Hipster Hood

Moving Day

Moving Day

You’ll recall the old real estate adage – when looking for property to buy its all about location, location, location.  What are the factors that determine whether a location is good?  Proximity to public transport, walkability perhaps the potential of increase in property value in the foreseeable future.  When looking at property for the investment potential – ie; how much will it appreciate over the next several years – you need not look at the long term mass transit plans or city development strategy.  Just look for the hipsters.  Hipsters mean you are on the cusp of being the next hot neighborhood in town.  I give you THE prime example – Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  This should be your real estate strategy.

All you followers of The Rock and Roll Mom know we just moved into a new house.  We moved a little closer to the heart of Vancouver’s eastside – more affectionately known as East Van.  A rapidly gentrifying part of the city, its a colourful area filled with an eclectic mix of old and new houses and lots of people on the same game plan as us (ie: professionals with young kids).  More importantly, I think we have stumbled upon a little Hipster hotspot.  Could we be on to something here?  I’m not sure but here are some of the signs that your neighborhood might be moving into Hipster territory:

1. Your neighbor likes to play banjo/ mandolin/ harp on the front porch.

2. Your other new neighbor has an experimental art project synth band that rehearses daily at 4pm.

3. The local coffee shop only plays vinyl and the decor theme is Crow.

4. Part 2 of the local coffee shop – you can bet that those are ethical crop beans and that the coffee is brewed in those fancy single serving glass carafe-y thingys.

5. Gluten free everything, everywhere.

6. Vintage store is picked clean of anything worth buying or anything plaid.

7. Tacos tacos tacos.

8. Most of the local girls where their hair in big donut buns on the top of their heads.  The donut hair buns are not to be confused with the maple bacon gluten free donuts available at the aforementioned coffee shop.

9. The local drug store always seems to have a surplus of shaving cream, razors etc.

10. More and more neighbors are dressing in skinny jeans, hats and ironic (but is it then unironic??) t-shirts.

All of these signs are excellent news for the neighborhood.  It means you’re about to get more and more great restaurants that serve organic vegan thin crust Neopolitan pizza.  It also means that you are bound to get several Urban Outfitters inspired shops where you can buy kitschy patio lights, and the aforementioned ironic/ unironic t-shirts.  Once you’re overun with the retail haunts of Hipster-hood, you are well on your way to increased property values.  Congratulations!  The question then becomes, will you sell or start a neighborhood bluegrass band?

 

 

 

Why Oh Why Do I Love Paris…

Slight detour to Paris

Only slightly detoured en route to Paris

I just got back from a week on the road.  Not so bad when the road is a whirlwind trip to Paris!  It had a bit of a rocky start as the French Air Traffic Controllers decided to strike while I was en route.  Good news however, as I did finally make it with only a slight detour via Brussels (very charming – made a mental note to return!)

I love Paris.  Who doesn’t?  Its EXACTLY as you would expect.  Charming little streets and bustling boulevards.  Shopping, eating, culture, pain au chocolat – what’s not to aimer?

So here’s where I (very narcissistically) share my favorite places in Paris.  Hope you don’t mind?

I have been lucky enough to travel to Paris a handful of times, always on business.  So my experiences there are more related to eating, fast shopping and sleeping.

SLEEP

The Hôtel de Sers

Located in the 8th, around the corner from the legendary George V, The Hotel de Sers is a great little boutique property.  The rooms are petit (as are all in Paris) but I was lucky enough to have one facing the inner courtyard which offered a little peace in Central Paris.  The bed was comfy and the bath shower combo functioned well (save for the lack of a shower door which meant for some sopping up).  The decor was edgy but not annoying although we did take pity on the sole goldfish swimming in each flower vase in the lobby.

Just off Av George V, the hotel was a very quick walk to the shopping on the Champs Élysées to the left and the Seine/ Eiffel Tower to the right.

The restaurant was good and accommodating of my weird food issues and the hotel staff in general were fantastic.  Especially the Concierge staff who happily made reservations and tracked us down to help with deliveries.

EAT

L’As du Fallafel

A trip into the Marais is not complete without a falafel and this is arguably the best I’ve ever had.  A friend brought me here and shared the tip of dining in rather than waiting in the long line at the take-out window.  The falafel costs a few euros more when dining in – but its worth it.

Like burritos found in The Mission in San Francisco – there is nothing different about these falafels save for the freshest of ingredients.  Delicious roasted eggplant and crispy cabbage perfectly accent the delicately fried falafels.  Yum!  Plus at €8.00, its a pretty cheap meal.

Le Stella

On our last visit to Le Stella we discovered that its much better in the colder months when the raw seafood bar is set up in place of the sidewalk patio.  The selection of oysters and chilled prawns, langoustins and lobster was incredible.

Le Stella is located in the 16th on Av Victor-Hugo and seems to be a local for the neighborhood.  We were charmed by families enjoying Sunday dinner with the kids fast asleep at the table.

Our recent summer visit lead us to a delicious and fresh gazpacho and some beautifully grilled sole.  Oh yeah and the Sancerre was amazing!

Au Pied de Cochon & La Poule Au Pot  

In the music business, late night eating is the way it goes so its always good to have a couple of late/ all night places in your back pocket.  Both Au Pied Au Cochon and La Poule Au Pot are located in Les Halles and are reasonably good options in a city with surprisingly few late night dining options.  Both offer tuxedoed waiters serving delicious country bread, cheese and other typical French fare.  Au Pied Au Cochon was definitely the better of the two although they were out of the house specialty last time we were there… thank God!

Guy Savoy

Bread cart, cheese cart, dessert cart.  Foodie heaven.  Enough said.

SHOP

Shopping in Paris is amazing.  I have had such little free time while there to actually properly shop (ouch, my diamond shoes are pinching).  But I have dabbled.

Pharmacie

Located everywhere – just look for the green cross.  Any Pharmacie you come across is full of treasures.  French skincare lines are amazing.  Even the inexpensive drugstore brands rival what you’ll find in the department stores.  Embryolisse is the best!  Its a favorite of make-up artists on both sides of the pond and very inexpensive even when paying in euros.  I use their Crème Anti-Àge 1èr Rides (anti-aging cream) and it is amazing.  I also really like the Avene sunscreen line.  Its easy on the skin and smells great.

Galeries Lafayette

With its incredible domed Belle Epoque ceiling, this forerunner of the department store carries anything and everything including!  Its like a shopping cathedral!  The Longchamp boutique here has stanchions to manage the throngs of tourists picking up their trademark shoppers in every shade (I have two and I LOVE them).

Lanvin

The beautiful flagship at 22 Rue du Faubourg St Honoré is the original boutique opened by Jeanne Lanvin in 1889 (when Coco Chanel was a mere 6 years old!)  Mme Lanvin started her life in couture as a milliner and made dresses for her daughter.  As demand grew, Lanvin became one of the premiere fashion houses in Paris.  A luxury brand for sure, but definitely worth a visit to see Lanvin and the other fashion houses along the Rue du Faubourg St Honoré.

La Tour Eiffel

Paris is an incredible place.   The first time you see the Eiffel Tower all lit up at night, sparkling like diamonds will take your breath away.  I can’t wait to go back.  À la prochaine!

It Ain’t Easy Being Green

vectorstock_224829Why the hell does it cost so much to be green?

We try to be green.  We recycle, we compost, we try to use less water.  Its an on-going process as we learn more about what we are doing wrong and trying to correct this behaviour.  After reading about the chemicals in cleaning products and cosmetics, I switched everything in the house over to more environmentally sound cleansers, shampoos etc.  Learning more about the potential dangers in GMO products we are working towards eating more organic products.

When I was first pregnant with Shorty #1, I started to become paranoid about all the environmental dangers that faced the poor little bean before she was even born.  It was easy to become panicked about the microwave or the toilet bowl cleaner, not to mention the food we were eating.  That’s when we started a more conscious attempt at eating organic/ free-range/ grass-fed/ hormone-free/ non-GMO.  We very quickly learned that this proposition is NOT cheap.

Enter Whole Foods aka Whole Paycheque.  This place is a license to print money as it plays on our conscience to try and reverse the damage done.  Seriously, I know I can buy the non-organic peaches for $1 less (or more) a pound across the street but do I really want to inflict one of the dirty dozen products on my kids.  I feel like I’ll be called out on child abuse!  But when you walk out of that place $200 poorer and only 2 bags of groceries to show for it – ouch! vectorstock_1098832

What was the small business solution to a big problem is now the big business bad guy.  So we look for alternatives – Mom & Pops, Co-Ops, Farmer’s Market.  All good options.  But do not replace convenience.  Instead you are schlepping across town to the Co-Op to pick-up the produce, the local butcher for the grain fed meet, then to the big box for toilet paper and the regular grocery store for peanut butter.  So now the weekly groceries kill a Saturday and have a carbon footprint the size of the Amazon rainforest.

We won’t give up however.  We’ll keep striving to be greener.  Maybe we could convert our electricity at home so its generated by a treadmill.  Then we would save the planet, money and have the kids run it so they’ll sleep through the night… Just kidding.

Adult Conversation

Don't feed the animals...

Don’t feed the animals…

The other day we were out with friends for brunch.  It was a beautiful sunny day and we were entrenched on a patio having a great meal.  The Shorties were with us of course… We tried to carry on an adult (A-dult, not a-DULT) conversation with our pals that we haven’t seen in a while.  It was challenging.  After many tears Shorty #2 managed to pass out in her stroller in the midday heat (woohoo) but this left Shorty #1 looking to be entertained.  “Mom, Mom, Mom” she bellowed across the table.  When I didn’t immediately answer since I was listening intently to our friend recount a story, she yelled louder “Moooooooooommmmmm!!!!”  Apologizing to our friend, I interrupted “Yes?”  She looked me in the eye “I farted.”  Okey dokey, thanks for that.  I’ll alert the media.

We like to include the Shorties in our adult meals and conversations.  I personally think its good education for them to learn by osmosis how to behave in these situations.  I think it helps kids develop their own opinion and can give them the confidence to share their thoughts in a group.  However, while they develop their inner monologue and hone the fine art of conversation they continue to share topics that are not exactly ideal for dinner parties.

Luckily, our friends who don’t have kids of their own have been exceedingly patient with our Shorties, welcoming them into the fold and encouraging their participation in the conversations.  For this I am grateful for the part they play in the kids education.  But it can be trying for them I’m sure as it can take several attempts to actually finish a story, if at all.  For this I apologize.  My post-partum brain after 2 babies hasn’t bounced back as well as I would have liked so I often struggle to stay on the topic and return to the story once interrupted.  I’m working on that!  Perhaps I’ll keep a notepad handy so I can jot down where we left off when the Shorties interject!

Dinner.

Fine dining with Shorty #2

Fine dining with Shorty #2

Who knew a meal could be such a pain in the ass!  Seriously.  Every day around 1pm as I sit down to lunch I realize I haven’t done a damn thing about dinner.  Next follows the mad panic to figure it out.  The daily hunting and gathering is a constant irritation which provides nothing but stress… oh yeah and in the end sustenance.

We roll in the door sometime between 5:45 and 6 – the kids are starved, we’re pooped and bedtime is just around the corner.  The first order of business is pulling together some sort of quasi-healthy, hopefully palatable meal that will please 2 kids and 2 adults.  And to think we can face this incredible challenge not once a week – but 5 nights in a row.  Awesome!

I know what you’re thinking – make a plan, cook ahead, yada yada yada.  Tried it all – the simple fact of the matter is that no matter how organized we can be on this front, I’m still the person who hits the supermarket during the after work commute hoping to find something for dinner!  Don’t even get me started on groceries – that my friends is a whole other blog!

We have successfully followed a cook ahead plan – a freezer full of curries and soups has been a blessing – but man, I’m BORED of chicken soup.  The nightly meal plan (Mon – Chicken, Tues – Pasta etc) never works.  Who wants to live life so rigidly?  Not to mention the long term planning that needs to go into those menus.

So here we are again, 1pm and I’m texting J – “what do you feel like for supper?” and the response follows one of 3 routes.

1. “I have no idea.  Whatever you want is fine.”  Which translates to: “I have no idea so you think of something.”

2. “Let’s have soup.” Which translates to a pantry lucky dip.

3. “Take out?”  Which translates to “Take out.”

We’re lucky, we live in a great foodie city and can order cheap, fantastic and bonus – healthy food on the way home.  We eat sushi like its McDonald’s in this town.  However, we can’t do this every night.  So begins the conversation – pasta?  No.  Chicken?  No.  Delicious braised lamb with couscous and white bean ragout?  Are you kidding me?  I wish.

This doesn’t even factor in the curve ball of Shorty #1.  A great eater initially, #1 has grown pickier in her old age.  She loves a finely grilled hot dog or a delicate macaroni with cheese.  Occasionally she enjoys a beautiful cheese pizza.  She goes absolutely crazy when anything comes served in a sauce (save for her beloved pasta of course).  We are trying to re-broaden her culinary horizons, but so far this continues to be an uphill battle.

Shorty #2 is far less… discerning.  She will venture into the more exotic territories of the spice route with curries and other savoury dishes.  But she too has her moods and sometimes only scrambled eggs and bapbap (aka ketchup) will do.

So how do we plan a meal for 4 that will appeal to all?  That is sauce, gluten and dairy free.  That tastes amazing to everyone and won’t contribute to our culinary ennui.  Beats me – but whoever figures this out should win the Nobel Prize!

The Urban Farmer

Maybe Shorty #1 will have a green thumb?

Maybe Shorty #1 will have a green thumb?

I think I may have a black thumb.  I can’t seem to grow anything… except weeds and zucchini.

When we moved into our house 5 summers ago we inherited a backyard full of beautiful things.  The previous owner was definitely a green thumb and she knew her shit.  Me, on the other hand – 5 years later -and I’m staring down the barrel of Alice in Freaking Wonderland.  Its overgrown and full yet patchy and prickly at the same time.  I realize I need to do some thinning but much like my eyebrows I have a tendency to overdo it.  Good news is that the eyebrows grow back quicker than the laurel hedge (oops).

I thought it would be great to grow things we could eat.  So I spent a Saturday ripping out an entire section of the garden that was currently occupied by a nest of tiger lilies and irises.  I didn’t realize that these were years of intertwined bulbs I was messing with so it took a loooooong time.  I brought in some fresh top soil and set out to plant the garden… from seed.

Yeah.  Those suckers are SMALL.  Really small and you’re supposed to space them apart – far apart.  Well, it didn’t work out as planned I may have overseeded (yes, this led to clusters of mutant mini carrots all growing into one another – lovely).  I lovingly tended the little veggie patch – but as is wont to happen here in the Pacific Northwest we experienced a very extended Spring followed by June gloom and the seeds took ages to sprout.  Finally, July came around and brought some sunshine and warm temperatures to our little yard and the veggie patch jumped to life.

I was buoyed!  Excited about the prospect of cooking up our carrots and green beans, roasting the zucchini and building a cucumber salad.  July marched on and the garden slowly followed behind.

In August the only crop we could actually make into a meal were the zucchinis.  By now I had abandoned the shriveled cucumber plants, bid farewell to the scrawny green beans and well ran like hell from the creepy mutant carrots.  But the zucchinis were there and they were flourishing – yay!  Until…

…the aphids arrived.  I was trying to keep our little backyard oasis organic, so I asked Google what to do.  Ladybugs!  Of course, the ladybugs will eat the aphids.  Off to the organic garden shop to pick up ladybugs.  250 of the little dolls.  I brought them home for what I like to call The Great Ladybug Emancipation.

The next morning I went to check the garden – the aphids were gone… and so were the ladybugs.  Every last one.

That’s when the zucchini developed mold and I hung up my garden gloves for the season.  This year I really gave up.  I’ve just planted a patch of impatiens.  Word has it that they could careless about the sun, so lets see what happens.  I did add a small zucchini patch only because I’m a glutton for punishment.

I guess I’ll never be an urban farmer…

You Are What You Eat

It's not me it's you, cheese and bread.

It’s not me it’s you, cheese and bread.

Its been 65 days since I gave up wheat, dairy and sugar.  Sounds horrendous (in a first world problem sort of way) I know.  But really, I kinda like it.  I’ve lost over 10 pounds and according to J – I’m not as gassy.  (That’s true love right?  When your partner notices your new eating regiment by the amount of gas you are or are not passing).  Is that TMI?  We all do it right?  Don’t try and make it seem like YOU don’t!

I always avoided cleanses and elimination diets like the plague.  But I felt I needed to shake it up this time and really cut out the bad habit foods that I lived on – I’m looking at you delicious granola.  It hasn’t been as hard as I would have thought.  When I do sneak a little treat here and there, I pay for it later.  Who knew that one small morsel of chocolate birthday cake could reek such havoc on the digestive tract.

The question is, now what do I do.  I am pretty sure that gluten was my secret enemy.  So it can piss off.  Luckily every grocery store these days offers lots of gluten free alternatives.  I really dig quinoa and rice cakes are kinda yummy (I know what you’re thinking, “whatever weirdo”).  But do I let dairy back in?  Or do I continue to ban milk.  And sugar.  That’s a whole other deal.  What do we do about sugar?  Are we breaking up… forever?  Maybe not forever.  Maybe I can cheat on sugar with its less refined friends?  Well hello maple syrup, perhaps you’re not just for breakfast anymore?  This is where its tricky.  I’m kind of scared to let any of this unholy trinity of food back into my life.  What will happen?  Will I pull a Roker?  Or do I stay the course and hope some new study doesn’t come out refuting the health benefits of quinoa?

At least eating plans are so common these days, you no longer get the hairy eyeball from waitresses who need a whole pad of paper to take down your lunch order and all the subsequent modifications.  I’m heading out on the road next week.  I guess we’ll really see how all this will go down when I’m faced with tour eating habits.  Must resist the late night pizza.  Cannot order a clubhouse sandwich from room service.

If you’re wondering, red wine and coffee get to stay.  I think we’re destined for a life long love affair.