I posted this on our travel blog, but wanted to share it here too
I’m feeling harsh nostalgic today about our trip last year, so I decided to look back at our blog and realized today, July 13th, is the date we took off for our honeymoon in Asia. A little spooky when things connect like that – almost like it’s embedded in my body’s internal clock – “Psst! Hey, Tania! Time to fly to Tokyo!” We were already in the air by now, as we had a dead-of-night flight to Beijing at around 3AM.
I have serious travel addiction issues. If I was rolling in endless wads of cash, I’d be somewhere else at least half of the year. I don’t really fall for astrology, but the idea that Sagittarius have a lust for travel and exploration is pretty much bang on for me. So today I sit listening to Cuban music, remembering our previous trip to Cuba, and a computer desktop image…
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Yeah, that drawing (not mine – artist unknown to me) is how I started to feel after three days of dealing with 30 Ibs of U-Pick strawberries that we picked last Monday at Bissett Farms in Delta. It was worth all the trouble though, because damn, those berries are tasty. So juicy and sweet, with just the right amount of tartness. Scott and I froze the majority of the berries for future use, but I also used my mom’s dehydrator to make some dried strawberry slices, and a strawberry-sage-basil fruit leather using our garden herbs from the balcony. It turned out to be really tasty! It’s difficult not to eat all of it at once, so I’ve hidden it in our pantry to pick at gradually.
I based my fruit leather recipe on this one I found via Gojee.com. I decided I didn’t want the basil to be as present, so I used only 6 medium sized leaves of basil and a small handful of the rainbow sage. The result is a fragrant, tangy leather. Mmmm.
It’s super easy (just blend and pour) and is best made with really ripe fruit. Our dehydrator took about 11 hours to dry the leather, and I planned it somewhat poorly by starting the dehydrating a little early, and then realizing that I’d have to wake up at 4 AM to check it.. but I took a risk and just slept to my usual 8 AM which was perhaps a little longer than it should have been drying, but all in all still tasty and chewy. Next time I will think before I press the On switch.
Day three of strawberry processing involved my first try at making jam. The idea of making jam used to freak me out because of the sterilization process, so I went easy for the first time and made a small batch since I don’t have a hot water bath. I tried the inversion method but am still keeping the two 500 ml jars in the fridge to be safe.
I used another recipe via gojee.com, for strawberry jam with balsamic vinegar and black pepper. This recipe uses a microwave to cook the berries, which I am not really a fan of, so I used the stove top and followed the instructions on the pectin package for the cooking process.
Unfortunately following two recipes was probably not the best idea considering it was my first time making jam. Rather than go with my instincts, I followed the cook time on the package which seemed fine initially, but when I poured the jam into jars it was pretty runny. I just kept going however, and the result isn’t bad at all. It’s more of a compote style – on the saucy side rather than the jammy side. The flavour is awesome – not too sweet, with a hint of that vinegar zip. It also has a pretty deep red colour from those gorgeous dark red berries we picked. The only thing I might change is to add a bit more pepper, and probably more pectin if the berries I have next time are as ripe as these were.
I’ve learned a lot this week in the world of food, mainly that the things I thought were really time consuming and difficult are in fact pretty easy! Perhaps still just as time consuming as I imagined though.. hehe. I can’t wait to go blueberry picking next! Hurray for local berries.
Exciting news at The Caboose (a.k.a pint-sized house)! We have a transforming coffee/dining table! No more eating on trays while sitting on the couch. We’ve been lucky to have some good enough weather to use our balcony in the meantime, but boy is it nice to have a place to put things when we sit inside now.
We commissioned our friend and designer, Dave Myers to build us a custom convertible coffee/dining table a few weeks ago. It’s our very own little transformer (except that it’s manual, not automatic.) This proved to be an ambitious project, since nothing had been done quite like it before. Inspiration was drawn from a few designs that we’d come across while researching, but all in all it is definitely one-of-a-kind.
Since the space between the couch and the ‘traffic path’ to and from the stairs is quite narrow, we needed something that would fit in nicely when coffee table height, but be able to expand to be wider for dining with friends when raised.
The result fits in perfectly with our decor and space. The image below shows it at both coffee table and dining height:
To lift the table, it’s easiest with two people. Each person lifts an end and the legs swing out on hinges from the folded position on the ground shown in the top photo, to the longer upside-down L-shaped extension you see in the bottom photo.
Dave used solid alder for the legs to match the other wood in our cabinetry, and beech plywood for the top, which we decided to paint white to match the walls, and break up the wood tones in the room a little bit. He also created custom hardware including metal gusset plates for the legs, and 2 custom tabletop lifts mechanisms, one for each draw leaf. The leaves can be opened independently, and the legs move with them to provide a larger footprint for more stability. It’s pretty clever! We’re really happy to have such a unique item in our small abode.
I’m going to be buying some foam to make a cushion that’s level with the top of the couch seat, and covering it with left over upholstery fabric from the couch and throw pillows pictured so we can put it on top of the table (secured with Velcro on the underside of the table top) and use it as more of an ottoman sometimes, or even push it up against the edge of the couch to extend the seat to be more lounge-y.
Well, that is our creative way of dealing with a multi-use area in our small space. Thanks to Dave for all his work and problem solving during the process! If you’re looking for someone to make you cool stuff like this, give me a shout and I’ll put you in touch!
That’s all for now – next time expect a report on our past week of harvesting and processing 30 Ibs of U-Pick strawberries! Mmmm.
If you live in Vancouver you’ll have noticed we’ve been drowning for the last month, now known as “Juneuary”. While one side of me grumbles with discontentment, the other realizes that this temperate rainforest city I’ve grown up in has made me the moody, introspective artist that I am. Nearly everything I work on has a little bit of that dark, dreary, day-dreaming quality to it. While I often curse the grey skies, I am also attracted to grey tones and the pewter colour of the ocean when I ride the ferry to one of the islands on an overcast day. Even our pint-sized house interior colouring has a natural west-coast influence in the colouring and materials. There’s no escaping it – it’s in my blood.
Besides all the lush greenery and fresh-smelling air, the thing that really makes a rainy city great is when the sun comes out, there is nothing more exciting. It feels like the city suddenly transforms from an insular, head-down hermit into a vibrant, smiling socialite. People drop everything and head to the beach, a patio, the forest, the mountains – they leave work early, call in sick, soak up the vitamin D and dry out their damp bones until the sun goes down.
I’m not gonna lie, I’ve traveled to tropical places, deserts and the like, and love it. Between the constant warm temperatures, the flora and fauna, and the intense sun, it can be heaven for me and a welcome break from life under a sheet of grey. In 2003 I spent three months in Australia and felt more at home than I did in Vancouver at the time. I spent years trying to figure out how I could live in Melbourne instead, but for various reasons it never happened. I did believe that Vancouver would grow and change to become a city like Melbourne, but when I was 21, time was of the essence – I had to get everything I wanted NOW.
Well, time has passed, my impatient nature has mellowed (slightly), and I’m still here. In Vancouver. I still get incredibly nostalgic for Melbourne, but you know, I wasn’t wrong when I predicted that Vancouver would make its way towards being almost as cool. What’s even better – being 30 isn’t actually as old as I thought it would be. We still have a ways to go in our moody city, but how far we have come. We encourage bikes, public spaces, and car sharing. The artist community has grown and diversified beyond upscale South Granville and hipster Main Street. Music fills the streets of downtown more than ever with a variety of buskers from solo synth-guys to four piece bands. There are markets all over the place these days. Rain or shine. I find that incredible sometimes – the stuff that gets done in the rain.
There are still several things that annoy the hell out of me in my hometown from time to time, and the rain really doesn’t seem to help sometimes, but complaining just makes it feel worse. I think what it comes down to is that human beings are always changing and looking for things to vent their own issues onto, whether it be their city, their spouse, or the weather.
So no matter how dumpy I might feel after days on end of grey skies, I will try to play in the rain, bask in the clouds, and embrace my moody vitamin D deficient self for what it is. And if I just want to sit inside and play Skyrim for three hours… well, that’s okay sometimes too. Because that’s how I roll in the rainforest.
I invite you to listen to one of my favourite grey-day musicians: Beach House.
Have I mentioned how much we are really loving our kitchen? Oh, probably just a few times. It may be small, but it’s got some serious equipment and the galley-style layout is easy to work in. Our Fisher-Paykel range is not the AGA Companion that I longed for, but we aren’t rolling in piles of money (yet), so it was the next best option, and is also pretty sweet.
Today I wanted to share one of our favourite pasta recipes, inspired about four years ago by a big, juicy bag of figs I acquired when I was a landscaper. The property owner had these figs coming out of her ears via her large fig tree, so I happily took a few off her hands. They were so ripe, they weren’t actually all that edible on their own, and were more of a sauce. The light went off in my little head and I tried to figure out what would be an interesting way to use these saucy little girls. The result: a fig-balsamic sauce on pasta, with broiled prosciutto.
Scott and I tend to morph recipes each time we make them, so if you want to try this I encourage you to try your own variation. Also, my measurements are approximate so don’t worry about being too close to the mark. Serves 2 hungry adults, or 4 dieting.
250 g pasta of your choice (we used 6 bundles of Tagliatelle this time)
6 ripe figs, cut into quarters
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
3 Tbsp water
3 Tbsp brown sugar
pinch sea salt
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 shallot, thinly sliced
small green pepper, sliced
handful of pitted black olives
1 Tbsp capers
75 g italian prosciutto, thinly sliced
3 Tbsp asiago or parmesan cheese, coarsely grated
1 Tbsp fresh basil, coarsely chopped
fresh ground black pepper to taste
1. Put water on to boil for pasta. Chop up/ prepare your ingredients.
2. In a small sauce pan, combine figs, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar and sea salt. Heat on med-low temperature until figs start to break down and sauce starts to thicken. I smush the figs a bit with my spoon as I’m stirring. Stir often. About 10 minutes later you should have a softly bubbling sauce. If it seems to thick, just add a bit more balsamic and/or water and heath through. Cover and turn off the burner.
3. Lay prosciutto slices on a broiling pan and turn on your oven’s broiler.
4. When your pasta water comes to a boil, add salt and pasta.
5. In medium frying pan or sauce pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add shallots and garlic and fry for a minute or two until they soften and are fragrant.
6. Put your prosciutto in the broiler and keep an eye on it as it only takes a couple of minutes to get crispy!
7. Back to your shallots and garlic – add the green pepper, olives and capers. Sauté for another 2 minutes, and then add your fig sauce. Turn down the heat to low and stir until everything is combined and heated through.
8.Your prosciutto should be ready by now as well. Take it out, let it cool off for a minute, then transfer to your cutting board and chop it up coarsely.
9. Your pasta is probably done now too – drain it, divide onto plates, then pour on your sauce/veggies, top with prosciutto, cheese, basil and pepper. Enjoy!
Now that we’re settled into the new hizzy, we’ve been able to get back into our old routines, and start some new ones. Scott and I are fortunate to each have a work space to putter with our creative endeavours now. There was a time when I had a studio at The Beaumont Studios, but the high cost of living in Vancouver makes that quite a luxury when you’re just starting to try to make additional income from creative work. I had to give it up and tried to work in my kitchen at home. It was possible, but I gradually created less and less since I had to put away everything I was working on in order to cook dinner. I was starting to look at shared studios again, but then we came to the decision to build our pint-sized house.
So, those kitchen studio days are over and I have a shiny new office/studio to work in and Scott has his man-cave where he can work with sound and music to his heart’s content. It’s very exciting and I can feel my desire to work coming back again. I’ve been mostly working with upcycling clothing lately, as I have a seriously large pile of old but still decent clothing that I’m tired of wearing. What better way to make use of it than hack it up and marry it with another piece of clothing? As my skills improve I am making my way towards being able to sell pieces.
Last weekend I completed a women’s shirt, composed of two shirts. It seems inspired by tribal and post-apocalyptic styling, or at least that’s what I concluded upon completion… I often just run with things and see what happens.
There was less sewing involved in this item, and more cutting/remixing to get the end result. My next project will likely involve incorporating my hand carved block prints into some stuff to wear, as I’d like to add a further personal and artistic touch to these upcycled items.
Okay, that’s enough about me. I’d like to share one of Scott’s latest creations. A couple of years ago we went to Cuba for about a week. Scott brought his portable recorder and while I took photos of our surroundings, he recorded the sounds. It’s quite a unique way of bringing back memories, and not something many people will do on their travels. I really enjoy being able to listen just as much as I like to look at photos or videos. Scott has been working away since our trip, organizing files and transforming them into songs. His most recent track blends together a number of recordings that he gathered in and around Vinales, a peaceful valley about 2 hours south-west of Havana. The recordings include chickens, horses, motorbikes and children. How could this be a song, you might ask? Well, have a listen.
If you’ve gotten this far, I thank you for taking the time to learn a bit about what we do with our time beyond building a laneway house. I have another post waiting in the wings – this time one of our favourite pasta recipes that I concocted when I was given a huge bag of extra-ripe figs while I was a landscaper. Stay tuned if that sounds yummy to you!