Category Archives: Uncategorized

Adams Peanut Butter Shelves

Thanks to a healthy peanut butter addiction (I go through a kilogram every 2 weeks), I’ve been steadily acquiring large Adams peanut butter jars that are perfect for storing staples like beans, nuts, and flour. The only problem is our small kitchen doesn’t have enough storage space to fit them all.

Like her father

I’ve looked for shelving units online that would fit our jars but have never found any. Luckily my father is a talented carpenter (you can see his other work here) and I sent him the dimensions for the shelves I wanted – wide enough for 8 jars with a 1/2 inch lip around the edge to make sure the jars stay on.

New Shelves New Shelves New Shelves

Now we have extra space for 32 easily-accessible jars. They’re perfect for refilling at Nada, our local zero-waste grocery store.

New Shelves

Photoshoot with Rochelle Elise Photography

Courtesy of Rochelle Elise Photography
For Astrid’s 1st birthday, we decided it would be good to get some high quality shots of the whole family. Good photographers are in high demand in Vancouver, so it wasn’t until August that we were able to schedule a photoshoot with Rochelle Elise, who does amazing work with families.

We really enjoyed working with Rochelle. It was challenging finding a time where the lighting would be good (Rochelle prefers to shoot at dawn and dusk), Astrid would be awake and in a good mood, and the weather would cooperate. The day of our photoshoot, it rained in the morning and cleared out the forest fire smoke that had been overshadowing Vancouver for weeks. We lucked out.

Here are some of our favourite shots that Rochelle captured (all images are courtesy of Rochelle Elise Photography).

Courtesy of Rochelle Elise Photography

Courtesy of Rochelle Elise Photography

Courtesy of Rochelle Elise Photography

Courtesy of Rochelle Elise Photography

Courtesy of Rochelle Elise Photography

Courtesy of Rochelle Elise Photography

Courtesy of Rochelle Elise Photography

Courtesy of Rochelle Elise Photography

Courtesy of Rochelle Elise Photography

Courtesy of Rochelle Elise Photography

Courtesy of Rochelle Elise Photography

Welfare Food Challenge Recap

Dahl and Chapatis
I survived the Welfare Food Challenge, but I’m happy its over. A week living on $1 meals was possible but draining. It took a lot of time to prepare our food and the meals weren’t nutritionally complete.

After realizing mid-challenge that we were lacking fat, I used some of our remaining budget to buy a jar of peanut butter. It was a real life safer and mood booster, but that might be because peanut butter is my ultimate comfort food.

Welfare Food Challenge LeftoversTotal money spent: $40.65.

At the end of the week, we still have lots of rice, beans, and flour left. We also have half a bag of carrots and half a bag of potatoes. The fresh vegetables are long gone. We obviously could have planned a better.

In many ways our ‘welfare’ experience was atypical. We planned ahead, focused on nutrition, spent long hours cooking, and used our well-stocked kitchen (with a stove and blender) to our advantage – which would haven been difficult/impossible if we were living in an SRO. The experience was a good opportunity to think about the level of social assistance we expect our government to provide and spark conversations with our friends and co-workers about welfare rates.

The most shocking thing I learned about welfare rates during this challenge is that couples on welfare receive 30% less than two individuals (couples get $877.22 while singles get $610). The biggest reason we were able to survive this challenge was because we did it as a couple. We were able to bulk buy, share cooking responsibilities, and lean on each other for support. And yet the government penalizes couples on welfare to the point that it removes all advantages. It’s no wonder that 81% of welfare recipients are singles, and only 3% are couples with no children.

This challenge also taught me that it is possible to eat simpler and save loads of money by making your own soups, baking bread, and avoiding canned beans. That is something I hope to continue with post-challenge. But I also want to be able to spend money on good food and eat out on occasion. I celebrated the end of the challenge by eating a nutritious, raw-food lunch at Gorilla Food and having a vegan donut for dessert. My lunch cost $20, almost as much as I spent on the previous 21 meals, but it was worth it.

Emily and I normally spend $270 weekly on food. While we were on the welfare challenge, we only spent $40.65. We decided to donate the difference to the Collingwood Neighbourhood House because we know they have an excellent food and nutrition program.

If you want to see changes to the welfare rates in BC, I encourage you to contact your MLA and sign this petition.

Leftover Soup Bread and PB Making Chapatis

J’adore Montréal – Top 10 Reasons

There are so many things to love about Montreal

  1. Awesome vegan restaurants
    Lola Rosa Nachos
  2. Separated bike lanes and BIXI
    Bike Lanes at Dusk
  3. Pedestrian streets
    Pedestrian Street
  4. Festivals
    Just for Laughs
  5. Patios
    My favourite parts of Montreal
  6. Complete bilingualism – including Shakespeare in the Park
    Shakespeare in the Park
  7. Parklets and street reclaiming
    Montreal Parket
  8. Public markets like Jean Talon
    Jean Talon Market
  9. Old buildings and Old Montreal
    Old Montreal's Pedestrian Zone
  10. Apartments with staircases
    Montreal Staircases

Canada Post Parcel Locker

Canada Post Parcel Locker Canada Post Parcel Locker Instructions
How cool is this? As of today, my building has a Canada Post parcel locker in the lobby. No more trekking up the hill to the post office to pick up parcels during business hours. Now, I can pick up my parcel at any hour and in my pyjamas. Conveniently, I’m waiting on a parcel right now. Hopefully it was shipped using Canada Post.

The timing sure is interesting. Yes, it is right before Christmas, which is convenient for most folks. But it is also a few days after Google acquired Waterloo startup Bufferbox, which offers a competing service in Ontario. It’s tough to compete with free if Canada Post is rolling this out widely.

Cleanweb Hackathon – Epic Energy III

Hacking Away
On Saturday I participated in my first hackathon – the Vancouver Cleanweb Hackathon. It was a 12-hour coding marathon, or at least it was for our team from Pulse Energy. While most participants spent the first 2 hours brainstorming, pitching ideas, and recruiting team members, we locked ourselves in a board room and started coding with barely any breaks for eating or peeing. We weren’t necessarily serious or competitive. We just had an ambitious plan and only 12 hours to make it work, so there was no time for socializing.

Earlier in the week, we spent two lunches brainstorming about ideas and planning how we would build our favourite idea, a building manager sim game. We knew we were in over our heads, but we hoped the extra prep work would make up for our lack of game development experience.

Below you can see the evolution of our game as we slowly added functionality, content, and graphics. I’m impressed with how polished it looked after only 12 hours. A lot of the credit goes to our graphic designer, Tyler.

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Our biggest challenges were making the game realistic (we used real data as much as possible), fitting in all the functionality we wanted (sadly, a lot of cool features got cut), and hardest of all, keeping it fun. At 6 pm, with 2 hours left, we stopped coding and did a play-through of our game and realized it was horribly boring. At that point, we stopped adding new features and prioritized fun. We added quirky comments from grumpy tenants, a scoring system, a tweet button, and animations to make it seem more like a game and less like a budgeting exercise.

I encourage everyone to check out and play Epic Energy III, and tweet your high score. The goal is to save as much energy as possible while keeping your tenants happy (which should be explained on an intro screen, but that feature got cut). So far, my best score is 20,308. If you’re interested in the code, you can see all the commits on GitHub. Don’t worry, even if you can read the code, it’s not obvious what the best strategy is to get a high score.

We’re still planning on making some improvements to the game in the coming weeks even though the Hackathon is over. It’s good marketing for Pulse Energy and fun to work on.
Continue reading Cleanweb Hackathon – Epic Energy III

Fighting for the Iron Throne

A Game of Thrones is one of my new favourite board games. I played two quick games last night, and I’m hooked. (And by quick, I mean they only lasted 90 minutes instead of the expected 3 hours.)

Now this game isn’t for everyone, you have to enjoy deep strategy games and knowing the difference between a Lannister and Stark definitely adds to the experience. Once you figure out all the rules (warning: there’s a lot), the game play is lots of fun.

A Game of Thrones reminds me of Diplomacy (especially being able to support other players in battle), but doesn’t suffer from the grinding paralysis that every game of Diplomacy I’ve played devolves into. All of the games elements – alliances, secret orders, leaders with special powers, warfare, and power and influence tracks – really complement each other well and create a complex, but extremely fun experience.

I did well in both games we played, as House Greyjoy in a 4-player match and Baratheon in a 3-player game. Ultimately I lost to rapidly advancing opponents from Baratheon and Stark. I can’t wait to play again in a full 6-player match, and see what House Tyrell and Martell have to offer.

The only game play problems we ran into was it was too easy for Baratheon to take over neutral territories in the 3-player game. And in both games, the uneven distribution of Muster and Supply cards screwed us over (all mustering in the first game and none in the second).

New Toys

New Toys
It’s time to nerd out with some new toys. I picked up a Kobo Touch e-reader from Chapters and a Samsung Galaxy Nexus cellphone from Wind Mobile. I’m really impressed with both.

The Kobo is my first e-reader. I decided on the Kobo over the Kindle because it supports library e-books. The e-ink is easy screen is easy to read and the battery life is awesome. I thought about getting a colour one, but it felt like a cheap iPad, and Emily already has the real deal.

I needed a new cellphone – the screen on my old phone would routinely stop responding, making it impossible to use. So I decided to upgrade to the fanciest phone on the market. It’s a little too much for what I need, but I hope it will last a few years. Since it’s a Google branded phone, I’ll get the latest OS upgrades. And the Android 4.0 operating system has some nifty features – like the data monitor and voice commands. Plus it has a good camera, which I’ve already taken advantage of.
Vancouver food carts on a sunny day Trout Lake Farmers Market Farmers Market and Tool Depot bike trip

Our Perfect Wedding

Rocky Mountain Bride & Groom
The toughest question for any recently engaged couple is Who do we invite to our wedding? When Emily and I decided to get married last fall (it was a mutual decision, sorry no YouTube engagement video), we knew we didn’t want a huge wedding (with the logistics of guests spread out all over North America) and we didn’t want to elope (stress-free but not much of a celebration). We wanted a small wedding, and that didn’t mean under 100 people.

Our perfect wedding was an intimate weekend with 18 guests in the Rocky Mountains, complete with snowshoeing, board games, and hot springs. Because we kept it small, it was relatively stress-free to plan and we had more time to spend with our family and friends. One of the main reason we decided to get married was to give our families an opportunity to spend time with each other. Emily and I dated for over 5 years, but before the wedding our parents had never met each other.

After the wedding, we had a bigger party in Vancouver to celebrate with our friends. We also made promises to our extended families that we would visit Toronto this summer and Winnipeg for Christmas. I know my aunts have been saving up embarrassing stories of me, and I feel bad for denying them the opportunity to share them at my wedding.

Weekend in Banff
Wedding Guests go Snowshoeing
We chose Banff as our wedding destination because it has great natural beauty, it was somewhere Emily and I wanted to visit anyway, and it is relatively easy to get to – or so we thought. Emily and I almost didn’t make it because of the ongoing labour dispute at Air Canada. We woke up on Saturday morning, and were about to leave for the airport when we found out our flight was cancelled. The situation was nerve-racking and comical, and everything worked out in the end. We had to shuffle the car rentals around, and rush to pick up our marriage license, but we arrived in Banff 4 hours late to find our families hanging out in the condo, drinking wine, and getting along splendidly. Any anxiety we had about them not getting along was quickly dispelled.

The wedding wasn’t until Monday afternoon, so we had a few days to spend with our friends and family before. We booked two multi-bedroom condos at the Inns of Banff, so we had a large living room to hang out in and a kitchen to cook meals in. The Moms cooked two fabulous dinners for us – no small feat considering how many vegans, celiacs, and food sensitivities there were in our small group.
Visiting at Condo

We spent most of Sunday ice walking and snowshoeing in the Banff National Park. In the morning, we hiked up the frozen Johnston Canyon. Then after a hearty lunch in Lake Louise, we snowshoed the Lakeshore trail. The two hikes were reasonably flat, but still a light workout. Not everyone made it for both, but I think most people enjoyed themselves. I was happy to get out into the fresh air and introduce snowshoeing to some of our city slicker friends from Toronto and New York.
Lake Louise Snowshoers jump for joy
Continue reading Our Perfect Wedding