Our House (We Have A House?)

We said yes to our rental place, sight unseen. We knew nothing except that it was close to Colin’s parents, three bedrooms and we would have free run of the top floor. And that we would need a bed.

For some reason the whole bed situation worried me a lot less than the kitchen situation. What does that say about me?

Today, I found out a boatload more. And I’ll just tell you up front, my house rocks.

We actually have two floors (the house is three stories).

This means I have an entire floor dedicated to the kitchen and living room. I cannot tell you how much that excites me.

There are three bedrooms upstairs, one has an en suite. Carl and Caroline are taking that one, since they have a giant bed (and they found the place, so it’s well deserved). Eventually we’ll find another roommate to take the third bedroom.

It’s just around two corners from where we used to live, so essentially the exact same area. I am still down the street from the hospital, the clinic, the liquor store, the grocery store and Sobo.

Plus, our house is pretty. It has cedar shingle siding and looks like it gets lots of sun (yay garden!). It has trees and flowers and cedar hedges.

It has a shed to store the surfboards and bikes. Which I don’t particularly care about. Sue me.

I would put a picture up of the place but Google Earth makes me feel like a creeper. So just take this moment to visualize my pretty, pretty house. And my pretty garden. And my pretty kitchen.

Thank you for that moment. I feel like you understand.




Only The Essentials

I shopped today. I shopped for the things that will make me happy this summer. Do you want to know what those things are?

Are you sure? You might think less of me. Because I certainly never thought that my happiest shopping experience would be at a gourmet grocery store. But there it is.

Tarah and I had a rocking day of shopping today. We went out to West Vancouver and hit up Whole Foods, where the cheese aisle will bring you to your knees. Maybe that’s just Tarah, but that cheese aisle is pretty amazing. After a long detour to Holt Renfrew and an exhaustive search for a shirt to go with sequined shorts (don’t ask), we finally ended up at the mecca: Gourmet Warehouse.

It’s on Hastings. It’s huge. It has everything. They leave bags of chips open everywhere for me to snack on. I love them.

I wish I had time to take pictures while I was there, but Tarah was hustling my hiney to get home. The place really is amazing and has pretty much everything you could ever need for your kitchen. I didn’t get everything I needed today, so I will have to go back before we leave for Tofino in order to outfit my new kitchen (awww darn, rough life).

But here’s what I got today, in case you are curious about what I keep in my kitchen cupboards.

If you aren’t and just stop here, I understand. Only nutters like me get this excited about spices and cooking utensils.

Cote d’Azur Kosher Salt. A big ass jar of it. I like having my salt in a big jar like this because I can control the amount I use with my fingers much better than with a salt shaker. And I like kosher salt because it tastes less salty than table salt. Or something like that.

I sincerely apologize for the atrocious lighting in this picture. I took it at night, and my flash is just plain scary.

These are my essentials. These are the things I use almost daily.

Except for oregano. I can’t believe I forgot to get oregano. It is my favorite, and I left it abandoned on the spice rack. I should be flogged, for realsies.

And then there’s this little beauty. It’s a rasp, and I use one almost every day. It shreds cheese and zests citrus fruit. It grates up little cloves of garlic. Everyone should have one, because it will instantly make you cook better.

Buy one, and you’ll be zesting lemons like Giada de Laurentiis. And then, before you know it you’ll be wearing cleavage-y tops and saying “spa-GEE-ti” instead of, you know, spaghetti. Use the rasp at your own risk.

So those are just a few of the things I’ll be packing in our Volkswagon to take over to Tofino, and beyond my knickers, probably the most important.


Getting A Tofino Tan

You will never see me in a bathing suit in Tofino. Never ever.

It may have happened once or twice in the first summer, on the hottest of hot days in July. I would wander down the street to the beach with my book and my towel and the confidence that comes with having a post high school body. I was still willing to lay down, half naked, and read. I shudder to think of it now.

Never again.

Most of you know, I’m a pale person. My natural hair color is on the reddish-blond side, leaving me with the kind of opalescent skin that makes anesthesiologists and nurses weep with joy. No one ever had a hard time finding a vein on me. The state of my paleness has only gotten worse in the past four years.

I have gone from being acceptably pale to borderline albino. How does this happen?

It happens when you move to a place where the average temperature hovers around 20 degrees in the summer. Yes, I live near the ocean. Yes, we surf regularly. This does not equal sun or even warmth. When I surf, I am snugly ensconced in a head to toe wetsuit with booties to keep my tootsies warm. The sun wouldn’t dream of being able to penetrate 3 millimeters of neoprene. Also, living near the ocean means we have a pretty wicked ocean breeze most days, making sun bathing a suicide mission.

Because of my progressive paleness, when I do venture out into the sun for a beach day, I have to slather myself in a 30 SPF all over my body, and waterproof/sweatproof/tanproof sunscreen on my face. Otherwise, I end up purple and peely. Not a pretty face to present to tourists.

The lack of tan has gotten so bad that other Tofitians have commented on my paleness. Mostly, the townspeople all just recognize that everyone living in Tofino works too damn hard to get out in the sun, and the little bit of sun we do get just isn’t enough for a decent tan. But that didn’t stop my boss from gawking at my transparent legs last summer, howling “and I thought my legs were white!”.

Because of this trauma and my understanding that if I remove too much clothing, I reflect the sun like a lighthouse on the coastline, I don’t go tan on the beach anymore. If you do see me down at the beach, I’m usually bundled up into a sweater and jeans to fend off the breeze. Or, on a really warm day, in a sundress. With a cardigan. And polarized sunglasses.

Anything less than that, and I might blind the sea life.

Getting There Without Going Crazy

The road to Tofino is a long one. The figurative one, that is. Sorting out what we need to bring and what we don’t, when to leave, what time, reserving ferries, etc. are all part of the extensive planning that goes into our trip.

Ugh. All I want to do is play with this blog and watch American Idol, damnit.

Speaking of, holy crap so good this season right? After last week’s eliminations, I am stoked on this show in a way I haven’t been since Kelly Clarkson beat out JewFro.

But back to the serious stuff, April really gets to me. In April 2008, prior to our first summer in Tofino, I nearly had me a little breakdown. The overwhelming amount of stuff to to, the reality of leaving home and everyone I love for four months, it all seems to hit me like a freight train come April. The first time was the hardest, I cried the whole way to the ferry, then off and on for the first week in Tofino.

It’s gotten a little easier every year. I have a pretty good system that keeps me from getting too sad, it involves nearly daily phone calls, emails and a halfway point visit home.

This year there’s so much extra to think about. Rent. Sheets. Plates. Shared Bathrooms.

Must stop….I can just feel my hand starting to itch towards my phone to call Colin and cry. He will tell me everything is going to be ok.

And at the end of the day, it will be. As easy as it is for me to sit here and worry about what might happen and what needs to be done before we go, I know all of it is going to be ok. If I forget to bring shampoo, that’s ok. If we end up having to leave a day later, that’s ok too. Because the most important thing (please look away if you are sensitive to mushy moments) is that Colin and I stick it out together and have fun.

I mean really, isn’t that what your twenties is all about? Figuring out the kinks and having fun?

And drinking Four Loko?


Giving It Up

This is my sad face too, Daisy

Most of you are going to read that title and laugh at me.

“Yeah, OK Alex, you are sooo sacrificing yourself, going to live in Tofino for the summer. Rough life.”

It’s true though. It’s a sacrifice.

To start, Tofino has some pretty strict bylaws against franchises. Any of them. We only have like, two in town. The Best Western and the Co-op Grocery store. Do you know what that means?

No Tim Hortons (probably a good thing. Donuts are the devil’s treats, I say)

No McDonalds (alright, I am thankful for this. I do not need McDonalds in my life. I do not need McDonalds in my life. I do not need McDonalds in my life.)

No Costco (we couldn’t even fit a Costco on the peninsula, let alone sustain one, but I cannot understate that joy of buying bulk toilet paper.)

No Wal-Mart (another one of those I-don’t-really-need-it places, but when you’re trying to furnish a house on a student budget, a Wal Mart would be so handy!)

No Starbucks. (Now, I could live with this. I don’t drink coffee on the regular, and when I do I am totally fine with the great coffee shops in Tofino. However, the cute little Tofino coffee shops do not carry my Passion Shaken Iced Tea Lemonade. This is a travesty.)

No H&M, no Joe Fresh, no Winners (I actually am completely unable to buy clothes in Tofino. Sure, there are clothing stores, if you want to spend $120 on a pair of jeans you could get at home for $60. Also, I am trying to stay away from the “surfer/hippy/flannel-lover” look this year, thanks.)

I’m also limited in the food department. Being a small remote town, Tofino’s grocery store is somewhat limited. It is in no way a bad grocery store, in fact it is surprising how much variety they are able to stock. However, when you need something like portobello mushrooms or pork shoulder or Genoa salami or peaches, it isn’t always there. I do a lot of improvising in my cooking in Tofino. And a lot of chatting with the butcher.

Movie theaters. Let me tell you people, as a girl who loves her Harry Potter movies (and movie theater popcorn), living in Tofino is a major, major sacrifice. The nearest move theater is an hour and a half away, meaning if I want to see a movie, it’s a flipping day trip. Seeing as how this summer’s installment will be the last Harry Potter movie ever, I have already planned to take a vacation day and drag Colin out to Port Alberni. I. Will. Not. Miss. This.

I also sacrifice the age old activity known as “dress up nice and go out on the town”. Dressing up nice gets you funny looks in Tofino. Snarky looks. Stink eyes, if you are Tarah. For realsies! People can be snooty if you put on a pair of heels in this town. Do I need to look really nice for work? No, I don’t. But I like to. I like to curl my hair and do my makeup and wear dresses, damnit. If that makes me less cool, so be it. If wearing Michael Kors shoes is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

Sometime soon I will do a post on everything I gain by living in Tofino (which is a lot, don’t get me wrong). But for the moment, I’m going to sip my Passion Tea Lemonade and wrap everything in proscuitto, while I still can.

The Pre-Trip Trip

I would, right? I would schedule us a two week vacation in Ohio, departing the day after exams and returning the day before we leave for Tofino. I live dangerously. Maybe psychotically.

When we planned this trip at Christmas time, we weren’t sure what we would end up doing this summer. I had just started a part time job at a bridal salon, and Colin was interviewing for a job with the Ministry of Transportation. But I knew no matter what we ended up doing, the only window of time for a vacation would be the last two weeks of April.

So I booked it. Two plane tickets to Ohio, thank you very much. Well, three, since Momma Rose is joining us. We’ll be staying at my grandma’s house in Coshocton County, about an hour east of Columbus.

What’s that? You’ve never heard of Coshocton County? My goodness, what a travesty. It’s only the birthplace of advertising specialty (whatever that means), has a totally badass canal, and there’s a street called Whitewoman Street.

No joke, how do you not know about this?

Below is the Longaberger headquarters, otherwise known as the Big Giant Basket on the Way to Grandma’s House. It’s an office building. I love Ohio.

Anywho, we’ll be there for two whole weeks. Colin has never met this side of my family, so he’s shaking in his boots. He seems especially scared of my grandma for some reason. Maybe it’s the whole “Catholic Midwestern Grandma” thing.

She’s really sweet, I swear! Just delightful. A firecracker, though, who says funny things like “All they do is screw in those Nora Roberts books” and “Don”t touch my car door, I’m not dead yet”. Lordy, I love her.

Aside from visiting our family and friends, there isn’t a whole lot to do in Coshocton. We have a few select activities that we always partake in. For example, we always go bowling. We always go to Bob Evans and eat sausage gravy and biscuits. We always watch movies and eat food loaded with trans fats. I think I like those.

Sometimes, though, we break out of the mold and talk to cows, which is what happened in October of 2009. Please, allow Tarah to demonstrate.

First, you strut – not walk – towards the cows. Hair flip is optional, but as you can see Tarah likes to go above and beyond.

“Hi cows! I like you.”

Then you laugh at the cows, because you don’t really love them, you were just playin.

See? Cows are interested, maybe a little freaked out, but we definitely have their attention.

Entice them to come to you with grass, even though it appears they are currently in a field of grass.

She’s awfully pretty though, isn’t she?


Sharing the Knowledge

I am very lucky to live in Tofino. It is by far one of the most beautiful places in BC if not in Canada. I am also very lucky to work for Tourism Tofino. The people I work for are so wonderful. They let me come back every summer and slide right back in where I left off, and they’ve put a lot of trust in me over the last three years.Hell, they were willing to hire a girl to work at the Tofino Information Center who had only been to Tofino once. For five days.

Brave people, these Tofitians.

Luckily, Tofino is a very, very small town. The downtown core looks a little something like this:

image from tofinotime.com

Yup. That’s about it. Don’t come to me and tell me you’re lost, because I will sigh and think a little less of you. “Downtown” is about four blocks by three blocks. There is only one road in and one road out. Unlike those poor people working for Tourism Vancouver who have to learn every single little thing about the entire city of Vancouver, I really only have to know this tiny peninsula, right?


Being that it is a small town, and everyone knows who you are, you have to know everything. I have to know the difference between riding on a zodiac and a big two level honker of a boat. I have to know which whale watching companies take kids or pregnant women, and which are wheelchair accessible. I need to know which restaurants offer gluten free food. I need to know the exact price of a  National Parks Pass for one day or the whole year. I need to know the tides every single day. I need to know what you can do on a rainy day with a three year old.

I need to be able to tell you where you can camp for free (you can’t).

I also need to be able to find you accommodation for nine people and two dogs in the middle of July (for under $200 a night and on the beach, thanks).

I need to help you find a justice of the peace for your sudden elopement, or a local jeweler who will have an engagement ring because you decided at the last minute to propose.

I need to know what to do with a box of baby grouse that a German couple dropped off after they hit the grouse momma.

Yeah, that happened. You know what you do? You find someone with hens. Hens who recently had chicks. You put the baby grouse with the momma hen and hope she thinks they’re her babies. And pray the roosters don’t eat the baby grouse.

Then you ask yourself why those Germans don’t learn about the circle of life, and why they didn’t just let the poor baby grouse run free. Sure, they would have probably died, but now I’m trying to convince a hen that those tiny birds that look like grouse are most certainly not grouse, and that she should love them as her own.

When I accepted the job, that was not in the job description!

Luckily, I know the answer to all of these things. My first summer was an eye opener, that’s for sure. In one single day, I had to call an ambulance for a squatter living behind the info center who had ‘exposure’, was abandoned by a co-worker who “was just not in the mood to work” and then was handed the infamous box of baby grouse. All within eight hours.

My job is never dull, I can say that much. And I honestly love it. Sure, there are situations that I hate. I hate it when people show up ten minutes before closing looking for a hotel under for $100 a night for four people on the May long weekend. I hate it when people ask “what’s there to do here?”.

Nothing. Absolutely nothing. You are the butt end of the biggest practical joke in Canada. We send tourists out to the middle of nowhere, as far west as they can go, tell them it’s amazing and then snicker as they drive away. Silly tourists.

Oh, the things I say in my head, the things that will never pass my lips.

But don’t think my job is all crazy people and baby grouse. I have met so many interesting, nice, funny people in the three summer I have worked at the info center. Edward James Almos was a fun one and Colin’s favorite star sighting. Sam Sullivan came in last summer, he asked me about the wheelchair accessible whale watching (say that five times fast). Owen Wilson waved to me, Pam Anderson ate breakfast right next door. Reba McEntire told me my boss’s baby was adorable as she sipped iced tea at Sobo next to me.

Then I fainted and died and came back to life to say thank you, she’s not mine, but she’s a real sweetheart, isn’t she?

At the end of the day, it’s the best job in the world. Sure, it’s got more than it’s fair share of crazy, but that makes it fun.

Crazy = fun. Tourism Tofino’s new slogan.