Why I love American grocery stores

I went grocery shopping this morning. Sounds like a pretty mundane, ordinary way to spend your Saturday morning, right? Not that fun? Wrong! (Or at least wrong if you’re anything like me).

During the school year at home, I’m not in charge of the groceries so I usually make do with whatever shows up in my fridge or cabinet. Admittedly, I don’t need too much food here because I eat my weekday dinners at Google, but weekends are a time for me to wander aimlessly through the aisles of Trader Joe’s and happily indulge in the illusion that it’s wise for me to fill up my fridge. When I’m talking about grocery shopping, though, I’m really talking about Trader Joe’s and Sprouts and Whole Foods – all of the kind of hippy places that we don’t have at home. Reasons I love these places include:

  • The variety of things you can get, including items that you wouldn’t normally think of. One of my favourite purchases from today was coconut oil, which made my squash DELICIOUS. Which also leads me to my second point:
  • It’s reasonably priced. I’m not saying we don’t have a lot of these foods at home, but they tend to be way more expensive. Case in point: Greek yogurt. I’m addicted to the stuff. At home there’s maybe one or two kinds that cost twice as much as normal yogurt, but here I’m confronted by shelves and shelves of cheap probiotic goodness.
  • It’s easy to find healthy options! I really do try to keep an eye on what I eat and not ingest too many heart-threatening things, and there’s always tons of options that let me feel better about what I’m eating and enjoy it at the same time.
  • Last, and this is kind of a silly reason, but the stores are pretty. Er. Yeah. I’m a girl, alright? The labels are all so cheery. I love it.

Anyways, I actually really enjoyed picking up food and my foray to the farmer’s market afterwards. It’s definitely a first world problem, but sometimes I wish I had more opportunities to cook.

I fit this all in my backpack and biked back. Be impressed.

I did make an amazing dinner for myself, though. My mom’s been advocating going wheat-free for a month now, and really pushing me to try it. (She read this book about how we’re all going to die because we eat wheat. Er, maybe not that extreme. But it’s something to do with how wheat is genetically modified and making us fat). She keeps on telling me how much better it’ll be for me, etc, etc. Anyways, I’m a little skeptical, but I’ve decided I’m going to give it a chance and cut out wheat from my diet. I’m not going to be uber strict: if I’m going out on the weekend and I order a bowl of pasta, it won’t be the end of the world. But in my everyday meals, I’ll be veering away from wheat and eating corn, quinoa, rice, that sort of thing. The hardest part will be bread, because it’s one of my favourite things. To try and stick to this rule, I bought quinoa linguine – and was amazed and happy when it tastes exactly like normal pasta! I also got to eat the squash I bought at the farmer’s market. Yum.

Squash and Salmon Pasta (serves 1)

Ingredients:

  • Two small yellow squash (by small, I mean a couple of inches), cut into rounds
  • Coconut oil
  • Salt
  • 1 small pack of smoked salmon
  • Pasta of your choice (I used quinoa linguine)
  • Marinara sauce

Directions:

  1. Set water to boil, add some salt, and cook pasta to al dente.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, add some coconut oil to a pan (probably about a tablespoon). Add squash and a sprinkle of salt. Saute until the squash is tender – about five minutes or so.
  3. Add marinara sauce, smoked salmon, and drained pasta to your squash. Stir them all together and inhale when it’s all piping hot and delicious.

My favourite part about this was the flavour of the coconut oil and how the smoked salmon added a hit of saltiness. So good.

I also got to try out a restaurant on Thursday called the Boiling Crab, where they basically plunk your food in a bag on the table and you eat with your hands. It’s all seafood – crab, shrimp, clams…it was absolutely delicious and absolutely cavelike.

Wow, this has been a very food-related post. Hope you’re all hungry now!

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Return of the Sunshine

Oh, my god. I’ve forgotten how much I’m in love with the sun. I’ve just had the most beautifully sunny and gorgeous weekend ever, and it’s really all because of that giant ball of fire up in the sky. (Yes, I know it’s not really made of fire, but close enough).

I started it off really well by having dinner with my friend on Friday night. Last summer, we had a tradition of Friday night dinners on Castro Street in Mountain View, and I think it’s going to be continued. We went to Barracuda, a Japanese place, and had calamari, sushi and this amazing miso rice bowl with a ton of seafood. The fish in the rice bowl was some of the best white fish I’ve ever had – it was tender and flaky and oh so droolworthy.

Saturday morning I went for a run and ended up at a farmers’ market at the Sunnyvale Caltrain station. I love farmers’ markets – they’re always so fun and the food you get is so fresh. I mostly wandered and checked things out, but I picked up some fruit (which disappeared the same day…into my stomach) and bread. I think my favourite thing about these markets is the vibe – everyone is just kind of bustling around and talking and it gives you a really cool sense of community.

I then proceeded to spend my afternoon at my pool.

I really couldn’t resist. I haven’t seen proper sunshine since last summer sometime. My book and I spent some quality time together, I got a bit of a sunburn, and life was glorious.

I went for dinner with some of the other interns at a southern Indian restaurant. It was pretty interesting because (according to my knowledgable friends) I’ve probably mostly eaten northern Indian food at home, so the food was different from what I was expecting. It was good though! All vegetarian and a lot of rice-based dishes. I couldn’t pronounce anything.

Today, my roommate and I checked out another farmers’ market, this time at the Mountain View caltrain. I could probably go to farmers’ markets every day of the week and not get bored. I picked up some dried fruit and sampled something from almost every stall.

A funny thing happened to us though – we were sitting on Castro Street drinking bubble tea when all of a sudden a random parade began to go by. It was bizarre because there were girls dressed up like Disney princesses mixed with random older people wearing suits or yoga pants and small kids in fancy wear. We couldn’t figure out what it was for, but it was fun to watch it go by. I think it might have been Portuguese-related because this lady came by and handed us cards for Portuguese Day (or something).

I’m also really excited for tonight because I’m reuniting with some of my favourites from last summer, who I haven’t seen in forever! I miss them big time and can’t wait to see their pretty faces.

Countdown commence

Well, I’m at war with the little people in my head again. I’ve got the little workers who are winding the big countdown clock in my head – five days until California! And then there’s the other side of the faction, who are frantically trying to push back the hands so that the clock rewinds. It’s quite the battle. It almost deserves popcorn, really.

I’ve been pretty busy for the last few days – it puts me in mind of something that I learned in a class a semester or two ago called Parkinson’s law. Basically, Parkinson’s says that work expands to fill the time available. It completely explains why I never have free time. Damn you, Parkinson! At least they’ve been fun activities, though, rather than my normal schoolwork. I went to a murder mystery birthday party on Friday night, which I’ve never done before. We had to dress up as characters in a 1920’s speakeasy, and essentially we all had roles and objectives to fulfill. My mobster boyfriend got shot dead in the middle of the party, and we had to try to figure out who did it. It was a lot of fun, though I had a hard time staying in character – I’m a terrible actress and the urge to uncontrollably giggle gets the best of me most of the time. At least I know I shouldn’t be a detective, though – I was way off in my guess.

I also crossed another thing off my to-do list yesterday and went to a hot yoga class with a few of my girlfriends. I’ve done a couple of different kinds of yoga before, but this was really different because of the heat. I honestly have never sweated so much in my life! I couldn’t believe I was physically capable of producing that much sweat. I always find yoga really challenging because I got shortchanged in the flexibility department, but it always feels really good afterwards. My legs are definitely protesting today though. Afterwards, we tried out this little hole-in-the-wall diner for brunch, and I ruined any calorie deficit by having some absolutely amazing eggs benedict.

Ignore the bad picture, I was so hungry I couldn’t focus properly on making it look good. It was called Jimmy’s Place, and it was one of those places that you wouldn’t notice unless you were looking for it. So worth the search, though.

I also saw the Avengers last night. I am a diehard fangirl of Robert Downey Jr, so I’m usually pretty content to watch anything with him in it, but I enjoyed the movie on its own merits too. I’m not sure it lived up to the massive hype, but I’d still give it an eight out of ten. It has an all-star cast of beautiful men rippling with muscles. How could a girl say no?

Alright, it’s off to the task I’ve been putting off – making a packing list. And then actually carrying it out. Let’s see how far I get…

Running after the sun

Today is – wait for it, wait for it – a day where the weather is supposed to hit a high of ELEVEN DEGREES. Yes, you heard me right. ELEVEN WHOLE DEGREES. After weeks and weeks of trudging through snow at SFU, I almost cried with happiness when I woke up this morning to sun pouring through my blinds. Sun? Warmth?! These things still exist and are not just figments of my imagination? And – dare I say – does this mean the mythical entity of  spring might be coming? (Now that I’ve written that, the weather gods are going to laugh cruelly and snatch my sun away).

It’s been a sleepless week, but I had a great Friday night and I woke up this morning energized and happy. I decided to take advantage of our fleeting spring weather and go for a run along the sea wall of downtown Vancouver. It was the best idea I’ve had all week. When Vancouver is sunny, it really is one of the most beautiful places in the world, and as I ran along the sea wall and looked at the mountains and the water I couldn’t help but grin like an idiot. It was a super endorphin high compared to my usual drag-my-butt-to-the-treadmill feeling of running. I wore shorts – shorts. (And yes, my legs got really red and cold once I stopped running, but that’s okay). I saw a heron! I saw ducks! I honestly finished with my run with the biggest exercise high I’ve ever had in my life.

These are pictures taken at the end of my run – the scenery around Stanley Park where I was running was much prettier, but I was too busy running to pull out my phone. Kind of throws off the flow, y’know.

One of my posts wouldn’t be complete without a small rave about food, so I should mention that I tried out Hapa Hour at the new Hapa Izakaya in Coal Harbour (formerly Hapa Umi). It was a pretty good deal – they had a list of tapas that were half price between 3 – 6 PM. Hapa can be pretty pricey, though their food was amazing, so it’s worth hitting up for those three hours.

Beef tataki, ebi mayo

Polenta fries

Karaage

Between two people, we had ebi mayo, beef tataki, chicken karaage, polenta fries, the spicy tuna roll and ika (squid) for $30 overall. The dishes are tapa-sized, so you would typically eat a couple of them. Yum.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go stare out my window like a puppy in love and try to imprint the sun into my memory before it goes away on Monday.

I’d fight through The Fray for a sandwich

Midterms = complete! After this week, all I had energy for tonight was a huge dinner with my family and my butt settled comfortably into my couch. I’m now very happily full and enjoying a very lazy Friday night.

I went to go see The Fray last Sunday. I like their music quite a bit so I had high expectations, and they met them for the most part. It was a great show, lots of energy in the audience and the band put on an excellent performance. I think I was a little disappointed because my favourite songs by them are mostly slow ones, and they performed a lot of the higher-energy ones. But overall it was still a really good show and I’m glad I went.

Other than that, I’ve had a relatively unexciting week. I did have one of the best sandwiches of my life on Thursday at Meat and Bread, on Cambie and Hastings. They only offer four different sandwiches a day. I had the porchetta – it was this amazing concoction of bread and pork roast and I am practically drooling just thinking about it.

So good. I’m feeling sleepy, so I’m going to end this post and enjoy the rest of my Friday night doing absolutely nothing before I have to start working again tomorrow.

“Whoa – I had no idea my makeup brush was that colour!”

It’s been a pretty hectic week – lots and lots of assignments, which meant I was spending a lot of time in my cave – er, room. This upcoming week isn’t too great either, but at least things are due at the end of the week, which gives me some time to study and whatnot.

For my weekly Thursday lunch, I went to a raw food vegan place called Gorilla Food, on Richards. I wasn’t really sure what to expect – to be honest, I never really understand what vegans eat. From what I can tell, they seem to be missing out on a heck of a lot (of course, my food addiction probably biases me a little), but hey, to each their own. My friend and I initially got lost trying to find it – we thought their kitchen was the restaurant and were quite confused at the lack of decor and chairs. Turns out it was another few storefronts down, and we just suck at reading signs.

I got a choco-gorilla shake, which had almond milk, cacao, banana and hempseed, and a “nyce” bowl, which was veggies and seeds. They were actually pretty good – the shake tasted a bit gritty because of the hemp, but the dressing on the veggies was really good. I was pretty full by the time I had gone through half of my shake and 2/3rds of my bowl and I couldn’t finish everything. That in itself is likely a good sign because I never seem to get permanently full when my meal consists mostly of veggies. It was pretty pricey though, probably because everything was organic.

This evening, I wanted a break from my homework, so I did what every normal girl does on a Saturday night: my sister and I washed our makeup brushes. We’re pretty cool that way. I hadn’t washed mine in at least a year, and my sister in at least two years, so it seemed like a good plan considering we rub them all over our faces on a regular basis. It’s a pretty easy procedure – take some water and baby shampoo and scrub-a-dub-dub. What made it interesting was the absolutely disgusting colour of the water we were washing them in. It was pretty gross. On the bright side, my sister kept on discovering that “whoa, my brush is actually that colour?!”

We then finished our amazing Saturday night by watching the Game of Thrones TV series (which is awesome, by the way). We are the coolest sisters ever.

Pounds of pancakes and red umbrellas

Well, the rain is back in Vancouver. It’s a little needy and never leaves us for long.

I went for breakfast/lunch (what do you call it when you eat breakfast past lunch time? Brunch seems to imply it’s before lunch time. Post-lunch brunch?) at a place called Jethro’s today. It’s at Dunbar and 18th, so it was a bit of a trek, but thankfully my girlfriend and I have infinite patience for good food (we once waited two hours to eat at a place in San Francisco – we’re those people). It’s this tiny little restaurant that only serves breakfast and lunch, and seemed to have a line-up the entire time we were there.

I tried the Rooster pancakes, which had chocolate chip and espresso, and we got a Denver omelette, which had ham, onions and cheese. We messed up a little – we intended to get the South of Denver, which had pulled pork, but it’s okay – it’s an excuse to go back next time (like I need one). The food was great, but the thing that got me was that the pancakes were honestly the biggest things I’ve ever seen. They were the size of small UFOs. I swear, they could’ve fed four people – they were ridiculous.

Between my girlfriend and I, we managed to finish most of the omelette and 3/4 of one pancake. I swear I had at least a pound of pancake left over when I came home, which I promptly fed to my hungry little sister and friend. I had to waddle a bit coming home…

Definition of a food coma

Next time I want to try their pancake with bacon baked in – it sounds like the most delicious heart attack ever.

I also conducted Operation See-If-New-Boots-Will-Destroy-My-Feet: I bought these gorgeous constructions of over the knee grey leather and chunky heels in Seattle, and I am kind of in love with them. I don’t normally wear heeled boots though so I had to test if wearing them meant I would be hobbling for days, but all systems were a go! I love when that happens. They were so beautiful, I figured they deserved some photographic love, so I took a few pictures in the rain with my sister and my beat up red umbrella.

If any boots were marriage material, it’s these ones.