Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The apartment.

Two years ago I moved into an apartment, after a year and half in a basement suite it was good to get ground, or at least level with it. Benefits included; a large and stable supply of hot water, living room, and it was pet friendly.  I would have taken it if pets were band.

It did not take long for the age the unit to come to light, in what little light there was.   Despite being south facing the cedars and cypress trees block the light. From May to September it is gloomy in here as the sun is too high the sky sky to slip under the tree branches.  There is no view to speak of as I look out on to what is now an empty lot, formerly a once nice duplex which decayed into a squat.  What I lack in light and view is made up in sound.

The northern stretch of Victoria drive, despite looking like a quiet residential street is something of a thoroughfare.  Squeezed between the popular Commercial Drive and the well engineered Nanaimo street Victoria Drive takes more traffic than is good for it.  These traffic volumes are at odds with the large number of parks and school zones along it.  I more than a thousand words worth of opinion about Victoria drive, and add a few more expletives every time I cycle down it.

 The short version is I am treated to an endless supply of engine noises.  The worst offenders are growl of small diesel trucks, and the occasional honk and squeal of brakes from near misses.  This is at it turns out a poor substitute for a view.
So rather than aiding in unwinding like nearly any portal to the outside world my windows and doors let in irritation.  A situation that leads to the home being stuffy and hot in high summer because my cat will try to escape if the window is too far open, and being ground floor makes keeping the patio door open too large a risk.  
The list of things that are wrong, have gone wrong, or are meh, is long.   The carpet a truly ancient drab gray that should have been replaced two tenants ago. The linoleum in the kitchen peeling at the edges. Duck tape in the deep recesses slowly losing its ability to hold things together. The building making the floor uneven. The kitchen is tiny. Even after my cat lost a foot of her tail, can not swing her in that small a space. Note never have I considered or tried to swing my cat or any other cat, least of all by their tail.

With such a case of buyer's remorse it could almost come as a surprise that I have stayed put as long as have.  Indeed moving was on my mind as my lease near the one year mark last year, but the layoff came first, I hunkered down and bide my time. Had my job continued I likely would have done some apartment hunting last summer.  Now precariously employed in temp work I know I can't hold the place without living in a state of near poverty at the same time.  If I want to reliably do anything fun, replace anything worn out, enjoy even a short trip out of town, I need to drive that cost down.

So as of right now I am seriously considering including my one month notice with my June rent. And then some how finding an affordable pet friendly suite or gods forbid becoming someone's roommate.  This prospect frightens me.  The moment I give that notice, I enter a near panic about trying to find a place, the haste has lead to inferior choices. But an empty fridge and bills tell me it is the right thing to do.

Wanted accommodations for a polite crazy catman and his cat.  

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

How a Hobbit takes a road trip.


An opportunity came up for me to get out of Vancouver.  It was taken with some trepidation, for the simple reason that the plan had some clear holes in it.  Good time allowed me to avoid the most chaotic parts of the enterprise.  The result I drove a moderately sized car from Vancouver to Merritt, unloaded a massively over sized U-Haul in Nakusp and squeezed in a terribly brief visit with the folks.

This post is not about the trek, but about uncertainty.  As a self described hobbit I like things to stay much the same day after day, and like Samwise Gamgee, I am fond of my food.  Knowing that the trip, on a good day, with a focused driver in a moderately speedy car is an optimistic 8 hours, and knowing that lumbering brick from U-Haul was about as likely to set a land speed record as a snail, I planned for a long day.  By planning for a long day I mean I packed food.  Because, driving takes concentration, I can't concentrate when hungry, and I don't believe others can either, so I packed extra food.

In all honesty I will likely pack food if I plan on not being back in the house in three hours.  Three hours is about the time after my last meal that I start to notice the decline in, attention, short term memory and mood.  So I try to plan for that.  The flip side is when I lack the funds to eat out or the resource to pack a picnic I become less adventurous.

Now as it happened was passing through a bread baking phase, which has slowed down, in part because of work and because it is simply too warm out to run the oven regularly.  Blessed with a few extra days off before the trip, I made bread, honestly I was bored and had a new cookbook.  The bread was not made expressly for the trip, but the timing worked out well.  The bread made was a Sicilian Scroll*, a hearty dense loaf made with semolina giving it a rich yellow colour.  Much to my surprise and pleasure it kept well enough to be enjoyable on Wednesday, despite being baked on the Monday.

*Recipe linked to is not from the book I used but is close enough.

It was dropped on its head when it left the
But man and hobbit a like can not live on bread alone, so the work did not stop there.  No, it takes more than one loaf to make me feel secure.  No, before I left, I packed a cooler sack with, prosciutto cotto, pickled artichoke hearts, mixed olives, apples, and soft goat cheese.  This would have been better had I packed a cutting board as it proved impossible to cut the bread with the pocket knife I had packed, but the bread lost nothing by being ripped to shreds.

As the day before the trip wound down I took stock, a few apples some bread, cheese and meat, along with things in jars.  I concluded it would not be enough. It was clear that the food lacked one key feature, it required some assembly.  The hours I would spend driving would take me past secondus, into elevenses and beyond, a hands free snack would be needed to extend my utility.  Enter cookies.

 Oatmeal raisin, modified after the Better Homes and Gardens cook book recipe.
The modifications to the recipe included a minor reduction in the sugar, dark chocolate chunks, dried cranberries, and walnuts.  I regret not having the orange zest used in making a previous batch, and found them a little too dry to be perfect.  A shortage of butter lead to making them entirely with shortening, not my preferred method but will do in a pinch.  Only after bagging the batch of cookies, such that both vehicles in our mad convoy could be confidently stocked with snacks did I feel I had enough.

Older than you and has been more places
than you. 
Only after a heavy breakfast of the bread and egg with enough strong coffee to kick start a zombie, did I leave the house.  When I did so left with a ancient backpack filled food water, and a sweater, and all the other things your mother tells you to pack.

The drive from Vancouver to Merritt, was uneventful, both human passengers and the three cats fell asleep somewhere past Hope.  The cookies were nibbled on along the way.  After Merritt I took the copilot seat in the stupid massive van, which had the fuel economy half that of a 1950's land yacht.  Leading to a gas stop in Lumbey.  After the driver discovered there was nothing fit for human consumption in the gas station, I pulled out goodies, and there was much rejoicing.

In the 20 km long fly speck of a community called Cherryville, a snack break was planned.  The plan fell through when it turned out that a cafe perched at the edge of the mountains, dependant on tourist traffic, was not going to be open for another week.  Faced with the threat of friends driving the most treacherous part of the route hungry, food was offered, eaten, and there was much rejoicing.  I can be a bit immodest around my foods, especially breads, but it would be fair to say that a good feeding on the last leg of the trip improved the mood all around.

It was never my plan to feed everyone, but when it comes to food security, the best way to have enough is to have more. You pack enough to share, not because sharing is the plan but because if you have to share you still have enough. My food was secure.  Points to my sister for the phrasing, which I have garbled.

Its funny how a selfish act can become selfless.  Its not to say I did not enjoy feeding my friends, of course I do, but on that trip it was a backup plan.

One of about four tall rats.

After a short supper with the folks, I sat on the front half of yard, enjoying the too many stars and loud nature.  My presence was noticed by a local deer, who huffed at me from the edge of the woods.  In the morning I saw the tree cull and it was good. This trip was the first one in years where I was there in time for the pond to be watered, there was a solitary mallard drake, who when started flew into the trees, and in fact into a tree, bushing against a top as he failed to climb.  It was a good little trip.
Sort of a pond