August 26th: National Dog Day!

Today is Saturday, August 26th, which is National Dog Day.

So, what better day is there, to celebrate our furry buddies? In other words, I’d love to show you about 659 photos of my special friend, Arnie.

As some of you may know, I have a family doggie called Arnold, or Arnie. Normally, my mom walks him, plays with him, feeds him, and takes care of him.

Arnie’s mother was a beautiful golden retriever, and his father was a nice black lab. We picked him up from a farm in Chilliwack, and he has brothers and sisters all around Metro Vancouver.

We’ve had Arnie since he was just a few weeks old, and he is now nine years old. His birthday was early August. I can’t believe I’ve been with him since Grade 7 – I’m now going into my third year of university.

Arnie is friendly, loves licking people, and enjoys suntanning, getting his fur brushed, and prancing around the local parks.

Now that I am back for the summer, I have plenty of time to play with him and take him for morning walks.

Apparently he also likes to read? Here, he’s taking a peek at Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard. He approves of the plot twist 😉

Side note: I. Need. To. Discuss. This book with someone! Shoot me a PM?

Happy National Dog Day!

A Seriously Cool Day

Yesterday was one of the most exciting days of my summer so far. For one, I started the day with two delicious sweet potato waffles topped with nut butter, and honeyed Greek yogurt on the side. I’m enjoying the last few cartons of berries that we have, before they are completely out of season and too pricey. I am officially in love with waffles – goodbye, pancakes! For now. If only I could bring the waffle maker to Ontario with me in a couple of weeks!

My sister, Seline, and I went downtown. We always map out our walking route, in case it gets too hot and we don’t feel like walking more than we should. Yesterday, we hit all of the spots in the photo on the right.

For lunch, we visited Guu Original Thurlow in Vancouver, where Seline had the teriyaki chicken don (bowl), served over rice with pickled vegetables, nori (seaweed), miso soup, and a cold soba noodle salad.

My lunch was equally delicious: seared saba mackerel with rice, miso soup, and the side of the day, which was the cold soba noodle salad. I loved the soba noodles and wish I cooked them at home more often.

After that, we went to Faubourg Paris, where we met up with author Jeyn Roberts. If we’ve talked in the last two weeks, you’ll know that I am completely infatuated by her novel When They Fade, about a murdered girl’s afterlife and her determination to save a bullied girl.

I felt so lucky to have the opportunity to ask numerous questions about the book, her writing process and writing environment, influences, and others. We learned so much about her incredible experiences, and felt honoured to receive copies of her other novels, Dark Inside, Rage Within, and The Bodies We Wear. We couldn’t thank her enough. ❤

Completely random side note for Vancouver foodies: the strawberry-banana smoothie, and the London Fog tea latte at Faubourg Paris (Robson/Hornby) are absolutely delicious, and I’d highly recommend them both.

But, even more than a cup of tea, I’d recommend reading this book. How can you refuse such a beautiful cover and intriguing storyline? My sister, who loves romance novels, was satisfied with the very believable, and very cute, relationships that develop in this book. You will fall in love with these characters, I promise.

I also changed my laptop’s wallpaper to Buntzen Lake, one of the most beautiful places in BC, in my opinion. I hope my family will be able to make some time to see Buntzen soon.

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That’s it for today! Have a beautiful, beautiful weekend.

Book Review: When They Fade

So, every once in a while, I fall head over heels in love with a captivating book. This one, When They Fade by Jeyn Roberts, was one that I found while living in downtown Toronto over the winter. Recently, I gave the book another read (or three, let’s be honest) and my love for the characters and synopsis was rekindled.

The first time I found the book, I immediately knew that I needed to give it a read. The summary is compelling, and I couldn’t stop reading. In Chapters, I found myself gawking at the pages in shock, and had tiny tears at one point. When They Fade is a well-executed rendition, with a modern twist, of the hitchhiking ghost urban legend. This fresh take on the afterlife is painted in a fascinating light that will have you intrigued from page one.

I know. This is a food blog. With the most random tidbits of life and dogs and travel. But this novel has me so enthralled that I need to share it with you all.

I would describe my favourite genre of book as “hauntingly beautiful”. The Lovely Bones, about a murdered teenager watching over her family and murderer, by Alice Sebold, captured my heart several years ago. The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins was another favourite – I live for the suspense, the shock, the emotions. I’m also big on crime and paranormal horror with subtle (probably cliché but relatively believable) romance, à la R.L. Stine in his Fear Street novels. I was also a fan of Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver, and If I Stay, both of which are classic YA thrillers that became movies. Finally, strong characters (i.e. S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders) and a powerful, though mysterious, resolution (like in Louis Sachar’s Holes) are key, in my own figurative book.

Title: When They Fade

Author: Jeyn Roberts

Goodreads Rating: 3.52


Summary

TATUM is the only person at school who knew the truth about the affair her best friend, Claudette, has been having with Mr. Paracini, their married teacher. And at the time, confiding in an adult seemed like the right thing to do. But now, everyone in town has turned against Tatum, painting her as a liar and a rat. As the bullying from her classmates escalates, it seems that nowhere is safe for her anymore.

MOLLY, a hitchhiker, was brutally murdered in the early 1970s, but there is no afterlife for her. Instead, she has found herself marooned with a crowd of other people who have also died tragically. Molly is able to fade back to earth for a few fleeting moments, and when she fades, she finds herself hitchhiking once again, and telling the unsuspecting drivers, things about their future that only she can see.

One foggy night, Tatum sneaks out for a drive. The teenage hitchhiker she picks up doesn’t talk much, until she suddenly turns to Tatum and says: “You’re going to die. It will hurt and you’ll be alone. And no one will help you.”

And then she disappears. As the two girls’ stories converge, Tatum and Molly will discover that they must first figure out how to help the other in order to save themselves.

“This affecting story of one young woman’s struggle to understand her meaningless death and another’s battle with bullies will likely appeal to readers of books like Everlost by Neal Shusterman.”

-The Phoenix Book Company


Dead Characters

All characters in Molly’s afterlife are victims of early, sadistic, slow, and painful deaths. They live in a stagnant, “purgatory-like” island that doesn’t change, as they wait. They grieve over the tragic and shocking ways they left the earth, and we see snippets of their lives from flashbacks. Occasionally, these characters “fade” into the real world, to places significant before their deaths, where they often unintentionally scare humans.

  1. Molly Bellamy: the protagonist of this novel, who tells her side from first-person point of view, was fifteen years old when she was tortured and killed mercilessly in 1970. A whimsical, naive, self-proclaimed “foolish” girl, she left her parents, brother Marcus, and best friend Andrea, to live in a travelling hippie family with fiancé Julian, who she met in a Woodstock music festival. She was killed by Walter, the leader of the commune, who she viewed as a father. When Molly fades, she hitchhikes, and possesses the uncanny ability to recognize the secrets of the people who drive her (premonitions). I was completely immersed in her sixties hippie life.
  2. Parker: Parker was only eighteen when he was mistaken for someone else in London, 1923, and stabbed to death. Serious, thoughtful, and protective, Parker and Molly grow close in their quest to save Tatum. I would have loved to learn more about his relationship with Molly, and how it developed over the last five decades. Also, my hands-down absolute favourite character in When They Fade.
  3. Mary: In 1888, Mary was killed by a drunk man. In the afterlife, she remains in her corset and is full of entertaining lines and provides morbid notes of comedic relief.
  4. Old lady from Boston, Louis Chen, Canadian rocker, other murdered characters: Every character has a unique tale, whether it’s being electrocuted in the bathtub by a roommate, or being strangled over some drugs. I was very intrigued by these characters and wish I could learn more about their lives, passions, interests, and time periods.

Living Characters

All living characters live in Hannah, a city in Washington. They attend a small high school.

  1. Tatum: After spilling a secret to protect her best friend, Claudette, the tables turn to make her look like a psychotic, desperate liar. From midnight text messages to Facebook death threats to slashed car tires, the bitter Tatum manages to resist the bullying etched into her life. She befriends Molly after picking up the dead girl during a bout of hitchhiking, and discovers that she is destined for murder. I loved how Tatum has her own flaws – she isn’t the perfect victim.
  2. Claudette Nesbitt: Tatum’s ex-BFF, a manipulative “teenage temptress” who has an affair with their high school teacher. She was painted as a horrible two-faced sociopath who manages to make the entire town of Hannah ostracize Tatum.
  3. Graham, Levi Tessier, Juniper Hefner: Claudette’s friends, who are relentless in harassing Tatum. I wish these characters were “fleshed out” more. I’d love to know their stories, because it was difficult to believe the lengths that these “uninvolved” students would go to tear up the reputation of an innocent classmate.
  4. Mr. Paracini: the teacher who has an affair with Claudette, his student, and creates a web of lies to pin the blame on the innocent Tatum.
  5. Scott: potential love interest for Tatum? It was pretty cute. I ship it.

Things I Loved

  • the tiny details that bring the story to life: mud squelching, fog swirling around feet, seeds stuck to hair
  • I enjoyed the friendship, and how it builds, as the two incredibly-different girls bridge the gap between their paths of existence and their determination to courageously help each other and overcome personal struggles
  • creepy and morbid at times, yet hauntingly beautiful in a grisly way
  • thrilling, sharp, and the non-paranormal parts are real enough to be believable
  • excellent portrayal of escalating mental and physical abuse, and the long-lasting damage that it can do
  • gripping, compelling, entertaining
  • realistic bullying anecdotes in Tatum’s life and horrific details surrounding Molly’s final moments
  • subtle, consistent tension
  • diversity of characters: although the main characters and supporting characters were extremely white – as in, American hippie hitchhiker whose best friends are a British guy with a bowler hat and a London female wearing a petticoat, and super-blonde teenagers in the most small-town American school imaginable – there are occasional mentions of characters of colour (more diversity would be nice)
  • friendship was strong, and the supporting characters, Scott and Parker, had believable yet complicated motivations. They developed slight romances with Tatum and Molly, respectively, which added to the plot
  • satisfying writing, with a beautiful story arc that builds up in suspense, and resolves quite smoothly
  • great perspective on the afterlife
  • powerful friendships and betrayals
  • the unpredictable climax that made me gasp audibly
  • incites readers’ sympathy
  • Molly’s point of view is written in first-person present, and Tatum’s in third-person present – I almost never see authors write in third-person present, but Roberts accomplished this smoothly.

The author, Jeyn Roberts, graduated from UBC with a degree in writing and psychology. She lives in Vancouver today, and has written several other award-winning books such as The Bodies We Wear and Dark Inside.

Can this become a movie? 😏

Anyways, read this book.

New Things

A new thing from last week: moving for my first time. I’m scarred.

#sleptonthefloorforfivenights #nevermovingagain

Another new thing: before I left Waterloo, I visited Perimeter Institute with my friends. One of them works at Perimeter, which is an institute for theoretical physics. It’s a beautiful, massive, modern, bright building with a lovely bistro and great desserts. You can bet that I had two desserts + two mugs of tea with milk and honey.

New thing #3: I met up with Vivian, an incredible Schulich Leader and WE Day speaker from UBC. We enjoyed dinner at The Chickpea, a new vegan restaurant on Main Street in Vancouver. I ordered the fried eggplant dish, which was topped with yams, chickpeas, and garlicky tahini. There was a great hummus on the side, along with salad and chickpea fries.

Not including the lovely conversation, dessert was the highlight of my night. This was a vegan carrot cake, super tender and just sweet enough, served with the richest, creamiest vanilla ice cream (vegan, made with coconut milk). L-O-V-E. Honestly I cannot say enough good things about this coconut vanilla ice cream.

Mom made a great dinner a couple days ago – braised chicken with taro. On the side, I made a rolled black sesame and red bean crepe sweetened with brown sugar.

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Indian food! I need some. Where is my palak paneer at?

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A couple days ago, I made pesto pizza on naan flatbread, topped with stir-fried mushrooms.

So yummy! Seline’s had garlic tomato sauce instead of pesto, and some Tex Mex cheese on top. We loved, loved, loved this dinner. 5 stars from me, 4 from Seline 😉

This morning, I savoured some buns that Grandma bought for me. I’m super lucky to have a lovely 奶奶 (granny) who buys me all kinds of buns. Here, we have:

  • cocktail buns filled with sweetened shredded coconut
  • red bean bun
  • taro bun (my #1 favourite because it was soft and perfectly sweetened, with a “bolo” topping)

On another note, another new thing: I went skating yesterday. I grew up doing competitive figure skating, so it completely filled my heart to be back on the ice after three years.

Grandma ❤ Her nails are always on point, as her her hand-knitted sweaters.

Grandma and I had lunch at Pho99, a Vietnamese restaurant where we both enjoyed lemongrass chicken with rice, bone broth soup, and fresh cabbage.

The best new thing! À la Evangeline (check out her new post, by the way – I have hearts in my eyes), I enjoyed a waffle breakfast yesterday. I made the batter with one egg, 1/2 a banana, 1/4 tsp baking powder, 1/8 tsp baking soda, and plenty of vanilla and cinnamon. After a few minutes in the waffle maker, my waffle tasted great with nut butter and blueberries. ❤ Have I been converted? Maybe 70% 😉

An oldie, but a goodie – I made some chocolate banana bread. It’s my favourite recipe, which uses applesauce, a small amount of sugar, and no eggs. It tasted wonderful with yogurt, more summery blueberries, and crispy coconut cookies. I had seconds thirds.

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Enjoy the rest of your week, everyone!

BC, I’ve Missed You ❤

I’ve missed having big, fluffy blueberry-studded pancakes topped with the creamiest nut butter and a smattering of more fresh blueberries.

So much, in fact, that I had this breakfast three days in a row. Half a mashed banana in the batter makes quite the difference for texture and subtle sweetness, in my opinion.

I made banana pancakes another morning, bunny-style. Pretty proud of how these turned out, in terms of taste and presentation!

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Seline is a fabulous artist, and she persuaded me to do some doodling with her. We drew the same picture of a goddess character from her favourite anime, Seven Deadly Sins. My rendition is on the left, and hers is on the right.

My mom cooked Hainanese chicken rice another day, which we enjoyed with braised broccoli and carrots.

We played with the aerial silks at the Vancouver Circus School, went to the Kaleidoscope Arts Festival in Coquitlam, and looked over LaFarge Lake.

More delicious Hainanese chicken rice was devoured. This is one of my favourite versions of chicken + rice. I love Chinese bok choy, stir-fried with garlic.

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There is always a plethora of cookies and baked goods in the Wei family home. Here, I have dessert: yogurt with a blueberry-banana muffin top, lemon poppyseed muffin, cream cheese pound cake, and a coconut cookie.

Mom is looking so cute here as she cooks. Seline put a removable tattoo on my wrist, and I think it’s fun to look at.

Mom makes a great winter melon stew with krill, as well as braised chicken drumsticks with taro chunks. I adore taro. Do you like taro? Have you tried it in sweet and savoury dishes?

More dessert: I made an Earl Grey cake on my second day home, and that was super flavourful and crumbly. On the right: cream cheese pound cake turned into French toast for one breakfast, topped with a generous smear of Nutella.

This morning, my breakfast consisted of a large mug of unpictured English Breakfast tea latte, and a big plate of two scrambled eggs, baked treats, a chopped peach, and creamy honey-flavoured yogurt with flaxseeds and blueberries. Breakfast was followed by a little too much nibbling on shortbread cookies.

The family doggie turned nine a few weeks ago, but he is still full of energy. He loves the park!

Yesterday, met up with the grandparents in Burnaby, where we ordered lots of great sushi. My favourite rolls are the Aburi flame-seared ones.

This is completely out of place, as it’s from back in Waterloo – Famoso Pizzeria, where I savoured this great Cavoletti pizza with (get this!) toasted walnuts, chopped dates, honey, crispy prosciutto, brussels sprouts, and gorgonzola. For my side, I chose a salad topped with Caprese ingredients – mozzarella, tomato, and pistachio pesto.

With tiramisu and a scoop of salted caramel gelato. Yummmm. Tiramisu is amongst (among?) my top five favourite desserts.

Rouzao rice is a Taiwanese specialty that my mom cooks once in a while. It’s essentially a stew of ground pork and pork belly, spiced with soy sauce, star anise, onions, and garlic.

A couple nights ago, my family and I went to the Richmond Night Market, where Seline and I shared a carton of takoyaki (deep-fried octopus balls), and I had a bag of sesame bubble waffles and a taiyaki (Korean fish-shaped waffle filled with red bean).

Recently, I’ve been spending a lot of time working on our vacation plans. My family is going to Salt Spring Island in two weeks, so I am very excited about all the activities we’ll be doing.

With a mug of tea, I spend some mornings designing the activities of each day. It’s such a short vacation (~3 days total), but so much to do there.

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I can’t wait to go to a public skating session. Skating is great in the summer, in my opinion.

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Yesterday, I feasted on the most delicious homemade crepe I’ve made. Here’s the super simple recipe:

Easy Nutella Banana Crepes

Serves 1

Crepe INGREDIENTS

  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/8 tsp salt

Topping INGREDIENTS

  • 1 banana, sliced thinly
  • 3 tbsp Nutella

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Whisk together all crepe ingredients.
  2. Grease pan with butter or coconut oil. Pour batter into large pan and rotate pan in circular motion so batter coats the surface evenly.
  3. Cook over medium-high heat. Cook for 2 minutes, until bottom is cooked. Flip and cook the other side.
  4. Place crepe on a cutting board and generously spread Nutella on the entire crepe. Top with sliced banana, fold, and place on a plate. Decorate with more banana slices.

NOTE: You can place banana slices on the center third of the crepe and then fold the two sides over, or place bananas on 1/4 of the crepe and do two half-folds.

I also baked up a storm!

These lopsided round-ish treats are muffin tops that I found via Evangeline on Nutrition with a Mission, who discovered them on Athletic Avocado. I made a couple small changes here and there:

Blueberry Banana Muffin Tops

Makes 6 large, 12 small

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 packed cup almond flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup nut butter (I used a mix of brazil nut and cashew nut butter)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 ripe banana, mashed
  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 1/3 cup crushed nuts (I used a mix of roasted nuts from Costco, like cashews, almonds, brazil nuts, peanuts, etc.)
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tbsp coconut sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Combine almond butter, egg, maple syrup, vanilla, and banana in a bowl. Whisk until well-combined. Add a splash of water or milk if needed.
  4. Add almond flour, cinnamon, and baking soda. Mix in blueberries, and combine.
  5. Mix all topping ingredients together.
  6. Spoon batter into 6 large or 12 smaller muffin tops.
  7. Bake muffin tops for 20 minutes, or until done.

I also made these tasty lemon poppyseed muffins.

Vegan Lemon Poppyseed Muffins

Makes 12 muffins

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 flax eggs (2 tbsp flaxseed meal + 5 tbsp water)
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil or grape seed oil
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1.5 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tbsp poppy seeds
  • 1/2 cup quick oats
  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 1 cup flour

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 375. Grease or line a standard muffin tin.
  2. Prepare flax eggs. Allow to rest.
  3. Add applesauce, lemon juice and zest, oil, almond milk, maple syrup, sugar, baking soda, salt, and whisk for one minute. Foaming will occur as the lemon juice reacts with the baking soda.
  4. Add flour, almond meal, and oats. Stir with a spoon until combined. Do not over-mix. If batter appears too thick, add more almond milk. It should be thick and not pourable. Stir in poppy seeds and whisk again.
  5. Divide batter evenly between 12 muffin tins.
  6. Bake for 17-22 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean.
  7. Cool for several minutes in the pan. Remove from tins, and let cool on a cooling rack. Will keep, covered, for several days.

The muffins, and the muffin tops, were both incredible. If you have a day in the kitchen, I highly recommend giving them a shot!

Another recipe I tried, adopted heavily from Allrecipes to reduce sugar (original was 2 cups), and swap 75% of the oil for unsweetened applesauce.

German Apple Cake

Serves one 9×13, can cut into 12 medium-sized pieces

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 4 heaping cups apples, peeled, cored, and diced (I used 4 gala apples)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour one 9×13 inch cake pan.
  2. Toss diced apples with a scoop of flour to coat (prevents sinking).
  3. Beat oil and eggs until creamy. Add sugar and vanilla.
  4. Add cinnamon, baking soda, then salt.
  5. Add flour, and mix until combined. Fold in the apples.
  6. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 45 minutes, until cake tests clean.

Have a beautiful week, everyone ❤

Goodbye, Waterloo

On Wednesday (3 days ago), I flew out of Toronto and came back home to BC.

My last few meals in Ontario were absolutely delicious.

Good times were spent with my friends (this is Kianna, my friend from aerial silks) – and we had a great lunch at Solé Seafood Bar.

Complimentary bread, tomato and blue cheese noodles, spinach and feta flatbread – both of which I shared with my friend Lara. Kianna had the shrimp scampi.

For dessert, we had a dark chocolate tart with creme fraiche and berry coulis.

One day, I cooked Gordon Ramsay scrambled eggs, which turned out irresistibly creamy. They did take a little extra effort to make, and I prefer my spinach + cheddar eggs.

Meal plans were created:

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I liked my sweet potato fries, salmon, with broccoli couscous. The garlic aioli was my favourite part.

Pancakes are always a dreamy breakfast. Chopped prunes on top!

Almond Flour Pancakes

Serves 6 pancakes

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Cinnamon
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tbsp melted butter or coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 vanilla extract

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Whisk dry ingredients together.
  2. Beat together liquid ingredients. Whisk wet into dry.
  3. Allow batter to rest for 10 minutes.
  4. Heat up pan to medium-high. Cook pancakes until tops are bubbly, edges are dry, and bottoms golden brown. Flip over and cook for another 1-2 minutes.
  5. Serve hot with butter.

Have a lovely rest of the day, friends!