Saturday, October 9, 2010

A Morning at the Market

Yes, yes, I realize it has literally been MONTHS since I have updated my blog and that many significant events have occurred in my life (i.e. returning from Benin and starting medical school). I will eventually touch on those things but right now I want to focus on today's adventure at hand:

- the Halifax Farmer's Market
- the Dartmouth Farmer's Market

Have to admit that I was a little nervous of visiting the new location of the Farmer's Market in Halifax. Maybe it's because of the winding structure of the old market and the bustling feeling around every corner. Maybe it's because I link it to fond memories of waking up at the crack of dawn as a child and purchasing fresh eggs with my family.

That being said, I do understand the logistics behind the new building - not only is it wheelchair-accessible but it is also eco-friendly (ohhhh...THAT explains the brown water in the toilets!). And when I walked in I was pleasantly surprised. True, it does lack the character that the old market displayed every week but it was still lively and bustling. And the aroma of the old market was still present!! A lot can be said for odors and memories :)

This morning I purchased some organic apple-pear cider for my family and enjoyed a raw oyster with my friend Caroline (it was a long-delayed trip to the market).

Afterwards, we took the ferry over to Dartmouth and visited Two If By Sea, a cute bakery/cafe that is "Proudly Dartmouth"...

...I cannot say enough good things about this place. First of all, they have MASSIVE cookies! We both got the oatmeal raisin cookie which tasted like cinnamon roll in cookie form (had nice texture too!). My soy chai latte was one of the best I've had (ties for the best with Smiling Goat). They do some beautiful latte art as well. Oh, and I almost forgot one of the items they're famous for: their croissants - crusty and dusted with icing sugar on the outside but buttery, soft and chewy on the inside. Two If By Sea gets my vote for one of the Top 5 Cafes in HRM!

Yes, the cookie was actually the size of our faces!!

Well-worth the ferry ride!

A final feature of the day was the Dartmouth Farmer's Market. Both Caroline and I purchased a pair of freshwater pearl dangly earrings. For $10/pair they're a fantastic deal! Lovely colour combinations and Tasha Hubley, the designer, takes requests as well (email:

Well, that's all for today! Going to watch Prince of Persia with my family right now. Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Arrival in Benin

Well, I am finally in a place where I have access to high speed internet so I will try to give a brief but detailed update :).

After about a day and a half of flying I arrived in Benin. Flights were a bit delayed due to a snow storm in Paris and I didn’t have my luggage for the first 2 days but eventually that arrived as well. When you don’t have your luggage you start to see things in a whole new light. I realized that I could theoretically live without my clothes, toiletries, and comforts from home. I also really appreciated a pair of clean underwear given to me by a Swiss lady at the guest house!!

The first city I was in was Cotonou which is on the coast of Benin. Highlights include my first motorbike ride (local form of taxis) and swimming in the ocean!!

Right now I am in a city called Parakou which is about an 8 hr drive further north. There are a few missionary families here and I’ve had fun wearing several different ‘hats’ this week with the 6 MKs (this has included teaching art, doing math games, helping with sports, and speaking during chapel time). I’ve also had the chance to help out with a few African kids clubs (soccer and balloon twisting) and taught the colour wheel at one of the schools (i.e., red + blue = purple…which they found really cool). One cool thing I got to see was all the Operation Christmas Child boxes being given to the kids. Even though they weren’t allowed to open them at the school they were so excited to receive them! And the boxes came from Canada!!

To say it is hot here is almost an understatement. Today the high is 40 degrees Celsius and it is supposed to get to 43 this week. At first I wasn’t sure if it just felt hot since I came from the “Great White North” but even the locals find the temperature stifling. Skirts are nice in theory since you have the breeze between your legs except you can also feel the sweat droplets running down every bit of your body.

Some of the local dishes here are bean cakes, fried potatoes, yam pilé. So they pound the yam and maybe bake it and it makes this kind of flavourless puffy gloop (actually, the texture is quite nice). When I had it there were 2 sauces to choose from so I tried a bit of each. One was curry/peanut sauce which was tasty. The other one…had okra. In general I have a very high tolerance for eating different/unique foods. I’ll try anything once and will usually finish it. The okra sauce was a struggle to keep down. Let’s just say it has been nicknamed “snot sauce” by more than one person. Next time I have yam pilé I will skip the snot sauce and stick to the flavourless gloop. The other dish that was a struggle for me was ribs. The meat itself was delicious but the family I was with ate everything off the bone, fat included. I nibbled away at most of the fat but couldn’t bring myself to finish the whole thing. I guess God is teaching me to be grateful for every bit of food on my plate!

Other random thoughts:
- I have a new appreciation for pressurized/running water and clean/dry underwear.
- Up until a few days ago my feet and legs had ballooned in size. My ankles were pretty much indistinguishable…as were my knees. Luckily the swelling has gone down.
- African children singing under a mango tree is one of the most beautiful things I have heard.
- In Benin, knees are sexy.
- My standard of cleanliness has dramatically decreased.
- Carbs are the main source of nutrition here; however I think I’m in better shape than I’ve been for a while. The reason? Chasing after/entertaining the 6 MKs.
- Although I’ve been walking/running around barefoot more often my feet aren’t altogether disgusting (when clean)…although I wasn’t thrilled to find dried blood on the bottom of my feet after playing kick the can a few nights ago.

Unlike previously planned, I will be staying here in Parakou for the next week and not traveling up to Bembereke until the end of next week. That’s because I’ll be helping out with a local football (soccer) tournament for girls on Monday and Tuesday. We are expecting 80 to 100 girls to come!! The majority do not come from Christian families and are never given the opportunity to publicly play football. It should be a lot of fun J. In theory I am assistant coach…with my extensive history of professional football playing (one year in high school…haha).

Not sure when I will have internet access again…hopefully a little later this week and hopefully I will be able to attach a picture or two!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Willman's vs. Jamieson's - the ultimate fish & chips taste test!

This past August I spent a week in Vancouver and got a chance to try fish & chips on Granville Island. They were really tasty but the question was...were they as good as what we serve up on the East Coast? It was actually a tie! My only comparison was Sam's Seafood Express; however, between the two, I found Sam's fish was fresher but the batter was better on Granville Island.

Upon coming home, I talked about this experience with my friend Alto and he presented me with a challenge: we would each choose a restaurant in Halifax, split a serving of fish & chips, and then rate the quality of the meal. We finally got to do this last night. My choice? Willman's Seafood (5644 Kane St., Halifax, NS). Alto's choice? Well, originally it was Phil's Seafood but he went there the other week and left disappointed. So we caught a wireless signal on his ipod touch, found a blog that rates fish & chips places all over HRM and went with Jamieson's Irish House & Grill (5 Cumberland Dr., Cole Harbour, NS), which got 4.5/5.

Willman's was very friendly from the moment we walked in to the moment we walked out, perhaps because it's family-run (at least that's the impression I had). The fish pieces were a decent size and the fries were handcut. But if I could rave about one thing it would be the batter. I don't know what they put in it but it is delish! Only downside is the fish was a bit dry...I'm hoping this isn't the norm. The fries were pretty good.

And Jamieson's? Gotta say I was a bit disappointed. We ordered the beer battered fish & chips and although the fish was moist and flavourful, the pieces were small, the batter was a bit bland and the dish as a whole was pretty greasy. The fries were alright for me...not the best in the world but definitely not the worst (and didn't have a freezer taste to them). However, Jamieson's pear salad was fantastic and the service was also friendly.

My final verdict...
-Willman's:8.5/10 (see picture below...yummy!)

- Jamieson's: 6.5/10 (see below...okay, it was really dark and this picture makes the fish & chips look somewhat really wasn't that bad. They deserve more credit than this picture gives them).

Please note that a 1 is fish & chips so bad that I couldn't finish the dish (and I finish my food 99% of the time!). 5 is your run-of-the-mill fish & chips and a 10 would be the best fish and chips on the planet. For a restaurant to get a 10 I'd have to feel like heaven was in my mouth (despite the fact that I was eating a heart attack special).

Was Willman's better than Sam's? I'm not sure. When I get back from Benin I'll have to have another fish & chips night to compare the two. But until that time I'll give my arteries a bit of a break so they can unclog themselves. :)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Chocolate chip cookies...with a secret twist!

Yes, yes...I realize it's been quite a while since my last baking post, but that doesn't mean I've been idle in the kitchen! My latest obsession? The 'plain old' chocolate chip cookie. But what's in a chocolate chip cookie? I mean, what makes one better than another? I personally like mine soft and chewy and not overwhelmed with chocolate chips.

Of course, I had to search RecipeZaar and I found to my delight, this recipe. Yes, at first glance it seems like the standard, that is, until you read the ingredients and reach 'instant vanilla pudding' on the list. I have to say, these may be the best chocolate chip cookies I've tasted. The pudding makes them ohhh sooo soft and adds a light vanilla flavour that perfectly compliments the chocolate. Yummy!

On the cooling rack, fresh out of the oven. The perfect time to indulge! :)

Coming up...the search for the perfect Fish & Chips AND the ultimate PB oatcake showdown: Rebekah vs. The Smiling Goat

Monday, January 18, 2010

The date is set

February 9th...that's the date when my world will drastically change. When I'll be taken out of the comforts of my home and jet off to a land unknown to me. The date when I'll say goodbye to so many familiar faces. The date when I will board a plane to Benin for 3 months.

I knew I would miss home, but I didn't know how much until this past week when trying to book flights on my own. As I cried in frustration, the reality hit me hard. There is so much that my parents do for me that I take for granted. And even if I see little of them during the week as a result of my busy/social schedule, I know they are always close by...just a phone call away. Even if it were possible to call home everyday from Benin, I know it wouldn't be healthy.

As I sat alone in the dark, a voice inside me said, It would be so much easier to stay in Halifax. Sure, it would be easier...but I know that I would be miserable for those 3 months and beyond. God has opened this door for me and amidst the fear of the unknown, I have peace. I know this what I'm supposed to be doing...

...the whole thing just feels a little more concrete when the plane tickets are confirmed.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Harry Potter and the...what happens??

For the longest time I was against reading the Harry Potter books. There was a lot of controversy surrounding the series coming from my high school and even from some friends. Over the summer my cousin, shocked that I had never watched any of the movies let alone read the books, convinced me to give The Philosopher's Stone a try. That was back in June and since then I've watched all the movies released to date and tonight I finished The Half Blood Prince.

In a way, I wonder what kept me from reading them for so long. I conjured this idea in my mind that the series would be somehow insulting, but reading them has proved my theory wrong. There are also parents/teachers/book reviewers who say the series gets darker with each book...but I'd like to disagree. Yes, Harry gets steps closer to destroying his arch-nemisis but it's no different than how Frodo is one step closer to destroying the ring in LOTR. And it's true that Harry does feel anger and the need for revenge but the author always comes back to his most powerful weapon being love.

All this might change, of course, once I read the final book...Potter might kill everyone in his path and crown himself as the new lord...but I am going to give it the chance to prove me wrong :). And I have to's strange not knowing what's going to happen in the next book since in all the previous ones I watched the movie beforehand. And everyone has done a great job in keeping the story a secret. Looking forward to finishing the series :).

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Highlights from Sydney

1. Eating kangaroo.

2. Sitting in a museum on a rainy day, gazing at pictures of the solar system and just listening to a deep Australian voice describe each picture.

3. Worship at Hillsong Church.

4. Seeing an exhibit called "The 80s are Back" about flashback to childhood!

5. Day trip to Manly Beach.

6. 3 words: Lindt Chocolate Cake.

7. Getting a break from work.

8. Watching the most incredible firework show in my life with 1.5 million people.

9. Walking back from the fireworks to our hotel in what felt like a mass exodus. Passed by a pub which was blasting "I've Got a Feeling" by the Black Eyed Peas and everyone on the street broke out into song. It felt like a music video.

10. Hiking Blue Mountain's breathtaking scenery.

Passing the Sydney Opera House on the ferry to Manly Beach