Kitchen Experiments

Last night’s dinner was Messed-Up Shepherd’s Pie a la Tanie (modified from a recipe in the February 2010 issue of Martha Stewart Living).

Pie in a Pot

2 russet potatoes (about 1 lb), peeled & cut into 1 inch pieces
1 parsnip, peeled & cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 cup of plain yogurt
salt & pepper

3.4 tbsp olive oil
2 celery stalks, sliced
1 carrot, peeled & sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 an onion, chopped horribly because I hate cutting onions
1 lb of ground turkey, unless you are me and then you buy ground chicken by mistake
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 slightly overfilled tbsp cornstarch
1/3 cup frozen peas
salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 425°F

Boil up the potatoes & parsnips for about twenty minutes. Drain, saving 1 cup of the cooking water for the topping. Mash the potatoes and parsnips with the yogurt, pepper and salt.

Heat the olive oil on medium heat in a skillet. Throw in the celery, carrots, garlic and onion and stir them around for 10 minutes or so. Add in the turkey (or chicken if you’re me) and cook for five minutes, breaking up any large pieces. Add some salt and pepper as well as the chili powder. There was also supposed to be fresh thyme in this but I don’t have an herb garden and it’s February so no dice.

Whisk together the potato water & cornstarch & add to the turkey/veggies mix. Boil for one minute, then add the frozen peas. I had to mix it around for another minute or two because my frozen peas were kind of old and had formed into a comet of ice and peas that needed to be broken up.

Dump the whole thing into a 1 or 1 1/2 quart baking dish (I didn’t even think I had one of these, hooray for my Pyrex collection!), scoop the potatoes on top and bake for 35 minutes.

Pie for eatin'

I would say this meal was about 60% delicious. My main problem was with the topping. News flash: parsnips are gross. If I was to make this again I would just make my own Most Delicious Mashed Potatoes in the World for the topping.

Tanie’s Most Delicious Mashed Potatoes in the World

2 or 3 potatoes, cut up but not peeled. Once I used a mix of white skinned, red skinned and PURPLE nugget potatoes and it turned out white with subtle swirls of lavender. AMAZING.

Boil the potatoes to within an inch of their lives. After draining set aside, and in the pot melt a couple tsp of butter and mix minced garlic into it so that it’s nice and garlicky. Add the potatoes back in and mash them up with about five tons of sour cream and a tsp of lemon juice.

Serve with anything and prepare to die from delicious potato bliss.

Let There Be Light(Covers)!

Last year I replaced this truly heinous fluorescent light (think ivy pattern and crown molding) a previous tenant had installed in the kitchen with a less offensive fixture from Ikea. It was the first light I installed all by myself and I was really pleased with how it turned out, except for one thing: the bulbs! It came with 25w halogen bulbs that look like this on the back:

back of bulb

… and when they started burning out I realized that NOWHERE except Ikea sells 25w bulbs shaped like that. I did find 50w ones but I didn’t want to blow up my kitchen, and since I also didn’t want to go all the way out to Ikea every time I needed a lightbulb I was in the dark for a while. Then I found these great LED bulbs- they fit the fixture, last for approximately one million years and use like, a drop of energy. PERFECT!

led bulb

Except for one problem: LED light is cold and way harsh, Tai. My dining room chandelier is made from LED rope light and since the whole dining room is blue I don’t mind, but I wanted something a little warmer for the kitchen (which is silly because they are technically in the same room). I came up with a plan a few weeks ago and today I put it into action. Using some flexible cutting boards and a pink report cover from the dollar store, and a template of my own design I would make shades for the LED bulbs.

template, clear plastic, pink plastic

First I put the cutting board over the template and traced over the design to score it. This shows me where to cut with my scissors and also makes fold lines.


After cutting out the cover with some teeny embroidery scissors I cut out a 4cm square from the pink plastic to go in the front of the cover. The bulbs give of next to no heat so I’m not worried about these melting or warping.

cover pieces

Originally I planned to glue the pink square into the cover but my rubber cement was all dried out :/ As it turns out, it’s a good thing because I need to be able to push on the front of the bulb to get it into the fixture. Instead, I just put a little triangles of double-stick tape in the corners to help hold it in place.

cover w/tape
pieces taped together

Once the pieces are together I put the cover around the bulb, with the four small holes fitting over the back of the bulb.

cover on bulb

Et voilà! My handmade plastic light covers in action! I’ve only made three so far because the other two bulbs are halogen still, but I have enough materials left to make more once I need them. These will also be removable and reusable when (if?) the LED bulbs ever burn out.

covers in action!

Proof of Awesome

Last night Symphony and I were looking through her visual journal from school last year and I found this great picture she drew:

Visual Journal Queen Mommy

This is my mommy. My mommy is nice, funny and lots of fun ♥ See? SEE??!! I’m nice and funny and fun! Also please note my crown and the computer in the bottom left corner displaying the “Teddy Blog,” lol

Of course I can’t turn on photobooth without her wanting to take a picture…

Less frightening Symmie Attack

… and I can’t start taking pictures without it taking A TURN FOR THE WORSE.


What I’ve Been Reading


Hunger: A Gone Novel 11/104, The Magicians 12/104, Shiver 13/104

These are the first three books I read on my Kindle!

Hunger is the second book in the Gone series- I read the first book last month and liked it, and I enjoyed this one as well. It explained some of the mysteries put forth in the first book and like that book, it did not shy away from gruesomeness! In this book it’s been several months since all the adults have vanished from the town and the kids are now facing the fact that they are basically running out of food, as well as growing tensions between the normal kids and the ones with powers, and they must also fight the creepy glowing underground monster! Exciting stuff. This is planned to be a six-book series and the third is due this spring, yay!

I chose The Magicians after seeing it recommended over and over again in a general discussion community I’m a member of- I actually planned on buying it as a book before my birthday but held off just in case. I really liked this book. It was funny and sad and sick and tragic. The story takes you from Brooklyn to a school of magic then to Manhattan and through to the magical world of Fillory, where the characters embark upon a quest to try and inject meaning into their fairly meaningless lives and things basically go horribly awry. There is a sequel coming out in I think 2011 and I’m excited!

I got a pdf of Shiver from some random website and I thought it was pretty stupid. If I had to describe it I would say it’s kind of like Twilight except with only werewolves and no vampires. Plus a little sex. Also, if you were a werewolf whose transformation depended on the ambient temperature (warm= human, cold= wolf), and you were trying to cling to your humanity then WHYYYYYYYYYYY would you spend your winters in MINNESOTA? It drove me crazy the whole way through the book. Near the end it’s explained that spending winters in warmer places makes them super-sensitive to any temperature fluctuations, and just walking past the opened door of an air-conditioned building can trigger a transformation, but I’m pretty sure there are places that are both warm in winter and not cities filled with air-conditioning (parts of Mexico? idk). There is also a sequel coming out for this book this summer but I am NOT excited about it. I’ll probably read it anyway though, haha.

So, here we are six and a half weeks into 2010 and I’ve read 13 books, which puts me perfectly on pace with my goal of reading 104 books this year! I have no time for slacking though- I need to finish #14 before Friday!

One Room at a Time

For the past couple years I’ve been slowly painting and decorating my apartment, and as I finish it I’d like to share it with you, one room at a time.


As you can see from the floor plan, most of my apartment is one big “greatroom.” This is fantastic from a family child care perspective- less walls means more space for playing, and I can easily see what the kids are up to from almost anywhere! However, I didn’t really want to paint this huge space all one colour. That would have taken forever, and been totally BORING and just not me. I decided to divide it up into several distinct areas: the living room, the children’s living room, the library-slash-music room, and the dining room. First up is what I call the children’s living room.

Children's Living Room

There is only one wall in this “room,” which is painted in an eggshell Light Blue and a semi-gloss Pear Green (both by Benjamin Moore). I chose the semi-gloss for the “hills” because it’s more durable, and I chose those colours because they are one shade lighter than the Honolulu Blue dining room and two shades darker than the Celadon Green living room, both of which I’d already painted. I was going to make a mask to make painting the hills easier but I couldn’t figure out how to tape it to the wall efficiently so I ended up drawing the outline and just trying my best to colour in the lines!

Living Room/Children's Living Room GreensChildren's Living Room/Foyer/Dining Room Blues

I created the details for the mural by painting them on individual canvases and mounting them to the wall. This saved me the trouble of having the sit there on the floor for hours working on it, plus if I ever move I’ll be able to take them down and won’t have to sand the crap out of the wall! To make sure they are secure on the wall and can’t be pulled or knocked down by the kids, I screwed wooden blocks into the wall, snapped the canvases over them, and screwed the canvases to the blocks from the sides. I used five canvases altogether- two for the tree and one each for the others. I think I got all of them at various dollar stores.

Tree Painting

The tree was the biggest nightmare, partially because it took forever to paint and partially because when I went to put it up, I thought it would be easier if I screwed the two canvases together first and ended up jamming a screwdriver right through the painting. I had to come up with my own repair technique involving tissues, white glue and panic.

Mushroom Table & Beanbag Chairs

The child-size beanbag armchairs I bought at a store here called Urban Barn. The mushroom table I made from a piece of mdf and one of four nesting cubes I got at this weird florist-slash-tacky housewares store down near Davie and Granville. The cube was originally green-I painted it white and also painted the red and white table top and then liberally coated it with polyurethane.

Bird with Banner

The bird canvas was the last one I painted. I put Symphony’s name on it with mine because she helped paint the wall, and she also drew the original baby deer that inspired my whole design for this room.

Claire with Mushroom & Babby Deer Paintings

This third beanbag chair is actually Symphony’s, although Claire also enjoys it. It was a gift from Taylor’s Dad & his boyfriend for our wedding (I put it on our registry for her and it was so awesome I ended up buying the others). To the left is my mushroom painting and to the right is, of course, Symphony’s deer.

Last but not least is a project I just finished this morning: a tree bookcase!

Tree Bookcase w/Books

I used the last two nesting cubes (the fourth is packed away with my Christmas decorations- I use it to hide the tree base) and the pieces of wood I cut last week. After I sanded them I screwed them together, painted them with a raw sienna acrylic, drew wood-y lines with a black Sharpie and then did a second coat of the paint. The nesting cubes were actually already the perfect shade of green so I didn’t have to do anything extra to them.

Bookshelf Trunk & Branches

This morning I drilled holes in the cubes to screw the pieces of the “trunk” and “branches” to them. You can see I have a couple little brackets attaching the top cube to the wall and the back of the bottom cube sits on the baseboard. Now I have somewhere to store the kid’s books that is cute and easily accessible!

Happy It’s-Just-a-Regular Day!

I know it’s Valentine’s Day today, but Taylor and I didn’t do anything special to celebrate it. My birthday (with lots of gifts and cake and fancy dinner) was just over a week ago, and we’re kind of saving for our vacation next month. Plus, Taylor works tonight so it isn’t like we could really do much anyway. He’s actually already asleep! Last night we sort of celebrated buy drinking the bottle of pink champagne we didn’t drink on my birthday and watching The Notebook, which neither of us had ever seen. I knew what it was about and I have to say I was a little disappointed by it- I was expecting more crossing-of-paths-at-inconvenient-times for young Allie and Noah. I didn’t even cry! Okay I teared up a little, but that was it. Also, if you are interested, the pink champagne we had (Moët & Chandon Rosé Impérial) is the pinkest pink champagne I’ve ever had. It was like, SERIOUSLY pink.

Sun Over Wall Centre

It was gorgeously warm and sunny out today, the complete opposite of yesterday’s freezing cold rain.

Taylor at the Templeton

This morning for brunch we went to The Templeton on Granville St. We go there a lot for lunch and dinner (and white russians, if you’re Taylor) but never for brunch because it’s always super busy. Today, in spite of the Olympic crowds, we decided to risk it and in a crazy fit of serendipity some people we leaving just as we arrived!

Breakfast at The Templeton

Taylor had the mangled eggs (eggs, bacon & brie on a croissant) and I had the trucker’s breakfast (3 eggs, bacon, potatoes and toast). So yummy! After the restaurant did our own version of shopping together- he went to the comic book store while I went to Urban Outfitters, I went to H&M and he went to the video game store, then I snuck off to Holt Renfrew to look at designer bags and shoes and made him come meet me. At H&M I got some new clothes for Sym as a Valentine’s gift, and then went into the baby clothes section and seriously considered buying all these adorable onesies just in case. They had grey & white ones! Grey & white is like, my jam.

VAG on Georgia Street
I love love love this Michael Lin mural at the Vancouver Art Gallery!

After leaving the mall with no baby clothes or designer bags and shoes we headed back towards home through the crazy crowds at Robson Square, stopping to browse the art gallery gift shop and watch people on the zipline that goes from up by the courthouse to the gallery. The built it for the Olympics and it’s free, but the lineup is always like 3 hours long so I don’t think I’ll be doing it.


While we’ve been out this weekend we’ve heard tons of tourists talking about Japadog, this famous Japanese hotdog stand on Burrard & Smithe (there’s also a second location at Burrard & Pender and I just saw on their websire that thaty’re opening an actual restaurant on Robson Street). I’m not big on hotdogs but Taylor has eaten there before and it’s always pretty busy, but this weekend has been extra insane. The line at the Burrard & Smithe location was almost a block long!

When we got home we laid in bed reading (Taylor: comic books & World War Z, me: finished the second book on my Kindle & started the third!) for a while, then took Kichou for a walk to this French bakery on Davie where I bought these weird heart-shaped eclair-type pastries. The had tons of chocolate on top and chocolate cream inside, but the bottom half was full of unexpected blueberries! I’m not entirely sure it was a good choice.

Even though today was just a regular Sunday for us, I loved spending it with my wonderful husband ♥

Laser Beams and Cauldrons of Fire


This morning I had my fifth laser hair removal treatment on my underarms. I’ve been going for about 7 months, and let me tell you, it is AMAZING. I still have hair but it’s pale blonde, super-fine and grows really slowly. It used to be so coarse and fast-growing that even if I shaved in the morning I’d have enough stubble that night that if I went to the gym and ran on the treadmill my skin would get rubbed raw. So annoying! That definitely doesn’t happen anymore, and the technician today said two or three more sessions should finish it up completely.

Laser hair removal is pretty expensive, each underarm treatment costs over $100 for about 15 minutes of lasering (I’ve always bought packages with buy-2-get-1-free or 35% off if you buy 3) but for me it is SO worth it. My skin is too sensitive for anything like waxing or depilatory chemicals, and even shaving gives me a rash if I do it it too often. Eventually I’d like to get my legs done as well, although besides the cost there is a huge deterent: it really hurts!

During my consultation last summer the technician told me the pain was like having and elastic band snapped on your skin. I kind of agree, except in my experience the elastic band is made out of white hot metal and it’s over and over again. Ow! The pain does lessen with each visit- at first it was like a 7 but today it was more like a 5, and even a 3 in some areas. You can put numbing cream on beforehand but you have to wrap whatever body part that has the cream on in airtight plastic for two hours, which really isn’t convenient for my lifestyle choice of NOT being wrapped in plastic!

Now, of course last night was the Opening Ceremonies for the Winter Olympics, and if you follow me on twitter (you can add me if you like but it’s 99% links to this blog, haha) you’ll know how I felt about them because I inadvertently live-tweeted the whole thing (wine was also involved). As I put in my facebook status, “The Opening Ceremonies were the perfect combination id awesome, stupid and just total weird and random.” Then I commented “of not id wtf typing.” As I mentioned, wine was involved! Anyway I decided we should go down to see the Olympic Cauldron, but of course everyone else had the same idea and it was so busy! It’s pretty close to my house (only about eight blocks I think) so we’re going to go see it later this week.

The Cauldron!
The Olympic Cauldron! I think this thing is so unbelievably cool looking!

Symphony has a special hat.
Amazingly enough, I actually managed to get a smile out of Symphony by telling her that the Cauldron was her hat.

Taylor being weird with Sym
Hahaha I have no idea what Taylor is doing here, but I DO know that the second I got this shot lined up some dude with a GIANT umbrella stood right behind them to take his own picture and blocked the Cauldron! I know we Canadians are supposed to be a polite people but getting a picture of both Sym and Taylor NOT making a weird face is really rare so I immediately went and stood in front of the umbrella guy and made them do it again.

Handsome husband is handsome
My handsome husband ♥ He took pictures too, including ones of me, which I’ll add to this post once he gets home (he went to go pick up some computer parts he ordered a couple weeks ago). Until then though…

I was also there
I was also there! (If only in reflection form.)

Okay, here I am for real. For some reason I’m pointing at myself? And SYm looks like wacky inflatable arm flailing tube man in hr too-big coat, haha.

Tanie, Sym, Fire and FatGuy

Also, Taylor is finally able to take pictures of me where I DON’T look like a hideous mutant monster. Hooray!

Oh Wife

Pre-Valentine’s Day Love

In the last couple days I’ve gotten some truly amazing feedback from people about this blog, and it really made me feel great! I started this on kind of a whim with no real theme or direction, and the fact that I’ve helped or inspired or brightened someone’s day means a lot to me. And now they’ve brightened my day right back, which is the true power of stay posiness!

I just wanted to let you know that your stay posi stance (and blog about it) has changed my life. I just went through this bs with my own personal [friend with whom I had a spectacular falling out] and without following your lead somebody would have gotten cut. Please release some motivational VHS tapes, thank you.

tanie–you’re one of my favorites and i think it’s because i admire you. you, your family, your business, etc–all of it is just so nice and cute and seems amazing.

i just wanted to stop by and tell you that reading your blog always brightens my day so…..thank you! 🙂

Seriously, this is amazing! Thank you all and I just love you girls so much!!!


Post-Relay Recap Post

We almost missed it! We were watching the relay on tv so we could tell when the torch would be coming up Davie Street (I teared up a little when I saw Rolly Fox, Terry Fox‘s father, carrying it). By the time we actually left the house it was almost here- we were still half a block away from Davie on Bute when I saw the official vehicles and motorcycles cops start passing, and I was like RUN YOU GUYS!!! We got there LITERALLY one second before the runner reached the intersection! Taylor is really bummed because all his pictures ended up being totally blurry since he didn’t have time to focus properly, but I don’t care about that sort of thing (ALL my pictures are blurry) so here’s my shot:

Torch Relay

YAY!! It was like, 20 seconds of excitement, but basically I just love anything I can scream WHOOOOOOO! for.

Earlier, while I was waiting for Taylor and Sym to get home I took Kichou out to Nelson Park, and let me tell you it was BEAUTIFUL out there this morning. It was all puffy pink clouds and shining glass towers.

The view over Nelson Park
looking east over Nelson Park

I have to say, I really love living here in Vancouver. There’s a reason it’s always higher than any other North American city on list of the world’s most livable cities: because it’s amazing here. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else!

My Street
looking south from Nelson Park (I live in one of those houses!)

My Own Version of Olympic Fever

Good morning! I am up super early today because I had an anxiety dream about going to see the Olympic torch relay. Apparently, that is a thing that can happen if you spend your evening trying to coordinate plans for 8 am with a husband who works nights, a daughter who stays over at her dad’s and a client who usually comes at 8:05 but might be somewhat late because they are also going to see the relay. But I mean, how could we not go see it- it’s passing by just a block and a half from here!


I admit it, I am kind of a secret Winter Olympics dork. I remember in 1998 I was unemployed in February and my marginally employed boyfriend and I would stay in half the night watching live events from the Nagano Olympics and it was actually pretty awesome. I almost wish I’d bothered to try and get tickets to some events but oh well, I can just watch them on tv. Last night I finally pestered Taylor into hooking up the cable in the living room. I mean, we have cable, but a few months back my digital box died (it was way old) and since we never really watched tv we never bothered getting a new one. We’ve been paying for it all these months just for Symphony, really. Anyway he was loath to do it, like hook the cable DIRECTLY to our big fancy tv but I managed to wear him down.

One thing going on for the Olympics (it’s part of the Cultural Olympiad) that I am basically IN LOVE with is this amazing art installation, Vectorial Elevation. It’s a series of like, twenty huge searchlights beaming up into the sky down by the beach. I remember seeing and ~artist’s rendering~ of it on the front of the paper a while back and thinking to myself “WHAT, that is just stupid,” but it’s actually not! The lights are also interactive- you can go to and program in your own 12 second light display.


You can see the lights from the alley behind my house, and the first time I did I almost had a heart attack! I was taking out the trash and when I looked up there were these huge unexpected beams of light moving across the sky! It’s pretty cool watching them from up here but on Tuesday after Symphony’s piano lesson we all went down to the beach to see them up close.


The lights are on both sides of False Creek, on Sunset Beach and in Vanier Park


They are huge and eerily silent- you expect them to make noise as they swing around but they don’t. It’s a little creepy.


Symphony described it as like being inside a circus tent made of light She also said it was an awesome experience, before she got crabby because I wouldn’t give her candy. Kids.