Please meet…the “tall” dark stranger

and other Halloween creatures…

When I grew up (not going to mention when that was), my parents gave us kids a wonderful comic book, called “The Witch’s Handbook”. It is a terrific, tongue-in-cheek guide for any aspiring witch (which I was of course, being the only one that actually WANTED the be the witch in the school play 😉 I was so taken with it that it even inspired me to copy / draw the witch on the cover on to our black board, enlarged to live size, in a 6th grade assignment (great success)…and I sourced a paperback version last year in the UK, had it shipped to Switzerland, and from all my books, it became one of the two that I chose to bring with me to Vancouver…

& what a treasure it is – by Malcolm Bird

Besides lots of food recipes for Halloween (→ see my recipe section) and other fun craft stuff, e.g. skull & bat tea cozies, knitted skull cap etc., it features important insights about a witch’s daily routines, preferred housing as well as pet companions. You might ask, where I’m going with this…well, it seems that I have envisaged this (unknowingly, over years) to such an extent that the universe has finally given in and delivered it (although it did resist for about 25 years). There I was in my cute flat underneath the roof, where the wind blows through the cracks of the windows, the walls and lamps shake when someone on the lower floors walk around, sitting at my office/dining/one table, when I suddenly heard a “miau-growl” next to me.

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Needless to say that I almost jumped out of my skin, whereas the “tall” dark stranger just jumped on to my lap, purring and obviously wanted some attention, before taking up his observation position on the table! I named him Ron, and it seems that he has adopted me (as he took possession of my bed), appearing whenever he feels like it. Ron has completed the circle of interesting creatures surrounding me, including the spider(s) everywhere, the squirrel on the roof (I had a true E.T. encounter moment with that – I was screaming & the poor thing must have been too), and the two crows stationed in the trees lining my avenue.

Did you know that there is a flock of approx. 6’000 crows that spend their days spread all over Vancouver, only to return at dusk to Burnaby (a suburb of Vancouver)? It is quite a sight when they gather in my neighboring street, on some small trees and in a very orderly, organised fashion, all crows from the area start gathering. It is believed that the Burnaby roost has been there since the 1970s, and they are more like us than we might believe. They mate for life (not like us 😉 and apparently they can communicate with each other (again not like us 😉 Their offspring support the parents to raise younger siblings and live in loose family groups with complex social structures (obviously, how otherwise do they know when to pre-gather, fly to/from Burnaby etc). In short, we can learn a lot from them! If you are in Vancouver I can only recommend to take the time one day and watch the spectacular…

As for me, I cherish all my companions (the only one missing now is an owl, I guess) and ask you this, what is the morale of this story?

Be very careful & SPECIFIC what you wish for, the universe delivers
(following its own timing 😉

Happy Halloween everyone!

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Credits & Reference: 
The picture of the crow is by Gerry Kahrmann and the insight about the crows of Burnaby comes from the online version of The Province. 

Please meet…Teodora from Argentina

There I was on day 3, strolling on Cypress street towards an empty garden chair in the communal gardens (built on an old railway track, i.e. very singer/songwriter atmosphere), to ponder on the flats that I had just seen. Should I go for the bigger, more expensive one, which was not as cute, or for the one-bedroom under the roof? In the middle of that internal discussion, appeared an elderly lady in a vivid floral dress, wearing an enormous straw hat and underneath a quite desperate expression (covered in a truly thick layer of white suntan lotion). I didn’t think anything of it, until she started to purposefully stride towards me, asking if I had a phone. Honestly, my first thought was that it must be one of those schemes where they try to steal your phone in a creative way!

It turned out however, that she had locked herself out of her car, and wanted me to call road side assistance, so they could break it open. Of course, I felt for her, as that was definitely something that could happen to me (every day in fact, if I had a car). Standing there underneath the bushes, we made introductions and changed to speaking Spanish (way out of practice!). I learnt that she had been living in Vancouver the past 23 years, having had her patch in the communal garden about the same amount of time. Soon the conversation turned to her roses, which were attacked by some evil fungus (imagine wild hand gestures with shovel) and the remedies that she had already tried: water with vinegar, water with oil, water with sugar…honestly, I’m not making this up – I tried so hard not to laugh, as those poor roses must have felt like the next salad in the making…I promised to get my mother’s advice and would meet her back at Cypress street whenever I had news. While I was cobbling my words together in Spanish, she started chopping and plucking all sorts of leaves and herbs out of her wonderfully chaotic green bed as a ‘thank you’…I left with a big smile on my face, a warm feeling in my chest and an incredibly rich smelling bouquet, knowing that I had come to the right city 🙂

p.s. I went for the smaller flat under the roof..but more about the joy of moving later…

Communal Garden Cypress Street
Communal Garden Cypress Street


Veg & Herbs from Teodora's Patch
The herb & leave bouqet from Teodora’s patch

Please meet…Abigail Patmore

(my vintage stove & oven)


Have you ever tried to bake something, i.e. go into that wonderful, meditative state / flow where you are fascinated by the color and texture of the ingredients, the sound of the mixer, in happy anticipation of the transformation that will take place in the oven, the smell that will fill your kitchen, the exquisite sensation that will take over when tasting it when it is still warm?

I have always claimed that it is like a mediation and now, reading this, I understand that it involves everything – for all my fellow coaches out there – a complete V (visual) A (audio) K (kinetics) O (olfactory) G (gustatory) experience!

In short – magic 🙂

You can imagine my excitement when I first saw this oven in my apartment – it definitely dates from another time in history…and the size of it – quite fascinating – you can easily fit a whole turkey or cow in there…coming from Switzerland this IS special.

Thinking that I better start out with a tested, family recipe, i.e. brownies – where in theory nothing can go wrong – I happily broke in my hand mixer, spatula, bowls, baking tin and switched on the oven to preheat. So far so good. I was proud that I had even bought a thermometer, as I’m not at all familiar with the heating levels of 1-5. Little did I know…

When I suddenly noticed a heat wave coming from the stove, I realized that there is actually a hole (!) in the left-front burner. The temperature of the oven being way too high – I just managed to rescue my spatula, before melting, and noticing that the oven light as well as timer/clock etc. must have gone into retirement long time ago. When I put the brownie tin into the oven (with the temperature being just right), I thought I had managed the baptism of fire. Normally, when your “thing” is in the oven – you take a break – embrace patience and go off doing something else.

This time it was different. When I checked 15 minutes later, I noticed with horror that the temperature had dropped completely and my brownies looked like a dark glue…I turned the heat back up and wanted to take them out a wee bit later. Not a tricky action per se: put oven mittens on, open oven, take out tin, close oven. Well a) my brownies were almost black – heat had climbed to volcanic levels again, b) I dropped one of the mittens in the oven – small fire going on and c) I burnt myself on the oven door.

At that point I had to laugh so hard, as those were the sorriest looking brownies I have ever made, my beautiful red mittens disheveled after the first use, me literally burnt and the temperature of my kitchen/living room resembled a sauna with me being under the roof and the outside Summer weather doing its part 🙂

Obviously to all of you that are following Downton Abbey, you understand that I had to christen my oven/stove in that moment “Abigail Patmore” as I am convinced she is a great-grand niece of the famous manor cook!

p.s. Downton Abbey season 5 is about to start in a couple of days and for that I shall be making a mousse au chocolat (no oven required)