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Updates From a Slack Blogger

Well I officially fail at trying to keep any semblance of consistency on my blog (for posting that is). But it’s not about being perfect right? (Right??)

So what’s happened since January? Well I turned 22 for a start…a very quiet bday…as in I sat at home and watched movies while being accompanied by wine and cheesecake.

I also got the joy of packing across my bday weekend because I moved into a new apartment at the beginning of February. I’m still in North Van, just waaaayyyyy up at the top end of Lonsdale Ave. It now takes me just under an hour to get to work via transit…but it’s so worth it. I’m in a wonderful and quiet neighbourhood with lots of greenery and flowers. The houses are big and beautiful, plus there’s a park a half block from my place. In the evenings, when I’m walking up the hill from my bus stop, I can turn around and see all of Vancouver lit up in twinkling lights, it’s beautiful. It feels kind of like the living on Vancouver Island but with the convenience of being practically in Vancouver.

I have started a Pinterest account…like I needed another place to waste my time on the internet. I like this more that Tumblr now…it’s my go-to site aside from Facebook and Twitter. I like the idea of grouping “pins” together. It’s basically a virtual scrapbook/pin board, which is great because I tend to collect cool photos (don’t ask me for what purpose…I don’t know…but Pinterest is the answer!) Take a look if you feel so inclined: http://pinterest.com/danastasyk/

I have also started enjoying my nails…as in painting them. A lot.

It’s kind of a way for me to unwind, aside from reading…but I can’t read at watch a movie at the same time. There’s just so many cool ideas out there for nails…I don’t often do plain nails anymore…not when it’s so easy to do something cool with them! Anyways.

Work has also been great, our office expanded, and not just in people…we knocked down a wall and took over the office space next to ours too! It’s pretty cool to have so much more space. We have a lounge now…complete with bean bag chairs! It’s awesome and ridiculous at the same time, and just one more reason why I love Think! Social Media.

I’m looking forward to summer. Hot, sunny days, full of good tunes and days at the beach. Blue sky…NO RAIN OR CLOUDS.

The Delicious Nanaimo Bar Trail

I spent the majority of my life growing up on Vancouver Island in British Columbia and visiting Nanaimo and the surrounding areas. So when I moved away to Vancouver and THEN heard about the Nanaimo Bar Trail I was horrified that there was something like this from a city I grew up near and didn’t know about! However, much to my relief, the Nanaimo Bar Trail is only an invention of recent years.

To give you an idea of WHAT the Nanaimo Bar Trail is…it’s an invention of Chelsea Barr – the champion of Nanaimo. I got to know Chelsea through a bit of work I did with my job with Think! Social Media, and then started hearing about this “Nanaimo Bar Trail” thing. What Chelsea did was hand build a list of local businesses in Nanaimo that have put their own spin on the classic dessert.  So now people can download the list Chelsea created and wander around downtown sampling all things Nanaimo Bar…in Nanaimo. The upside to it mostly being downtown is that it makes a great afternoon of walking so you don’t have to feel so bad about eating sweets.

So now Nanaimo has it’s very own Nanaimo Bar Trail! (and if you’re in Nanaimo you can always reach out to Chelsea on Twitter for her recommendations. She tweets as @NanaimoBarr)

Last month when my mom had her birthday I made arrangements to head over to the Island for the weekend and visit her. I thought it would also be fun to do something special for her birthday, and since her and I both share sweet teeth I thought that the Nanaimo Bar Trail would be a natural choice! Chelsea was amazing enough to lead us on a small tour of the Trail, and we only hit about 6 of the possible 20 places you can go!

Our first Nanaimo Bar at Mon Petite Choux...and probably my favourite!

We met Chelsea at Mon Petite Choux where we had our first Nanaimo Bar. This was probably my favourite one! They do a gluten-free Nanaimo Bar with a cocoa crumble base with what seemed to be nuts and rice crispies; the filling was a fluffy butter cream and the top was a nice smooth chocolate. If you could ever consider a Nanaimo Bar to be light and fluffy…well this was it, plus it was a tad less sweet than your average Nanaimo Bar.

Nanaimo Bar #2 - The deep fried Nanaimo Bar from Pirate Chips

Our second stop was a quick walk down the street to Pirate Chips where they do a deep-fried Nanaimo Bar. Now that might not sound like the most appetizing choice…but it was actually awesome! They deep-fry it in a light cinnamon batter and just long enough to lightly melt the Nanaimo Bar inside…on a dreary day this has got to be the ultimate comfort food!

Nanaimo Bar #3 - This time the Nanaimo Bar Cupcake from A Wee Cupcakery

Our third stop was a bit of a hike uphill away (which was totally fine since my conscience felt better after doing some walking…) this time we went to A Wee Cupcakery for the Nanaimo Bar Cupcake. We also tried their Eggnog Spice cupcake, which was pretty awesome too…I would just recommend going here…period.

Chelsea and I in a Wee Cupcakery

Our fourth stop was literally just across the street at McLean’s Specialty Foods where we got the traditional Nanaimo Bar (we opted not to eat these right away and instead saved them for another day since we still had a couple stops left). This shop is a cheese shop and specialty food store, which is also right up my alley! My mom and I spent a while just wandering up the isles looking at all the delicious imported goods, and of course all the cheese…

I grew up in a house where we always had an array of different cheeses to nibble on. We love imported goods too – olives, crackers, various other snacks etc, so stepping into McLean’s was like stepping into heaven!

Nanaimo Bar #5 - The Nanaimo Bar Latte and Martini from Modern Cafe

My mom (The birthday girl) and myself in Modern Cafe

From McLean’s, the three of us wandered to Modern Café where we decided to have a bit of a break, while sipping our Nanaimo Bar Martini and Lattes (I had the Martini and my mom and Chelsea had the Lattes). Now unfortunately I’m not much of a coffee person otherwise I might have liked the Martini a bit more (it had a shot of coffee in it and otherwise just tasted like harsh alcohol to me…but I prefer sweeter drinks anyway so this was a bit of a miss for me on 2 points).

Nanaimo Bar #6 - The Nanaimo Bar cheesecake from Minnoz Restaurant

Our final stop was Minnoz Restaurant, located in the Coast Bastion Inn. We had their Nanaimo Bar cheesecake, which was just awesome. It came with 2 pieces so it was perfect for sharing! We actually ordered two servings of the cheesecake so we could all share one and then take the other home for the family.

So my favourites of the trail would probably have to be the Nanaimo Bar from Mon Petite Choux in #1, the deep-fried Nanaimo Bar in #2 and the Nanaimo Bar cheesecake from Minnoz in #3 :)

Once again, if you want to see the complete list & map that Chelsea created make sure you download it and bring it with you when you do the Nanaimo Bar Trail! I would recommend picking a few to do at one time instead of attempting to do all the stops…and that way you can come and do more on your next trip to Nanaimo!

And after looking at the list you’ll see that we barely scratched the surface of all the different stops on the Nanaimo Bar Trail. You can also find:

  • Nanaimo Bar ice cream
  • Nanaimo Bar sundaes
  • Nanaimo Bar fudge
  • Vegan Nanaimo Bars
  • Nanaimo Bar shooters

Now…if reading all this info about Nanaimo Bars has given you a craving for them, hopefully this recipe can help tide you over until you can make it to Nanaimo! (It was the winner of a 1985 contest to determine the BEST Nanaimo bar)

Bottom layer

½ cup unsalted butter (European style cultured)

¼ cup sugar

5 tbsp. cocoa

1 egg, beaten

1 ¼ cups graham wafer crumbs

½ c. finely chopped almonds

1 cup coconut

Melt first three ingredients in top of a double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, coconut and nuts. Press firmly into an non-greased 8″ x 8″ pan.

Middle layer

½ cup unsalted butter

2 Tbsp. and 2 Tsp. cream

2 Tbsp. vanilla custard powder

2 cups icing sugar

Cream butter, cream, custard powder and icing sugar together well. Beat until light. Spread over bottom layer.

Top layer

4 squares semi-sweet chocolate (1 oz. each)

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

Melt chocolate and butter over low heat. Cool. When cool, but still liquid, pour over second layer and chill in refrigerator.

Live@Squamish!!

On August 18th, just for fun, I entered a Facebook wall contest from Vancouver, Coast & Mountains (VCMBC) to win a pair of tickets to a music festival called Live@Squamish, or Live at Squamish…whatever.

I’d seen ads for this concert for weeks and weeks advertising the awesome line up at this 2 day festival and promptly checked what tickets cost…only to realize they were a little on the expensive side for me – $149 and I don’t think that included camping. I let the thought of me attending slide right back out of my head and proceeded to just glare at the ads in envy. I had really wanted to see John Butler Trio, Weezer, Metric, Girl Talk, Stars and Hey Ocean (those were the main ones I was interested in seeing – I knew John Butler Trio after my time in Australia, and I know Metric, Weezer and Girl Talk. I was interested in seeing the last 2 after doing a wee bit of research.)

So when I was cruising Facebook at work, while waiting on hold during a phone call I was making, and I saw VCMBC’s facebook post:

“Six hours to win 2 tickets for Live at Squamish Folks! Leave a comment on this post, we pick one winner today, 3 pm!! Ticktockticktock…”

And figured “Ahh what the hell” and added my comment. “OMG Whenever I see the billboards for this concert I get GREEN with envy! Metric….John Butler Trio….Girl Talk…those are some of my favourite musicians!!”

Later on during the day at 3pm I was on another phone call when I got a Skype notification on my mac, but being on the phone call I decided I would check it after. About 5 mins later Helen stuck her head into the room where I was working, saw I was on the phone and deeked out again. This is when I thought that notification might have been important so the called ended and I saw Helen’s comment, which was copied and pasted from VCMBC’s Facebook wall – “Vancouver, Coast & Mountains: Congrats to Dana Marie – you won 2 tickets for Live@Squamish this weekend!”

Needless to say I had a small freak out. Fortunately Patty was happy to come with me and Helen and her boyfriend Adam were going as well, so we started making plans to carpool and camp together.

Neither Patty and I had a tent, and fortunately Canadian Tire was having a sale, so on Friday we went out and got some camping gear – Tent, tarp, LED Battery operated lantern etc. We packed everything up that night and then hit the road Saturday afternoon when Helen and Adam came and picked us up.

There was an initial hiccup once we got to the Logger Sports Grounds, where the festival was being held. My camping pass was for on-site camping and Helen and Adam’s was for off-site camping…which was about 10kms up the road!! This really didn’t fly with us so Geoff – the head campground guy – came and checked us out, figured it would be fine and swapped the off-site camping package for an on-site package so they could be with us! It was super cool of him and definitely was an excellent start to the weekend!

After we had all set up, we simply sat around for a while, made friends with the 2 Russian guys camped next to us, and had a few drinks. The concerts didn’t start until 3:30 and were split between 2 different stages. We didn’t end up heading into the grounds until after 6pm, we caught the tail end of Hey Ocean, followed by the Stars and then my favourite of the whole weekend – John Butler Trio.

Girl Talk was after John Butler Trio, but I left to go hangout at the tents with the 2 Russians, since you could hear the stage just fine from the tents instead of being in the press of the crowd.

The following morning, with a minimum of hangover damage to myself, we did the whole thing again! I was up at 9:30am-ish, so were the 2 Russians next door, so we sat around, had breakfast and enjoyed the cooler morning after the heat of the day before. Our group walked down to a nearby river with the intention of swimming…but it was mountain melt water so it was bone-achingly cold. We didn’t end up doing more than wade up to our knees and splashing about a bit.

We packed up the majority of our camp things before heading into the grounds later that afternoon, and we met up with another coworker – Phil, and then we all cruised the various vendors around the grounds, something we hadn’t done the day before. Then our group split up, Patty and I headed back to the tent (which we hadn’t taken down yet) and ended up playing cards games with the 2 Russians, who taught us a Russian card game called “Durak” – a lot of fun! After we finally tore all our stuff down, we trooped in to see Metric perform. We didn’t stay for Weezer, since they were playing too late for us to still get back to Vancouver at a decent hour, unpack all our stuff and then still be up for work the next day.

All in all it was a very awesome first time experience for me! I’ve been to music concerts…but nothing like this, so it was definitely worth the trip, and I was lucky enough to go on free tickets!!

A BIG thank you to Vancouver Coast and Mountains!!

The Real City of Vancouver

So last night, after the Vancouver Canucks lost their battle for the Stanley Cup to the Boston Bruins, over 100,000 people downtown started to head home. However, sadly quite a few of those thousands stuck around to wreak havoc on our beautiful city…and many more simply stood around and watched, taking pictures. The Riot Act was read, cars were flipped, many things lit on fire, stores fronts were smashed and then looted and worst of all people were actually hurt during this sad escapade. I linked to a few pictures of last night’s vandalism and rioting on my previous blog post.

These people are not Canucks fans…they are criminals and if you know of anyone who acted with the mobs last night you are urged to report them. And this Facebook page is only one of the many places you can upload photos of the devastation and hopefully these people will be tagged and held responsible for their actions.

 

This morning dawned a somewhat sad day, it feels like there is a slightly subdued atmosphere and most of the true Canucks fans are embarrassed and ashamed of the actions of these criminals. However clean up crews worked through the night to try and restore downtown. As of around 8:00am this morning several people had already started to help with cleanup efforts after City crews worked through the night. There has been a Facebook event made about the post riot clean up as well as a hashtag on Twitter all about the Vancouver clean up.

The true Vancouverites of this city lending a hand cleaning up. Photo Credit to Joshua Berson @bersonphoto

These are the true Vancouverites, the true Canucks fans, and these people are worthy of our thanks and gratitude. They didn’t cause this mess, but they are more than willing to restore this city to its former beauty.

People writing 'Sorry messages' on the boards covering The Bay. Photo Credit to Sam Farahzad @sf14

People have been writing apologies on all the boarded up storefronts, and this was one of the photos of people writing on the storefront of The Bay, downtown.

Thank you to the real Canucks fans, and the real people of Vancouver. It’s people like you that this world needs more of.

Game 7…and a shameful Vancouver

So tonight was the night! Tonight was Game 7, Vancouver Canucks against the Boston Bruins. Everyone in Vancouver was in high spirits and we played a HARD game…there was a little bit of dirty playing…but why wouldn’t there be in a game where neither team had won the Stanley Cup in a handful of decades. We, the Vancouver Canucks lost 4-0. I left while there was still 10 mins left in the 3rd period to try and beat the rush for transit. And once I got home and opened my Mac…I was greeted by reports of mobs of angry rioters in the streets of Vancouver. I was a bit upset myself…but not enough to go around destroying someone else’s property!

SHAME ON YOU VANCOUVER!

We played a hard game. We made it ALL the way to game 7! We have so much to be proud of tonight…and you ruined it with anger and violence. Yes, it was an important game…but it was JUST A GAME! Act like proper sportsmen and women and take it with pride that we made it as far as we did!

Right now I am disappointed in this city…and some of it’s people. Shame on those in Vancouver that rioted, shame on those that destroyed buildings, cars and broke windows. Shame on you for endangering the lives of others.

Here are some of the horrible photos of heinous acts in our fair city.

Car overturned

That same Car on fire

And again

People smashing the BMO

Another car on fire

Vancouver’s Biggest Bake Sale

Once of the signs at the entrace to the Roundhouse Community Centre

Last week, on April 20th I went to a bake sale fundraiser at the Yaletown Roundhouse Community Centre called “Bake for the Quake”. It was planned by two local food bloggers, Melody Fury of GourmetFury.com and Joy of Gourmeted.com, as a collaborative fundraiser for the Japan earthquake and tsunami relief. All proceeds from the bake sale went to Doctors Without Borders. Initially they had hoped to raise $5,000 but after being flooded with over 650 people in a 2.5-hour time frame, they had raised $7,136! So what was expected to be a rather small time bake sale was instead one of, if not the, biggest bake sale in Vancouver’s history.

A few of the bakers and their wares nearest the door

It was a very fun little event! There was live music and a huge array of different goodies to choose from. To find more info on the event, and to see some pictures check out the bake sale’s official website: http://bakeforthequake.com/

One of the cool things I really liked about the event was how they handled the money. As you were waiting in line to get into the actual room of the event, there were volunteers roaming the line up selling tickets. These weren’t raffle tickets…they were your form of money once you got inside! Each ticket you bought was worth a dollar, so instead of fumbling for money and change you simply dealt with tickets, and bought more if you ran out. Most items were worth 2-3 tickets (most cookies and cupcakes) other things like the various loaves and other higher priced goodies could range all the way up to 15 tickets (or $15)!

Almost everything was wrapped...and some vendors put a lot of effort into making theirs look nice

Initially I spent $25, however I ran into a previous coworker, Robyn Hanson, who had been given a bunch of tickets, and she then kindly gave me 5 of her tickets! So I got an extra couple items with that. Other then Robyn I only ran into one other person I knew, Saschie, a classmate of mine. She was there as a baker though and she made some fabulous 2 ticket cookies.

All in all it was a good event aside from the total lack of space…however the organizers were not expecting anywhere near the volume of people that ended up coming…so that I understand.

The following two pictures are of the things that I bought…with the exception of the Chai Cupcake I ate on the Skytrain ride home. The rest of the images are others I took at the event.

These are some of the cuter things that I bought

These are the rest of the goodies I bought...with a more chocolately theme.

I took a picture of these for my sister...she loves cute things like this

This was 45 mins after the start of the event...and this guy was totally sold out!

Annnd this was the shortbread table. All of them were so nicely decorated I didn't know what to pick!

A Taste of Naples

Wednesday last week (March 23rd) was probably the nicest day I have experienced all winter. The sun came blazing in the windows all along the backside of the Think! office and filled the entire space with warmth and natural light! It finally started to feel like spring (although that’s changed now that the weather has reverted back to being grey and dreary).

Some of our colleagues were in snowy, cold Vulcan, a small Alberta town, so we gave them the Vulcan salute in the sunshine on our way to the restaurant

Earlier in the week Ben had invited everyone at the office out to lunch at a newly opened restaurant on East Cordova in Gastown called Nicli Antica Pizzeria. We had planned to go on Wednesday, and since it was such a beautiful day, instead of driving we decided to walk (Thank God I wore comfortable shoes, the walk took us 25 mins!)

For those of you (like myself) that have never heard of Nicli Antica Pizzeria, it is probably due to the fact that they opened about 6 weeks ago. They make authentic and traditional wood-fired pizza in the Naples-style (Neapolitan pizza…I’ll explain later on, and no it has nothing to do with the ice cream). They make their pizzas using only the finest and freshest traditional ingredients and their wood-fired oven, is authentic too – made from the stone of Mt. Vesuvius. Nicli’s pizza is formed by hand and cooked in a 900ºF wood-fired oven for roughly 90 seconds. This creates a pizza with the following:

  • A light and fluffy crust which has a tiny bit of crunch
  • Flame blackened blisters may appear along the crust
  • A soft thin centre
  • 27-30 centimetres in diameter

This is the wood-fire oven in the back of the restaurant. I liked being able to see them make the pizzas

We got three different pizzas to split between Ben, Paul, Helen, Robyn and myself. Originally we only thought to get two pizzas…but they all looked so good that we figured we’d get the extra one and just have some excellent leftovers…but as it turned out there were no leftovers! The first pizza we ordered was the Capricciosa made with pomodoro, parmigiano, fior di latte (soft type of mozzarella made from cow’s milk), prosciutto cotto, artichokes, funghi, black olives, and basil. The second pizza we ordered was the Diavola with pomodoro, parmigiano, fior di latte, sopressatta (hot salami), parmigiano, basil, and finished with chili oil. And my personal favourite was the last pizza we ordered, the Bianca with extra virgin olive oil, parmigiano, roasted garlic, roasted onion, oregano, and gorgonzola.

From left to right: Robyn, Myself, Helen, Paul (nearest) and Ben (furthest away)

An interesting thing to note is that with the Nicli pizzas (or any authentic Neapolitan pizza) the addition of sauce, cheese and other toppings creates a pizza center that is generally soft and moist.  Because of this, Napolitanas traditionally eat their pizzas uncut with a knife and fork, or tear them apart manually and eat them folded “libretto” style. Now if you’re eating a pizza by yourself I’m sure this is a great way to do it…but when you’re sharing pizzas in a group this is a little awkward…I think we all would have appreciated a pizza cutter!

 

Ok, so now to explain a little more about Nicli’s and traditional Italian pizzas…what is Neapolitan pizza or pizza Napoletana? This is Naples-style, traditional pizza…nothing to do with the Neapolitan that is associated with Neapolitan ice cream. In Italy, there is a bill before Parliament to safeguard the traditional Italian pizza, specifying permissible ingredients and methods of processing (e.g., excluding frozen pizzas). Only pizzas that followed these guidelines can be called “traditional Italian pizzas” in Italy.

The owner of Nicli’s – Bill McCraig wants to have Nicli certified as a Vera Pizza Napoletana establishment (there is only one other certified VPN in Canada and that’s Libretto in Toronto so Nicli’s would be the only one of its kind in Vancouver). The first step of this journey is to go down to California and take the Vera Pizza Napoletana Americas Association course – which McCraig has done. According to the Vera Pizza Napoletana Americas Association, a genuine Neapolitan pizza must consist of the following:

  • Dough consisting of wheat flour (usually type 0 or 00 – all this means is how finely ground the flour is and how much of the bran and germ have been removed), natural Neapolitan yeast, salt and water.
  • The dough must be kneaded by hand or with a low-speed mixer.
  • After the rising process, the dough must be formed strictly by hand, and may be no more than 3 mm (⅛ in) thick.
  • The pizza must be baked for 60–90 seconds in a 485 °C (905 °F) stone oven with an oak-wood fire.
  • When cooked, it should be crispy, tender and fragrant.

Quite a few of these guidelines are things that Nicli’s already does, so in my books they shouldn’t have any trouble getting the VPN certification (if they don’t have it already).

The following are a couple other pictures I took of around the restaurant. They’ve furnished it quite nicely even if it’s a little small (and always busy!)

Right across from us was the Bar, complete with wine selection

Off to my left was the storefront and the row of tables against the wall where we were sitting