a change is as good as a rest

Hello friends!

Just a short note to say we’re moving! And Then I Met Rachel has a new home and a new look over at One Red Phone Box.

Thanks for visiting with us here throughout the past year, and if you want to continue the fun, please do follow us to our new home. You’ll see the same travel stories, humorous commentary, and love of food, and we hope to see you over there too.

While there won’t be any new posts here at And Then I Met Rachel, the old posts will remain available, but new content is regularly posted to One Red Phone Box.

Happy Tuesday!

 

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St. John’s: Top 6 Winter Study Breaks

Although we had been to St. John’s before moving here a full year ago in January, we certainly became more familiar with what the city had to offer during the winter, and even discovered new favourite activities. We don’t have a vehicle, but we do have bus passes, and take full advantage of the transit system. Here are just six of our top cold-weather St. John’s activities!

St. John's Study Breaks

 

1. Cross-country skiing

We had no idea that just on the other side of town was a super cheap cross country ski rental spot, with all-level groomed trails, and snow shoeing paths! For $5 an hour each (that’s an incredible bargain for skiing) we could rent skis or snowshoes, poles, and boots, and make use of all of the groomed trails around Pippy Park. Read more about it here

2. Brunch at Yellow Belly

There is nothing better on those bitterly cold St. John’s winter days than splurging a little on brunch. Although there are dozens of places in the city to get a great brunch, Yellow Belly is our favourite. Not only is the full lunch menu available, with plenty of veg options, fresh pizzas, and beer made onsite, the brunch selections include the classics, with a Newfoundland twist.

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I almost always have the French toast, stuffed with cream cheese and local blueberries (or sometimes partridgeberries if we’re lucky), while Rachel loves the eggs Benedict – without the bacon- or the crab cake benny for fish eaters.

3. Skating at Bannerman Park and coffee

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Bannerman Park recently got a makeover, and the best part (along with the outdoor pool, cobblestoned pathways and Beaver Tail vendor) might just be the Loop, the skating rink that is open so long as the weather is cold enough to keep it frozen. Because it’s a) free and b) perfectly located on Military Road, it’s a popular spot on most winter days. All you need to bring is your skates! I

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It’s also conveniently located between Georgestown Cafe and Bookshelf, and Coffee Matters, our two favourite cafes in the city. After an hour of skating, warm up with an americano and a freshly baked bagel at Georgestown, or a fancy latte and a muffin at Coffee Matters. Both cafes also serve a great lunch. After a sugar hit, we’re always ready to go back to the books.

4. Arts and Culture Centre Library

If the wind isn’t blowing too cold, we will often take an hour off and walk up to the A. C. Hunter Public Library, located in the Arts and Culture Centre. The two storey library is the perfect place to kill a few hours. Always toasty warm, the featured books are forever changing, and the huge magazine collection upstairs could occupy anyone. Head downstairs for the cutest children’s library, filled with low bookshelves and books in both English and French.

5. Signal Hill at night

Our favourite place in the city to see the lights of downtown and the Narrows is from the top of Signal Hill. If you’re feeling ambitious, take a walk up the road, and don’t forget a sweater (or five, in Rachel’s case).

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6. See the lights at Bowering Park

Just as the Christmas exam period is looming, pop down to Bowering Park to see the Christmas lights. Early December brings the Festival of Music and Lights to the park, with choirs from the city performing, and free hot chocolate. The City accepts donations to the food bank, and the lights are officially lit for the Christmas season.

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Planning for Montreal: Top 4 To Do’s

For those who follow the university calendar schedule you’ll know that exams are in full swing. Our tiny house is battling six take home exams and five in class exams in the next 9ish days, which isn’t too bad, all things considered.

But hark! The light at the end of the tunnel is almost visible, and with the wanderlust coursing good and strong through our veins, I am now the proud owner of a ticket to Montreal. I know you’re thinking, “What?! That’s not a beach!” No, it’s not exotic. But it sure isn’t this frigid province (sorry NL – love you but seriously, what’s with the weather?!). Some Canadian city has to have more than just a hint of a green leaf.

So with 10 full days of spring weather, tulips, poutine, bagels, city living and no classes coming up, here are the top four things I’m looking forward to in Montreal & Toronto.

Top 4 Must Do's in Montreal - So with 10 full days of spring weather, tulips, poutine, bagels, city living and no classes coming up, here are the top four things I’m looking forward to in Montreal

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1. The Istanbul Exhibit at the Aga Khan Museum, Toronto, Ontario

andthenimetrachel.wordpress.com Top Montreal Sites To plan for

Both historic and modern photos, landscapes, and albums of the city are on offer in an exhibit entitles “A City Transformed: Images of Istanbul Then and Now”, and I am all set to immerse myself in the history and culture of Istanbul. Read more here.

2. Cafe Culture and Bagel Fixes

And Then I Met Rachel Top 3 Montreal Sights

Montreal is known – of course – for poutine and bagels. And although those are great, I am majorly ready for some coffee, french bread, and serious French Canadian brunch. This shot of Olive et Gourmando is exactly what I’m going for. Brioche French toast, here we come. (Image)

3. Bixi Biking on the Lachine Canal

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Not at night, because I don’t bike very well. But the idea of renting a bicycle from BIXI, Montreal’s bike sharing service provider, and pedaling down the canal is super appealing. There better be a bagel waiting at the end of all that calorie burning. (Image)

4. After all of that eating, exercise and culture, we’re going to need a drink. Potentially an espresso. Thankfully we have this handy chart, and shouldn’t have any trouble finding one. Board games? Yes please. (Image)

And Then I Met Rachel Top 4 Montreal To Do

See you soon Montreal!

 

a very canadian week of cooking

We have a (pleasant and positive!) running commentary in our house about the enormous variation of first and last names that appear on Canadian news broadcasting stations. Avid CBC fans will know that the multicultural combination of broadcasters who are on television or radio on any given day is astounding – and very Canadian: John Vennavally-Rao, Ian Hanomansing, Vik Adhopia, Nala Ayed, George Stroumboulopoulos, Julie Nesrallah… the list is unending.

When we travel in Europe, someone undoubtedly asks us about ‘Canadian cuisine’. Aside from maple syrup and poutine, it’s hard to think of anything truly Canadian. In reality, Canadian food (at least for us) consists of dumplings and curry, pierogis and borscht, sushi, tacos, dim sum, baguette and challah bread, and a thousand other, very not-Canadian sounding things. But kind of like our favourite CBC hosts, the commonality about all of these things is – now – their Canadian-ness.

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This week, completely accidentally, we ended up with three now-Canadian dishes – a spicy Mexican Chilli (with bulgur.. perhaps that’s the Canadian part…), Chickpeas with Rice, and Egg Fried Rice with Tofu from Mark Bittman’s book.  A broccoli noodle casserole was also created, but Mark doesn’t do casseroles, so that one was all us. Is casserole Canadian? Does anyone actually know?

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Everything we make is easy. Major shocker. There are, in fact, complicated recipes in this book. Rachel (our meal planner) is going to pretend they don’t exist until we run out of things to eat. And even then, we might not attempt those recipes.

The Egg Fried Rice made enough for at least four days, for two people. We usually cook our tofu battered in flour, but this recipe didn’t call for it, and it came out crispy anyway!

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Someone got creative with their plating! Clearly not enough homework… 

Chickpeas with Rice was the best way I’ve ever had simple chickpeas and rice, and took all of ten minutes to make.

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The Chilli was made much more difficult because I had purchased all the ingredients.. and then they were eaten, before the recipe was made.

Sigh. Trips to Sobeys complicate everything. After that though, it was just fine, and made the whole house smell good. This will definitely need to be frozen in batches – there is no way we can eat chilli for the next two weeks. Rachel will go crazy.

So, maybe this wasn’t the cuisine that Jacques Cartier had in mind… but it tastes like home now.

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Here are the recipes we made this week:

Chilli with Bulgur – p. 557

Egg Fried Rice with Tofu – p. 520

Chickpeas with Rice – p. 509

What have you been cooking? Let us know in the comments below, or send us a picture on Instagram – @andthenimetrachel!

challenging readings, and a reading challenge

I recently started following Anne Bogel’s blog Modern Mrs. Darcy, a hub for all things literature and wordy. From what I can tell, Modern Mrs. Darcy’s annual reading challenge is THE THING in the book-loving world, and I can see why.

Each new year, a new reading challenge is posted. The list includes 12 categories of books, allowing readers to pick their own fiction and non-fiction reads for the year, but creating varied choices. This year’s list included ‘A book that was banned at some point,’ ‘a book that was published this year’ and ‘a book you should have read in school.’

This year, I decided I would try out this new-fangled reading challenge thing (cause I was clearly bored). Even though in classes we are ready such volumes as Dante’s Divine Comedy, Augustine’s Confessions, and Heidegger’s Being and Time, it’s important to balance/distract oneself from those challenging readings with some lighter, just-for-fun books.

Here are my picks for this year’s challenge:

yourheartA book published this year

Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa

I have now seen this novel mentioned on five different must-read lists in three weeks, and so with very little known about the content, it’s making my shelf this year. Seven characters and a political protest, with a punchy title and eye-catching cover – sounds like a winner.

A book you can finish in a day

Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells Yonotthatkindofgirl.jpgu What She’s “Learned” by Lena Dunham

This is not to say that the content is so straightforward it should be read in a day, but Dunham’s readable prose makes it such that I could devour it in a day. I know she’s not for everyone, but I’m a fan of Lena and her television show Girls, and have high hopes for this one.

A book you’ve been meaning to read

With or Without God by Gretta Vosper

An atheist minster, a much talked-about non-fiction work, and a religious controversy, all in one? Yes please.

A book recommended by your local librarian or bookseller

Bad Feminist: Essays by Roxane Gaybadfeminist

With a title like that, it’s hard to resist. This one was recommended to me by Mitzi at Box of Delights in Wolfville, NS (perhaps a hint? should I be insulted? Who knows), though it would have made my list anyway. I spent way too long standing in a bookstore aisle trying to read this without buying it, and ended up not finishing it, nor making a purchase, but was hooked by this collection of essays highlighting issues of race, culture, sex, and of course, feminism.

A book you should have read in school

The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

I had a strange collection of books foist upon me in middle and high school, none of which I would ever classify as a ‘classic.’ As a result, I missed The Catcher in the Rye (though I did read King Dork, the apparent modern-day version, which I’m told is much funnier than Salinger’s classic). Time to catch up!

A book chosen for you by your spouse, partner, sibling, or BFFsophiesworld

Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder

Since I’m already studying philosophy, this one seems a bit redundant. But if J tells me about it anymore I’ll go crazy. So I’m giving in and reading about Sophie and her world, and the journey she takes through the history of philosophy, as she attempts to discover who she is and how things came to be.

A book published before you were born

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemmingway

There really is no explanation required for Hemmingway, but this one has been on my ‘To Be Read’ list for too long, and the reading challenge has prompted me to finally get to it. The list of books that were published before I was born is huge, so I narrowed it using my own list of things I wanted to read anyway. Any book referred to as “at once rare and beautiful, strong and brutal, compassionate, moving, and wise” must be worth reading, at least once.

A book you own but have never read 

thewaythecrowfliesThe Way the Crow Flies by Ann-Marie MacDonald

I read MacDonald’s tome, Fall on Your Knees, a number of years ago, and loved it. I also read her recent novel Adult Onset and found it more than a little whiny. So although the content of this one, and questions of human morality, truth, and murder, was drawing me in, I was tainted by MacDonald’s newer work. It is such a huge book though, and takes up so much room on my shelf, it was calling to me. Hopefully this one returns to her former style, excellent story-telling, and topics that remain relevant across decades.

A book you previously abandoned

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

Yes, also a classic. No, I didn’t read this one in school either. Yes, I have tried, and yes I get the gist and all the references to Big Brother. Although I’m not a fan of dystopian fiction, thank you Reading Challenge for forcing me to finally finish it.

A book that intimidates you

Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea by Mark Blyth austerity

I bought Austerity for an introductory politics class in my first year of university, and although we were definitely supposed to read all of it, I fell asleep about ten pages into this dry (but important!) text. The language and content are intimidating though, as my understanding of economics is nil, and Blyth zips through topics at top-speed. Part economics, part politics, and part political philosophy and theory, Blyth highlights the many problems with government austerity, and makes the case for spending rather than saving, supplementing rather than restricting, and finding the actual, often more complicated, source of a problem instead of blaming the obvious ones.

A book that was banned at some point

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

Banned books are my favourites, but having already read a great many (I don’t know what that says about my reading habits…) I had to dig a little deeper for this one. I’ve never been tainted by seeing the movie, and with all the talk of mental health issues in the media, this seems like an appropriate choice.

A book you’ve already read at least once

Beatrice and Virgil – Yann Martel beatriceandvirgil

I am a hard core Yann Martel fan. His letters to former Prime Minister Stephen Harper highlighting books the PM ought to read in order to govern our country have a special place on my bedside table. Although the movie of Life of Pi made me nauseous, I’ve read the book at least three times. Beatrice and Virgil is less-known than Pi, but my studies of Dante, his great love Beatrice, and Virgil, his guide through the circles of Hell, will hopefully supplement my re-reading of this much-discussed novel.

What’s on your to-be-read list this year? Any other MMD Reading Challenge participants out there? Let us know on Facebook, or in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!

 

our place in the sun

Wow, this week has just gone and nothing seems to have happened. And yet, our house in numbers for the last 8 days looks something like this:

  • 6 essays written
  • 5 languages spoken and/or translated from/into
  • 3 dinners consisting of Tim Horton’s
  • 1 extra major declared
  • 3 shifts of work
  • 5 days of above 0 degree temperatures + 3 rainstorms
  • 2 suppers cooked (on the actual stove)
  • 2 birthdays celebrated
  • 1 house guest
  • 7 philosophers discussed, argued over, and
  • 0 midterms (yet… woohoo)

So there was some Glazed Carrot Soup made (p. 105) and Spicy No-Mayo Coleslaw (p. 49), but otherwise that, not a lot of food being prepared, though plenty being consumed…

The beautiful (or horrendous?) part of all this excessive work and lack of time is that the things you want become suddenly so much clearer. This week has presented pleas for more hours, less work, higher grades, fewer classes, another major, a plane ticket home (or 2), a plane ticket literally ANYWHERE, visitors, friends to come to Newfoundland, Newfoundlanders to go to friends in Nova Scotia, another cup(s) of coffee, and again, just a little more time.

The moral of this week of pleas? Time, friends, visitors, travel, and home. Through discussions of hell with Dante, death and anxiety with Heidegger, and Augustine’s constant desire to find some kind of peace, it’s no wonder that these themes keep arising in that real, not-quite-so-philosophical life we are actually leading.

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So although the school stuff, and the money stuff and what we’re going to eat for supper are all things that take up time and brain space, what we ask for when we’re going crazy are the things that actually matter. The phone calls from friends on your birthday, or the surprise house guests, planning for trips back home or the desire to keep seeing new things, with enough time to do the things we love – those things matter. It should not take a moment of intense anxiety, as Heidegger says, to make one realize that we need to pursue those things, and not all the others. We should not need to wait for weeks of feeling overwhelmed and over worked to realize that there are things that are important, and we can ask for them. We will always ask for more coffee, new shoes, better weather. Why is it so much harder to say ‘I need time, and space’ or ‘I want someone to keep me company and tell me it’s okay?’

Bell Let’s Talk Day on January 27 brought in millions of dollars to fund initiatives, while promoting conversation about depression, anxiety, OCD, and other mental health issues. Yes, it’s not ideal we have to fundraise for Canadian mental health projects. But at the same time, having conversations across the country about what we can do for each other to help our mental health – those are good conversations. We don’t need to be diagnosed with an illness to recognize that we need company, friends to talk to, visitors to come and stay. We need time and space and caring people to say ‘Hey, I’m here. I’m listening.”

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So, in the spirit of Let’s Talk Day, and of Heidegger and Dante and all those other cheerful fellows, find your place in the sun this week. Find someone to stand in it with, and take in all that sunlight. Find Augustine’s peace, and don’t wait for Heidegger’s anxiety to make you do it. Call your family, go visit your friends, and we’re going to start trying to ask for the things we really need, not the little things that are taking up space.

(Feel free to send us a note about finding your place in the sun. We love to read and respond to comments here, or on Facebook!)

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what we’re lovin {winter 2016}

Everything I Never Told You - Find this, and other winter loves on And Then I Met RachelRachel just finished reading “Everything I Never Told You” by Celeste Ng. Part family drama, part mystery, Ng’s debut novel is nothing short of stellar. Following the personal struggles of a Chinese-American family in 1970s Ohio, Ng binds together each person’s background, resulting in what appears to be an almost blameless crime. Definitely a top read this winter.

 

These super warm, and funky coloured socks from Soulmate Socks. Warm like those big fuzzy wool socks, but without the bulk that comes with them and makes it impossible to wear shoes. And, they’re mismatched on purpose – your right sock will never ever look quite like your left.

Basia Bulat’s new-ish album (apparently it’s from 2013, and she has one coming out in February, so clearly I’m behind…) ‘Tall Tall Shadow’ which, if you’re a CBC Radio 2 listener, you’ve definitely heard parts of. She is an honourary member of the Polish community in her home province of Ontario, and is known for rocking the autoharp. Listen here:

 

Last year, the city of St. John’s put a whack of time and money into refurbishing Bannerman Park. I have no idea what it was like before they did that, but now it’s quite a destination spot. The swimming pool is packed in the summertime, even when it doesn’t seem quite warm enough to be swimming. There’s a massive playground, that’s probably great for children, but also really funny to overhear conversations about the logistics of who is going to slide first, and in what order, and what position, and the various negotiations that accompany such an activity.

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My favourite though is the skating loop, roller-  in the summer, and ice in the winter. As a result, skating at Bannerman Park has definitely become one of our favourite activities on a homework-free evening. The lights are turned on at about 4:30, Beaver Tails and hot chocolate are for sale, and tiny children go whizzing by you as you try not to die. It’s fun for everyone.

Winter brings out the wanderlust in all of us (or if it doesn’t, too bad for you). Rachel recently stumbled upon Fathom, a travel site with city guides, themed trips, volun-tourism opportunities, and attractive photos of a whole bunch of places we would rather be. It is not necessarily a site for the budget traveler (we will never stay in any of the recommended hotels), but the city guides are a great starting place, and who doesn’t love a top-10 list? Check that out here.

And of course, a list of our loves is not complete without food. We made Mark Bittman’s Italian-Style Lentil Soup with Rice (p. 116 ) yesterday, and I think we could have consumed the pot if we didn’t have six other places we really needed to be. It is the variation on the simplest ever lentil soup, but the canned tomato and just a half cup of arborio rice makes the broth almost like gravy, a big hit in our vegetarian house. Add water for more servings, and freeze with ease. Yum!

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What are you loving this winter? (not the weather. That doesn’t count) Let us know in the comments, or find us on Facebook! The thing to click is way far on the right hand side of the screen. I don’t know how to move it any closer. Happy almost-February!