Thursday, December 25, 2008

Hello from Montreal!

Just a quick message to say that we've been in Montreal for one week and it's been fantastic. We've been staying with Josh's parents out in NDG and it's been so relaxing! We're still somewhat on Vancouver time, waking up after noon and going to bed around 3am. But we're here for over 2 weeks and that's what this holiday season is for, right? :) We've been able to visit with friends and family and even experienced the wonderful deep freeze of -20 Celsius!

We're heading up to a small town called Lachute (near the Quebec/Ontario border) in a few days to spend some time at a friend's cabin. Temperatures here aren't so crazy at the moment - on Christmas Eve it even rained! But the snow isn't going anywhere. Unlike Vancouver which has been suffering with 2 weeks plus of snow, Montreal has the infrastructure to get rid of it. After all, they don't get 2 weeks of it, they get 4+ months! The moment the snow starts to fall, out come the snow ploughs. They perpetually clear the streets and side streets. Even the sidewalks have miniature snow ploughs - completely unimaginable in Vancouver! In Vancouver, there are maybe half a dozen snow ploughs and you're lucky if the main roads get plowed more than once. The side streets are never plowed, and the sidewalks are up to the goodwill of local businesses and residents. In Montreal? This is all taken care of and it's really nice to go for a walk through the streets (as long as you're appropriately dressed).

But anyhow... this is just a quick "hello" to friends and family who might be reading this. I'm hoping to update this blog with more details about our Montreal adventure shortly!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Fraser River is frozen

I'm currently watching the CBC 6 o'clock news, and they're showing scenes along the river in Maple Ridge. I don't think I've ever seen ice forming on the top of the Fraser River in the Lower Mainland, ever. That's how cold it is these days. Very, very unusual.

I've been writing a lot about our recent deep freeze here on my other blog and I've been posting photos of the scenery from our apartment.

Just doing some laundry and tying up loose ends before Montreal. We leave on Friday morning.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Watermelon Radish

Every year around this time, Choices stocks watermelon radishes in their organic produce section. These radishes look like unassuming roots from the outside, until you cut one open and then their name becomes evident.

I don't know why, but I love buying strange vegetables whenever I see them. A year or two ago I bought a watermelon radish for the first time, just because. Hey, I like radishes! Why not a watermelon radish?

I brought the watermelon radish home, sliced it into thin pieces, and ate it as a snack. It was firm, crisp, and pleasant-tasting in only a way a radish can be. I remember it being almost sweet. I liked it.

So the other day when I noticed that Choices was carrying the same watermelon radishes, I bought one. However, this time when I brought it home, sliced it up and bit into a piece, it was different.

The taste at first was pleasant, but it was immediately followed by an incredible heat and pungence that I've only ever experienced from fresh horseradish.

Eating it became torture, and I don't mean the good "I'm eating a spicy curry" kind of torture, but a truly awful "I'm eating a spoonful of wasabi" kind of torture. The aftertaste was so pungent and the after burn so strong, it felt like I had been eating spoiled cabbage flambée. The taste lingered in my mouth for a long time afterwards.

But the problem with watermelon radishes is that they're so pretty. And cute.

Oh, the minty green rind!

Oh, the crispy pink interior!

I couldn't just throw the radish away, and I couldn't just offer it to Josh. That would be too cruel...

... so I put it in some Tupperware and placed it in the fridge. Who knows? Maybe the radish will magically change.

Two days later, today, I opened up the fridge and sought my little watermelon radish. I opened up the Tupperware and contemplated what to do next. The previously-cut pieces of the watermelon radish were a tad dry, but still edible. They were still cute. They were still beckoning me with their watermelon colours.

So I bit into a piece of the radish and chewed without hesitation.

The radish hadn't changed.

It was still pungent and very spicy in the wrong way.

Determined, I looked in the cupboard and pulled out a bowl. I threw the pieces of watermelon radish into the bowl and splashed on a bit of water before placing it in the microwave.

2 minutes later out came freshly steamed watermelon radish. I picked up a piece from the bowl and bit into it...

It was no longer pungent.

It was no longer spicy.

It was actually rather pleasant to eat.

I did it!

As I ate the cooked pieces of watermelon radish, I was overcome by its familiar earthy flavour. I had magically transformed my watermelon radish into pink slices of turnip! Who knew?

Turnip is one of those vegetables that I really enjoy, but I rarely eat. It reminds me of Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners as that's usually the only time I'll eat it. But here it was in my bowl and I ate the rest with glee!

I guess it makes sense as radishes and turnips are a part of the same family, but now I know for sure that watermelon radishes make good turnip alternatives.

So that's my story of the watermelon radish.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Vancouver ...a local's perspective

I've started a new blog, Vancouver ...a local's perspective. I figure it's easier to keep Lulu Island Girl as a separate blog... a blog with little structure, where I'm free to post whatever's on my mind. By contrast, my Vancouver blog will be more focused with its aim at providing specific information to potential visitors. I figure I've put at least 10 years into travel forum writing, I might as well start documenting it in one spot!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Weekend in sunshine

After a Saturday downpour, I woke up to... more rain. However, by 11am the sun was out and what a beautiful day it has turned out to be! Even as I type, the sun is shining on my monitor, a strange feat considering the windows are facing north, but with the surrounding condo windows reflecting like mirrors, you'd be surprised at how real these rays feel. And if you're at all familiar with the December climate on this wet coast, you'll know that we'll just about take any form of sunshine we can get.

We started off our day with a group of friends at the Opus Hotel's Elixir restaurant for an annual holiday brunch. I think this is the third year of the tradition, although it's the second time we've participated. This is the first time we've had the brunch at Elixir.

Elixir is done up in the style of a French brasserie with white tile floors, bright yellow walls and deep wood finishings. It's a bit of a contrast to the modern and minimalist decor in the rest of the hotel. I have had brunch there a few times and strangely have never had any other kind of meal there. The first time I ate there was on the morning following my cousin's wedding. As we were eating, Sting was in the lobby a few feet away checking out. The following time I had brunch at Elixir was about a year later. Josh and I stood for several minutes in the lobby waiting for the host. I joked to Josh, "I wonder who we'll see this time". As I glazed off into space awaiting to be seated, my gaze was met by that of Michael Stipe's. He was seated with the rest of REM. We were seated at the booth next to theirs.

I like Elixir because the service is good and the brunch is often unique because where else can you get chocolate croissants and duck confit with your breakfast? Or smoked salmon scrambled eggs over a bed of truffle-oil green lentils? Nowhere else in Vancouver I tell you! So if you feel like splurging, it usually feels justified if you order some unique breakfast concoction that you can't get in a typical greasy spoon. And greasy spoon Elixir is not.

The downside is that the prices are about triple what you'd pay elsewhere for a similar breakfast. Vancouver has such a large percentage of its population eating out in restaurants. And unlike a city like Toronto or New York where people use their corporate spending accounts to pay the bills at fancy restaurants, most people dining in Vancouver's foodie establishments shell out money from their personal accounts, so prices tend to be pretty competitive and cheap by comparison. It's often cheaper to eat out than to buy the groceries and cook yourself, at least if you're like us - living downtown without a car, relying upon downtown's urban-style grocery stores ($$$). Not only that, but we carry back all our groceries so we can only buy so much at once. And with our minuscule kitchen, a lack of storage space, and no kitchen table (as the kitchen is too tiny for a table), then you tend to eat a lot of your meals elsewhere.

So yes, Elixir is way overpriced for the Vancouver market. But it's a hotel restaurant that caters to international stars like Sting, so it really shouldn't surprise me.

The only disappointment of this brunch, as I highlighted in an earlier post, is that, since we were such a large group today, we were all given the same meal. But the meal was very ordinary for Elixir. It was basic scrambled eggs, hashbrowns, sausages, toast, and pastry selection for the table. It was $26 per person. You can usually get this kind of breakfast in Vancouver for well under $10, and sometimes even under $5. So that's my only beef. But it's a trivial beef. It just seems like a waste to go to Elixir and spend $26 just to get plain scrambled eggs.


The previous night Josh and I had a cozy night at home watching Wall-E. What a film. In so many ways, it completely exceeded what I was anticipating... I'm not quite sure why it took us so long to watch it, as it was a film we had wanted to see back when it was in theatres. It was just so touching and genuinely awe-inspiring. The little details were what got to us the most. However, I'm purposely choosing not to elaborate as I don't want this to turn into a film review. But last night, the night after we initially watched Wall-E, we stayed up until at least 4am watching it back to back (and with the director's commentary) because it was such inspiration. Definitely, this movie charmed us, and for me, the closing credits were especially moving.

Looking at how they made the film, it immediately brought me back to class at CDIS in 1998 as I was fooling around with the archaic 3D modelling program, Form Z. For a class project, I had to take an item from my home and model it. I chose a plush teddy bear - not the easiest for a beginner, but it turned out well! I also modeled an old Yamaha synthesizer, another success, and the entire interior of the long gone Vancouver nightclub Graceland. I remember at how fulfilling the whole creative process was and how much time and effort I put into those pieces simply because it was fun.

And now I'm here, 10 years later... three multimedia certificates later, one degree later... and Wall-E is seriously making me reconsider my career goals.

The issue, of course, is that this is possibly the worst time to be starting the journey into a new industry. But then again, uncertainties are always a little scary...

Friday, December 5, 2008

Bat For Lashes

Music has always played a very large role in my life. In the past two years I've been using this website called which tracks every song I play and it compiles the stats into a nicely organized categories.

For example, here are my stats - pretty much everything I've been listening to since the last days of December 2006.

However, one of the most interesting aspects to is the ability to discover new music. What I mean is, say you really like the band Elbow. You can select radio and type in "Elbow" as the artist, and it will compile a playlist of songs which are similar to their style. So when listening to "Elbow Radio" on, I might get an Elbow track, followed by Turin Brakes, followed by Doves, then The Dears... and maybe a few bands I've never heard of.

Or say you like Final Fantasy (the musician, not the video game... although the video game is good too!). If you type in Final Fantasy, your playlist might be a mix of Grizzly Bear, Arcade Fire, Patrick Wolf, and Andrew Bird.

You don't necessarily have to enter in a band's name to get a streaming playlist of random music. You can also enter keywords: dreamy, Canadian, British, funky jazz, and so on.

This isn't anything new. Pandora, for example, has been offering this kind of service for years. But for whatever reason, I really like's infrastructure and it has quite an active online community. But I find that is something that people only "get" once they start using it - it's hard to appreciate its intricacies otherwise.

Well, my whole point to this is... I forget what keyword I entered, but the other day I discovered a beautiful song by a band called "Bat For Lashes". Needless to say, it's my latest musical infatuation.

See for yourselves: