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Christmas Gifts for the Lifestyle We Don’t Have

Christmas catalogues have begun to pour through the mail slot. Some are for Chapters/Indigo and similar, and the children seize on these and begin making their lists. Some are from companies like J.Crew and I always have a look at these. Not Victoria’s Secret; their Christmas catalogue is meant for members of Cirque du Soleil or similar, nobody else could wear that stuff with a straight face. But some are so far out that they give amusement, so I’m going to share my favourite (so far, it’s early days yet) here.

Atkinson’s is a high-end gift store in Vancouver; it’s where you go to find something for the hostess who has everything. I actually go here to pick up Lampes Bergères, which are basically room fresheners and they make a good gift. The claim is that they “clean” the air which I doubt but they do an efficient job of removing scent from the atmosphere. Excellent for the day after you’ve made a tasty curry.

Anyway, it looks like they have our lifestyle figured out:


This is absolutely my husband at the end of the day. Well, a few small differences: Canucks t-shirts and sweatpants instead of the natty shirt/tie/suspenders, beer instead of Scotch in the Waterford glass. If this dude is watching the hockey game, then there you go. (I think his team’s losing though; even my husband doesn’t generally look this cranky.)  I showed Justin this picture and we-like-to-die-laughing.

A typical place setting at our house:

Image 2

Right? I think it’s Versace. Versace plates. If my kids had to set the table with this stuff the complaining would never end. I don’t think that goes in the dishwasher. I’ll not put those on my wish list, even though they would raise the tone a bit, what with me always forgetting to remove my Ebisu beer apron (from doing an izakaya stage in Tokyo) when we have guests over.

My favourite item:

Image 3

It’s a champagne sabre. Don’t use your regular sabre! Even when I lived an expat lifestyle in Malaysia, where some people (not me) practiced a particularly flossy style of entertaining (coffee mornings featuring special steel Alessi cups for the coffee and fancy china for the tea, for example) I never witnessed someone opening champagne with a sword. Cigar humidors, wine fridges, crystal decanters, yes, champagne sabres, no. Where would you put it? In with the kitchen knives? or do you display it somehow? I’ll never know.

This is the kind of thing I sort of love but I don’t know where I’d put it, nor what I’d put into it. Granola bars? I find that when fruit is left out like this it dries up. Bananas?

Image 4


This I actually like, and how I got from “this is ridiculous” to “hey I like this” is a process I don’t really understand. But the Atkinson’s people do! I suppose I should be flattered that they sent me their catalogue. They think we live like this! Wow.

Image 1

I really like this one. I hope my husband reads this post!

Christmas is coming, people. Brace yourselves.


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Being Thankful, in Canada

Canadian Thanksgiving is organized so well. It’s the first weekend in October, so it kicks off the season with a big turkey dinner, which we eat happily, knowing we won’t be having turkey again for another two and a half months. In America, Thanksgiving is so close to Christmas that the leftover from the first holiday could almost furnish the next holiday’s meal. My husband doesn’t particularly care for turkey, so he’s thankful for the larger gap we have up north. Actually, we didn’t even have turkey on Thanksgiving. My mother is in Bermuda and she took her turkey dinner know-how with her. We had friends round and had fun snacking on appies, like an apple and goat cheese pizza that turned out better than I’d anticipated. I’m thankful for that!

I’m also thankful my sister’s family survived Hurricane Faye, which hit Bermuda with terrifying force. The home videos were scary, although they would have been scarier if there wasn’t laughter in the background. Their house is situated in a very sheltered location so they were quite sanguine. I’m thankful for that too.

Being thankful is on my mind as I recently watched About Time, which is one of those movies that reminds you to appreciate life. I’m also reading The Orenda by Joseph Boyden and oh my god I’m thankful I live in these times and this place and not the time and place in the novel. And here in the first world we do need to remember our many blessings and stop complaining about all our first world problems. One of our chefs is leaving and tonight he made the most beautiful, seasonal omakase meal for our family. I ate so much I’m going to have heartburn later. See? First world problem.

Happy Thanksgiving!


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After a long hiatus…

I have not abandoned my blog. I’ve just taken a bit of time to…well, to collapse inward a bit and not shout out to the universe. (I’ve been reading everyone else’s blogs instead.) This is just an update, although there is a recipe at the end.

I think one of my last posts was my eulogy for my maternal grandmother, who died on Christmas Eve. In April, my paternal grandmother died also, after a stroke. So it’s been a sad year and I’ve taken some time to think about things and also to switch off and escape into books when I can. I’ve discovered that I’m an introvert – instead of just periodically antisocial – and although it’s a relief to know that this is “normal” I think that the recognition of my personality type has made my introversion stronger. More on that later.

I’m still reading, still cooking, still getting outraged at some of the things that go on in this world and also at some of the things that go on in the restaurants we own. More on that later.

Good things have happened also, such as the May birth of my new nephew in Bermuda. He is a real gift from the universe and we absolutely adore him. I miss having babies and it’s been wonderful to spend time with a baby again. Even the poo! It’s all good. I remember when I lived in Malaysia and I had friends who had babies.  They would be surprised when strangers wanted to touch their baby. We’d be all, Oh my god, but now I get it. Everyone with older children misses babies. No wonder people hanker after grandchildren. Not me, my kids are 8 and 10, but some people. I’m sure I will hanker when my time comes. In 20 years or so! In the meantime I have to visit Bermuda in order to spend time with my enchanting, yummy, tiny bear of a nephew.

And books. Books books books thank you god. When times are rough I escape into the worlds that writers create and bless those writers. I think books have saved me from going completely mental sometimes. I’ve now read too many to review but will try to list my favourites. Also, is it just me, or are some e-books expurgated? I downloaded James Clavell’s Shogun because I just enjoy it so much, but I’m certain there are passages missing. I know because I took Shogun backpacking (in 1992) and re-read it many times and have also reread it periodically ever since, like The Lord of the Rings. I know, my nerd is showing. Anyway, here’s the thing: the downloaded version is definitely missing some passages. Cue gasp. More on books later.

Still playing the piano, although I have trouble finding pieces that fit my criterion. I want pieces I love to hear, that aren’t too easy, that aren’t too hard, and that provide enough emotional energy to  serve as an outlet for all the frustrations and passions of life. Like hockey does for my husband. So, Beethoven is good because I love Beethoven and also there’s lots of crashing about that relieves my pent-up feelings. Debussy, while I love to hear it when someone else plays, I find too soft and mellow for my needs. Bach’s Toccata and Fugue (arranged for piano) has been awesome in that respect although I wish I had an actual organ with which to terrorize the neighbourhood. Big chords, lots of tricky runs that require hard work, and, it’s frequently punctuated with tempestuous double-forte climaxes. Baroque multiple orgasm, who knew?

Food? Still love food although I haven’t posted recipes in ages. I’ve got my hands on the Sobo Cookbook (Sobo is a restaurant in Tofino, BC and the food is memorable) and am about to start cooking some of Lisa Ahier’s remarkable dishes. Will keep you posted on that.

Here’s the recipe and it comes from my husband Justin: dip cucumber chunks in Sriracha chili sauce! I tried this combination cautiously because I can’t take too much spice but it is amazing! Super tasty, salty and spicy and juicy and crunchy and cool. And then spicy again. Sorry, not a major recipe, but I hope it was worth reading through this post.

More later….




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Great Picture posted by my new favourite blog, Science-Based Pharmacy


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December 3, 2013 · 4:53 pm

Anti-vaccinationists: Laughing at preventable harms

Forgot to reblog this but it’s in the theme of the bit I just posted…

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The End of Plagues by John Rhodes

One of my pet peeves is people who don’t vaccinate their kids. Yeah, I said it! Not only is this misguided and misinformed, but actively dangerous to the rest of us. There are people who are immune-compromised, so it’s even more imperative that those of us who can vaccinate do, to protect those very few. If you live in a city, in proximity to other people, it is important to be responsible to your community. If you want to be selfish and irrational, and do exactly what you want when you want to do it, then you should go live in the woods like the Unabomber. It seems that there are definitely people who cherish their notions and will act on them with total disregard for others – until it happens to them. I’ve reblogged a couple of columns by a very good blogger; one is about the dangers inherent in not vaccinating. In one case, a church in Texas promulgated anti-vaccination rhetoric….until their congregation was hit by measles. Then they changed their tune. For some people, that’s always the way. It has to happen to them, then they get it. Tragic.

I think that part of the problem is that there is hardly any living memory of these terrible diseases that we worked so hard to eradicate and immunize against. Anybody remember what a diphtheria epidemic was like? Polio? Smallpox? No. Things of the past, right? Well, they were horrifying enough that people devoted their lives to discovering ways to protect populations from them. Diptheria can kill (these diseases can all kill but diptheria’s mortality rate is 1 in 10 according to the Mayo Clinic website) but if you survive, you’re likely to be crippled, or have heart damage or nerve damage, as in you can’t breathe or swallow. I’d say that’s a pretty serious complication. Ditto polio. Other diseases like measles and scarlet fever can leave you blind and brain-damaged. Still think it’s ok to not vaccinate? Even chicken pox can lead to pneumonia. That’s something that people who think that these diseases aren’t so bad don’t consider. For some reason, the one in a million chance that their child could have an adverse reaction to a vaccine totally outweighs the much higher probability of death resulting from the diseases that these vaccines are meant to prevent. Before vaccinations, these diseases used to sweep through communities, leaving death and disorder in their wake. Winter brought diptheria. Summer brought polio. Look at 10 of the kids at your kid’s school. Picture losing one to diptheria. Picture losing another to whooping cough, and let’s say another two to polio. That’s just out of 10 kids, and that’s just one year. That’s why we developed vaccines, to prevent this kind of tragedy. Still not vivid enough? Here’s a quote about the 1955 polio epidemic in the United States:

“In September, a family living near Milwaukee was devastated by the disease. Four of their eight children were struck down by bulbar polio. In this, the most serious form of polio, the virus invades the cranial nerves that control breathing, swallowing, and speech…The eldest, Paul, was affected first; an athlete of sixteen, he woke up with headache, pain, and weakness in one shoulder. By evening, he could not cough or swallow. In hospital he was placed on a respirator at 6:30 pm; despite all the ministrations of intensive care, he died at 6:50. The next morning his four-year-old sister, Lorraine, woke with a headache and stiff neck and was rushed to hospital. Unlike her big brother, she ate well at suppertime, despite her sore throat, and fell soundly asleep, only to die without waking a few hours later. The day after this, her eight-year-old sister, Mary Ann, complaining of a sore throat and stiff neck, was rushed to hospital. When she began to vomit and had difficulty swallowing, doctors gave oxygen, penicillin, and plasma, and placed her in an iron lung. She continued to answer their questions until 6:15, when she died.

By now the Milwaukee family had lost three of their children, and they were praying hard for the remaining five. But two days later thirteen-year-old Barbara went down with a fever. Her headache was severe, she felt dizzy and nauseous, and in hospital she was fearfully aware of what her symptoms meant. Barbara went through the same intensive treatments as her sisters, but she died at 8 pm.” p. 117

Tragic enough for you? John Rhodes’ nonfiction book, The End of Plagues, is FULL of these stories. It’s a very well-written and concise account of the history of vaccination and immunology. It’s also full of interesting facts which I love, such as that Edward Jenner, who not only came up with the cowpox vaccine, also discovered a plesiosaur fossil. The guy had an interesting life, no? Thomas Jefferson became so passionate about vaccinations that he had his entire family and “staff” immunized, and when the doctor was busy he administered them himself. “By the end of 1801 he had introduced vaccination across Virginia as well as in Philadelphia and Washington, DC…These achievements would be admirable for any scientific investigator, but for a president of the United States they were, and surely must remain, unique.” p. 53

Of course, doctors and scientists such as Jenner and Salk, not to mention health boards, had to deal with people who were frightened of the unknown, and were skeptical of vaccinations. But in those days – Jenner’s first experiment with vaccination was May 14, 1796 – people did sometimes die from complications of the vaccinations. Also, people were not as broadly educated as they are today (you’d think) and of course feared and mistrusted innovation. But people! Hundreds of years have passed. We have education, we have safe vaccines, and even though smallpox has been eradicated, and most of these other diseases are rare in the First World, people still travel and bring back more than postcards with them.

Here’s a good place to insert this fact: VACCINES DON’T CAUSE AUTISM. That crazy theory has been totally disproved. Not to mention: VACCINES DON’T CONTAIN THIOMERSAL (MERCURY DERIVATIVE) AND HAVEN’T SINCE 2003.

Anyway, this book has lots of good information and fascinating history.  I have to finish this off now because it has to go back to the library. I’m going to leave you with a great quote:

“Every friend of humanity must look with pleasure on this discovery, by which one evil more is withdrawn from the condition of man; and must contemplate the possibility, that future improvements and discoveries may still more and more lessen the catalogue of evils. ” Thomas Jefferson, 1800.

And here’s the Mayo Clinic on vaccinations.

Also from, an interesting article about the antivaccine movement.

And please do check out this blog, Science-Based Pharmacy. I almost didn’t write this post because he’s got it covered, and he gets credit for finding the scienceblogs post, but I read this book and thought well, why not? There is an excellent chapter on the post World War I flu epidemic that I found interesting as I’m looking at the history of that conflict. (No, I probably won’t blog about that, I’ll spare you.) Overall, it’s a good reminder of what people went through to save us all from the horrific diseases that were the scourge of their time. They succeeded; in fact, they were so successful in controlling and eradicating these diseases that some of us now disregard and actually sometimes vilify the results of their efforts. Isn’t that incredible?


Japan post coming up soon…..

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Trust, Television Doctors, and 15 Superfoods

This was a subject I was planning to write about, but it’s been done, and more concisely than I probably would have done, right here. Everybody needs to be following this blogger!

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Use of Homeopathy Kills Child

This is so true, and parents should be aware that reliance on homeopathic and naturopathic products can be dangerous. I think this issue is important enough to reblog, so here it is.

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Summer Update!

My limited spare time has been taken up by practicing piano, as I had a piano lesson in July! My first in over 25 years. I was so nervous my hands were shaking and I made way more mistakes than I usually do. But it was extremely beneficial so I’m glad I did it. Many hours on Beethoven’s Sonata 17, the one Glenn Gould plays like his hair’s on fire and he can’t douse it until he’s through. Obviously I don’t play it that fast, but I’m working on memorization now and I think that will help with a lot of issues. I’ve now been working on this for 6 months! On and off, obviously, but still. My husband’s starting to feel he could probably play it himself by now, he’s heard it so much.

So that’s one reason I’m a bit behind on the blogging. We spent three weeks on Vancouver Island, which we call The Island, and it was gorgeous:IMG_8133

And we made cinnamon buns:


But we had SO MANY guests. Too many. And when you have guests, you wind up making major breakfast, major lunch, and then a major dinner. For 15! So I had very little down time and that’s exhausting. It’s hard though; I love everyone who came, I’m happy to have seen them, but it was too much. Not sure how we’ll organize things next year but something has to give. I don’t think it’s cool to suffer through stuff that you can totally control and then complain about it later, but that’s essentially what I’ve just done. Sorry! Learn from my mistakes.

Next year’s resolutions:

  • Limit stays to 3 nights MAX.
  • Try to have only one family at a time.
  • Have Leftover Night and if people don’t like it then maybe they won’t come next year. Yes, we’re restaurateurs and we eat leftovers.
  • Let people fend for themselves for breakfast! Everyone gets up at a different time. Brunch once a week only.
  • Ask people to take responsibility for one meal. It’s nice that people bring food, but sometimes it’s extremely difficult to make a coherent meal plan with a lot of rapidly spoiling, diverse ingredients.

Pet peeves:

People who wander through and say vaguely, “Anything I can do?” before wandering out again. It’s annoying to have to be the general all the time. I have to think of tasks for people to do. That’s work in itself.

When people do something helpful but make more work for me in the end. Someone did dishes but didn’t rinse anything first, just got the sponge all clagged up with black grease so I had to throw it away. And you can’t complain! That’s the thing. Because people are Helping. But sometimes no help is better than some help. Like when people put my expensive Japanese knives in the dishwasher! OH YES THEY DID. And I can’t be mad when people are trying to be helpful. But I’m mad anyway, I just feel really guilty about it. You should see me smile with gritted teeth. But. At the end of the day, it’s all good, and I’m grateful to have wonderful friends and family who want to spend time with us! You take the good, you take the bad. I took the good, and now I’m kvetching here.

Now I’ve just come back from being a house guest at someone else’s beach cottage. Ahhh. That was fun! We stayed 3 nights – because that’s enough – and I taught my hosts how to make cinnamon buns.

Next post: book reviews!


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Dreams and Shadows by C. Richard Cargill

I’m exploring more fantasy fiction lately. (I’ve just downloaded a Terry Goodkind novel. If it’s good then apparently I’ve got loads to get through. I’ll let you know.) I did a post on Game of Thrones and fantasy literature and it got me thinking that I should do more exploration of this genre. But I’ve taken a sideline into the kind of fiction that has a lot to do with magic and the collision of worlds as opposed to outright fantasy. Lev Grossman’s The Magician and Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus are good examples of this trend.

Ten pages into Dreams and Shadows I was looking in the front flap to see what else Cargill has written because I was absolutely captivated and was hoping to find a long list of books. Alas, Dreams and Shadows is his first. I hope he turns out to be one of those prolific writers who produces a book a year at least. I’m sure his publishers are thinking the same. What kind of contract are we talking about? I’m hoping a 10-book contract! AT LEAST. Because Dreams and Shadows is wonderful and I just ripped through it.

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