for March 2016

Happy Easter – Buona Pasqua!

Once again…our lilac tree is bursting forth and I’m up to my little ears in planning Easter Dinner. Even though I’m a lapsed Lutheran, a few religious days have stuck like glue!

DSCN1103 nx2But… for me, those days are wrapped around remembering traditions of making and eating delicious food.
We haven’t gotten into dying eggs in our house but I always think of the fun my sister and I had making them with our mom. Then there was the Easter Bunny…kind of like Santa except we left out a carrot and a glass of milk before going to bed rather than a shortbread cookie and knowing my dad, the guy responsible for eating those offerings, probably a glass of something other than milk!

The dessert meant “Daffodil Cake,” a recipe mom probably tore out of the newspaper and that I was commandeered to make. I can’t tell you how many colourful little gumdrop flower decorations I made for those cakes over the years!

What is it about deviled eggs anyway? I think they were and are one of the best things, perched prettily on their special gold-trimmed, blue, deviled egg plate, with their finishing touch of freshly snipped chives from the garden.

Joe and I have our own traditions created along the way, like making hot crossed buns, eating new crop French Breakfast radishes, sliced and placed on buttered bread, with just a sprinkling of sparkly sea salt and asparagus…there has to be asparagus!

An especially important tradition is cooking a special “Easter Sunday” dinner, whether we have company or not. The menu this Sunday will be a rack of veal, covered with a layer thin pancetta slices, served with rosemary scented, wine infused jus and spoonful’s of creamy potato gratin or pommes Anna (which one to choose, is the big question). We will start our celebratory “Easter” meal with asparagus soup, because other than eggs, asparagus simply screams spring. As for dolce…we need something the Easter Bunny will like…so individual creamy cheesecakes, topped with mini Easter eggs…we do we need some chocolate after all! Must remember to leave out one for him!

For the recipe for asparagus soup, click here.

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Me and My Knees, That Thing Called Arthritis – Part Three

In January 2016 it’s time for a re-visit to OASIS to see physio Val! This time we both think it’s getting to be time to see a surgeon, considering it will take around 6 months to do so. I’ve been told that if you are a “patient” of OASIS it speeds up the process of getting the appointment to see the surgeon and the time to surgery.

DSCN0026 nx2I’m very lucky as I have an amazing Doctor who has been very supportive in assisting me along the way, guiding me through the process, putting me in touch with OASIS and recommending exercise programmes. I also have my physio Jenn who has been treating me for at least 5 or 6 years, getting me doing exercises at home and keeping up on my stationery bike riding (having that bike at home is definitely recommended for arthritic knees). She has provided me with all sorts of printed information and will be helping a lot with my rehab. We also have a good friend who is an arthritis specialist, researcher, scientist and physio and she has been providing information along the way too and has recommended a great surgeon. I am indeed fortunate.

My arthritis story will continue with updates along the path to surgery, rehab. and afterwards. I console myself with the thought that there is no way I will be able to return to Italy or the other vacations we have on the books without having the surgery. In fact, we have had to postpone a trip this September, with my sister and her husband to visit Denmark where our father was born. For the time being, I can manage a car-trip that is not too long and perhaps a short 2 or 3 hour flight to visit family and friends in California. Becoming adjusted to the fact that I move slowly, slowly and have to really think about how far I can walk, for the time being, is challenging and frustrating though….and I miss getting down on my hands and knees to do some gardening or being able to use a big shovel to dig out and transplant perennials!

Click here for Part 1 and here for Part 2.

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Me and My Knees, That Thing Called Arthritis – Part Two

It’s now 2015 and I still am not experiencing any pain to speak of. In July it’s time for another visit to OASIS. The physio at OASIS showed me my X-Rays; then explained that my left knee on the inside is now bone-on-bone! She also was surprised that I was not experiencing any pain! She tells me of patients whose X-rays show their knees are not as bad as mine and they are in agony…go figure! Apparently now is the time for that chat about that knee replacement surgery…she gives me anywhere between 1 and 2 years before my life will become so impacted by the arthritis in my knee, that I will need to have the surgery.

DSCN0026 nx2I have, by this time, finally listened to Dr. Joy…my fabulous physician, and purchased good Nordic Walking Poles and joined a community centre where I can attend “Joint Works” a pool programme for arthritis sufferers, twice a week, plus joining a chair-fit class. Why the hell I didn’t listen to her before I’ll never know…just stubborn I guess! The poles are making it a lot easier for me to walk, keeping my posture correct, and making me mindful about my alignment, they also take 15 lbs. off the knees. I am unable to walk as far as I could 1 ½ years ago because I get tired more quickly and I have slowed right down, which is frustrating to me, a big time walker. About 1 mile is about it. Back in the day that was a slam dunk!

Fast forward to October 2015 and we are off to Rome again. I’m equipped! I’ve got my Nordic Poles tucked into my suitcase, along with my freezy packs, lots of Tylenol for Arthritis and Advil’s and some of those instant freezy packs in my purse just in case I begin to have pain on the flight. The day we left I went to the pool for the morning class just to be on the safe side. The flight was an overnighter to London then on to Rome and I had no pain at all….the only pain being it’s a pain in the ass on the plane…it’s so cramped, even if you have an aisle seat (helps if you can stretch your bad knee out once in a while) and I never seem able to sleep either! I would say slow and steady was how our time was spent in Rome; we still walked a lot but took many breaks. Each time I got on the bus or subway, someone would always offer me their seat! This doesn’t happen here in Vancouver! We saw a lot and did a lot but had to take a pass on some things, it’s the stairs you see! So even though Villa d’Este and Hadrian’s Villa at Tivoli was on the agenda, we knew I would be either unable to do it or would not be at all happy with what I could not do and see. A lot of time was spent icing my knees in the morning and at the end of each day. There were occasional days I just had to take a few hours off and not do anything but sit, leg up, ice-pack on knee and write in my travel journal…so not a total waste of time! My husband, Joe, also pointed out to me one day that my left leg is now “bent” or “bowed.” Not a good thing!

But then…but then…the flight home! Not fun at all and ever since, I have been experiencing additional pain and much stiffness in the knee during the day. I tried a medication for pain that made me feel horrible so after 4 days I discontinued taking it and felt a lot better. The pool and chair fit programmes help a lot with relief in the joints, I use a prescription salve for knee pain, which isn’t awful…just feels like the knee is burning up sometimes! The good news is, touch wood, I do not have night pain when I’m trying to sleep. Apparently lots of people do. I’m a bad sleeper at the best of times so this is a bit of a blessing. The only time it’s problematic is if I turn the leg in a strange way. You quickly discover what positions work!

Click here for Part 1 and Part 3 continue the journey.

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Me and My Knees, That Thing Called Arthritis – Part One

I’ve been mulling over the idea of writing about my experiences with Arthritis for some time.  I suppose what convinced me to share, was seeing a lot of people who have arthritis and thinking there may be some of you who are experiencing this disease who might find something useful or helpful by reading my story.

My arthritis journey began a number of years ago when I was informed I had Osteoarthritis in both knees. Of course, being me, I chose to ignore all the helpful suggestions from my Doctor and my Physio!

DSCN0026 nx2My left knee is twice as bad as the right one. There was no pain involved, only a little stiffness off and on so it was easy to ignore doing anything about it. I was still able to walk to Granville Island from home (about 1 ½ miles) with no problem whatsoever and walk everywhere else I wanted to!

A few years ago my Doctor suggested it would be a very good idea to request an appointment with an organization called OASIS (OsteoArthritis Service Integration System) a programme that assists people with Osteoarthritis self-manage their condition. They hold clinics and classes on how to live well at every stage of the disease. Sounded good…so I went. There followed a couple of hours spent having X-rays taken, completing forms on what you felt your pain level was, how able were you to live normally, do chores and housework, look after personal hygiene and whether or not you required assistance with any of these tasks. Once the forms were completed there was visit with their in-house physiotherapist. At the time, there was still some synovial fluid remaining in my left knee. Synovial fluid is a viscous, fluid found in the cavities of synovial joints. And it’s there to reduce friction between the articular cartilage of synovial joints during movement.

Of course I’m waiting for a “miracle” so I can avoid knee replacement surgery and I’m still walking a lot managing  housework and cooking meals, when, hey presto sometime in November 2013, I hear of a drug called “Durolane” that just might be that miracle I’ve been waiting for!  I’m heading to see “THE Arthritis Doctor” so she can assess my knee over and if I’m a candidate for injections of Durolane. Heck…they are “only” nearly $400.00 a shot, not covered by medical or extended health, can last up to 6 months and may just be the ticket, I’m going for it!

We booked a trip to Rome and Tuscany for April of 2014 and I’m feeling very confident with the Durolane in my knee! And my knee wasn’t bad at all considering all the walking…we even the Appian Way in Rome for quite a distance! Or course I had Tylenol for Arthritis on board and we picked up a gel freezy pack when we got to Italy!

Back at home, I begin to notice that I’m starting to limp, obviously a sign that the “Durolane” is wearing off, time for another injection, I think. This injection is not as effective as the first time. Dr. Alice said that finding the sweet spot in the knee cap for the injection is no easy task because the kneecap has shifted and the knee is swollen all the time. Still…I was able to walk with no pain! Another six months has bone by and it’s November 2014 and there I am again, spending another $400.00 hoping to avoid knee replacement. This time the whole injection goes completely sideways for no reason. Within a few days, I’m not noticing any improvement and after two weeks no improvement either. Off to see Dr. Alice! She is conducting a research study on Durolane, so I thought my feedback would be helpful. After sharing what had taken place or had not…we come to the conclusion that there will be no more injections of Durolane for me!

Part 2 and Part 3 continue the journey.

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Our “New” Oil

Just got the word…the shipment of extra virgin olive oil from Amelia in Umbria has arrived in Vancouver! And I’ve been told it’s extremely good this year.

_DSC1043 nx2The 2014 harvest was hit particularly hard. Either the oil was in short supply or not available at all due to terrible weather conditions at the most crucial times. As the flowers on the trees were beginning to fruit in the spring it froze and then suddenly turned scorching hot, causing the trees to drop their olives. The summer was hot which brought on more problems, followed in September by a huge hail storm that knocked much of the remaining olives to the ground. On top of all this, the temperatures in the winter were not cold enough to kill off pests. Due to all the bad weather, a fly called Bactrocera oleae spread the disease known as “olive tree leprosy” to an astounding degree. We counted ourselves lucky to get any oil at all.

Some of you may not get excited by this annual event but not us! A few years ago we were given, what turned out to be a lucky “tip” and since then we have been privileged by the arrival of new oil every February/March.

With all the shenanigans going on with the adulteration aka fraud of olive oil these days, it seems you just can’t trust that your oil will be pure and from Italy if you are purchasing Italian oil. The recommendations are to look for bottles labelled “produced and bottled by” and also “harvest dates,” and I don’t mean “best by” dates.

Amelia Oil, our importer here in Vancouver, brings the oil directly from the farm in Umbria. Rebecca and her daughter, Rachel  go to the farm, have a personal and trusting relationship with the owner and have been there during some harvests.

Extra Virgin Olive oil is our go to cooking, drizzling or salad making oil throughout the year but that first taste of the new oil is something to be relished (she says rubbing her hands together).

So, once again, a great piece of bread in hand…it’s time to taste! Step 1: dip bread in oil, step 2: a scattering of coarse sea salt, Step 3: fill our glasses with wine! Salute!

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If you are interesting in finding out more information about Olive Oil, Nancy Harmon Jenkins is where to start with her book Virgin Territory: Exploring the World of Olive Oil. She is arguably the leading authority on olive oil and the healthy Mediterranean diet, and her book is an illuminating look at olive oil. Or check out her website:

And also this post by Julia della Croce, one of America’s foremost authorities on Italian Cooking and author of 15 cookbooks. She has been published in the New York Times, Food & Wine and The Washington Post to name just a few.

Vintners Brunch 2016

Another year has flown by and once again we’re off to the 28th Annual Vintners Brunch, thinking this is probably the 12th time we’ve attended this wrap up event of the Vancouver International Wine Festival. It looks like a sold-out event again this year! Not surprising, it has a casual vibe and is a lot of fun!

DSCN1031 nx2At 11:30 everyone enters the huge space with a stunning view overlooking Vancouver’s North Shore mountains with Deadman’s Island and Coal Harbour in the foreground and are welcomed with champagne flutes of a sparkler from “See Ya Later Ranch.” Each year you see a few of the same restaurants but then there are always the new kids on the block; a great way to sample what they are up to! Approximately 15 restaurants have stations set up around the perimeter, each station having a winery representative offering their selection of the wine that best accompanies that particular plate.  From this point on we are all like little bees, buzzing from one open “flower” to the next!

Forty-nine tables, accommodating eight people at each, have been arranged around the stage where a live band plays throughout the event…always a nice touch, always the same band, and a great tradition. During the last half hour they play rock-n-roll from the 60’s and 70’s and all us “old folks” get up and have a blast dancing. Unfortunately, for the last couple of years I’ve had to sit this out….damned knee!

Our favourite plates and pairings:

DSCN1043 nx2B.C. Dungeness Crab Salad, Grapefruit, Vanilla, Hollandaise from Showcase Restaurant & Bar with Geyser Peak Saugivnon Blanc 2014 – that crab was so sweet and delicious, I almost didn’t care what else came on the plate!

Charred Parksville Bay Herring, Cured Duck Yolk, Grapefruit Dressing Salad from Forage with Vina Leyda Garuma Single Vineyard Saugivnon Blanc 2014 – partner in eating aka “I’ll eat anything from the ocean Joe” liked this a lot! Not being a herring fan, I didn’t try this offering!

Nikkei Ceviche from Chicha with Columbia Winery Chardonnay 2013 – again Joe really like this a lot…as I don’t each raw fish, I can’t say…looked nice though!

House Cured Salmon with Pineapple Jam, Lemon Oil and Sweet Potato Crisps from Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House with Babich Wines Marlborough Pinot Gris 2015 – Once again Joe steps up DSCN1033 nx2giving it two thumbs up and once again I withhold judgement as I don’t eat salmon although the salmon was a very nice colour!

Ebi-Shinjo Shrimp and Fish Ball with Dashi Espuma, Julienned Fresh Vegetables from ShuRaku with Thornhaven Estates Winery Gewurtztraminer VQA 2014 – Joe’s comments were that he liked the texture and taste a lot, sort of like a dim sum bun but better and I thought the presentation was lovely.

Mushrooms on Toast, with Tomato and Crisp Parmesan from The Sonora Room Restaurant with Burrowing Owl Estate Winery Merlot 2012 –  One of my favourites of the day. The wine pairing was so perfect with the mushrooms and the other tastes on the plate. Two thumbs up from me and pretty much everyone else at our table!

DSCN1052 nx2Chorizo Scotch Egg with Urban Digs Pork, Smoked Paprika, Hen’s Egg and Hay Aioli from ARC at Fairmont Waterfront with Gil Family Estates Trident Tempranillo – Castilla y Leon 2013 – This plate got a big cheer from our table and the wine pairing was perfect!

Deep Fried Mantou Banh Mi, Cola Braised Lamb, Cilantro, Carrot Slaw from Lift Bar Grill View with Allegrini Palazzo della Torre IGT Veronese 2012 – so…how many of these did the folks at our table consume anyway? I’ll never tell…what a great combination of flavours!

Black Rice Congee with Red Wine-Braised Duck, Soy-Marinated Quail’s Egg, Black Currant Gastrique, Togarashi Crackling from Railtown Catering with Hahn Family Wines SLH Pinot Noir 2013 – Just about everyone at DSCN1040 nx2our table liked this a lot. There were a bunch of flavours happening in that bowl and it came out as the top choice of the judges!

From the preceding you might think we ate and drank our faces off! Well…sort of! The saving grace is that the portions are mostly bite-size or maybe two bites and the pours a couple of ounces!

Another great time was had by all and we look forward to who the chef’s will be and what they will come up with next year!



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