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I use Arrested Development as a sort of litmus test for people’s compatibility with me, which makes me sound like an asshole. Which, obviously, I am.

But seriously, this show is one of things I love so much and so ardently that it is beyond my comprehension that other people might not. It is pure perfection, and I am both excited beyond words and petrified for the new season, out on Netflix this May. What if it’s terrible? What if these characters I adore are unrecognizable and/or boring to me now? What if it’s super racist like Sex and the City 2? Will it mar the brilliance of the original series for me? These are first world problems, but damnit, they’re my first world problems.

Er…I digress. Here is something I stitched up just for me while on the road, and now have the pleasure with sharing with the world. This will make absolutely no sense to you if you don’t know and love and frequently become confused by Tobias Fünke, but if that’s the case, what are you waiting for? You have five weeks to catch up!

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Thinking about Boston and how sometimes there’s really nothing to say. The world can be so terribly unjust, and I know that I’m guilty of trying to block many of the atrocities I’ve witnessed because they make me feel uncomfortable to think about.  I can get indignant about gun control, and bigotry, and violence in pop culture, and I do, frequently. Alternatively, I can choose fear and panic about airplane rides, or tourist attractions. Sometimes I do that, too. I have no solutions. Maybe all I can do is live my life in a way that is meaningful to me, to surround myself with beauty and people I love, and to try to be present and grateful for what I have. To be perfectly honest, I fail at this approximately 95% of the time. But the thing is, I’m starting to suspect that the trying is what matters.

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Portland, I love you. I love your adorable half-size city blocks and your fancy drinking fountains at every street corner. I love your Saturday Market with personalized garden gnomes and too many jewelry booths to count. I love your book store, the best one in the world, I think. Most of all, I love your abundance of delicious restaurants and incredible breweries.

We did Portland up right, but I have no pictures to show you because I’m usually super embarrassed about taking photos at restaurants. Instead I offer up a very specific list of things we tried, because I’m a nerd and want to remember this for later.

Pok Pok: I was almost scared to go here because I didn’t want it to disappoint…but it really, really didn’t. Chicken wings were the absolute highlight, of course. I looked like an absolute savage idiot while eating them, but I cared not a whit. They were phenomenal in every way — crispy, sticky, spicy, tender. I feel like an asshole when I try to describe food but holy crap, they were ridiculous. They knocked Phnom Penh right off my carefully plotted chicken wing chart. The other stuff we ordered was good, but next time I would just get two orders of the chicken wings and not have to share with Mark.

Pine State Biscuits: We had this incredible day that started at Pine State Biscuits and ended at Kenny and Zuke’s, with three stops in the middle. It was pretty phenomenal. Believe the hype about this place. It really doesn’t matter what you order as long as it involves fried chicken and a biscuit in some capacity.

Salt & Straw: Directly across from Pine State Biscuits is Salt & Straw. Did my huge biscuity breakfast mean I couldn’t have breakfast dessert? I am insulted that you would even insinuate that, fake invisible reader. Deeply insulted. To be completely honest, I couldn’t even finish half of the single scoop I ordered (and Mark didn’t help at all because he had ordered bacon and cheese on top his fried chicken biscuit and therefore was out of commission for like three hours, which sucked but also gave me the golden opportunity to say, “I told you so”), but that coffee and bourbon ice cream was incredible. I also had a sample of their pad thai iced tea flavour, which sounds absolutely bonkers, but was subtle and so refreshing, and laced with sweetened condensed milk. Yum.

-Then we ate some apple pie at Random Order which was delicious and used an all-butter crust (something I am picky and bossy about) and involved vanilla and salted caramel. I would have enjoyed it more had I not been so full (see: previous two bullet points).

-Drinkwise, we had a lot of great cocktails, but my hands-down favourite was at Teardrop Lounge, a place we were quite obviously not cool/well-dressed enough for, but whatever. I’m really a cocktail novice, and thought about asking the bartender to make me a surprise drink, but then I spotted the Salt-n-Pepa on the menu: chili-infused aquavit, tequila, lime, agave nectar, and fennel salt. I’ve never had a drink like it — it was spicy, but also super smooth, and the fennel salt was so good I would put it on pretty much anything. Shoop shoop.

-I think Mark’s favourite place in PDX is Bailey’s Taproom, a small bar that has 20 rotating taps and serves no other type of alcohol or food. There’s an adorable bartender who looks just like Seth Rogen, and there’s so much thought put into the draught list. It’s the kind of place where you can order pretty much anything at random and it’ll definitely be the best beer ever.

-I could totally keep going, but I have to mention my personal favourite meal, at Grüner. We sat at the bar and had fantastic cocktails, and then shared a plate of malfatti — ricotta and nettle dumplings that were so ethereal and light that they pretty much melted in your mouth. I could have stopped there and been totally satisfied, but we also ordered their famous burger, which was exactly as good as I’d anticipated, and we also ordered a kale salad. That sounds super boring, and when Mark pointed it out, I was like, “Hell no! I don’t have time for salads!” but the bartender recommended it as well, and it turned out to be one of my favourite dishes from the trip. It was composed of ribboned kale with farro, kohlrabi, carrots, radishes, asiago and this perfectly creamy lemon-thyme dressing. It was so springy and nutty and fresh and utterly delicious. Of all the foods we ate on our brief trip, this is the one I wanted to replicate the most, and after a bit of snooping around the Internet, found this recipe, which is based on a Grüner salad, though a slight variation of one, I think. I made it last night for some girlfriends (a totally cliché lady dinner party that involved SO MUCH baby talk and also eating chocolate cake straight from the platter before dinner was served) and though it wasn’t quite spot-on, it was pretty damn good. I added a couple tablespoons of sour cream to the dressing, since I remember the Grüner one being quite creamy. This is a perfect spring salad! Make and eat.

All that food and booze was great, but coming home was the best. We picked up our sweet dog from the kennel, and resumed real life. Real, mundane, utterly fantastic life. With a dog in a hoodie.

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The weather has been glorious here. People in Victoria love to talk about the weather more than almost anything else (except also the Queen and traffic and changes to bridges and ferry prices), but coming from Calgary, where the snow has literally come down in June, I’ve never felt much inclined to join in the rain-bashing. This year, though, the winter really hit me and I realized it has to do with the utter dearth of sunlight. In Alberta, sure, it snows all the time and the temperature goes down to -40 with a windchill, but we have chinooks, and you see the sun every day. But spring is around the corner and we’re planning our vegetable garden (the only kind of gardening I care about) and there are weddings and trips to look forward to.

This past weekend two of my best friends came out for a lady weekend here with Heidi and I. We all met our first days in residence – we were all on the same floor, even – and I don’t know, magic happens when we’re together. For example, here is a picture of Michelle and I when we were 21, and therefore at the very pinnacle of our hotness:

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Usually this magic is aided by delicious food and drinks. We went to a fantastic wine-tasting event, ’cause we’re classy like that. It ended rather…messily, but not before we had some amazing Vancouver Island wines and also a lot of burgers.

We also had this unfortunate collection of drinks, which was just as cough-syrupy as it looks but we drank it, damnit. Yes we did.

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Aside from that, we mostly just talked — about horrible, hilarious memories, about all kinds of relationships, about our health, about everything. It’s what we do. We made a fancy dinner on Saturday (mushroom and pancetta risotto, total adult comfort food) and Heidi teased me about my bossiness in the kitchen.

I have many strengths — I can say the alphabet backwards (and I will tell you that a lot when I’m tipsy), I am super cheerful in the morning (Mark gives me a wide berth because I always want to talk about all the hours that passed while we were sleeping), I can almost always tell you the correct time, give or take a few minutes, without looking at a watch — but passivity around cooking is not one of them. I admit it, I love to order people around in the kitchen, kind of like Anthony Bourdain, but with more hair and slightly less cursing.

To wit, here are a bunch of food-related items I want to tell you about and really, you should just listen to me and make/eat them.

I know I talk about Smitten Kitchen all the time and so does everyone else, blah blah blah. But there is a reason why Deb has made such a name for herself, and the reason is that she is almost fanatical about choosing recipes and streamlining them. I have not made a single thing from her website that has let me down. This raspberry buttermilk cake is such a good example of the kinds of things she posts — simple but delicious, and the kind of thing that really tricks people into thinking you’re just an awesome effortless cook who wears adorable aprons and can whip stuff like this up with her eyes closed. I love you, Deb.

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Something we make all the time is this (admittedly hilariously-named) glory bowl. It’s from one of the Whitewater Cooks recipe books, which I don’t yet own, but if a certain nameless ginger man was reading this, he might consider surprising me with it some time. The best thing about this recipe is that I hardly ever follow it. I use the basic components — rice, greens, shredded vegetables, delicious sauce — and just add whatever I have around. Sometimes we grill up some tofu for added protein, but you could add leftover chicken or any kind of meat, really. I love avocado, so that usually goes in. I don’t really like beets, so I substitute cucumber instead, and usually peanuts for the almonds. I pretty much put every single Chinese condiment I have into the sauce, and though it never tastes the same twice, I like it that way. We also keep all the elements separate in the fridge, and then amalgamate them just before serving. Guys, just make this.

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A few other recipes I adore:

Ginger Fried Rice, from Smitten Kitchen. This is one of those meals I love to eat when Mark is out, for some reason, even though he also really likes it. Sometimes I add sweet Chinese sausage, if I have some around.

We made these crispy potatoes the other morning for brunch, when all the girls were over. Delicious and oddly impressive.

Ina Garten is a gem and a national treasure. This turkey lasagna is off the hook, and really easy to make, since you don’t have to boil the noodles, just soak them in really hot water (something I will always do in the future. Why does boiling lasagna noodles seem like such a big deal?). Watch the salt on this one — I tend to want more salt in almost everything, but this was a little too much for me.

This article on making perfect boiled eggs of varying consistencies is so over-the-top in terms of research that it makes me laugh and also warms my heart. I’m not as fanatical as this, but for a perfect medium-boiled egg, I fill a small saucepan up with cold tap water, put the egg in, place it on the stove uncovered, bring it just to a boil, then turn it off, cover it with the lid, and let it sit for exactly four and a half minutes. It works for me. I also salt and pepper every single bite of my egg because I have no children yet and currently have time for ridiculous stuff like that.

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Speaking of eggs (both mine and chickens, waka-waka!) I bought some duck eggs from a woman in my choir who runs a farm up island. I had never tried them before and didn’t know what to expect, but they were absolutely glorious. Such a rich, delicious yolk.

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One last order recommendation: I bought this cookbook on a whim a few weeks ago, and truly believe it might be the best purchase ever. So far we’ve made about three or four of the recipes, but I already think it might be a no-hitter. Except that it’s full of hits. Wait, I don’t understand baseball metaphors. We eat a lot of oatmeal here, and there are two whole pages of oatmeal topping suggestions, both savory (fried egg, tamari, scallions, and fried garlic) and sweet (dried cherries, toasted hazelnuts, and shaved dark chocolate). The other day for lunch, I made a spinach and quinoa salad with pear, hazelnuts, and a lemon-tahini dressing (I added Macedonian feta, since it’s the best), and it was so spring-y and just…clean-tasting. I know that that’s an annoying description, but it honestly just made me feel good. I don’t know the author, but this book is already one of my favourites.

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This ended up to be much more verbose than I meant, which is a first for me. I will tell you more recipes soon! We’re off to Portland now, to eat our way through the city like Pac-Man and Ms.Pac-Man (wow, I realize now how super-sexist that is). Back soon with descriptive tales of what we ate and drank, and likely terribly pretentious Instagram pictures.

(Bonus picture of Mark and Luka wrapped in a tender embrace)

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