Monday, October 10, 2016

Pumpkin Season!

Our weekend effectively began on Friday, with my wife arising at 3:30 in the morning to fly back home to us from Maryland. Elij and I picked her up about 10:30 and we stopped for brunch at the Moonlight Diner. The view of the snow-capped mountains was lovely! Our food was very good. Jeannene chose banana walnut pancakes and I opted for a traditional fried egg/hash brown/sausage/toast combo, which was great, while Elijah enjoyed scrambled eggs and bites of our meals. The diner itself was fun, with all kinds of Halloween decorations to add a little seasonal fun to the vintage soda shop type decorations all around us.

From there, we stopped by her office and a couple other places for a brief time before heading home. When we got home, we hung out and watched some t.v. and played with Elijah's new blocks, his souvenir from Maryland. I love them---traditional wood blocks with uppercase & lowercase letters, sign language, numbers, and pictures of things starting with those letters.

By the time dinnertime rolled around, neither of us felt like cooking or going back out, but we figured going out would be the easiest. Jeannene expressed a preference for something Asian, with tofu. I started checking out what's available---and available for delivery---and discovered that one of the local Vietnamese places delivers. So, we got scrumptious noodle dishes and some really great hot & sour soup and Vietnamese pork egg rolls. We were in bed by 9 or so.

Saturday morning, I woke up hungry for pumpkin bread and hot apple cider. I decided to make a loaf of bread, along with the chocolate bark I was going to make to take to our neighbor's house. We'd been invited to dinner and wanted to contribute something. However, we ended up deciding it'd be fun to go to a pumpkin patch and scrapped the bark idea, as it entailed a trip to the grocery. I quietly hoped the pumpkin patch would also have pumpkin bread.

We headed out to Rock Creek Farm and had a really good time checking out the pumpkins in one of their fields. Elijah wasn't too sure about the whole thing. He tends to get very, very serious when in new circumstances and it was certainly different to be on a farm! He was really interested, however, in the pumpkins and, especially, the vines. We got some cute pictures, too. We chose two pumpkins and headed to the area with booths to pay---and see what kinds of baked goods they had. Elij got to sit on some hay bales and have more pictures taken while he played with a gourd. He was fascinated by the shape. I picked a caramel apple, a loaf of pumpkin bread for our hostess, and a fabulous pumpkin bar with cream cheese icing and festive sprinkles. Jeannene opted for a couple of jack o'lantern cookies---one to share with Elijah and one to take home. Lunch was a concession stand hot dog and some of the best spiced hot apple cider I've had in years.

We walked around, enjoying looking at the activities for bigger kids. We met another little boy named Elijah, also 11 months, who adorable, with light caramel skin and ridiculously long eyelashes. We had a nice chat with his folks at the pig pen before moving on to let Elijah get cow snot on his hands. After strolling around some more, we headed for Michael's with our trunk full of farm loot.

It turned out they were having a huge "doorbuster" sale at Michael's and we got a fun trick or treat wreath, a bunch of craft supplies, and a cool birdcage. Then, we had to rush home and get ready to go next door for dinner. Gloria is the neighbor who showed up with a loaf of zucchini bread when we first moved into the house. It was so lovely to be invited to dinner. Gloria had expressed concern that Elijah might be afraid of the Halloween decorations in her house, but he was actually enchanted by the hanging witches and glowing ghosties. Me, I loved the murder of paper crows parading up her staircase. Jeannene and I were both really impressed with the beautiful murals she'd had painted, as well.

We started the evening with drinks outside. One of the men was a baby whisperer and took a great liking to Elijah, who spent much of the evening exploring the yard and house with him and playing. Gloria also very graciously offered him a seat in her grandkids' exersaucer, which he completely loved. After a meal of baked ziti, salad, and garlic bread, we all sat and talked for a long time over dessert. We got home at 10:30 and went right to bed.

In the morning, Jeannene got up early to greet the guy who built our custom baby gates. He'd asked if he could install them at 8 Sunday morning, which seemed like a weird hour to me. We're usually either asleep or getting ready for church then. But, we'd been waiting for the gates for awhile and definitely needed them, as Elijah has become incredibly proficient at stair-climbing and is sad when a mom isn't available to chaperone his upward trips. The guy and his cousin didn't arrive until almost 10, which was frustrating. We'd hoped to get the gates installed quickly and check out one of the area churches. Ah, well, we definitely needed them. Shortly after lunch, Jeannene took a nap while Elijah and I unpacked boxes. When he was ready for his nap, I settled him in on me and watched "Cujo" while he dozed. Jeannene joined me for the last part of it.

After that, we headed into Denver and picked up my cousin Lisa's husband, Alan, for dinner. He's in town for a work trip and we were excited finally to meet him! He turned out to be really nice---I would expect nothing less of Lisa's choice for a life partner---and we had a great time talking with him over pizza, calzone, & salad at The Mellow Mushroom.

When we got home, it was time to program the coffee and head to bed, another weekend in the books, another debate avoided.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Vancouver and Butterflies

Among the food plants my wife oversees, one is in Vancouver. I spent a week in Toronto every summer of my teen years, visiting friends, and I've been to Niagara Falls a number of times. When I was tiny, I suspect I went other places in Ontario. I had never, however, been to Vancouver. Many of her business trips are short bursts of 2-3 days, not worth the extra money for me to tag along. However, last week, she was due there for an entire week. So, our Elijah's first international trip turned out to be to Canada. He's a great traveler and continued to be for this trip.

Jeannene went in very early on Monday and was done early, so we got to go poke around Granville Island's Children's Market (where we picked up a Good Night, World board book illustrated with Pacific Northwest First Nations art and a cute pair of high tops featuring the British flag for our boy) and the Granville Island Public Market (where we scored scrumptious maple yummies, a fab vanilla macaron, brie de meaux & 9-year cloth-wrapped cheddar, wonderful bread, and fragrant local strawberries). We also stopped in some neat shops, including DragonSpace, where I saw scores of fairies I wanted to take home. I did get a coloring book, a gorgeous pendant of silver and rainbow moonstone, and a wee dragon for Elij's Enchanted Forest room. We also got to spend time on the quay, eating meat pies and listening to a street performer's renditions of James Taylor songs, among other singer-songwriter type music. He was quite good. Supper was across the street from the Westin, at the Boathouse, where we had some quite good seafood and, more importantly, the best Pimm's Cup I've encountered.

Tuesday, Jeannene had the car for work, so Elijah and I just hung out in the hotel room, playing and resting---and eating too much room service! We had the car Tuesday evening, but I didn't feel like venturing out at night in a city I don't know at all with a baby.

Wednesday, we did get out, driving down to the Gastown tourist district. However, upon arriving in the area, I looked around and determined that it didn't look like much that would be interesting at midday for a 10-month-old. He had fallen asleep, anyway, so it was better not to rouse him for nothing. So, I turned around and drove back to Richmond, where we were staying. By the time we arrived, he was awake. So, we had lunch at Dinesty Dumpling House. I'd been wanting to try soup dumplings and theirs turned out to be excellent! Elij was not as big a fan. I was happy to see spicy green beans with pork on the menu. That's one of my favorites. However, I was concerned that it might be too hot for him, so I asked the waitress. She shook her head and said, "Oh, no! Too hot, for sure, for him!" So, I also ordered rice noodles with pork and veggies, which turned out to be good, if bland. Elijah enjoyed eating the noodles, but his favorite thing was, if you can believe it, the green beans! He was looking at them so longingly that I decided to suck all the sauce and chile flecks from one and let him try. It didn't seem particularly spicy to me---and I am a spice wuss---so I thought it would be fine to let him try. He ate a bunch of them with great gusto and no ill effects! For dessert, we nommed on some red bean paste buns. I love me some red bean paste. Elijah was impressed, as well. 

For dinner that night, we tried to go to Espana for tapas. However, it was slammed and tiny. Luckily, I'd read good Chowhound reviews of Banana Leaf, just down the street and they had a table for us. We had roti with coconut curry sauce and excellent chicken satay with less-excellent, but still yummy sauce. I was not a fan of the roti, as it was a bit too sweet for me and I wanted it to have condensed milk on it if it was going to be sweet, but Jeannene and the boy were. I ate too much chicken to be very hungry for the pork side ribs I ordered, but the small portion I ate was good and the jasmine rice was perfect. Jeannene's rending beef curry, with coconut rice, was just right, as well. Okay, I need to be perfectly honest here. I could cheerfully have eaten my pork, had I not been intent on saving room for mango sticky rice. Am I ever glad I did, too! It was completely delectable. The mango was perfectly ripe. Oh, man. Elij adored it, too. We all three did. He'd had parts of both our dinners, but this was his fave, for sure. That boy is a huge mango fan. 

Thursday, Bear and I went exploring the Kitsilano neighborhood while Jeannene worked. We stopped in for lunch at Nelly's Grill, where the waitress was so very kind. She even offered to bring some blocks or other toys for Elijah. He was perfectly happy just eating, though. He had pancakes for the first time ever, fluffy silver dollar ones shaped like Mickey's head and bursting with plump blueberries. I had an omelet full of delicious meats & veggies. I did not take my sweetie boy to the beach there, even though I am dying to introduce him to the ocean. I want Jeannene to be there for his first time. I'd also like it to be in warmer climes so he can put his wee toes in!

Thursday evening, we planned to have dinner at Thierry Chocolaterie, Patisserie, and Cafe. We found parking right across the street, a table indoors, and everything. Sadly, they were out of sandwiches and savories. Deciding not to allow that to put a damper on things, I suggested we simply eat dessert first. So, we did---and it was great. Jeannene had a shortbread cookie with a coconut liquid chocolate. I had a glorious palmier with Basque chile liquid chocolate. Elij had a vanilla macaron---well, a great deal of one. His moms did pinch off a piece or two. Then, we ventured out into the streets to find dinner. 

We ended up at Pacifico Pizza, after considering and rejecting a number of other places. As soon as we walked in, we were swarmed by women who worked there, exclaiming over the baby. That was really sweet, but what really made an impression was the way it smelled in there! I knew immediately that our pizza would be stellar---and it was. We had terrific service and dinner was so, so good. We shared a pizza that was half margherita and half capriccios, with Genoa salami, ham, artichoke hearts, mushrooms, and olives. The toppings were high quality and the crust was thin and chewy and delicious. 

Jeannene's conference was over Thursday, so we were able to enjoy one more day touring the city as a family. The event planner (me) had Stanley Park and the Vancouver Aquarium on the agenda. We ended up buying a membership at the Aquarium before we even walked in, since Jeannene's going to be spending a decent amount of time in the city. Elijah and I will be back, as well. We had a bite to eat before exploring. Elij really dug the black bean burger! He was less keen on the sea lions, once we started looking about the aquarium. I think the crazy roaring sort of noises made him nervous. He was, however, interested in the dolphin show. I think Jeannene's and my very favorite thing to see was the belugas. It was a great time! In the gift shop, we found an adorable sloth onesie for Elijah, a red jacket for Jeannene, and a pewter necklace and earrings with a First Nations artist's depiction of Raven on them for me. 

After the aquarium, we took a horse-drawn trolley tour of the park, with a stop at the totem poles (which were fascinating---each had a sign explaining the history and meaning) and a drop-off a lovely stroll through the woods from our car. We set our GPS for The Tomahawk Barbecue, assuming all the park's restaurants closed at 5. However, I decided, on a whim, to follow the "restaurants" sign further into the park, rather than the GPS' preferred road. It was a great whim to follow, as we ended up having a wonderful dinner (a shared cheese plate and roasted chickpeas as an appetizer, halibut for Jeannene, beef tenderloin for me, and a beautiful chocolate mascarpone cake with an almond wafer crust---some of everything for Elij, whose favorite was, by far, the chickpeas) at The Teahouse in Stanley Park, right by the water. Lovely service, cozy atmosphere. We'll definitely go back. 

Saturday, we flew home. I'd been spoiled by our not getting to sit together on the way there---affording me the opportunity for a nap and several chapters of my book, while Jeannene kept our wee boy entertained. I assumed I would be entertaining him on the way home, but he surprised us and slept almost the whole way, after looking out the window with great interest for awhile. We were also surprised not to have anyone else in our row! What bliss, in this age of consistently overbooked flights!

Jeannene very energetically made us supper Saturday night. I'd assumed we'd just grab something on the way home from the airport, but she made us country-fried steak with white gravy, mashed potatoes, and corn. A homey dinner for our first night home. 

Sunday, she had to work for several hours from home, so I hung out with the boy quite happily. At 2:30, though, she said she was ready to go on our B alphabet date, if we had time. We did, indeed. We spent the rest of the afternoon checking out Butterfly Pavilion. I've started a blog just for our alphabet dates, so you can read more about that at After our date, we came home and I made a pot of chili, corn muffins, and apple slices to dip in caramel.