Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Vancouver + snow = chaos

I woke up this morning to a frantic radio report about school closures and treacherous driving conditions due to an overnight snow storm that was wreaking havoc on Vancouver.

(I still get excited when I hear the words "snow storm" and "school closures.")

I jumped out of bed and ran over to the window, hoping to see a raging blizzard outside. I peeked between the blinds and saw . . . a light dusting of snow on the ground and a couple of flakes floating in the air.

Oh, Vancouver. Your hysteria over a few centimetres of snow makes me laugh.

The CBC had three different reporters tracking the storm. (Yes, they actually used the word "storm.")

There were stories about delayed flights, road closures, traffic jams, transit chaos, school closures, fender benders. The whole city was paralyzed -- all because of five centimetres of snow.

I took a few pictures of the "nasty conditions" on my way to work. It's almost as ridiculous as the time Toronto called in the army to help shovel snow.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Beautiful British Columbia

I've lived in Vancouver for almost seven years and the view of the snow-capped mountains on a clear day still takes my breath away.

Coming from Toronto where you have to suffer through hours of gridlock and miles of sprawl before escaping the city, it never fails to amaze me how easy it is to get out of Vancouver and into the mountains.

In the summer, I can hop on my bike and get from downtown Vancouver to the North Shore in less than 20 minutes. In the winter, I can catch a bus a few blocks from my apartment and be in Whistler in two hours.

And that's exactly what my friend Laura and I did on Saturday. We went to the brand new Whistler Olympic Park in the Callahan Valley for some cross-country skiing. Check out the size of the snow banks!

I will never whine about the lack of decent cross-country skiing near Vancouver ever again. The Callahan trails were incredible.

While there are a lot of things I don't like about Vancouver (the lack of eligible bachelors, for one), the scenery is something I will never complain about.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Remember how excited I was about acquiring my first piece of original art? Well, it turns out there’s nothing original about it at all.

It’s a fake. A fraud. A con. The 70-year-old woman who painted it isn’t a real artist. She’s a scam artist!

At least three different people emailed me to tell me my proud new painting was actually a copy of one of those cheesy email forwards that have been circulating for years.

Yes, that’s right. I am the owner of a painting that was inspired by an email forward.

Let’s review the embarrassing evidence. Here is my painting:

And here is the photograph it was modeled on:

I was shocked and appalled. For about a minute. And then the over-the-top ridiculousness of the situation hit me.

Think about it. Some elderly lady got this photo in her inbox. She thought it was funny. She liked it so much that she recreated it on canvas. She named it “Warrior Mouse.” And then she sold it to my unsuspecting dad for $50. Who does that?

I have to grudgingly admit that it makes me like the painting that much more. In a so-bad-it’s-good kind of way, of course.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Warrior Mouse

I've been looking to buy some original art for a few years now.

Actually, "looking" is probably too strong a word. I've mostly just been thinking about it. As in, I'll walk past a gallery and think, "I should buy some original art."

And that's about as far as I've gotten.

I did walk into a gallery in Gastown once. Or was it a studio? I'm not really sure. Maybe people who can't tell the difference between a gallery and a studio shouldn't be buying art in the first place.

Anyway, the gallery (or studio) owner asked me what kind of art I was looking for. I told him I didn't have anything specific in mind but that I'd know it when I saw it. Which, now that I think about it, is exactly the same way I've trying to find a boyfriend. Maybe it's no coincidence that I am both artless and loveless.

The gallery (or studio) owner didn't seem to mind that I was completely clueless. He disappeared into the back of the shop and returned with painting after painting for me to look at. Some of them were awful. Some of them were amazing. But none of them had that extra special something that made me think, "This is the one!"

I walked out of the shop feeling like I should just buy a canvas and paint something myself. I stopped thinking about buying art for a while.

And that's when it happened. A few months after I stopped looking for it, I found my first piece of original art. Although, technically, my dad found it for me. Which is funny because my dad and I don't share the same taste in art. At all.

My dad collects paintings of barns and lakes and canoes and trees. He also collects wooden ducks and plastic frogs. Which is all well and good for him but a little bit too lawyer's office for me.

Anyway, when I was back home in Toronto for Christmas, my dad announced he had bought some art from a 70-year-old client of his who had recently taken up painting. I cringed when he described her artwork as "whimsical."

Here we go again, I thought to myself. What had he bought this time? A painting of a cat curled up on a quilt?

"It’s called 'Warrior Mouse,'" he said, holding it up for us to see.

My sisters and I laughed. We agreed that Warrior Mouse was awesome.

And just like that, I had found my first piece of original art without even looking for it.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Fail-proof New Year's resolutions

I’m not a New Year’s resolutions kind of girl.

I’m all for setting goals in the name of self-improvement but I don’t like the completely unrealistic and wildly ambitious resolutions that are de rigueur this time of year.

Low expectations are a better strategy. Which is why I have decided to make two fail-proof resolutions for 2008: 1) cook more, and 2) bring lunch to work at least three times a week.

Now, I love to cook but I only put time and effort into it when I have friends over. It’s no fun to make a nice meal when you live alone.

The trick to cooking more often is to invite people over more often. Which is where my sister Anne comes in. She is the perfect guinea pig for my culinary experiments. First of all, she’s family so I can force her to come over every Sunday night for dinner. Second of all, she’s a student and no student alive would turn down a free, home-cooked meal.

So that’s the plan. Every Sunday night my sister will come over for dinner. I will cook massive quantities of food and then I’ll bring the leftovers to work for lunch. New Year’s resolutions resolved!

To help keep me motivated, I thought I’d post my Sunday Night Supper Club recipes on-line every week. (Warning: I tend to go heavy on the garlic, ginger and chili peppers. Feel free to adjust recipes to suit your own taste.)


Sunday, January 6, 2008

No-frills spicy jerk chicken served with bean casserole and a green salad


3 pounds skinless chicken thighs
6 cloves garlic
1 cup vegetable stock
2 tablespoons Jamaican jerk seasoning (you can find jars of jerk seasoning at most supermarkets or google the ingredients to make your own)
1 tablespoon dried chili pepper flakes
Black pepper to taste

Mix the jerk seasoning with the vegetable stock to make a marinade. Place uncooked chicken thighs in a baking dish. Coat with jerk marinade. Thinly slice garlic. Stuff some garlic slices in chicken and let the rest stew in the marinade. Top with some ground pepper and chili flakes. Cover and marinate in fridge for at least an hour. When ready to cook, heat oven to 350 and bake (covered with aluminum foil) on middle rack for about 45 minutes.


2 cans Heinz beans & tomato sauce
1 can (19 oz or 14 oz) mixed beans (drained and rinsed -- not marinated)
1 diced red pepper
2 green onions
1 tablespoon dried chili pepper flakes
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
All the garlic you can stomach

Combine all the ingredients in a baking dish and bake on the middle rack at 350 for half an hour. Cover with aluminum foil and uncover for the last 10 minutes. I put it in the oven at the same time as the chicken and cooked both dishes together for 45 minutes. Easy!

I served the meal with a bottle of Reed’s ginger brew and an organic green salad, topped with my famous “quick and dirty salad dressing” (two parts extra virgin olive oil, one part balsamic vinegar, one clove raw garlic minced, a pinch of sea salt, some ground black pepper).

THE VERDICT: Spicy, delicious and super easy! Leftovers lasted until Wednesday. Here's a picture of my sister giving it the thumbs up (she's not giving it the thumbs up with her hand or anything but I know she's giving it a mental thumbs up).

Monday, January 07, 2008

We love George

My entire family loves George Stroumboulopoulos. Even my mom has a crush on the guy. Talk about intergenerational sex appeal!

I went to a taping of The Hour last week with my mom and two of my sisters (that's us with the object of our shared affection in the photo).

I know I've said this before (okay, many, many, many times before) but it's worth repeating. George Stroumboulopoulos is one of the nicest guys around. He's charming, funny and one of the best interviewers in the business. Watching him work his on-screen magic in person is a treat.

Even though this was the second time I was part of The Hour's studio audience (in case you missed it, you can read about my humiliating first time here), I was still blown away by George's professionalism.

He seems genuinely interested in the people he's interviewing and he asks intelligent, well-researched questions. He also seems genuinely interested in the people who watch his show. He spent half an hour chatting with the audience before the show started.

After the show wrapped up, George stuck around for an hour, happily answering questions and posing for pictures. There were no handlers ushering him out the door. He didn't leave until everyone who wanted to meet him had met him.

I'm kind of embarrassed to admit that we were there until the bitter end. We were the very last people in line. But George didn't seem annoyed or tired. He greeted me with a big bear hug and even remembered my name.

"Marchildon!" he boomed. "What's going on?"

I'm not sure how he remembered me. The last time I "saw" him was when I was in Montreal in 2005. One of his producers called me to get David Suzuki on the show. Because we were in Montreal and George was in Toronto, the interview had to be done by satellite. So David and I hopped into a cab and drove out to the CBC's Montreal office. They put David into a tiny studio, with barely enough room for a chair and a camera.

George was talking to David through his earpiece before the interview started. I asked David if I could say hi to George. But because the room was so small, there was no way I could get in front of the camera to wave hello unless I sat in David's lap. So I did what any professional, career-minded woman would do. I dove into David's lap and flirted outrageously with the camera (shameless, I know).

I must have made a big impression on George for him to remember me ("Oh, no! It's the crazy stalker who works for David Suzuki!").

Anyway, he joked around with us for a while. I have never seen my mom giggle so much before. It's kind of weird to have a crush on the same guy as your mother. We both swooned when George proposed to me.

"Move back and marry me," he said.

I'm 99.999 per cent certain that he was joking but on the .001 per cent chance that he wasn't, my answer is "Okay!" (mostly because I want to have the world's longest hyphenated last name. Sarah Marchildon-Stroumboulopoulos has a nice ring to it, don't you think?)

Anyway, I think I've hit my 2008 quota for gushing about George. I mean, you know you have a problem when your 20-year-old sister shakes her head at you and says you acted like a teenager around him.

Whatever. She's, like, totally jealous.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Happy New Year!

I think 2008 is going to be a fantastic year. I don't know why. I just have a good feeling about it, you know?

The first few hours of 2008 weren't very promising. It was 4:30 a.m. on January 1st and I was standing on Bloor Street waiting for a bus to take me home.

I had just left a New Year's Eve house party. It was a good party. There was music and dancing and food and lots of nice people (and more than a few eligible bachelors). But I left the party feeling somewhat deflated. I had no one to kiss when the clock struck 12.

It's not being single that bothers me. I'd rather be single than settle for someone who isn't right for me. What bothers me is that my life as a perpetual bachelorette seems to be stretching out into infinity.

So, there I was, standing at the bus stop at 4:30 in the morning, freezing my butt off and feeling sorry for myself when a man named Rudy (or Ruby, I'm not really sure) snapped me out of my pity party.

He was striding purposefully down the street wearing a green puffy jacket and a black toque. He joined me at the bus stop and struck up a conversation.

"Are you Italian?" he asked me.

"No," I said.

"Are you sure?" he asked. "You look Italian."

And then he started telling me that he didn't like Chinese people but that Japanese people and Korean people were okay.

He ranted about Chinese people for a few more minutes and then asked me for my number.

There. I had met a man and he asked me out. Just like that. I didn't even have to say a single word, except to tell him I wasn't Italian.

I suddenly realized my problem isn't meeting men. I meet lots of men. My problem is that I have standards.

I'd rather be single than date a crazy, drunk, racist.

You know what? I like having standards.

And that is the kind of positive attitude I'm going to carry with me for the rest of 2008. Happy New Year!