Monday, December 30, 2013

Christmas, Board Games and My Re-Love of Hot Yoga

It's been a busy couple of weeks around here so here is a late "Merry Christmas" and an early "Happy New Year" to everyone out there :)

I went to Vancouver on Christmas Eve to spend time with my sister, niece and brother-in-law who are living over there while my niece is getting her treatment at BC Children's hospital. Even though it was not the usual Christmas that our family is used to, it was still a wonderful visit and I am very happy that I got to see them and see my niece open her presents. Unfortunately I had to leave on Christmas day since I had to work Boxing day, but that was alright. It was worth it.

Like I said, I've been keeping busy which has been highly enjoyable! I have to take a couple courses next semester which means that I get to become a whining procrastinating student again, but I only have 4 courses left before I am done this program and then I am free! Free! Free!!! The past few months, living as only an employee and not a student has been great, so I am not looking forward to cracking open those textbooks and putting my nose to the grindstone again. But like I said. Just 4 more courses to go.

723 Yates Street
 Just in case you want to drop in.
Saturday night I was promised a "fun night" by a friend, and I was pleasantly surprised to end up in a new board-game cafe downtown. It's called Interactivity Board Game Cafe and it's a quirky little cafe which specializes in board games! When you walk into the cafe, there are hundreds of board games stacked upon the shelves for the board game shoppers of Victoria to purchase. As you move on through the cafe, there is the sales counter where you can buy food, snacks, beverages and literally a "bowl of candy" for your munching needs. Then past that, there are about a dozen large tables set up and roughly 600 games for your playing pleasure. Basically how it works is you pay a flat rate for each person ($5/person) and you have unlimited access to all of the board games for as long as you want. Whether it's a charming evening for a couple to have a date, or a place to bring all of your friends for a random game night, there's something for everyone at this place.

I think it is a pleasing business concept and I am very interested in how successful it becomes. It's only been open for about 2 months now and after talking to one of the employees, it sounded like they were having good feedback so far. I can think of lots of pros and cons to the idea, so hopefully all of the cons disappear that they have a lot of success in their fun business endeavor. I'm always rooting for the independent business owners out there!

Yesterday morning started with a nice hike up Mt. Work. It's a fairly easy hike and if you stop to enjoy the scenery at the top for a few minutes, it only take a little over an hour round-trip. A nice Sunday morning hike. I didn't bring my camera so I have no pics to share of the trail but there was 1 or 2 magnificent views near the top.

I also got back to hot yoga yesterday :) I am ashamed to say that it has been nearly a year and a half since I stepped into a hot yoga studio and...oh man. I nearly forgot how amazing it feels to spend 90 minutes in a stupidly hot room and have obscenely amounts of sweat run off your body while standing in awkward positions with a bunch of nearly naked strangers. It felt great to get back in there. While I am not a huge fan of the Bikram Yoga, it was still good to get back in there and enjoy the amazingness of hot yoga (yes "amazingness" is a real word....)

So after burning several hundred calories in yoga, there is no place like Bin 4 to gain a couple thousand back into the body. I have been jonesin' for a good burger the past couple of days and wanted to hit The Pink Bicycle, but alas, it is closed on Sundays. So Bin 4 provided us with the greasy comeback needed after a great workout. I have eaten there a few times now and I swear that every burger I have at that place is better than the last. Between the "Mr. Bean" and the "Angry Bull", you just can't go wrong with Bin 4.

Well, back to work tomorrow. The last working day of the year! YAY!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Warm Gooshy Christmas Feelings (and Biscotti)

I've had a rough time getting into the Christmas spirit this year. Maybe it's the lack of snow or the fact that I got the awesome surprise of having to dish out nearly $1000 to fix my car the other day. Mostly my holiday blahs stems from the realization that my family is in a weird mental state this year because my niece being sick and she has to live in Vancouver for the next few months for treatment. We're all kind of scattered around the province this year for the holidays and I suppose it has kind of thrown me off kilter. The out-pour of love and support from the community directed towards my family has been truly overwhelming and I know that I should be feeling joyous and wrapped in warm gooshy feelings of uplifting holiday spirit...but it's been difficult!

I will admit though that the giggly Christmas mood has been creeping in the past couple of days, which has been a tremendous relief! I was afraid that the holidays were going to sweep on by without infiltrating my apathetic state of mind. The other day while doing random tasks around the house, I put on The Nightmare Before Christmas and A Muppet Christmas Carol (which always makes me giggle like a kid). Those were the first to crack my shell. Then I decided to start my gifts for my coworkers, so I got to work baking a couple batches of biscotti (orange chocolate crystallized ginger biscotti which rock my world) and watched The Holiday while I baked. That definitely made the shell splinter open.

Today I even was humming Christmas carols which was definitely a sign that my soul has not charred up and flaked away.

And just now, I put on John Denver's Rocky Mountain Christmas album. Yep. Christmas can officially start now. This album is so what I needed to break into the Christmas spirit! I am having a personal revelation at this very moment. Aren't you so lucky to get to share it with me?

I am planning to spend Christmas with my niece, sister and brother-in-law which will be awesome. Spending Christmas with a 5 year old (or any child who still has that innocence of the holidays) is always the absolute best way to spend December 25th. The magic of watching them open their gifts, especially ones from the magical Santa Claus, is just the best. Unfortunately I only have the 24th and 25th off from work so it will be a super quick trip. Had I known in advance that I would be in Vancouver for those days then I would have taken an extra day or 2 to spend with my family, but I guess I'll just have to take what I can get and enjoy my time with them to the fullest extent possible.

Because my biscotti turned out so frickin delicious, I decided to put up the recipe for your enjoyment! Just like previous recipes on this site, this recipe was kind of created by looking at several biscotti recipe examples and I just created one recipe based on what I saw and the ingredients that I wanted to use. But they are delicious so I highly recommend making them.

Orange Chocolate Crystallized Ginger Biscotti 
- 1/4 cup butter, salted butter (room temperature)
- 3/4 cup white sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp grated and minced orange peel
- 2 1/4 cups unbleached white flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- pinch of salt
- 1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until well blended. Add the eggs, vanilla and orange peel and beat until combined. In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Pour the flour mixture into the butter mixture, toss in the chocolate chips and ginger and stir until the mixture just comes together.

Oh yeah, and preheat your oven to 350 degrees with the oven rack at the very top.

Can you tell I'm writing this out purely from memory?

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Pour the dough onto the counter and roll into a log (about 14 inches long and 5 inches wide).  Lift onto the baking sheet and flatten out the log to about 1 1/2 inches thick. It does not need to look perfect. Perfect is boring.

Biscotti Trick! When your log is all flattened out and on the baking sheet, make indents on both sides of the log so that the ends cave inwards (like a finger trap). This is an awesome trick because when the dough bakes, it will not expand outwa
rds so much and there will be less waste when you go to cut the logs later. 

Alright, back to the recipe. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until the top of the dough is just starting to brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 2 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees. Lift the log onto a cutting board and slice into 3/4 - 1 inch slices. Put the cookies back onto the baking sheet and lay them on their side. Bake for 8 minutes, flip each cookie to the other side and bake another 8 minutes. Remove from the oven, turn off the oven and wait about 10 minutes. Once the oven has cooled down a bit, place them back in the oven and leave in the cooled oven overnight. This will allow them to dry out perfectly.

Store in an airtight container and enjoy at your leisure!

My homemade gifts for the lovely ladies at work.
Luckily (hopefully) none of them read this site.