Cafe Review: Cafe Zen on Yew

A couple of weeks ago I went on my first breakfast outing in Kitsilano. It’s taken me five months to get over the bridge, which is pretty poor form I know, so when I finally went I decided to try one of the top rated Kitsilano breakfasts on Yelp: Cafe Zen on Yew.

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Blueberry pancakes with a side of eggs, my new favourite breakfast

REVIEW: Cafe Zen on Yew
1631 Yew St
Kitsilano, Vancouver

Rating: 3/5 Stars

The first thing to know about Cafe Zen is that it is open. There’s a mass of construction happening out the front, so it’d be easy to disheartened and assume it was closed. But never fear, the tiny sign on the door isn’t lying and you should definitely head in.

Once you get inside it will probably be packed. We went at 9:30 on a Saturday and although it only took a coupe of minutes to get a table, the cafe was very busy. It’s definitely a popular place.

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One enormous coffee!

Truth is I didn’t go to Cafe Zen for it’s coffee. I was mostly there to try the breakfast so many people were raving and on that front I wasn’t disappointed. It’s not the fanciest cafe you’ll every go to. They’re definitely not trying to keep up with design trends. But the prices are reasonable and it’s a proper hearty breakfast. I can see why it’s a local favourite.

And to be upfront, the coffee itself was good. Proper roasted flavour, could have been a little stronger but it was nicely creamy for a latte. I don’t think that I’ll be going back for another though, because as strange as it sounds the coffee was too big. It must have been twice the size of a normal coffee and could easily have come in a small soup bowl. And that’s just too much latte for me in one go.

That probably sounds ridiculous right. Too much coffee? How fussy do you want to be? But it was enormous! I’m not even sure they have smaller sizes. I left breakfast feeling jittery and a little too wired. I understand that it was fairly priced. To have the kind of flavour it did, there were at least two shots in the latte (possibly more). So for $4.20 I got a pretty good deal. But I’d rather pay $3.60 for one shot than $4.20 for two. It’s less economical but I don’t need that much caffeine in the morning. If you do, however, don’t let my review put you off. Cafe Yen on Yew is the place for you!

Back at Finches and Accepting 2014

So I’m back at Finch’s Tea & Coffee House on a Friday avo, enjoying my hot & spicy apple cider and soup. And I can’t barely believe it’s 2014. February 2014 at that. Where did 2013 go?? Or January at least??

New Year in Finches
A relaxing friday avo . . 

First and foremost, I’m just going to be honest. I’ve been a bit MIA recently and I probably won’t be posting as often this year (though I’ll still be aiming for once a week atleast). As much as I’ve been enjoying blogging and reading other people’s blogs, I’ve found a full time job! It’s in my field, is looking like a challenging and rewarding position and is super exciting! The only downside is I’ll have less spare time.

Sunrise in Vancouver
Sun rise in Vancouver, it’s still enough to stop me in my tracks.

In addition to finding a job, another milestone that I’m quickly approaching is 6 months in Vancouver. That’s half a year and almost two full seasons. Although the city is definitely becoming familiar to me and has started feeling like home, it still easily takes my breath away. Vancouver is such a beautiful, vibrant place. I feel incredibly lucky to call it my home.

So here’s to an exciting 2014 in Vancouver. I hope you’re all as excited as I am!

Cafe Review: Finches Tea & Coffee House

In another attempt to get out of my coffee comfort zone (namely Davie St), I decided to head into Downtown and Finches Tea & Coffee House for my latest coffee adventure. I’d peaked through the door a couple of weeks ago, on my way to lunch, and the hints of wooden furniture and overgrown pot plants made me think this could be my kind of place.

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Finches Tea & Coffee House

REVIEW: Finches Tea & Coffee House
353 W Pender St
Downtown Vancouver

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Sometimes I wonder, no I’m sure, that there’s an interior decorating formula for pleasing people like me. Take one part retro china and add one part lush greenery. Make sure there’s a solid foundation of wooden furniture and that none of is matches exactly. Then top off with indie rock music and you have one happy customer.

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Pot plants galore! I was too scared to go up and touch them, but they looked real.

Honestly though, I don’t think I care. I love these kinds of cafes and their comforting kind of  charm. And with a menu that includes hot & spicy organic apple cider, Horlicks, steamed soy and maple and hot/cold blackcurrant juice, what more could you ask for?

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A pretty little centrepiece

Ok, to avoid sounding like a groupy there were a couple of negatives. The music was a little loud at the start. It’s a pretty busy cafe and, with no wifi, it’s not really somewhere you can lounge around for an afternoon. None of these things were deal breakers for me, but I just wanted to prove I could look past the the decore.

And, to get to the big issue, the coffee was good. Not amazing, but still a decent well made coffee. I thought mine was a little thinner than I’d like and maybe there was more foam on top than I was expecting for a latte. But now I’m digging deep and being super picky. Overall it was a very satisfying mid-morning coffee and my chocolate chip oatmeal cookie was the perfect compliment.

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Midmorning sugar and caffeine

Finches Tea & Coffee House manages to combine hipster fun with an accessibility that stops it from being pretentious. And just to prove it, their playlist included a little Tina Turner. Just to mix it up. Tina Turner and Hot Blackcurrant juice. I’ll definitely be back.

It’s Snowed!

It’s been a pretty exciting week for me. I’ve changed jobs, got tickets to the Vancouver John Butler Trio concert in Feb (woohoo!!) and it officially snowed on Monday! Real snow!

Snow!

What is it about  snow that always turns me into a little kid? Maybe it’s the surprise. I never actually expect it to snow, it’s not normal for me yet. It’s like walking into a Christmas movie. Doing errands that morning I had this big, irrepressible smile on my face. I had really come to Canada.

Snow!

And I know, I know, that wasn’t real Canadian snow. People have been telling me all week. That was light, a little wet and only lasted a day or two. There are a million places in Canada with better snow than that. Probably places like Yellowknife, which at the moment has an air temperature of -38C, but when you factor in the wind chill feels like -48C.

-48C

That’s not a temperature in my books. That’s the inside of a freezer. If I was surprised by a little snow in Vancouver, I am definitely not ready for real Canada winter snow or temperatures. I might need to ease into that.

Yellowknife Temp

Sadly now the snow is all gone and all that’s left are my photos and excited facebook posts. But if you’re in Vancouver I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. And if you didn’t, here’s my favourite John Butler Trio song to make up for it (Feb 16th people, tickets on sale now and the first show’s already sold out!).

Using Recruitement Firms

If you’re moving to a new city it can take a little while to get professional work sorted out. In the meantime, one way to earn money is temporary work through recruitment companies.

Temporary work can be fantastic. It allows you to earn an income without over committing your time as you look for permanent work. Most temp firms offer 7 hour assignments as a minimum, so at least you’re getting a full day’s pay. Also the pay usually starts around $12/hour which is better than retail or minimum wage hospitality.

That being said, in my experience, how useful a recruitment firm is often depends on your relationship with the temp agent.  The better you present yourself in those initial interviews, the more likely the agent will be to remember and recommend you for work. So here are a couple of ways you can optimise the whole recruiter process.

Come Prepared
All of the recruitment interviews I’ve been to required me to bring the same documents (see below). Recruiters typically email you a list of everything you’ll need, but these always come up. I think having them at the interview shows you’re prepared and ready to work, which will help put you at the front of the recruiters mind if a job comes up.

Things to Bring
– 2 pieces of government issued ID (your work permit is a good one to include)
– Bank details
– CV
– Contact details for 2 referees

Use Different Firms
As one recruiter put it, don’t put all your eggs in the one basket. Vancouver is a big place and no one firm has the entire market covered. Most recruiters see themselves as only one component of your job search anyway I.e. they’re there to help but encourage you to talk to other firms and do you own searching (at least for temp work anyway).

Every Test Is The Same
Recruitement firms will want you to do basic computer literacy tests, so they know what your skill set it. Each time, without fail, every single firm I contacted asked me to do the exact same Prove It! online tests. No joke. Sometimes the questions were in a different order, maybe one firm asks you to do the one minute typing test while another asks for the five minute test. But they’re all the exact same. So if you have any problems, or find any sections hard (who uses macros in word documents??), I’d make a note and google it after. At least then your next test result will be better.

Prove It Test
A sample from the Prove It Online Word Test

Prove It Online Test
After a while, you know exactly which style is Table Classic 2

Ask About Full Time Work
As nice as temporary assignments are, at the end of the day most people are looking for stable, full time work in their profession. So don’t be afraid to talk to the recruiter about this in the interview. A good temp recruiter should be asking you anyway, so they can see if see if there are any other opportunities for you with their firm. But it doesn’t hurt for you to do some research yourself, see what the firm specialises in and bring it up in the interview.

The Cream Of The Crop
Finally to get you started, here are a couple of recruitment firms I enjoyed working with:

Executrade

I found Executrade to be professional, positive, but upfront about how much work they had and what they expected from the next couple of months. I think that’s really important. Because anyone can raise your expectations, but the most common complaint about recruiters is that they don’t deliver.

AngusOne
The staff were pleasant and efficient helping me get through all the paperwork. They didn’t have a lot of work when I spoke to them, but they were honest about it which I respect.

altisHR
They were organised, efficient and seemed to have a range of different customers.

McNeill Nakamoto
This was one of my favourite firms. They returned my phone calls very quickly, were very helpful and were really good about cross selling my experience to different employers. I’d highly recommend them.

It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas . .

I started noticing the change a week ago. Lights and decorations are going up everywhere. With only a few weeks to go, I think it’s finally ok to start getting excited. Christmas is coming!

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St Paul’s Christmas Lights

I know Christmas can be a stressful time for most people. Present giving, fighting Christmas highway traffic, not to mention lots of time with family and in laws. We all love our families and in laws. But there’s not denying that the people we love the most often cause the most drama.

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St Paul’s Christmas Lights

In spite of all it all, I still get really excited about Christmas. I look forward to making presents and sending out Christmas cards. I thoroughly indulge myself on all the food and treats (brandy custard is my seasonal favourite). But most of all I enjoy how excited everyone else is at Christmas time. How people fight through the stress and chaos and make the time to celebrate. I really believe it’s a time of good cheer and good will.

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Christmas cheer

This year I’m particularly excited because I’m spending Christmas in a new city and an entirely new season. As a way of easing myself into all the Christmas excitement, I’ve started working my way through the downtown Christmas light displays. I really like the display at St Paul’s. It lights up the whole street and apparently requires 10km of lights!

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Christmas Lights off Davie St

If you’re also interested in Vancouver’s Christmas lights, below are some I found and will probably be posting about. Hope you’re all as excited as I am!

St Paul’s Hospital

VanDusen Botanical Garden

Stanley Park Christmas Train

Capilano Suspension Bridge Park

Vancouver Parade of Carol Ships

Jack Poole Plaza 50 foot Christmas Tree

Cafe Review: Union Market

The week before my New York trip, I stumbled up on a rare coffee treat. I was doing errands on East Hastings and a friend recommended the Union Market as a cute place to get a coffee. It was a couple of blocks off the main road, but well worth the walk. I didn’t really know what to expect, but I always love a good surprise!

Union Market
Union Market

REVIEW: Union Market
810 Union St
Strathcona, Vancouver

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Union Market is a local corner store crossed with a café. The surrounding area is super cute. It was full of painted wooden houses; the kind that hang Halloween decorations and own fat, friendly cats. Inside the store has a nice mix of fresh produce, convenience items and then right in the middle is the cashier/coffee bar.

Union Market
Union Market

As a general rule I haven’t had the greatest coffee from tiny corner stores. But this was a pleasant surprise. It was aromatic with proper, unburnt flavour and a nicely balanced milky. Given that I’ve previously had a disappointing coffee at a fancy looking café, maybe it’s fitting that I had a good coffee from an unassuming corner store.

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Locals on Union St

To top it off, their hot apple cider sounds interesting. I was told that it’s made from organic apple juice and a chai mixture. If I could have justified ordering the latte and a hot apple cider I would have.

I’m not sure how often I’ll be in the area, but if you are stop by the Union Market. Try the hot apple cider and let me know what it’s like!