Wednesday, 24 April 2013

The Slanted Door, Squamish-style

Last year we had a girls' trip to San Francisco.  Mom, Bronwyn & I went down for a long weekend.  Briana was supposed to come as well, but unfortunately had to cancel at the last minute (which of course means that we are all due to go down again, this time properly with the 4 of us!)

I hadn't been to San Fran in a long time, but I remember loving it and I remember eating well & too much.  This trip was no exception.  In fact, it would be fair to say that eating was the main activity, and we just threw in some sight-seeing to re-work-up our appetites.

Mom, me & Bronwyn at the Ferry Building in San Francisco
It is hard to choose a winner, but my favourite meal on the trip was at The Slanted Door, a very popular and trendy Vietnamese restaurant in the Ferry Building.  It had an awesome atmosphere and the food was unbelievable.  They also had bathroom attendants that actually opened the stall door for you, which made me slightly uncomfortable, but maybe I'm just not sophisticated enough to appreciate it.

I was very excited to receive a cookbook from Bronwyn for Christmas by Charles Pang, the owner-chef of The Slanted Door.  "Vietnamese Home Cooking" is a really great looking book, filled with delicious recipes, but also gorgeous photos of Vietnam and interesting stories & anecdotes from the author.  I'd flipped though it and salivated over several pages, but until today, had not yet made anything out of it.

For this cookbook challenge I chose a main meal out of the book and a few condiments & sides to go with it.  I combined them all into what Charles Pang calls a "Vermicelli (Bun) Bowl".  Basically make a grilled meat of some sort, make some condiments & sides, put on top of vermicelli noodles & top with peanuts, hot sauce, mint, etc.  Yum.

Cookbook Challenge #12 Vermicelli (Bun) Bowl featuring Grilled Pork Chops with Sweet Lemongrass Marinate, Spicy Mango Salad and Pickled Carrots.  From "Vietnamese Home Cooking" by Charles Pang.

The lemongrass is sad in Squamish.   It used to be available in nice long normal stalks, but now you can only buy in little pre-packed plastic containers.  You usually get a 1/3 to 1/4 of a stalk, sometimes with mould, sometimes without, for the bargain price of $3.  So I just use this now, which is not quite a flavourful or fragrant, but at least its mould-free.

The marinate for the pork chops was lemongrass, Thai bird chillies, fish sauce, garlic & sugar... It was very tasty!!!  Tonight it was warm in Squamish and a perfect night for BBQing.  My sides of choice were spicy mango salad (awesome for the pregnancy-induced heartburn) and pickled carrots.

Everything came together nicely for a really light, fresh & tasty dinner.  I love Vietnamese food.  I can tell that this will not be my last foray into this book!  Thanks, Bronwyn!!

Yesterday was my birthday, and I had only one wish: not to be in labour on my birthday.  I wasn't, so I was a happy birthday girl.  I had a great birthday, full of lovely surprises and treats.  Thank you to my friends who brought their fine cooking over on the weekend for a potlatch party.  Thanks to everyone for the birthday phone-calls, texts & emails. And a huge thanks to Derek who spoiled me rotten!  Here is a glimpse of the goodies I enjoyed:

Triple chocolate moose cake from Xocolatl in Squamish

Gorgeous flowers from my sweetheart

Cutest birthday card!  Hopefully Rufus is not sitting contently in a breech position!

Treat to myself: my all time favourite ice cream - Chunky Monkey.
How do you like my customized scooper?  It was gifted to me by my grandmother when I worked at Ben & Jerry's.

There was only one close call this weekend.  Fattened up on ice cream and cake, I was a tempting treat for this rare giant sparrow.  Luckily, I made it out alive!!

People need to stop feeding the animals in Vancouver - they are getting big and aggressive!
Having a cat-nap with Zambo!

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Pulled Pork: where have you been all my life?

Is it my imagination, or is Southern cooking all the rage right now?  Even in Squamish we have a BBQ joint and it's delicious!  Everywhere I go, I see pulled pork on the menu.  Sometimes is a bit heavy on the BBQ sauce but overall, it seems like you can't go wrong with such a tender, succulent piece of meat.   About a month ago, our friends Kory & Julie invited us over for a delicious casual dinner of pulled pork on a bun with homemade coleslaw.

So I thought it was time I tried pulled pork.  I've been told that its a cinch in the slow cooker, but I found a recipe on "The Pioneer Woman Cooks" that I decided to give a whirl in the oven.

Cookbook Challenge #11: Spicy Pulled Pork, from The Pioneer Woman Cooks

The recipe called for a 5-7lb pork shoulder, but since we are but 2.5 people in the house, I opted to use the 1.5lb pork shoulder I had left in the freezer.  Luckily the recipe recommended turning the pork every hour or so, as it allowed me to see that my eensy little pork shoulder was cooking much faster than the 6-7 hours recommended.  All said, mine was in the oven for approximately 4.5 hours.

The smell of pulled pork emanating through the house roused different emotions as people came through the door.  I was home for most of the day, so I was oblivious too it.  Derek's reaction on coming home from running some errands was surprise.  I guess you don't normally expect your house to smell like pork at noon.  A few hours later our friends Julie & Ty stopped by for tea.  Ty (a pulled pork enthusiast) floated in on hungry cloud.

When I opened the pot after 4 hours I was pleasantly surprised at how a simple piece of meat had transformed.  It was juicy & so tender it fell apart when I took a fork too it.  I pulled it apart & served it with homemade picco de gallo, guacamole, salsa, sour cream & tortillas.

I was so excited about the success of this meal that I went for a bonus round with the Cookbook Challenge and made breakfast out of the same book this morning.  Cookbook Challenge #11b): Edna Mae's Sour Cream Pancakes.  If you like pancakes, do yourself a huge favour and try these.  They were recently featured on her blog.  They are super fluffy, light and delicious.  And super easy.  (Aside: most pancake are dead easy - am I the only one who is mystified by the existence of "pancake mix"??  How hard is it to mix some flour, baking soda, & sugar together??)

Fed on pulled pork tacos & pancake breakfasts, you'd better believe the belly is growing!  We are now 36 weeks, and next week will be considered "full term"... in other words: Rufus could arrive pretty much any day now!!!

Belly shot of the week: 36 wks
Walking by the Squamish River

Another belly shot of the week!

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Rufus takes one last plane ride

As the due date looms closer, I think it might be important to clarify that Derek & I do not intend to call our baby Rufus.  Rufus, Babarufus, and Babarufette are silly names for our baby bump.  We have some lovely names chosen for Rufus after delivery, but we are keeping those secret for now.  Much like Prince, however, we will probably sometimes refer to our baby as "The baby formally known as Rufus."

Last weekend Derek, Throckmorton, Rufus & I took a trip to Lethbridge Alberta.  The occasion was Grandma's 90th Birthday.  Grandma's birthday was actually in January, but she wanted to postpone the party until spring time, when the weather would be nicer.  This turned out to be very ironic, as will be revealed later in the story.

Considering he is co-author, Throckmorton does not feel he gets enough press on this blog
Here he is, in travel mode.
We met Mom & Dad in Calgary and rented a car to drive down to Lethbridge.  We were tasked with picking up the cake in Calgary & mom carried it on her lap all the way to Lethbridge (2.5 hours!)  I offered the service of my lap, but everyone laughed, presumably because I don't have much of a lap to speak of these days.

We arrived in time for dinner and we surprised both Grandma & Grumps - they didn't know that Rufus and I were coming, as Rufus is not allowed to fly past 36 weeks.  But alas, Rufus is only 35 weeks old, so our doctor gave us the green light for the trip.

Grandma & Grumps

Dinner at Coco Pazzo with Grandma & Grumps, Mom, Dad, Aunt T, Uncle Bob,  Brad & Kim, Marc and Elma & Charlie

The next day was the main event.  The party was at the Dynasty Chinese restaurant and it was a big turn-out to wish Grandma well!  For me it was a chance to catch up with relatives that I had not seen in a long time - some as long 20 years!  All of my grandmother's siblings came from various parts of Alberta & BC to attend; it was very cool to see them all together.

Back row: the girls - Aunt Irene, Grandma & Aunt Laura
Front row: Uncle Harry, Allah (aka Uncle Henry) and Uncle Bobby
The Wilkinson's Table
The Louey family table - Grandma, Grumps, Grandma's siblings & their partners
The cake arrived safely to the venue & was greatly enjoyed!
Me & Grandma
I'm not sure what everyone else did in the break between parties, but Rufus & I had a serious nap.  I'm sure there were party guests more than twice my age that did not need a nap, but I sure did!  (they just don't make pregnant women like they used to.)

The "after-party" (I feel like Zoolander when I say that!) was held at Grandma & Grandpa's house.  Aunt T made a delicious roast & there were lots of great appetizers to enjoy.  The cake made a second appearance and was joined by Nanaimo bars, whoopie pies, cookies, pastries & so forth.  Between my grandmother's sisters, Aunt T and mom, there were some serious bakers in the house!

Aunt T prepares the roast.  The rest of us offer moral support.
Good place to be if you have a sweet tooth!
My grandparents' basement is a treasure trove of goodies.  My cousins found a box of old photos & letters which we spent hours looking though together.  It was amazing to look back at photos of my grandfather & his brothers as teens, my grandparents as happy newlyweds, and my dad & aunt as chubby little babies!

Derek & Devon sort through old pictures & letters
My dad, baby version.  All Illingworth babies seem to be on the chubby side- what am I in for with this delivery!?

My very hip grandparents 

Other great finds in the basement include old clothes from the 60s, 70s & 80's, and an assortment of canned goods that are probably older than that.  But we Illingworth's are pretty lax on "best before dates", and I'm pretty sure canned goods are good forever aren't they?

Marc, Andrew, Devon & Brad model some vintage Hudson Bay jackets

Allah has a good belly laugh at our expense

I would be amiss if I didn't mention one other special guest at the party: my grandparents' cat Felix.  Felix seemed to love the party & the attention he got.  He's an awesome cat and a great companion for my grandparents.

The after-party was also a huge success and Grandma obviously enjoyed herself.   It was great to see so many people coming together to help her celebrate a milestone birthday!

After all that action, I settled into a very sound sleep at the hotel.  I thought I was dreaming when I awoke to the sound of snow-plows outside.  No, it was no dream... it had snowed nearly 10cm overnight!  According to my grandfather, it was the biggest snowfall they'd had that winter.  Ah, the irony - we thought we'd wait out the weather by having the party in April instead of January, but Mother Nature got the last laugh!!

Hello Alberta!  Did you not get the memo - its mid APRIL!!!
Derek chauffeured us expertly back to Calgary for our flight & we landed in Vancouver later the same afternoon.  It felt like we had time-travelled though, as it was warm, sunny and green in Vancouver.  Not to brag, but BC definitely has spring figured out compared to Southern Alberta!

Despite the snow, the weekend was really fun and we had a great time visiting with everyone.  Dad and Aunt T did a great job organizing the event.  I'm so proud of how well Grandma is doing at age 90 and already looking forward to Grumps' 90th next year!

I love you Grandma & Grumps!!

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Cookbook Challenge #10 & Belly Shot of the Week

I've been a little lazy with the CBC lately.  Sunday night as I searched through my books to make the week's menu plan, I couldn't find the motivation for new.  Sometimes you just have to stick to the quick classics!  So this week will be all ol' favourites, including one of my go-to's from university days - Veggie Paella from Bonnie Stern's Heart Smart Cooking.

I did get up to one new recipe lately, from Capril's Soups and Sandwiches.  I got this book as a gift at Christmas 2011, after I'd discovered soup.  That is, I discovered that making soup was not intimidating, as I'd previously thought, but was easy, satisfying and a very handy skill to have in the winter.  Now I love making soup.  I've also discovered that I can make soups out of vegetables that Derek would not eat in any other format, but chows them down as soup.

I made the spicy peanut soup and it was very rich, filling and tasty.  I think prawns or chicken would have made a nice addition, but first time 'round I stuck to the recipe and made a veggie version.

You might not believe that this is the belly shot of the week, as it is looking much bigger than last week.... but it is!  Rufus is growing by leaps & bounds & is kicking up a storm inside!  I can't believe how strong this little one is.

I've been facing some challenges with buying and acquiring baby gear - there is so much out there, that I just get overwhelmed by the task.  This week I broke through the barrier & we are now proud owners of a carseat (so Rufus can come home from the hospital), an iBaby monitor and a BOB stroller.  We've also been given some great hand-me down gear from my old friend RaeLeigh and a few friends in Squamish.  Any day now, we expect a lovely package of baby clothes from aunty Bronwyn, who did some shopping in Portland for us.   We are ready to roll in style!

Belly Shot of the week: 34 weeks.  I have just discovered that if I poke Rufus, he/she pokes back.  It's seriously entertaining!!

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Reflections on Pregnancy: Things I miss.

Overall, I have really enjoyed my pregnancy.  I was lucky enough to have an easy first trimester; though I was tired, I had little nausea and was able to keep pretty active.  The second trimester is often called the "honeymoon" of pregnancy, and I can see why - energy improves, appetite improves, you start to show a cute little bump & everyone tells you that you're "glowing."  So far my third trimester has probably been the most challenging as my baby bump goes from "look at your cute little bump" to "wow, are you ever getting big!"  Nevertheless, I would consider this to have been an easy pregnancy so far (still 6-8 weeks to go, so you never know!)

There are a few small things that I miss.  I miss being able to tie up my shoes.  I miss sleeping through the night without multiple bathroom trips (I know I will have to get used to the not sleeping through the night part!!)  I miss walking without waddling.  I miss my wedding ring, which no longer fits on my swollen finger.

Here are a few other things I really miss:

My favourite sushi!

We LOVE sushi & are lucky enough to have an unbelievable sushi restaurant in town.  Prior to pregnancy, you could find us at Sushi Sen at least once a week, sometimes twice.

Since pregnancy, we still go frequently, and I've been pretty good at exploring the menu for safe eating options.  But my absolute favourite is tuna: red eye, yellow tail, toro, hamachi.... I love them all.  They are the king of sushi for me.

I can barely wait to have this tuna avocado tower, or my favourite roll, the Kamakazi with spicy tuna inside & seared yellow tail on top.   I sometimes dream of ordering 2 or 3 "Tuna Tuckers", chef Yuji's creation of tuna sashimi with avocado and garlic chips on a bed of Imperial rice.  I can almost feel a piece of toro sashimi melting on my tongue....

Hot tubs!

I'm not a big hot tub person, though I do love the Scandinave Spa in Whistler (seen here at my bachelorette party last year.)

But when I go to the pool for a swim, a big selling feature used to be that I could treat myself to a hot tub afterwards.  Soaking my legs in the hot tub is is not quite the same!


I did run until about 24-25 weeks, but I was pushing it as my pubic symphysis just became more and more sore.  Arguably, I should've given up the running long before that point.   I've always loved running, but my passion for it was re-ignited last year when I started doing more trail running & training for some local races.  I worked up my endurance for really nice long runs & loved the feeling of just getting there on the trails where the only things I could hear were my breathing, my foot steps & the sounds of the forest around me.

Get Rad Ski Day

Of course I miss skiing, that goes without saying!  I had some really great days on the hill this year & managed to ski until I was about 25 weeks pregnant, so I can't really complain...

What I will really miss is our annual tradition of 80s ski day (AKA Get Rad Ski Day).  

Every April since 2006 my friends & I put on our very best ski outfits from the 70s, 80s & 90s and throw down some rad spread eagles & back scratchers all over Whistler-Blackcomb.  Its so totally gnarly, dude!  I am way bummed to be missing it this year!!

mmmm.... Beer!

I miss beer less than I thought I would.  But on the few occasions that I did ski this year, I missed the tastiness of a refreshing apres beer.  I also thought about a nice Guinness once or twice on St Paddy's Day!  I am thinking ahead longingly of an Oregon microbrew on a warm patio in Hood River this summer...

Mountain Biking

About a month ago I was walking on the 4 Lakes Trail when I passed two young women out for a cross-country ride.  I felt a slight twinge of jealousy.  I thought about a great article once read in a bike magazine in which the author describes being out for a ride with girlfriends when she passes a group of moms pushing strollers around, and feels really sorry for those moms.  Fast forward a few years & the author is now a mom herself, and still an avid biker.  She then talks about the sweet freedom of carving out a small portion of her day for a ride with girlfriends, but  also of the joy of coming home to her little one afterwards.  I know I will still be able to ride this summer - not for as long & probably a lot tamer, but a nice mountain bike ride always puts a smile on my face!

Monday, 1 April 2013

Slow down. This ain't the mainland.

It's Easter weekend and it finally feels like spring has arrived!  After a fairly busy week with another delivery (a polite baby who was born at 7:30 pm!), I was glad to have a long weekend.  Derek and I have come to Victoria to visit my parents.   We always enjoy coming to the island because it's chilled out & relaxed.   As soon as you get off the ferry in Swartz Bay, you can tell the islanders from the mainlanders; the islanders are driving whatever speed they want (that would be slow) in whichever lane they want, while the mainlanders furiously try to deak and tuck around them.

The pace of life is definitely more mellow!

Am I the only one who associates vacations with good eats & lots of them?  A few years ago Mom, Bronwyn & I literally ate our way around San Francisco - it was scary.  And delicious.  The enjoyment of good food includes little mini-trips, like this one to the island.  We have a few favourite  restaurants over here and we try to hit them all when we come over.   Add to that the fact that my mom is an amazing cook, and we are pretty much going from one delicious meal to another.

Stop #1: Pizzeria Prima Strada.  We usually come here straight from the ferry!  It's not only the best pizza in Victoria, but it's probably some the best pizza we've had anywhere.  Yes, even including Italy!!

Salsiccia Piccante!

The afternoon was spent hanging out at the house.  My parents have two awesome dogs, Kia & Corrigan, who always offer up an enthusiastic "Hello!  Welcome back!" when we get to the house.

The Welcome Committee
For dinner we stuck with the Italian theme, with a cowboy twist - Mom made this great Chicken Spaghetti from the "Pioneer Woman Cooks."

Mom cooking up a delicious dinner
The next morning we felt we had to do something to make room for all these yummy meals.  The dogs also felt this was an appropriate plan of action.  Mom, Derek & I walked the dogs down to Willows Beach, where it was full-on spring!  It was sunny, warm & everyone was out enjoying a gorgeous weekend.

Kia brings me my socks.  Is this a hint?

Yes, we are excited!!!

Walking at Willows

Willows Beach, looking towards Cattle Point

Willows Beach, looking toward the marina

Willows Beach Park

Oof!  After all that activity, we had better have something to eat.  How about Sun Wah, our very favourite Chinese Restaurant?  Derek has been known to destroy a large bowl of Hot & Sour Soup on his own.  It's quite impressive!

Mmmm..... lunch at Sun Wah
Saturday afternoon I decided to head downtown to look around & enjoy the weather.  If you are going to be a tourist in your own town, you could do worse than Victoria.  Victoria is very picturesque, but it really shines on a sunny day.

Victoria's Chinatown is the oldest in Canada and the second oldest in North America, after San Francisco.  Here is the "Gate of Harmonious Interest":

I shopped my way through downtown, ending up at Bastion Square, where I stopped to people watch over a gelato.  I'm pretty easy to please when it comes to an iced-treat on a warm day, but I will say that nothing can touch the gelato we ate in Italy!

Great day & perfect spot for people-watching
Re-charged on gelato, I continued my touristy journey to the Inner Harbour.  We are still a few months away from the peak of the tourist season, but the Inner Harbour is the center of the action.  There were a fair number of people out checking out the street vendors & performers.

I have a  renewed love for the Inner Harbour & downtown Victoria after Derek & I got married here this summer.  We were lucky enough to have a habour-view room at the Empress; I definitely felt like royalty for those few nights!  What a view!!!

 On the way home I stopped for a swim at the Oak Bay Rec Center.  I have so many fond childhood memories of Oak Bay Rec.  We did swim lessons here, I'd hang out here with friends & every Sunday night Dad took us all for a swim.  We really enjoyed Sunday evening swims with Dad, but 5 minutes before closing, all of us kids would make ourselves scarce as it was Dad's habit to register a complaint to the staff.  You could see them all scatter as he approached.  Dad was unhappy about injustices against us kids - toys being put away too early, the water-slide closing early.  At the time it was embarrassing, but if I could go back in time, I'd totally have Dad's back.  After all, he totally had ours!

Not much to do after such a busy day but relax.....

Kia & I relax with Pride & Prejudice
The next morning was Easter & I had volunteered to make Easter brunch for the family.  I was going to try for a few more ticks in my Cookbook Challenge, but I had already stumbled upon a few recipes that were calling me from books I've already used.  But they were new recipes, so I think we're still in the same spirit as the challenge.

Dad is the coffee-master in the morning
Good thing, 'cause my eyes aren't even open before I have my first latte
Working away at my Brunch Station

From The Smitten Kitchen I made bacon, potato & feta fritatta with maple-bacon biscuits, and from the "Pioneer Woman Cooks" Blog I made Lemon Rosemary scones.

You'd think after all this, I might escape the kitchen, but no!  I had also volunteered to make dessert for that night.  I remember hearing when I was young that "the way to a man's heart is through his stomach".  At the time I didn't understand it, and now I don't believe it... But I still do like to find new chocolate treats to delight my chocolate-loving husband.  How about "Chocolate Silk Pie" from The Smitten Kitchen?

Chocolate silk pie
We had company for dinner - my cousin Brad came over with his girlfriend Kim.  It was great to see them & catch up.  Mom made a tasty roast with stuffed potato and roasted cauliflower and we followed it up with my dessert.

Dad, Kim, Brad, me & Derek
You may not believe it, but we did do more than eat this weekend.  There was some walking, some swimming, lots of hanging out and a trip to the museum.  I would tell you more, but I can't because I'm being called to dinner!!!

I'll leave you with the belly shot of the week:

33 weeks, at Willow's Beach with my babe!