Mid-Week Tangent: where is all the cake?

I have been in Vernon for a grand total of 10.5 days and, in that time, I have extensively Googled local bakery options, and I have visited two different bakeries and one fancy coffee shop. After all of these efforts, I am left only with one question: where is all the cake???

I can only assume that living in Vancouver has ruined me for smaller town cake life.  Vancouver is home of the hipster bakery, full of artisinal goods (as though all baking isn’t artisinal?) and trendy flavour combinations. I have no desire to eat cake flavoured like matcha or london fog but, in Vancouver, those options are readily at my fingertips. Vancouver’s bakeries feature baked goods and cakes that look like a million bucks, even if they don’t taste it. Appearance is everything. Cakes are all clean lines, impeccably smoothed out frostings, with maybe the occasional naked cake trending its way into the mix.

I didn’t think that I had succumbed to the pomp and circumstance of trendy urban bakeries…but I have. Despite ultimately wanting something that tastes good, my eyes cannot help themselves. They gravitate towards the aesthetic, the beautiful, the hopelessly modern. Here, in my new hometown, there is no modern bakery. There is only the classic mom and pop bakery, the kind that features humble looking cookies, and carrot cakes whose tops are adorned with unpretentious frosting carrots.  It is a town that still has black forest cakes en masse, and not the kind featuring playful adaptations (i.e. roasting cherries, switching out kirsch for bourbon, other such nonsense, etc.) that make a mockery of black forest cake tradition. No. These black forest cakes are purists: chocolate cake, cherry filling, whipped topping, shaved chocolate and maraschino cherries to garnish. In Vernon, it appears, you do not mess with a classic.

There is nothing wrong with this. It is, in fact, refreshing to see this commitment to simple, pure baking. And yet I can’t help wondering, where is the salted caramel buttercream? Where are the chocolate ganache glazes, artfully dripping down the sides of the cake? Where are the impossibly tall cakes? I’m talking about those six-layered cakes, stacked tall, sandwiched with layer upon layer of thick frosting, perhaps even a tart curd or pastry cream?  Where are the trendy flavours that I don’t want to eat, but that I want to look at solely to wonder ‘who eats that flavour of cake?!?’

They are not here. Maybe they are in our neighbouring town of Kelowna, where trend and pretentiousness have been on the rise for years. But they are not here. I’m sure in time I will adjust. I’m sure one day I’ll buy a cake and realize it’s the cake I’ve actually been searching for, perfect in its simplicity. But for now I’m in a bit of a cake culture shock, so indulge me this question: really, where is all the cake????


Monday Musings: recalibrating

I am exhausted.  Is it fair to complain about being tired? Isn’t everybody tired? Yes, everyone is tired. I am also tired. And it feels liberating to state it. It occurred to me today that the last ten days have been more exhausting than most, and when I thought about why, one word came to mind: recalibrating.

I’ve been recalibrating in virtually every single aspect of my life:
–to a new town
–to a new house
–to a new job (hello, being busy for the first time in almost a year)
–to a new office (my house)
–to a new gym (I miss my Steve Nash Fitness World!)
–to new running routes (they really don’t like sidewalks here)
–to new grocery stores
–to new driving patterns (don’t get me started on the drivers here…)
–to new sights and sounds
–to new faces and places
–to new eating patterns (read: eating sugar again. sigh)
So yeah, to everything.

I’m not saying this negatively. All of it is very exciting. At the same time, it is also very, very tiring. When one thing is new, I feel like my brain can wrap itself around the change rather quickly. When everything is new, however, my brain is like “hold up! WTF just happened?!? Where is all the stuff I am used to?!?!?” It takes a while for the old brain (or this old brain, at least) to readjust to all the newness around it, to make sense of all the new patterns, and to slowly transform the new into the normal.

I have to say, I am looking forward to the day when all this new feels normal. Until then, I will keep on keeping on, recalibrating to this new life we’ve created, and looking forward to the day when I feel rested again.


TWIR #101: moving as a workout

Well, I can’t say that this was my best week of workouts, unless you count all those 12 hour days of packing, unpacking, moving shit around and carrying stuff all over the place. ‘Cause if you count that I’m doing just fine this week. I can also tell you that I feel exhausted, if that counts as a measure. Enough preamble, let’s get to this.

Activity: semi-planned rest day
Relevant Stats: move-in day!!!!!
Observations: I had some extremely high hopes (read: unrealistic) of fitting in a morning mini hike in the hills behind our friend’s place. But then I was so exhausted after the drive up the night before, and we had to get up so early to get organized for the arrival of the movers, and it was like -4 in the morning and it just wasn’t happening. Instead, we ate giant scones while awaiting the movers and I spent the rest of the day frantically trying to organize the kitchen because I cannot stand a disastrously disorganized kitchen. 

Activity: unplanned rest day
Relevant Stats: so. much. unpacking. and. errands.
Observations: Once again, I had hopes of finding a gym to check out, but it was very apparent by mid-morning that it wasn’t happening. We had so much to do around the house, and so many errands to run to pick up stuff for the house. Also, I woke up almost unable to turn my head at all, so I figured that maybe a workout wouldn’t go particularly well. I was still on my feet all day and most of the evening and I consider that damn well good enough.

Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 45 min.
Observations: Determined not to let four days go by without a workout, I got myself organized for a solid at-home workout in my brand new basement. It is such a luxury to have the space for this that it made me desperately wish I had more equipment to use. Despite a meagre assortment of equipment and a very stiff neck, I worked up a good sweat. On top of that we continued to run errands and do house stuff, and even spent three hours assembling a new credenza without a major tiff. That’s a winning day.

Activity: run!!!
Relevant Stats: 5 (painful) km
Observations: When I say it was painful, I don’t mean because of my injury or even my random neck pain. It was painful because I haven’t run in a while and because Vernon is a whopping 300ish metres higher in elevation. You can tell me that doesn’t make a difference, and I will tell you that you can suck it. I have always found that even a couple hundred metres of elevation makes a difference to running, particularly when one is not in good running shape. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 45 min.
Observations:  At long last, we visited a local gym to check out the scene and to take advantage of a free trial. If you haven’t noticed, I’m super fussy about my gyms after being spoiled with a well appointed downtown Steve Nash Fitness World location for years. Well, this gym wasn’t quite up to those standards (lacking in kettle bells and prowlers) but it was okay and it was nice to lift some decent weights and do some solid back squats. Also, she gave us five days for free instead of three so that’s a win. Evidently these local gyms are super stingy with their trial periods. Three days? Come on!

Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 30 min.
Observations:  This was a short workout because we’d also gone to check out some potential personal trainers and I’d been gone from work for way too long. I’m not super optimistic about the trainers at this studio but I also have to accept that no one is going to be just like my old trainer. Sigh. As for my workout, I forced myself to make the half hour worth it with all my “favourites”, including box jumps and all sorts of kettle bell torture.

Activity: stairs
Relevant Stats: 35 min. + 5 min. abs
Observations: I haven’t felt so close to dying nor so close to puking as I felt today while attempting to run stairs. I used to run stairs weekly, the same year that I was also a hiking superstar with legs of steel and the cardiovascular fitness of a legit athlete. That was well over a year ago, and it’s safe to say these stairs almost killed me and I have no idea how I used to run stairs like it was nothing at all. I know it says I ‘ran’ stairs for 35 minutes, but I will point out that a) I was AT the stairs for 35 minutes, but there were many, many breaks at the top to give my lungs a chance to stop burning and b) “running” is an overstatement, particularly after a few rounds.  The moral of the story: I have a lot of work to do to get back to stair running shape.

And that’s the week. I am ready for a full on weekend, complete with a legit break from work and minimal moving-related activities, which will be challenging since the movers are bringing the rest of our stuff tomorrow (don’t ask). The phrase that best describes how I feel at the moments is ‘stick a fork in me, I’m done’…or perhaps, ‘get a cider in me, it’s Friday.’ Yeah, actually, the latter sounds like a much better descriptor. I’m off to get me that cider. Happy weekend y’all.

my nemesis

Mid-Week Tangent: new digs + new scones

As you saw from Monday’s post, we are officially Vernon-ites (Vernonians?)…whatever, we’ve officially settled in Vernon.   The last five days have been a whirlwind of unpacking and settling in, but what I’m most excited about is exploring all that our new area has to offer in terms of wine, baking and food.  Does this surprise anyone? My world largely revolves around eating and drinking.

While we haven’t done any serious exploring yet (see earlier comment re: unpacking and settling in), we have stumbled upon some truly delicious scones. Like really, really amazingly fantastic scones. Thankfully, it’s a 2.4 km walk to get to the coffee shop that sells them, which should, in theory, keep me from eating one daily.  I mean, sometimes the 1 km walk to my beloved Breka donuts seemed like too much of a hassle, and I really, really, really loved those donuts.

Back to the scones. These scones are amazing, and I say this as someone who bakes some pretty decent scones herself.  First, they are giant, which is a must when it comes to scones. Dainty scones have no place in my life. If I’m going to eat butter and flour, I’m going to make it worthwhile.  Second, they are that perfect mix of crunchy exterior and tender, flakey interior.  This is also a must. No one has time for the crunchy exterior + dry interior combo or the tender, flakey interior + sad spongey exterior combo.  Third, the flavour combo is odd but perfectly complimentary: cheddar, apple and poppyseed. It doesn’t have to seem like a good fit, because it just is.

But easily the best thing about these scones is that, with every scone you buy, you are given a hefty-sized mini tub of butter. I’m intentional about calling it a tub of butter because it is seriously a lot of butter for one scone, like even more butter than I can use, which is saying a lot because I am pretty much a butter-a-holic.  This place knows that those tiny little single-serve butter packets that most places provide you with are woefully insufficient for a scone of this size.  Other bakeries make a laughing stock out of me when they give me one butter packet, forcing me to ask for a second packet, and then visibly judging me as though that extra teaspoon of butter is somehow an excessive amount. They look at me with eyes that say “I can eat a giant scone with a scant layer of butter. Why can’t you?”  Triumph Coffee understands that I require enough butter to liberally coat each and every bite, and they do not make me feel like a butter monster. They ante up and give me more butter than even I can use.

I have already decided that these scones will be my weekly Saturday morning ritual, lovingly holding the space that the Breka apple fritter once filled, though never truly replacing it because heavily glazed donuts > scones no matter how good the scone is. But, if you’re in the Okanagan and looking for a killer scone, you now have your destination.

Happy sconing.


Monday Musings: limitless energy

Have you ever been dead tired? Like the kind of tired where every muscle in your body is aching and you wondered how you would possibly stay awake to get done what you set out to get done? And then not only did you stay awake to get done what you set out to get done, but you also did more?  This has been my last four days, start to finish.

We moved this weekend, and I think we can all agree that moving is one of the more exhausting and stressful life experiences. This move has involved four days of wonderfully rich moments like the bank waiting until the last possible second to send info to our lawyers so that we could take possession of our home; movers showing up and delivering only 85% of our possessions (where the other 15% is remains a mystery); the basic joys of unpacking 50+ boxes, finding a home for everything, folding packing paper, and breaking down boxes; visiting household stores at least three times each because we kept forgetting things; and spending three hours assembling a new credenza, somehow without killing each other.

Yes, four days of that.

What’s my point? My point is that throughout this all we’ve been tired, so very tired. On many more than one occasion it’s been tempting to take a load off, maybe even take a mid-afternoon nap, run from our piles of disorganized crap and take refuge at the nearest watering hole where we might drown our collective frustrations and exhaustion in some fine Okanagan wine. But we haven’t. No matter how tired we’ve been, we’ve kept moving, kept doing, and kept getting more shit done.  Even when we think we have no energy left in us, we have proven that we actually do.  Because getting our home settled matters to us, and doing something that matters sparks a seemingly infinite pool of energy.

I think of all the times during a given work week that I’ve felt like I’m dragging my ass from task to task all day only to go home and find myself ‘too tired’ to do anything but lay on the couch like a slug. I’ve tended to genuinely think that my energy is spent.  After these last four days, I’ve been reminded that our energy is not so finite a resource as we sometimes think. When you feel tired, sluggish, incapable of carrying on, is it really because you’ve done too much, worked too hard, and spent all your available energy, or could it also be that what you’re doing doesn’t matter to you enough to keep you going?

TWIR #100: whaaaat?!?! 100?!?!

Well, good grief, how did I get to 100 weeks of writing these little updates? It feels like only yesterday that I published my first TWIR. Actually, that’s a lie. It feels like years ago, because it was. Still, let’s say a little happy birthday to the TWIR today, because 100 weeks of anything is pretty damn impressive.

Activity: strength training (all prowler all the time)
Relevant stats:  45 min.
Observations: Can we all just acknowledge the amazing fact that I drove to the gym on a weekend??? And then, once I got there, I forced myself to do all the prowler pushes that I hate, including chest presses and the weird prowler squat to plank things (I have no idea how to explain them). It was hard and my legs hurt and that is all I can ask for from a weekend workout. We also had our going away party at which fate intervened and made it such that we got the only order of our beloved deep fried pickles before the restaurant ran out even though everyone else at our table also ordered them. I shall miss those deep fried pickles. Also, Tap n Barrel needs to up their deep fried pickle game. I mean, what kind of pub runs out of pickles on a Saturday night?!?

Activity: strength training (focus on lower body)
Relevant stats: 45 min.
Observations:  OMG, I made it to the gym TWICE on a weekend! I was as shocked as you probably are. I went to town on my glutes with bridges and single leg dead lifts and squat cleans and all sorts of other fun things that made me feel somewhat justified when I ate not one but two of my beloved Breka donuts. As if this makes it okay, I feel the need to point out that both weren’t apple fritters the size of my head.

Activity: run!!!
Relevant stats: 4.5 km
Observations: This was a momentous run for me in that I only stopped running to wait for lights to turn red. My legs and lungs felt pretty good start to finish on account of my impressive slowness.  My SI, however, did not feel so great. It was stiff from the start, but I suppose it’s a good sign that it didn’t get any worse.

Activity: planned rest day
Relevant stats: classroom observation + driving (i.e. all day spent on my ass)
Observations: I believe I walked less than half a kilometre all day.  All day.  For the first time in months, I spent close to 2.5 hours in my car driving out to observe a workshop at one of our client’s facilities.  So that means 2.5 hours of driving plus six hours of sitting on my butt in a classroom, followed by about four hours of sitting on my butt on the couch at home because I was exhausted from getting up at 5 am. Activity fail.

Activity: half-assed strength training
Relevant stats: 30 min.
Observations: I had another early start that made a pre-work gym session impossible, followed by a day of back to back meetings. By the end of my meetings, I had zero desire to go to the gym, especially because I would have to go to my least favourite location. I am proud of myself for sucking it up, paying for overpriced meter parking, dealing with the world’s tiniest change room lockers, and an overcrowded workout area to make myself do a half hour of strength training. I consider this workout to have been my shining example of perseverance this week.

Activity: personal training session
Relevant stats: 60 min.
Observations:  This was my last session with my trainer here, which I am still not ready to accept.  As a perfect send off she crafted a wretched combination of leg/glute workouts in a circuit that included double kettle bell squats, double kettle bell walking lunges, high prowler pushes, low prowler pushes and squat hold battle rope waves. Ugh. It was awful and I hated it, and I am still going to miss her.

Activity: moving day!!!!
Relevant stats: ugh.
Observations: I had great plans for one last early morning running interval track workout in my ‘hood. And then our bank caused some serious snags getting documents to our lawyers. I’ll spare you the whole, long story. In the end, what it means is I now have to load up my car at some ungodly hour of the morning so I can get to our lawyers in time to sign papers so we can take possession of our house. Instead of running intervals, I’ll be hauling boxes of stuff to my car and probably eating one last apple fritter as I drive away from this town forever (okay, that was totally for dramatic effect…I’ll be back often).

That brings the week of workouts and my time in Vancouver to an end. By the time you all read this, I will be in my new home town, hopefully with a stiff drink in my hand because, good god, it’s still snowing on those mountain highways and that makes me an anxious driver. Happy weekend y’all.

Mid-Week Tangent: ode to my favourite apple fritter

Well, we are really down to the wire on my time in this town, and it’s got me all sentimental about all sorts of things. Some are meaningful, while others are trite. Today’s post is about something trite, but also something incredibly delicious and something that, trite as it may be, I will miss immensely: the Breka bakery apple fritter.

I know. You’re like, it’s a donut, how great can it be?  Everyone’s got their favourite donut at their favourite donut place and nothing can be all that special about this donut. This is where you are wrong.

The Breka apple fritter is a revelation of donuterie, and worthy of inventing the word “donuterie”.

First and foremost, this fritter is the size of your face.

Evidence: my face is behind that fritter.

This donut is at least the size of two donuts, if not more, and I am always happy when I can consume 2-3 desserts masquerading as one dessert (a la brownie sundaes, ice cream cookie sandwiches, etc.). There is shame in saying you ate donuts, but there is no shame in saying you ate a donut.

Next up, we have the glaze.  Too many donuts these days go light on the glaze, as if people don’t want their donuts to be sugar bombs. If such a person exists, might I suggest that person simply refrain from eating donuts and stick with, let’s say, carrot sticks. I, on the other hand, want an excessive amount of glaze, and this donut delivers. Its glaze solidly coats each and every nook and cranny, settling into all the little cracks in delightfully blissful sugar pools.

I will be honest. You are lucky if you encounter 2 chunks of apple as you make your way through this fritter. I will also say that if you are eating an apple fritter for a high proportion of apple, you are doing it all wrong. A donut is not a vehicle for fruit consumption. It is a vehicle for glaze consumption, pure and simple. There is, however, an abundance of cinnamon, which I find indicative enough of a standard apple fritter to let go of any need for actual fruit.

I have saved the best for last, though, friends.  I realize what I’m about to describe for you may be an entirely personal preference, and largely due to my usual dislike for the yeasted donut. You see, I am typically a fan of cake donuts because they have both density and a slight crunch to their exterior that I find infinitely more satisfying than a yeasted donut’s uniform sponginess.  But this fritter, this fritter has delivered on exterior crunch in a way I never thought possible in a yeasted donut.

Let me tell you about the bottom of this donut. It is sublime.  The bottom of this fritter, where it has  rested on a wire rack to cool after its float in the oily hot tub we call the deep fryer, develops a cross-hatched base so crisp that you can knock on it and have it sound faintly like a hollow box.  The cross-hatching provides a perfect opportunity for pooling glaze.  The satisfying and unexpected crunch, when combined with the glaze, is worth at least twice the price of admission (a very reasonable $2.75 by the way). In fact, I have been known the horizontally slice my fritter, much like a bagel, to preserve the glazed, crunchy bottom half for last. It is that good.

If you live in this town and are lucky enough to have not one, but four (!!!) locations at your disposal, visit one now. Get yourself this apple fritter. And if you are so bold as to think you can eat two donuts in a day, trust me when I say the dulce de leche donut is a worthy second place.

Goodbye, Breka apple fritter. I will miss you so and dream of you often.