Dragon Boats

After an experince with Andrew's heritage at the Scandinavian Mid Summer Festival we decided to have a quick stop to experience something with my heritage - the Dragon Boat Fesival. I was pretty tired by this point so we just watched a couple of races and walked around before heading home.

Glad Sommer

My crazy odd obession with Sweden resurfaced and it was perfect timing because last week was Mid Summer! It was a gorgeous Saturday and we headed to the Scandinavian Community Centre for their Mid Summer Festival. I had hoped for more authentic Mid Summer food to try yet it was by far the closest I can get to celebrating Mid Summer again without flying half way around the world. There were tents set up with all the Scandinavian countries representing. And what's a Mid Summer without the maypole. I wanted to dance around it but felt it would be a little odd if I was the only one participating and not knowing what songs to sing.
The troll garden. I'm not sure how this ties into Mid Summer but it was hilarious and the kids loved it.

The Viking Village was the best part, complete with sword fighting. They even had a box of Kuub. I should whip out my box of Kuub some time this summer and give it the attention it deserves. Afterall, I did mail order all those blocks of wood all the way from Sweden.

Glad Sommer! Until Next year.

Dining Out: Guu Garden

It was Hubby's birthday and out of all the places he could have picked to go to dinner in this fantastic food town he chose Guu Garden. We don't go to Guu all the time but enough to say that we eat at Guu more than any other dining establishments. We had never been to Guu Garden, it is the newest baby in the Guu family and supposed to have a garden as the name suggests so perhaps it would be more serene than all of the others - fit for a nice casual birthday dinner.
To ensure further serenity we decided to skip the reservation of a mid-evening sitting and go early so there's less people, which means less of the friendly-yelled-on-top-of-lung Japanese greetings from the staff whenever a patron enters or departs. The place was a third full when we arrived close to 6pm and what a nice change it was to have Guu wait staff just standing around looking for stuff to do. The interior decor was definitely more serene that the others and I swear the seat cushions made of Japaneses fabric on all the white moulded fibreglass Eames chairs are from Daiso. Along with the bar they also have a section with tatami seating if you are looking for a more authentic experience.
We did Mix and Match drinks, I ordered a grapefruit + tonic water and Hubby went for his staple Japanese novelty beverage, Ramune. It's not really about the drink but all about the bottle. The beverage comes in a Codd-neck bottle which uses a marble as a seal. To open it you have to pust the marble into the bottle. It's fun and different yet I don't think it was any more fun and different than my drink. Grapefruit + tonic water sounds regularly innocent enough but what was brought to me was a little glass vessel of tonic water and an actual grapefruit cut in half with a juicer. What? I have to squeeze my own grapefruit juice? It was messy but at least I know it's fresh! Plus I got to ingested one whole serving of fruit. Yay me.
Since a good portion of the menu was populated with Oden dishes we opted to try a couple. We had the Mochi Tofu Bag Kanto-daki in a light broth and Dikon Raddish Miso-oden, in a dark miso broth. The Mochi Tofu bag was interesting, it was stuffed with sticky gooey mochi inside and was fun to eat. The Dikon Raddish was good too.

Confession: I really really wanted some sashimi so in my unscientific theoretical defence that Japanese women in Japan probably eat some form of sashimi while they are pregnant I gladly ordered up some Yellowtail Sashimi. Nothing special here, just strait up good fatty raw fish. And I absolutely love Shiso leaves (Perilla). That's the green leaf behind the sashimi. Most places serve sashimi with the aweful plastic green things that look like a kid's rendition of what grass should look like. But when it's a real Shiso leaf, please put it in your mouth. It's a refreshingly flavourful herb from the mint family.
Cream Korokke with Bisque Moouse was just about the most surprising thing on our roster that night. We had no idea what to expect when we ordered it. The korokke was stuffed with a thick cream and sweet corn kernels. I felt like I was eating someone else's childhood memory - deep fried creamed corn. It would have been even more awesome if the korokkes were smaller so you can pop the whole thing in your mouth and let the filling explode on your tongue instead of on the plate.
We just had to order the Ebi-mayo since it's a favourite staple of any Guu meal. It's battered and deep fried shrimp served with mayo, what's not to like? It was not as crunchy as I would have preferred and the batter was a little thick. But the hot sauce drizzled on the plate was a good idea because we can adjust our own ebi-mayo spiciness level when dipping.
Mayo grilled Miso marinated Black Cod is by far one of my favourite things to eat at Japanese places. It's actually quite easy to recreate at home, I found Morimoto's recipe online. But it's always better when you don't have to do it yourself, right? This was very tasty, especially the belly part with the crunchy fatty skin bit, it is the best morsel of the fish. Although I feel they could have marinated it for longer to let the miso penetrate the fish. Morimoto's recipe suggest marinating the fish for a day, and boy does time and patience make a difference.
The building that Guu Garden occupies is currently under renovations so the only access was via a staircase that leads to the patio of the restaurant. The garden part is not complete yet but the pleasant irony of it all is that there's already a fully grown spiny pine tree in the planter that can very well pass for a giant bonsai. I think it will look fantastic once the Japanese garden is finished. I just hope that they will find better tables and chairs to use out on the patio than what is there now - white plastic lawn version that you see at festival beer garden tents.

The place was only about half full when we left before 7:30pm on a Friday with plenty of seating still available. The whole tatami side and patio was untouched. On our walk home we went past two other Guu restaurants, the one on Thurlow and the one on Robson. They were both super packed with long line ups out the door. We smiled to each other as we walked by secretly knowing that all those people could have been eating by now had they gone to Guu Garden. I suspect the secrete won't be hidden for long. So as with all Guu-s, I suggest go early or make a reservation.
Guu Garden
M101 - 888 Nelson St.
Vancouver BC
604-899-0855

Getting Ready


Happy Birthday to my Lego loving husband! For his birthday party tomorrow, I decided to decorate the place with what else?!


We made little robots and Space Invader guys then hug them with thread all along our window in the living room.


Naturally Andrew HAD to help, it involved playing with Lego.


I love how they slowly spin around. This would be a great semi-permanent decor idea for a child's room too.


And with Lego, the possibilities are endless!


We love Lego.


Andrew's dream job is to be a Lego Master Builder, there's only one or two of them in Canada. They travel around building crazy Lego-scapes that take months to complete and get paid for it. We met one of them at the Lego exhibit at Science World last year. Oh how we envied his work.

Nala

Baby beluga Nala born at the Vancouver Aquarium a year ago died on Monday because of rocks and penny in her airway. So very sad. =(

Banana Cupcakes

These were the Bananas I used for my cupcakes. Ideally I would like them to be darker but I was on a schedule. The darker the bananas, the greater the amount of sugar they develop, which means the yummier your baked goods will be. I don't have a picture of the cupcakes (yet), they are await for a birthday. But I just had to share this recipe because these cakes have SO MUCH banana in them and they made the whole place smell so good. Recipe from Martha.

Banana Cupcakes

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups mashed bananas (about 4 ripe bananas), plus 1 whole banana, for garnish (optional)
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a standard 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Make a well in center of flour mixture. In well, mix together butter, mashed bananas, eggs, and vanilla. Stir to incorporate flour mixture (do not overmix). Dividing evenly, spoon batter into muffin cups.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of a cupcake comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pan; cool completely on a wire rack. Spread tops with frosting. Just before serving, peel and slice banana into rounds, and place one on each cupcake, if desired.

All Done

It was hard trying to decided which pattern to go with...

I seemed to be more attached to option B after a few tries at re-arranging the arrangement. Here's the finished crib blanket!

And here's Boo hanging around waiting for baby to come out to play.

Working on a little something - Update

I had mentioned earlier about a craft project that I'm in the middle of. Well I'm still in the middle (or nearing the end) of it but here's a sneak peak before the big reveal of the final product. The little teddy was not part of the project, but rather an accidental unexpected child, one might say. He was born after I got my hands on a copy of the Aranzi Aronzo.

This is the book - Baby Stuff. So cute! And so many easy projects for an impatient beginner sewer like me.
And look at some other fabrics I found. I can't wait to come up with something to make with the bunny and teddy pattern.


Architecturally Speaking: Dollhouses

I honestly don't think kids actually appreciate these modern takes on dollhouses. To be fair, they are not even really attractive to adults other than people who are architecture geeks like me. None the less, I like them and this is my blog so here they are! If I had to get a dollhouse for my child(self)...

paris renfroe shipping containers - following the reuse movement. I wonder if these are actually recycled metal boxes from somewhere.

Thing 3 Playtower
Villa Sibis - this looks more like a model of a Corb creation than a toy, I'm not sure if I want kids to touch it, it's so beautiful
Plan Toys Chalet Dollhouse - I've seen Plan Toys in stores, they look sturdy enough to be a toy, may just be the most kid approved in this entire selection.
Plan Toys Green Dollhouse - energy efficient design, comes with solar panel, wind mill generator...
Dollhouse from brinca dada - Can I live in this one?

Dining Out: Hokkaido Ramen Santouka

This is the ramen place I talked about with the long line ups. I was so tired and hungry after work, even a session in the kitchen try to come up with dinner using whatever I can get from the freezer seemed too much. It was 5:30pm and I was ready to eat. Hubby wanted to go out, after looking at the time, I suggested we go to the ramen place that we have never managed to get into. I'm sure there won't be a long cue at 5:30pm. There were curious tourists eyeing the plastic food in the window outside when we arrived and the place was 75% full. I settled in while hubby went down to the bank machine to get cash - the place is cash only.

I decided on the Shio Cha-shu Ramen (regular Shio Ramen with extra Cha-shu) and a side of On-yasai, boiled veggies. Normally I'd go for the Gyozas, which looked and smelled de-lish by the way, but I'm trying my best to get more veggies into the growing baby inside of me.
The broth was amazingly thick, not oily, and richly laced with deep flavour, I must say I like this broth the best out of all the other ramen places I've tried. Hubby had the Kara Miso Ramen Combo, with salmon rice and half an egg. He also agreed that this broth is really good and one of the best. I think I'm slowly truning him into a picky eater too.
We thoroughly enjoyed our meals. Out of all the ramen places littered along Robson and Denman, this will most likely be the one I go back to to try everything else.
Browsing through the Japanese Santouka website and trying to figure things out with my knowledge of Kanji (The 'Chinese' characters of written Japanese), I found out that this place is part of a chain from Japan, with outposts in California, Singapore, Hong Kong, and now, Vancouver. Lucky us Vancouver.
Hokkaido Rame Santouka
1690 Robson St.
Vancouver, BC
604-681-8121

skip the training wheels

We have been eying those wooden balance bikes since a little girl of about 3 years old in our neighbourhood rides along in one. When she goes down a hill, she lifts her feet up and balances herself on it just like a regular bike. The wooden ones are nice but we've only seen them sold in fancy baby boutiques with a daunting price tag.

This is the mountain bike version of the fancy wooden balance bike. Looks much more practical don't you think? No tricycles, no training wheels required. Toddlers can go from this straight to a regular bike. Go watch some of the videos and see it in action.

Dining Out: Don Guacamole's

I have recently fallen in love with real Mexican food. More precisely, tacos - real tacos, not the fake kind with hard shells, ground beef and lettuce but the ones with soft corn tortillas, scrumptious meats, sweet onions and cilantro. A couple of weeks ago I was on my own for a Saturday morning so I planned out my fabric shopping at Dressew to coincide with a taco lunch at La Taqueria on Hastings. I forgot to bring my camera that time so I will have to go back to eat some more tacos and take some photos to do a proper post on the place. I was craving tacos once again and this time with a group of friends and luckily they wanted to go have some Mexican food too.

Don Guacamole's opened last year and hubby and I had been here once before for dinner. We had ordered everything but burritos and tacos last time so I really wanted to try their tacos and see how they stack up to La Taqueria.

We had complimentary chips and salsa at the beginning of our meal, spicy goodness.
Here comes the roster of what our table ordered:
Burrito - with choice of sauce and meat
Alambre - Marinated steak with green peppers, onions and bacon. Comes with corn tortillas to make your own tacos with.
Quesadillas, with choice of meat, packed with cheese and served with guacamole sauce.
And my tacos - Lengua (beef tongue), Arrachera (flank steak), Carnitas (slow braised pork), and Pollo (grilled seasoned chicken). With a squeeze of lime, a drizzle of salsa and hot sauce and I'm in taco heaven. Carnitas was my favourite, I would not get the pollo again as the chicken was too dry. One of my friends ordered the Birria (slow cooked lamb) and said it was really good too. Next time I will try it, and perhaps order it with their guacamole to use as a topping also. In my opinon these were better than the tacos at La Taqueria, although La Taqueria does pride themselves in sourcing their produce locally. But when it comes down to it, there's more meat in these ones and the meat was tastier much juicier.I had done a post on churros recently and although those were satisfying, these were by far, without a doubt, way better. They were piping hot, dipped in sugar, crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. If they came with a spicy cinammon chili dark chocolate dipping sauce, it would be the most rock star churros I can readily get my hands on in a quick hurry.
Everyone enjoyed their meals and upon exiting, we eyed the table beside us who order the Parrillada - six different kinds of meats served on a stainless steel mini grill right at your table. It looked and smelled fantastic. So now we all have to go back to have it.
Don Guacamole's
1333 Robson St
Vancouver, BC
604-569-2295
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