pumpkin granola with cacao nibs

west van & granola (14)west van & granola (3) The west coast smelled like fir trees and cedars – likely due to a small wind storm that hit shortly before our arrival, but I’m happier romanticizing it as part of Vancouver’s charm. On a too-quick trip to hug my aunt and cousin, we managed to climb most of the way up a mountain, see a couple shows, try a bunch of beer, and enjoy some impressively sunny November weather.

West Van seemed even prettier than I remembered (“Oh my gosh, you can see the mountains from here! And the ocean from here!” etc, etc…). Or, maybe it is so beautiful out there that I just can’t help gushing. With coniferous breezes and palm fronds waving by the seawall, it seems instinctive to inhale as deeply as possible. (Woah, did I just get a little yogic/life coach-ish on you? Blame Vancouver.)

So, four days on the other side of the country did us good. Vancouver smelled like firs and cedars, and fresh baked granola every morning.

I credit my aunt with introducing me to homemade granola a few years ago. It comes together so quickly, and is such a versatile thing to bake that it quickly became a staple in my kitchen repertoire. Variations are endless, which is part of the fun. This warm spiced pumpkin and cocoa nib combination is one I have been enjoying a lot lately. I hope you do, too.west van & granola (5)

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40 Hours in Montreal

Aside from the childhood landmarks –the penguins at the Biodome, my grandmother’s kitchen, the mountain, a family favourite souvlaki joint– I’ve realized that I don’t know Montreal all that well. It’s still a familiar place; most of our extended family and many friends call la belle province home, but despite years of visiting I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of the city.

With my twin and his boyfriend as our local guides, we had a jam-packed 40 hours exploring in the city. Le Plateau. Mile End. Le Vieux Port. There were some places of nostalgia, but mostly lots of new-to-me spots. We café crawled, bar hopped, and karaoked our hearts out. Continue reading

Stand Up for Science [Pavlova with Chocolate Cream and Ontario Fruit]

Stand up for Science Photo.fwLast spring, I wrote about the decline of science in Canada, and the frustration in the science community. That spurred the Death of Evidence rally on Parliament Hill, where scientists and concerned citizens alike gathered to protest the current situation of science in our country. The rally garnered international attention, but since then the situation has not improved.

That’s why on Monday there will be rallies across the country, urging Canadians and our government to Stand Up for Science(!). I’ll be in my lab coat on the Hill, and I’d love it if you joined me. (Practice your chanting: What do we want? Science! When do we want it? After peer review!) It doesn’t matter if you think you are a scientist or not, these issues affect all Canadians. We need evidence based decision making, not the opposite.

And now, because thoughts of science and desserts often dance around my head simultaneously, a pavlova.
pavlova4

Backyard bounty.

Backyard bounty.

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Montreal Moments

suite88heartmtlThere’s just something about Montreal that captures my heart time and again.  Maybe it’s the je ne sais quoi of the city, and the joie de vivre (count on me for clichés!).  I love visiting my parents’ old haunts, the view from the mountain, the street parties and the discothèques, the cosmopolitan vibe, the established Mtl classics and finding new favourites.mcgillgatesSONY DSCThis weekend we were in Montreal to help move my Vancouverite cousin in at McGill (I’m so excited for her — have fun C!), and though there were some nerves about the big move we had a lot of fun in the city.SONY DSCchihulyMontreal seemed to be bursting with colour — the sun joined us all weekend, and the arts scene was hoppin’! More Montreal…

The Eh List [Strawberries with Marscapone and Ricotta Mousse]

canadadaydessertparliamentmosaikacanadaberriesHappy Canada Day! I have always been a proud Canuck, but I think living abroad this past year made me even more patriotic (although I really think this guy is ruining our international rep…). Part of my job while teaching in Spain was actually to be a “cultural ambassador” and I happily obliged ( and fulfilled the stereotype of traveling around with my flag on my knapsack).

Canadians Spartans

Canadians Spartans

In general, the Spaniards (and pretty much everyone else) that I met while living abroad did not know much about the true north strong and free, but that didn’t surprise me; I think we Canadians are used to people not knowing about us, eh? But the stereotypes! Despite any lack of familiarity with the country, the stereotypes were still abundant (apparently Spaniards think we are always on horses?). welcomeI wasn’t bothered by it at all — I found it funny, and was happy to share some Canadian tidbits (timbits?). So, with us celebrating Canada’s 146th birthday, I thought it might be fun to share the most frequently asked questions I heard this year… The Eh List

Hump Day Harmonies: The Good Lovelies

I’m currently sitting in the French department office, waiting to teach my last class for the day, run home to do an hour of English conversation, and counting down the hours until I can take a quick nap. I’m only working four days a week over here, and only three of those days are kind of long, so I don’t have a paticularly difficult job, or a terribly busy work schedule, and certainly not much to complain about! (Except for run on sentences!?) Being tired as the result of weekend travels, salsa classes, fun with my roommates, and runs through our Spanish town is a nice, happy kind of tired.  Nevertheless, by the time Wednesday rolls around I find myself struggling a little bit to keep my energy up through the day and lesson planning is even trickier.  My remedy? Good music.  Let’s call it ‘Hump Day Harmonies’ and here’s the first instalment of our new series!

The Good Lovelies are a truly lovely Canadian trio whose melodies and harmonies always get me singing along, no matter the fatigue.  Their flirty folksy tunes are some of my favourites to listen to in the kitchen or the car and these talented ladies are even better live (I say this after having seen them perform three times — good times, Mum!). I’m not sure if it gets much better than three part harmonies; happy hump day!

No Oven? No Bake Chocolate Cake

When we moved in to our apartment in Huelva,, our bubbly and seemingly lovely landlady (who is an older Spanish lady from Sevilla) told us upfront that our oven was currently not working, but would be replaced “mañana”.  Well, three weeks have gone by, and that’s a lot of mañanas.  We’ve called our dueña several times, and she keeps reassuring us that a new oven is on the way, but we’re getting impatient over here! We will persist, por que no es vale!

To make things worse, our microwave broke last week (we’ve been told that it will be replaced mañana, too…), so when I said I would bring a dessert to a little “international” dinner I went to last week, I realized it would have to be a “no bake” recipe for sure. Cue this amazing No Bake Chocolate Cake from Heidi at 101cookbooks.  With only two key ingredients (I did manage to find all of the ingredients, though, in our little local grocery store!), it is a cinch to make, and can easily be done with super low key kitchen equipment.  (I used a plastic container lined with parchment paper as my “cake pan…it works!)

This cake is basically a decadent chocolate ganache or fudge in disguise. Make sure there are other people around to help you eat this, or you could end up eating it all yourself….not that that’s necessarily terrible.
I tried to make my cake a little more “Canadian” for this international shindig, so I decorated it with some maple candies and chocolate loonies that I brought from home (they are really for my students, but I figured I could sacrifice a few!).  It needed a little gussying up since I was lacking any cocoa powder or powdered sugar to make it look a bit more sophisticated.
This recipe was really easy to follow and the results were delicious — I’m really looking forward to making it again (maybe for (y)our birthday, Thomas!), but I’m also really looking forward to having an oven…fingers crossed.
Hasta luego!

Toronto Times

I could get used to a two day work week! After a fabulous long weekend in Toronto, I’m packing my bags for a trip with my family to New York City…it’s a fun week!

I’m not usually one to extol the wonders of Canada’s largest city — I’m a Habs fan, I could never love Leafs city! — but I’ve had some really great visits in TO this year and I think it’s growing on me a bit.

A smog free day in Toronto.
(awesome picture from my awesome twin!)

Some of my best girlfriends and I got together for a weekend full of good drinks, good food, good dancing, good patios, and really good times. It’s hard to get the four of us in the same place these days with school and travelling so it was extra special to have a whole weekend to catch up.  We were able to take advantage of the 10th edition of Summerlicious, a summer food festival where many of Toronto’s top restaurants offer three course fixed-price menus for $45 or less.  We got dressed up and headed over to l’Auberge du Pommier for a really lovely dinner, and I think one of my favourite nights of the summer (so far!).  Feeling fancy with wine pairings for each course, we were pretty much thrilled with the atmosphere and our delicious (filling!) meals. We’d probably never make reservations here on our student budgets, so the promotion was a lot of fun.  I’d highly recommend l’Auberge!
(Thank you, Dylan, for being the camera-lady in the fancy restaurant! xo)

Since starting university, when I visit Toronto we usually see the Eaton Centre, a couple bars, and my friend’s apartment (which is lovely!), so I was happy to play tourist for a little bit and explore.  If you have a night in the city and want to laugh go see The Second City, it isn’t too expensive and is great entertainment. Some pretty darn awesome comedians started here and the current show was a riot. Grab a drink and enjoy the show. Get to the beach, stop by the Steam Whistle Brewery for a sample and a tour, wander the downtown area, go to the museums, have a nice dinner (Amuse is swell), look up at the CN tower and enjoy the hum of Canada’s metropolis.  Whether it’s the city you love or the city you love to hate (but hate’s a pretty strong word…), you can’t be bored in Toronto.

Holy moly, I just noticed the amount of parentheses that I used above (sorry?!)…I can’t stop myself.
Any Toronto recommendations for the next visit?

Stand Behind Canada’s Scientists

In May I wrote about how Stephen Harper was killing environmental science with Bill C-38.  Since then, the bill passed easily and more and more cuts continue to be made to research and environmental programs in Canada.  Since winning a majority, the Conservative party seems to have been systematically cutting down environmental policies and funding to major centres of scientific advancement– like shutting down the Experimental Lakes Area which is (was) known throughout the world as a leader in freshwater research.  These budget cuts aren’t happening to just “fight an economic deficit”, Harper is muzzling federal scientists and trying to get rid of any evidence that might not support his political ideologies.

Scientists aren’t usually the big-protest-type, but on Tuesday hundreds of people marched to Parliament Hill to rally against these cuts and mourn the death of evidence. This has captured international attention which will hopefully put more pressure on the government as their shortsighted cuts to the environment come into the spotlight.

Photo by Jean Levac, Ottawa Citizen

Regardless of political beliefs, I think that everyone should want to know that important decisions being made by our government are being made based on solid facts and research.  We need evidence-based decisions, not decision-based evidence. These cuts and blows to science, research, and the communication of science in Canada shouldn’t just be worrisome to professional scientists, or “tree huggers”, or activists — these affect all Canadians and people around the world.  Canada used to be considered a world leader in this field, and it’s sad to see where our country is headed.

Killing Environmental Science — Bill C-38

The environment should be a non-partisan issue.  I’m no political expert, not even close.  I read lots and follow the news from Parliament Hill; basically I try to stay on top of things and stay informed, but have never been very politically active. I certainly wasn’t planning on ever blogging about politics. But here I am. What the Conservative Government is trying to implement with Bill C-38 has me all riled up, and seriously worried. And as a concerned citizen, I want to share this info with you!

On Wednesday I went to the BlackOutSpeakOut Teach In, which was a non-partisan information session about the devastating impact that this budget bill will have on environmental laws and regulations in Canada.  The speakers included John Bennett, who is the Executive Director of the Sierra Club of Canada; the New Democrat critic for Agriculture and Agri-Food Malcolm Allen; Senator Grant Mitchell; environmental lawyer and professor Stephan Hazell, and leader of the Green Party of Canada, Elizabeth May.

What I took away from the evening (and if you’re interested, you can actually watch each of the speakers here) is that we seriously need to ban together NOW if we want to preserve our Canadian environment. Without turning this into a diatribe against Stephen Harper, it seems that he is woefully uninformed about pretty much any kind of science and is bent on destroying on our country one piece at a time. He doesn’t believe in climate change, which is why it doesn’t seem to concern him at all.  He doesn’t appreciate that you can’t separate the environment from the rest of our lives; culture, economy, health, safety — these are all intrinsically linked to the health of our surroundings and our planet. To him, the environment is simply in the way of big oil, and “productivity”.  Every other political party has spoken out against this draconian bill.  Even one of his own MPs tried (the key word is “tried”) to speak out against the 425 page bill.

I could go on about Harper’s assault on the environment, but there are people out there who have already done so (and who are much better equipped to do so then I!). I just felt like I needed to get that of my chest — hope my first foray into a little political post went OK.  If there are any of you who are reading this and have no idea what I’m rambling about I really, really highly recommend that you check out this info:

As I mentioned, the event I went to was non-partisan (there were representatives from all the major Canadian political parties except for the Conservatives, but that’s not really surprising…), and it was very encouraging to see people from different political backgrounds come together to fight for our environment.  I honestly believe that even Conservative supporters can’t be huge fans of this bill — we all share this planet and its future will affect all of us. Regardless of party values, we need to work together for the environment; an environmental coalition. So please, if you want to get involved, write letters to your MP, to newspapers, to the prime minister’s office, call talk shows, make your voice heard!

BlackOutSpeakOut can get you started, so head on over now and speak out! Silence is not an option.