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travel: hawaii via land & cruise

I’m a hawaii regular.
I have been once a year for the last few years and my first visit was technically in utero.

I love and adore hawaii.
but I have never seen it by cruise.
until next week.

I’m so excited to be flying to honolulu and after a night’s stay in waikiki, we’ll be boarding the Norwegian ship; The Pride of America to explore the hawaiian islands for 7 glorious nights.

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after the cruise we’re flying to Maui and spending 5 nights before reluctantly departing. because no matter how long you spend, leaving hawaii is always the worst.

we have a balcony cabin booked on the cruise, frankly because I can’t imagine not having a balcony in hawaii, and I’ll be attending some conference sessions and tourism hosted activities including a trek through a lava tube at the volcano on the big island.

I am very excited to explore new parts of hawaii – this cruise will take me to 2 cities I’ve never visited and 1 new island to cross off my hawaii to-do list.
fun times ahead!

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food: spiralizer

I have an exiting new toy! my spiralizer.
I’ve been reading about these devices for years… but it always seemed like such an unnecessary novelty that I didn’t have room for in my limited kitchen space.
but, finally the temptation of being able to make a mountain of perfect zucchini noodles in seconds wore me down.
and I have zero regrets.
I bought mine on amazon.ca for about $20 and for that price I figured that even if I use it for a couple months and then ditch it, I still will have my money’s worth. but ya. I’m addicted. everything gets spiralized now!
zucchini is the obvious starter. it’s cheap, good for you and makes delightful noodles.

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I have also recently made friends with orange noodles… butternut squash and sweet potato work wonderfully.

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those ones pictured above I cut a slit into pre-slicing so that the noodles would come out macaroni-like for a mac & cheese dish.
I’ll post that full recipe and pics later, but it was delish. the only warning I’ll give is that it takes a little practice to tweak recipes for veggie noodles to compensate for the water content in the vegetables.
but it’s such an easy and delicious substitute for terrible-for-you processed carbs.
on valentines day we feasted on zucchini pasta with homemade pesto as a base for some seared scallops. I wish I had take a picture, but it was so tasty it was immediately consumed.
more spiralized recipes ahead!
and follow me on instagram at vancityrockgirl for lots of food pics.

kitchen gadgets

last weekend i picked up a new toy.

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not gonna lie, he’s a pretty handsome addition to my countertop.
but i haven’t had a chance to use it yet, so today will be a day of playtime.

i’m going to bust up some cauliflower for a big old batch of paleo fried rice for my lunches this week…
and i might even make some more larabar-type treats.  i’ve got some fancy dried fruit and loads of coconut and such in my cupboards so it seems like the right thing to do.
and maybe make some pesto or something… just for fun.

i’ve never actually owned a food processor before, so i haven’t quite wrapped my head around all the possibilities.  things like chopping & slicing vegetables and grating cheese will take some time to get used to.
although, the vegetable chopping thing is pretty exciting because this thing does adjustable slices.  so i’m definitely looking forward to using that to save some time.

this guy also has the mini bowl that sits inside the big bowl.  so when i want to make a mayo or pesto or whatever, i don’t have to clean out the giant big bowl.  that was important to me.

anyways.  clearly this was in no way a “necessity” purchase… but i have long lusted after one.  i’ve read recipe after recipe that uses food processors and it seems that especially in the paleo world they’re a well used item… and while i’ve certainly gotten by without one, dammit, i’m an adult and if i wanna buy a shiny toy, i’m gonna go ahead and do it.

speaking of shiny toys… i am THISCLOSE to buying myself a soda stream.

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here’s the thing.  i don’t really drink much pop, so its not really about that… but i drink a shit-ton of club soda, perrier, san pelligrino and whatever sparkling water i can get my hands on.  i love that shit.
in fact, i’m drinking a bottle of perrier right now as i type this.
and i’m getting super tired of all the packaging that comes with this habit.

if i get a soda stream, i can just carbonate my tap water and be totally happy about it.

and i have friends that have one and they love it.  they use it for water but also for pop… and i’m sure my husband would get into some root beers and cola and such…
but i like the possibilities of making some fancy sodas too.  infusions of fruits & herbs… you know, getting crazy and creative.  and the best part is being able to ultimately control the whole process.  no worries about sodium from club soda and too much refined sugar or corn syrups of whatever garbage…

so yes.  if i find one on sale one time, there’s a good chance its coming home with me.

vancouver: im on a boat

i love boats.
and i love being on the water, in the water and just generally around water.

last summer i went kayaking for the first time with my girlfriend based on a groupon that was for the rental place by my house at rocky point.
it was something i’d always wanted to do… and while i’ve paddled many a canoe, i had never done this.
so we took our lesson that had dryland training and then some time in the water.
we were taught all the safety stuff and need-to-knows about being in a boat… and then our stroke was corrected and perfected.  it was fun and a lovely way to spend an afternoon and i vowed to do it again.

fast forward to one year later.  i still haven’t been back.
so thanks to the gentle pushing of groupon, we decided to do a 2 hour rental in false creek.

it was an absolutely gorgeous night and we paddled around the base of false creek until the sun was setting.
it was utter vancouver perfection.

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so, needless to say, this lit a bit of a fire under us.
while the scenery was gorgeous in false creek and the views of vancouver absolutely stunning… the water was completely disgusting.
and there was a lot of boat traffic.  dragonboats, outrigger canoes, other kayaks, the aquabus, various motorboats and even a giant paddlewheeler dinner cruise boat.

so we decided that next time we’d stick to the serene waters of the burrard inlet by rocky point.
and we didn’t wait long this time…
that weekend, we reserved boats and spent two hours exploring the coastline of the inlet, letting our fingers trail in the water and watching the seals.
it was calm and every bit as beautiful as being downtown, but with less stress and water traffic.

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garden: patio style

i love my outdoor space.
i don’t have very much of it, although my patio is large for condo standards, it’s still just a patio.
but i make do with what i have to work with and try to squeeze in every last bit of space into something functional.

and as such, i don’t feel i have much time for flowers.
i just really don’t care that much.
i’m a plant girl.  i like the green.
but i’ve been making an effort to incorporate a little colour this year.
and these are some of the fruits of my labour.


what i really enjoy is growing the “useful” plants.
herbs and vegetables and fruits and things i can eat.

this years herb garden is coming along nicely, although i think i’ve gone overboard on the basil.
somehow i’ve ended up with 5 pots of basil.
so clearly, pesto is imminent.

but this year i’ve also go some rosemary, thyme and tarragon.

and then i get into the really useful plants.
in the past i’ve always tried to grow tomatoes.  but this year i’m just accepting defeat and not wasting my money.  tomatoes just do not want to grow on my patio.

but in turn, i’m trying a few new things.
like dwarf zucchini plants that i can grow in a pot.  and yellow wax beans.  and kale.

and then of course, the good old standby – strawberries.
i’ve had my strawberry plants for 4 years now and they’re still going strong.

in fact, if this is the only yield from my patio this year…
well, i’m okay with it.

restaurants: mesa grill las vegas

i have long wanted to try one of bobby flay’s restaurants.
he’s not my favourite chef… his food looks amazing, but there’s just something about his cocky attitude that kinda rubs me the wrong way… but i can’t deny that the man has skills.

mesa grill in caesar’s palace has been at the top of my “i should eat there one time” list for years now.
i’ve had many plans to dine there that have somehow always been shuffled aside… i think its the location. i just never go into caesar’s palace.  i’m not sure why, but it just isn’t a place that i hang out.

anyways.  because we had a spa appointment booked in caesars for this trip, i thought this would be a perfect opportunity to try out mesa grill at long last.
and eating here for lunch works perfectly because you get the same great quality and cheaper prices.  win win.

the first tough decision… the drinks.
i’ve been on a bit of a manhattan kick lately and bobby’s certainly sounded enticing… but in that moment of sobriety, i just couldn’t justify a $22 manhattan.
that being said, i definitely regret not doing it now.
jeremy – if you go there, i’ll give you $22 to drink this for me and report back.

tough decision number two (not really) was when the bread basket hit the table…
since i’ve been off wheat, i have been avoiding the bread basket quite easily… but hot damn, i couldn’t avoid it this time, so i dove right into this little beauty…

its a cornbread muffin with two kinds of cornmeal.
mmmmhmmmm.
it was the first time in the meal that i shook my first with a *damn you bobby flay*

there was also a jalapeno cheese bread that was out of this world and was swiftly consumed by me.
so swiftly, there is no photo.
ohmygodwhitebreadisdelicious

for the real food… we started with a signature bobby flay item, the roasted duck in a blue corn pancake.

oh sweet baby jesus… there are no words.
this little mother fucker is one of the tastiest things i’ve ever eaten.
the duck is smothered in a hoisin kinda sauce and sweet and a little spicy and the pancake is just… ya.
and the sauces are so bobby flay.  pureed and seasoned to perfection and yum yum yum.
enter the second *damn you bobby flay*

next up, we had the chopped salad.
i enjoy a good chopped salad and this one fit the bill.
nothing crazy unusual about it, it was just a well done salad full of tasty morsels.

the other thing that we ordered was the ancho glazed salmon.
this wasn’t our first pick, but the waiter told us it was a signature item and very good, so we decided to take his advice.
and boy, we were glad we did.

besides being perfectly seasoned and delicious, it was also cooked to medium perfection.
really, the only way to eat salmon.

*damn you bobby flay* that was some delicious salmon!

after this, we were very full and very happy…
but, then the waiter came with a dessert menu…

okay, seriously.  *damn you bobby flay*

we were at a loss… even making a short list of what we wanted was hard.
so we asked for advice.
without a hesitation, the server said “sticky toffee pudding”
done.

seriously?  bobby flay, go eff yourself.
this one is not even fair.
the dulce de leche like substance around the plate was made with goat milk and salted, for a sweet, salty tangy sauce.
the cake, like some fucking ridiculous substance that shouldn’t exist in nature.
vanilla bean ice cream.  perfect.

in short, a ridiculous end to a ridiculous meal.
okay bobby flay.  you win.

learning: back to basics

about a month ago, i came across this book; the back to basics handbook.

it was at costco (ironic?) and when we flipped through it, we were instantly interested.

my husband has a dream of owning a farm.
to be honest, i find this dream slightly hilarious, because as much as i love him, he’s never farmed a day in his life and doesn’t really have a green thumb or a lot of patience.
but, his life aspirations definitely culminate with a plot of land away from society.

for me, its not so cut and dry.
part of me loves that idea and part of me knows i would hate my life if i wasn’t close to the city.
so, i picture more of a centrally located moderately sized house with land to grow stuff on.  and a lot of making my own food and endeavoring to cut out the grocery store.

so this book, i guess i you would call it life porn.

they cover EVERYTHING.  from finding a plot of land (checking for natural sources of water, the proper slopes for crops ect) to building your own house from wood found on the land… and then raising various types of livestock, growing crops, cold storage of crops, preserving ect.

this book is absolutely fascinating to me.
it literally chronicles the “need to knows” for a dying lifestyle.
this is true sustainability.

naturally the front half of the book, about land and farming and raising animals isn’t really applicable to me at this stage in my life…  but the second half of the book is all things that i could use today.
they call it “household skills and crafts”… its a mixture of some skills i know like canning and preserving, but also cheese & sausage making, preserving all kinds of food for long term storage without chemicals, making fermented foods…
and then basket weaving, candle making, tanning leather, natural dyes, soapmaking and more.

and what i love is that it really guides you from the start.  like, for natural dyes, there’s a chart of plants, pictures of the plants and a guide on where to find them growing so you can forage for them.
at no point in reading this, do you scratch your head and think “where the heck do i find X?” because this book has already shown you how to grow it or make it from something else.

i have a huge soft spot for this kind of thing.  clearly.
when i was a young girl, i was absolutely obsessed with laura ingalls wilder books.  i had them all memorized by age 7 and read and reread them voraciously trying to fathom this lifestyle that she described so vividly.
my mom was a little helpful on the matter because she was born and raised in saskatchewan with no running water.  so a lot of things could be explained by her.  but i’ve never forgotten the descriptions of the mill used to grind wheat to flour or churning butter and the soaking of the salt beef.  the things you just don’t see today.

this book made me nostalgic for my childhood visions of frontier life.
and while i’m still very firmly a city girl in many respects, i have an unabated interest in this simple country life where everyone worked their balls off just to keep alive.

maybe its just because i’m super stressed at work lately, and maybe its what happens as you get older… but i find myself dreaming of working hard.  not for a paycheque at an office… but for my household.  raising and growing my food, making my cheeses and soaps and whatever i could.  running away from society and being self sufficient.
these days, that seems like bliss.

the supermarket seems like a scary place to me.  full of poison masquerading as food.
stocked to the brim with faux-foods designed to deceive your body and re-write your natural rhythms.
sometimes i wander the aisles at the “heath food” store next to my office on my breaks.  its row after row of pre-packaged foods and supplements and substitutes… there’s little to nothing that my brain naturally recognizes as actually being healthy.  but yet, its what we accept as health food as a society.
to me, the farm market that sells only produce next door is the real health food store.

these are good reminders to myself.  if a lifestyle of ultimate sustainability is my goal, then it has to be carried out in daily life.  and i have much work to do.
it means that bag of cheesies or chocolate bar that i was craving needs to be forsaken.  and that hangover meal of macaroni & cheese out of the box needs an overhaul.
its a slow process… tough to break a lifetime of addiction… but i’m working on it.

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