Archive for January, 2010

Vancouver!

January 30th, 2010

Tom, with the Vancouver skyline in the background.

I’ve been feeling the strain of winter recently.  The rain, the gray, the cold.  Normally, we would just go snowboarding or snowshoeing to get some endorphins going, but this year has been BAD for snow.  As in we haven’t hardly had any.  We have had plenty of rain though; not a combination for a happy Amy.  So, Tom and I go to talking, and we decided to head up to Vancouver, BC to shake some of the winter blues.  As many of you may know, the 2010 Winter Olympics are being held in Vancouver in just a few weeks, so we wanted to check out as many Olympic-related things as we could.  We were especially interested in the Olympic mascots, which are all cute, furry and small.  More on these later.

On Saturday morning, we grabbed our passports and headed for the boarder.  There was little traffic, and we had an easy boarder crossing, so we arrived in Vancouver around noon, and set out exploring and hunting for the Olympics.  Our hotel was on Robson Street, one of the main shopping areas downtown, and after some help from the concierge at the hotel, we had a plan.  We were going to try and visit the Olympic Village, go to Chinatown and see the “official” Olympic Store.  Right away, we found many stores selling Olympic goods, and many of the local stores were showing their Canadian pride.

After walking through many of the shopping districts on Robson and Granville Streets, we had made our way to a large bridge where, on the other side rested the Olympic Village.  Most unfortunately, the Village is closed to tourists.  As in, large fences and road barricades kind of closed.  Hm.  So we had to settle for taking pictures from the bridge.  It looks cool, and the high rises that were built to house the athletes will apparently sold as condos after the Olympics are over.  Next to the village, there was a HUGE parking lot filled with identical looking SUVs, which we theorized were for athlete transportation.


After the Olympic Village fail, we headed off to Chinatown.  We’ve been there before on previous visits, and it never fails to impress. There are so many unfamiliar and exotic sights and smells which assault your senses as soon as you cross under the large, ornate gate.  We stopped and got some yummy Jasmine tea, and were constantly taking pictures of the strange and wonderful meat and produce vendors which were spilling out of their shops and onto the sidewalk.  There are many different types of vegetables and dried fish on display, but since many of the prices are in different Asian languages, (mostly Mandarin I assume), we were unable to read the bright signs.

Leaving Chinatown, we were starting to get really hungry and decided to head down to Gastown, which, according to the Wikipedia, gets it’s name from, “named after “Gassy” Jack Deighton, a Geordie seaman, steamboat captain and barkeep who arrived in 1867 to open the area’s first saloon“.  We found the Steamworks Brewing Company, and enjoyed a wonderful dinner and beer selection.  As we like both good food and good beer, this place was a hit.  Thoroughly exhausted by this point, we headed back to our hotel room to crash. But on the way, we stopped by the “official” Olympics Store at the Hudson’s Bay Company.  The place is massive, and filled with all things Olympic, with a heavy emphasis on the children’s themed mascots.  Unfortunately for them, many of the other “unofficial” stores had a wider variety of products, and we ended up buying more from other places.  Oh well, we still had fun playing with the toys!

The next day, after sleeping in, (yay!), we headed back to Gastown for brunch at the Alibi Room.  Tom, ofcourse, made friends with the bartender, and came back to the table with a “beer for breakfast” sampler.  He was in heaven. I was equally in heaven with a bacon (Canadian) and cheese sandwich and yummy salad!

After brunch, we headed down to Granville Island to check out their AWESOME farmer’s market.  Sadly, it’s illegal to transport produce across the boarder, but we were able to take some fun photos, and ended up coming home with some delicious handmade fudge!  We also stopped at the Granville Island Brewery to pick up some delicious chocolate stout.  We had a wonderful trip to Vancouver and can’t wait to go back!

For all of my photos from the trip, visit:  my photo page

Triple Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

January 28th, 2010

Ok, so in my world, peanuts are the forbidden fruit.  Since so many of our students have peanut allergies, some severe, our school has banned peanuts.  While this is good for students who would go into shock if they even thought about a peanut, it’s sad for me, because I really like them.  Tom also loves peanuts, especially when they are combined with sugar in the form of Reese’s products.  So, when we were at the store the other day, and Tom found the Reese’s peanut butter baking chips, he hopped up and down like a bunny on speed and grinned like a fool.

Last weekend, I made the Triple Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe from Williams- Sonoma’s Essentials of Baking, to date, the best “chocolate chip” cookie recipe that I’ve found.  I added 1 cup of the Reese’s chips, and halved the other chips (white, dark and milk), so the ratios kinda worked out.  The results?  Well, as I only got to eat ONE, and the others “disappeared” in less than 24 hours, I’d say they were a success!  Yum!

5 Cable Baby Hat

January 20th, 2010

It seems like all I knit these days are baby hats!  So many babies!  This one was made for another coworker, who should be delivering any day now. I was tired of pink, and wanted a change, but still wanted something feminine, since she knew she was having a girl, so here comes purple!  I have enjoyed working with the Vanna’s Choice yarn, made by Lion Brand, since it is a durable, acrylic blend, which will make for easy washing and long wearing (hopefully) for the little girls I’ve been knitting for.  This 5 Cable hat is a variant of the 10 Cable hat from Hey Julie.  Seriously, I love these patterns, and they will be my go-to baby hats from now on.  They would also be a good project for a new knitter who was interested in trying cables for the first time.  I have found that I am not too fond of the SSK (Slip Slip Knit) stitch as a decrease method, my stitches always look too big for some reason.  I have tried adjusting my tension, but haven’t been able to make them look less bulky than the other stitches.  Anyways, I loved making this hat, and I think it turned out well!  What do you think?

Lemon-Drenched Lemon Cake

January 14th, 2010

Ok, so I confess that I LOVE to read food blogs. I have several that I read on a regular basis, one of which is Joy the Baker, http://www.joythebaker.com/. Today, I noticed that she had posted about her favorite quick breads, something which I really enjoy baking because you don’t have all the waiting around for yeasts to do their thing like regular bread making requires. I’m not the world’s most patient person, and I also have a husband who bounces, thus making somewhat temperamental “rising” recipes difficult in this house.

I’ve been feeling under the weather recently, and can’t really taste anything due to a blocked nose, so I wanted to bake something that really had some uumph behind it. Enter the Lemon-Drenched Lemon Cake. Ahhh lemon, how I love thee. We seriously love lemon around here, and this cake lived up to the yumminess expectations.

Simple ingredients, (There’s a sinful amount of butter in this cake. Deal.):

Combined (I love my stand mixer. If you bake, you must buy one. It’s better than a TV in your kitchen.):

To make lemony heaven. Oh yum.


If you’re not vegan, make this now. I promise you’ll be glad you did.
http://www.joythebaker.com/blog/2009/01/lemon-drenched-lemon-cake/comment-page-2/#comment-51313

Woodland Park Zoo to Close Night Exhibit

January 13th, 2010


So I found out today that Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo is closing the Night Exhibit, which showcases nocturnal animals in a very dark setting so that they are active for visitors to see. I have been to many zoos and have never seen an exhibit quite like this one. It is always the highlight of any trip I take to the zoo and one I have always found intensely interesting. And soon it will be gone.

According to their website, the WPZ needs to, “reduce annual expenses between $800,000 and $1 million”, and the Night Exhibit, “is an older building with very high operating costs and its energy use is one of the highest in the zoo”, therefore making it the one to go. Now, I understand the economy is hard, and cut have to be made somewhere, I just wish it wasn’t my FAVORITE exhibit that was cut.

Here is the letter I wrote to the zoo:

Dear Woodland Park Zoo, I have visited the zoo many times, and think it is a very important part of Seattle. When I first visited the zoo, it was with a group of preschoolers, and I have since visited with other classes I have taught, as well as independently and with friends. It is a place I always take friends and family who visit the Seattle area. The exhibit I am always the most excited to visit and share with others is the Night Exhibit. It showcases animals we would otherwise almost never interact with. The students are fascinated with the scurrying armadillo, the spookily hanging bats and the cute, large eyed bush baby. I understand that these are hard economic times, and some cuts need to be made, it just seems a shame that such a popular and unique exhibit would be the one to make the cut. Do you have a final date for closure set? I would like to visit the zoo before the exhibit closes. I will miss the exhibit, and feel the zoo experience will be “missing something” after it’s gone. Sincerely, Amy A

If you live in the Seattle area, and are upset about the closure of the Night Exhibit, I encourage you to email or call the zoo and let your opinion be heard. I don’t know if it will do any good, as it sounds like the decision has already been made, but at least they will know that people were not happy about it.

Press release: http://www.zoo.org/nightexhibit/statement

Kindle!

January 12th, 2010


So one of my favorite Christmas presents this year was Amazon’s Kindle, given to me by my wonderful husband. Now, I’ve wanted an e-reader for some time, but was hesitant for the following reasons:

1. I love BOOKS, real, live books, that have PAGES made of PAPER. So much so that I own

many, many, many of them.

I was concerned that the Kindle wouldn’t feel the same as a
regular book.

2. I like to read in bed, and I wasn’t exactly sure how cuddly the Kindle would be.

3. They’re expensive.

4. I like to share books with my friends. Easier to do with a real book than an e-reader (although the Nook has this functionality now).


Hmm…could this be the same with a Kindle?

I didn’t want to invest in a Kindle, Nook or other e-reader until the benefits, as I saw them, outweighed my concerns. Here are some of the benefits I came up with:

1. It’s cool. Sorry, but it’s true.

2. When I travel, I am often guilty of bringing 4, 5, 6 or more books with me. Often times, at least one is hardback. The Kindle would lighten this load considerably.

3. It would lay flat so I could read while doing other things, mainly knitting, (yes, I do knit and read).
4. Less environmental impact, after a period of time.

5. Some books, such as bestsellers and new hardback books are significantly cheaper at 9.99 per book. Some are even free:


Ok, so Tom knew that I had been going back and fourth on the reader and did a little research of is own to see which of the e-reader options seemed to be the best option. He decided on the Kindle, which is what I got for Christmas. Whee! Since we exchanged presents before we flew back to the east coast for actual Christmas with my family, I was able to use the Kindle while traveling, (which was in the list of benefits, remember?), and I must say I was not disappointed, though I did forget the little bit of time when the flight attendant says something to the effect of “turn off your portable electronic devices”. DOH! The Kindle is electronic, therefore you can’t use it during take off and landing, which is slightly annoying.

So, Amy, what’s it like? Well, it does many things well, like have an awesome display that doesn’t hurt your eyes, it organizes your material alphabetically, and it has a little toggle “mouse”, (as opposed to the Nook’s touch screen), which I find very handy and intuitive. It’s easy to order books, and to read PDFs. Note taking isn’t super easy, neither is bookmarking, but the search and definition features are well developed and easy to use. Bottom line, I LOVE MY KINDLE!!! (and yes, I do read it in bed, just not in the tub….)

Ok, now this is probably the most technological thing I will ever blog about; I’ll leave the rest up to my hubby. And just so we don’t start taking things too seriously, here’s a picture Shaylee’s favorite Christmas present!