What’s been keeping me busy: training my cousin for his first full marathon (+ Runtastic)

In a few short weeks, my whole life will change.

Okay, I exaggerate but I’m really comfortable in the current swing of things. I’m “training” my cousin for his first marathon (where I’m registered for the half-marathon) which takes place on September 21 in Carnation, WA. We get together to run outdoors once a week and increase our endurance with mind-blowing distances that exceed what I need to do for my own race. I cannot deny having fun putting together routes and introducing him to all corners of Vancouver. (He moved to Vancouver from Toronto three years ago.)

After seeing my friend Lionel posting his cycling outings to Facebook from Runtastic, I’m converted to using that app to track my runs. So this post is a “picture post” of some of our most impressive routes and outings and my commentary.

July 17 – 21.11km Home to Stanley Park

In our of our earliest runs, I took my cousin down the new-ish Carrall Street bikeway and he introduced me to Crab Park where the hipsters hang out and we ran through the “belly” of the Vancouver Convention Centre West. My cousin groaned to hear we were going all around Stanley Park because it just keeps going and going and you want to see the next landmark around the next turn but you don’t. It has to be done, just once. It was the first time he went beyond the half-marathon distance, and just barely.

July 24 – 11.66km Kits-Yaletown Seawall run

We are also so tired of the Seawall! Unless we turn to the city streets, it’s just right there next to our apartments in Olympic Village to hop on and get started. We did some running on sand (it’s so difficult!) when I missed a turn off before Kits and I introduced him to enviable Point Grey Road and we ran by Lululemon’s Chip Wilson’s house.

August 8 – 23.73km UBC run

From our homes in Olympic Village, we ran by all of the beaches – Kits, Jericho, Locarno and Spanish Banks. We were running by just as the KitsFest was wrapping up and there were streams of white balloons still waving in the wind strung off volleyball net posts giving a dreamy quality to the area. I think he had biked up the UBC hill before so running up it was new and we didn’t make it to the top (because I forgot where it leveled off and we breaked too early). We head back mostly on 8th Avenue where I could show him my favourite vistas of the city.

August 23 – 29.72km Three Bridges Run

I kept my cousin guessing during this run as we head east on Adanac. “Where are we going? Burnaby? Coquitlam? New West? Surrey? … South Surrey?” No…! North Vancouver! We ran across east Vancouver and across Second Narrows Bridge to North Vancouver. We thought we’d hug the shore but came across private land and started to cut across train tracks and climb between stationary train cars! Then we decided to stick to main roads but there wasn’t always a sidewalk and at one point my cousin ran into a thorny hedge and pushed it out of the way only to have it hit me! More injuries to my left arm to add to those accumulated the week before! We finally made it to Lions Gate Bridge and cut straight through Stanley Park – no more Seawall for us! The third bridge we crossed was Cambie Street Bridge to get home.

Elevation maps are so fun. It was hilly in east Vancouver and the second and third hills correspond to Second Narrows and Lions Gate Bridges.

August 29 – 13.15km Mini Bootcamp run

I introduced my cousin to Angus Drive which was introduced to me by the Broadway/Fir Running Room that I trained with so long ago – it’s a beautiful north-south running westside street that takes us from Broadway south to our hills. I showed my cousin the Trifecta of Hills we would do repeats on: King Ed at Arbutus, Nasty Nanton, and 29th Avenue. He tackles hills with far more relish than I do.

September 1 – 23.25km Vancouver to Richmond run

It has been so great to be challenged to create different (non-Seawall routes) so I was truly excited once I mapped out this run to Richmond. I pulled up the Vancouver and Richmond cycling maps and cobbled this one together. We ran down Ontario to 37th and turned west and climbed that massive hill at QE Park to Heather. From Heather down to Marine, it was downhill and I could point out SIL’s condo under development as we were running through a really stinky area. (Hopefully that landfill moves soon!)

The last time I did a Vancouver-Richmond run was back in 2008 (maybe) and we ran over Oak Street Bridge. I was excited to take my cousin over the Canada Line Bridge where runners and cyclists are on a dedicated level below the train tracks. In Richmond, we turned west onto River Road which connected to No. 3 at some points but we found our way to the Dyke Trail and passed UBC Boathouse and the impressively large Richmond Oval (site of the 2010 Olympic speed skating events). As we head towards the northwestern-most point in Richmond, he asked me if we were going to Steveston – in fact, everyone asked me that afterwards! No, just to the northwestern-most point in Richmond – which had a good payoff arriving at Terra Nova Park and running along marshland and through an intriguing community garden. We turned east again at Westminster Way and “admired” the houses that we could tell from outward appearances belong to (Mainland) Chinese people. Our end point was the Canada Line Brighouse Station and we could raid Kam Do for bakery items before heading back to Vancouver via rapid transit.

The elevation map is hilarious for this one with a steep and fast climb to QE Park then downhill to the bridge and Richmond is flat as a pancake.

Next up? He keeps asking about some lake (Trout? Deer?) so I think it will be Burnaby-New West.

It’s so Vancouver of me to want to show all the  “natural beauty” of Vancouver I can show my cousin (via running which I seem to be passionate about) and give him an intimate look and crash course in Vancouver. Too bad it can’t be the driving factor to keep in Vancouver. So I just try to enjoy these great opportunities to hang out with my cousin, create memories and take advantage of living in the same neighbourhood.

Coined a new term

Last week, I bought a pair of shoes by Christian Siriano (for Payless) which I label as undeniably devastating. Siriano has been designing for Payless for several years but this is the first one that caught my eye both online and in person. I can barely justify it because I can’t name more than three events this year to wear them but….

Payless-Christian Siriano-Kryptic Double Buckle Pump Gap-Eyelet fit & flare dress

I was trying on the shoes with my new black eyelet Gap dress that is in the fit-and-flare style when NPY returned home from work. He stopped on his tracks and said something he’s said a few times this past month or few weeks, “Who are you?”

He suggested that I’m having a mid-life crisis and I very possibly might be but I chose to coin a new term, to put an emphasis on the root cause: Pre-Pregnancy Crisis.

I hate talking about it because there is so much more to life (spoken like a true childless person). Some time in the next 12-18 months, we will have a child and while I want to keep pushing it off (no biological clock here), it is time. The part of me that doesn’t want to be left out of the mommy club that most of our social circle has joined is the part that convinces me the most to take the plunge.

Who knows what is on the other side? A better life? A worse life? Certainly an enriched life.

I have become one of those people and come to that age that while I have much to be grateful for, upon self-evaluation, I’m not happy with what I have to show for it and coming around to thinking having a child would complete us, the next and – ugh – ultimate challenge. I hate that.

In a manner of speaking, things have been going well. I have renewed focus on my career due to people I’m spending time with and the scary thought of time marching on forward with or without me.

It could very well be, as I have observed before, that I’m just a better person in the summer or when it doesn’t rain. But I also realized that around the end of June is when my fitness allowance renews which means the year before I would have spent some fitness money and several vouchers and class cards would expire if for a one-year term. So that was another push to get to fitness and dance classes a lot throughout June. That and training with my cousin for his marathon in September. What else do I really have to do after work (besides study)?

It is a loftier goal to lose weight due to and for training than, well, because I’m like every other woman. I use the guideline as a motivation, “For every pound less you weigh, you shave a minute off your marathon.” I am excited to see how many minutes I could potentially save due to weight loss alone. (Currently standing at six, within two weeks, too.)

I’m obsessed with doing something active everyday and there’s a lot of choices: dance, run, hot yoga, badminton. A condo gym is helpful because I can always go down for a really vigorous walk on a really steep incline (awesome workout for legs and glutes). Unfortunately for NPY, sometimes this no longer leaves time for our after-dinner strolls around the Village.

Physical activity is all good and well but the biggest effect come from diet and I have finally found what works for me:

  • At work: I’ve stopped having a real lunch which used to include leftovers from the night before or bread with some spread; instead, I have a malt or almond milk drink if available and fruit and celery – I feel happily smug eating celery. Not eating at work keeps me feeling better about myself throughout the day and keeps me free for whatever happens for dinner. Usually dinner is just at home and either I will cook and serve myself the smallest helping in the smallest bowl and I am relieved if NPY isn’t even eating at home.
  • Talking about it: Two people in particular are positive influences, both co-workers – Andrea and T. T is a little phenom who doesn’t (generally) eat after 4 p.m. and proves that that doesn’t mean one doesn’t have enough energy in the evening. Andrea has lofty weight-lifting goals and extreme discipline proving that a boring and unwavering lunch of baked naked chicken and vegetables yields results. We work on the same floor and can talk about food we want to eat but don’t. She gets it.
  • Dining out: It is still difficult, but here are some recent examples. (1) We went for dim sum and ordered 9 dishes. Instead of having a full piece of each dish, I had just a bite and I was full enough. Then I skipped dinner. (2) We went for a Chinese meal served family style. Instead of having a full small bowl of each of the three dishes, I had half a small bowl and then skipped dinner. (3) At a wedding banquet, I’ve been to so many now, it’s not that special. I won’t have seconds and only eat food I like. I also skip one of the two carb courses at the end – more for NPY to enjoy. (4) We went for sushi. I had my work non-lunch and participated almost equally in this meal having half of the maki and only the fish part of the salmon don. I didn’t feel bad about that.

I’ve been dressing with more care for work and washing my hair daily despite the fact it is thick and falls all the way down my back. I’d rather feel five-star all day rather than starting out four-star and plummeting to two because my hair is oily and gross-feeling. NPY is puzzled by this and doesn’t recognize me.

All this because of my huge fear of how things will change, how I won’t have control over any of this in 12-18 months and for years after that. I’m saddened that I couldn’t enact these changes six months or a year ago but… better late than never.

How to love your job

Disclaimers:
– I already like my job and company a lot.
– This is not advice for everyone (or anyone).
– The following is probably just a symptom of The Summer Season when I’m a nicer, more socialable and optimistic person.

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I am currently with my fourth workplace (third company) since leaving the ranks of graduate school and it’s mildly impressive to me how much things change in six years… and how much they stay the same.

At my first workplace, I started at the very bottom, that’s how much I needed a job. Within three months, I transferred to a better position but I couldn’t connect with my co-workers or other colleagues in the office. It had a bit to do with the field and where the office was located and people were a little uncouth for my taste.

At my second workplace, in an academic setting, my colleagues were really intelligent but we were such a small and somewhat misunderstood group. I shared an office with two colleagues and I spend enough time with and knew them well enough!

In Toronto, I was pretty frigid for half a year until I started talking to one of my female colleagues who is my age. The addition of a young, talkative, male colleague made the conversations more fun overall. And I really got more comfortable only when I knew my next step, which was to transfer to the Vancouver office. Such is life!

Vancouver is my long-term place. I eschewed putting down roots for seven years but have now bit the bullet, as they say. My current company is one with plenty of career opportunities so I’m a real fan, to say the least. Emulating one of my older colleagues, I was hesitant to be friends with my peers with my position and made my first friends elsewhere in the company and learned through them about different aspects of our business. Further, if you don’t work together or for the same people, you have to talk about things other than work – you won’t hear me slagging about my work or other people. And as I moved into my second year with this office, I let loose a little more. And seriously, having friends at work makes the workplace better.

Which is just a segue to tell you about the super fun and remarkable (for me) things I’ve been up to this week.

On Sunday, I went on that long and dangerous hike with two co-workers. They don’t know it directly but they have been an inspiration for my current healthy lifestyle including eating habits and exercise. On our long drive back to town, I was able to have a really good chat with a co-worker in the same role as me about our future opportunities with the company.

On Monday, I learned a manager and I were both in a bind with expired/expiring passports so we arranged to keep each other company to get passport photos done and then a passport office run. His passion for his work is really inspiring and refreshing and stimulates me to work smarter and towards the possibility of joining his or a similar team.

On Tuesday evening, since the official company Badminton Club hadn’t start up all summer, I organized for a small group of us to go to drop-in at a gym in Burnaby. It’s always fascinating to see colleagues out of suits and “business casual” and learn who is good at badminton and be wildly impressed. My co-worker kept shouting, “You’re a horrible person!” when I would get a good shot off her, which is not a bad thing. :P

On Thursday, my lunch date at the nearby Nespresso shop was with a marketing colleague with us on contract. She’s so awesome I’m always a little saddened that there might not be a role for her after a permanent marketing staff returns from leave. But you still just take the opportunity to get to know someone.

On Friday, my team was treated to a catered lunch from Meat & Bread and then a co-worker and I walked it off with a trip to Bella Gelateria in Coal Harbour. The queue is usually so long this was a smart way to try it out! Gosh, I’m glad the office isn’t so close to Bella for it to be a constant temptation!

Next week will necessarily be more quiet because this week – while really exhilarating – was unsustainable.

How to display or store those race bibs/t-shirts/medals?

There comes a time in every slightly obsessive-compulsive runner girl’s career where she looks up from her piles of race bibs, medals and t-shirts and wonders, “What do I do with all of this stuff?!”

My medal board started out innocently enough in 2005 after just six races (some earlier medals were missing for years).

By the time I moved out of that apartment with the corkboard in the kitchen (six years later):

When I lived on my own and after that in a rental suite, it was still okay to display them on dollar-store over-the-door towel racks on my IKEA Billy bookcase.

 

Medals from anything other than half-marathons.

Half-marathon medals

Now, I am in a condo and NPY “forbids” me from the same kind of display and I agree that a more permanent, more tasteful and less clangy solution is desired. The most common solution is to hang them in a row of hooks above which there is some saying like, “Live, Laugh, Run” or something but do fear the weight of the medals will tear down the wall.

victorymedaldisplay
Image from runyogamarathon.wordpress.com

medals1
Image from halfsandhikes.wordpress.com

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Image from Run Run Run Pinterest board

This style of display, shown three ways, suits me as discreet and tidy. I can imagine using a shadow box for this. The third image of a board for medals from 50 states inspires me to make a separate shadow box for running in 10 provinces!

I have long had a solution for my race bibs in a scrapbook (followed shortly after my girlfriends stopped scrapbooking sessions during which I did not participate).

If I had spare race bibs – and only for a decent race like the New York Marathon, that would be worthy of turning into a coaster.

custom-race-bib-coaster_thumb
Image from pbfingers.com

I also like the bags that Mile 22 will make from your race bibs. Again, bibs are in a scrapbook and I like it very much that way, too. Got too many bags anyhow.

But what to do about all of those t-shirts?!

All along, I thought I would make a quilt. I need to learn how to use a sewing machine. And would anyone actually use it??

So, when I asked the Internet about it, I saw an image of race t-shirts made into a scarf and I thought that is feasible…

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Image from earlyrunner.blogspot.com

Just for the fun of it, I thought this mannequin dressed up in race bibs and mannequins is the best!

kristine_binder_nader
Image from RunnersWorld.com

The Stawamus Chief Trail: the most difficult and dangerous activity of my life

A week ago, I was having lunch with coworkers and they were talking about hiking The Chief. Andrea had plans to do it that weekend and I felt a desire grow in me… Squamish Valley Music Festival and the possibility of traffic on the Sea to Sky Highway made Andrea postpone her plans and I was free to go up this weekend. I invited another one of our colleagues and Andrea’s friend visiting from France rounded out our foursome.

Seven years ago, I hiked The Chief with NPY and Lil’ Sis. We bought Subway sandwiches in Squamish and hiked just the first peak. I barely knew there were two others. On our way down, Lil’ Sis and I took up the width of the stairs and an older man passed us on the left on the gravel and ended up slipping and falling rolling down several steps. That has traumatized me a little. And all these years, I have felt like I have been missing something by not going to the other two peaks while with the definite anxiety about coming down.

fuel for the hike

And after a year since my last hike (last year, Grouse Grind, with Andrea and a different colleauge), I forget my loathing for nature and feel like it’s time for my yearly dose. This was a good one for a yearly go at it. A mosquito bit me on my exposed leg before I got a change to apply mosquito repellent, grrrr.

We were in it for doing all three peaks so the first one wasn’t so hard. It was difficult at the very beginning and I found it indistinguishable from Grouse Grind, and the differences appeared more after the first peak.

first peak

It was Andrea’s idea to ask the guys taking pictures shirtless if she could join them and a few other women joined in the fun.

it was andrea’s idea

We tracked downwards from the first peak, down the short chain and ladder and reached the fork and set out towards the second peak instead of back to the trailhead. The chains were extensive and the rockface was really big and looked like you couldn’t scale it!

The view was just as nice, although higher.

second peak

our shoes

Between the second and third peak, we came across the group that was slacklining. I hadn’t heard of or seen it before and it’s wild! Not my things. And I’m too old. Seriously.

 

After walking a long a narrow ridge and really not so much effort, we reached the third peak. Our view of the water was blocked by the first two peaks but it was neat to see how far we had gotten, the crowds on the other two peaks.

We had completed it… except for the going back down part.

third peak

“look off in the distance”

The first large chunk of the downhill from third peak was brutal, all rock. You’d think I had balance and be limber and be fit from all I do. But I’m terrified of scraping myself up so I was really tentative. And any slip freaked me out and I wasn’t sure I was going to save myself from sliding without stopping. At one point, I was listening too intently to another group talk about which of the upcoming way was easier and I stepped onto a too smooth inclined rock and wiped out landing on my bum and scraping up my forearm. Thank goodness I didn’t hit my head or scrape up my hands which I needed to hang off rocks for dear life. Later, I slipped on a wet patch and nicked myself near my elbow. I was freaking out that my luck would come in threes!

When we were finally in the clear, I told my colleague that the whole hike was the most difficult activity I had ever done. “Even more difficult than a marathon?” Yes! And certainly it was more dangerous. The most dangerous activity I’ve every participated in. And I survived.

that blessed rock

It was wild when we’re back at the trailhead just what we accomplished. But after a drive back that took two hours, the feeling has dissipated a little. And the bruises and soreness isn’t so big.

I wasn’t too disappointed to disband for the day since I knew what I wanted to make for dinner.  A quick vegetarian ramen in a butternut squash soup turned a little Asian.

meal after the chief

Currently reading Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Total Recall

Arnold-Schwarzenegger-Total-RecallOkay, I admit I read this one. I want to read some non-fiction because it’s “smarter” but nothing dull. I found that Arnold Schwarzenegger’s memoir, Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story, published last November, was just what I needed.

At 656 pages, the memoir – like its author – is not small and so it felt like I was reading this for ages. But it was enjoyable throughout in no small part due to the continuously interesting store and the voice. Particularly in the beginning, it read a bit like a young man’s diary, when Arnold’s pursuits were a little more self-centered like becoming the best bodybuilder and movie start. Even as he ages, he is focused on relaying the facts, not getting philosophical and maintaining a confident voice and simple styles. When he does add in the details, his personality comes through, especially if I try to hear his voice in my head.

We know so much about the man already but it was really nice to fill in the details: the rigorous training that went into bodybuilding and how much of a promoter of the sport he is; the real estate portion that contributed so much to his wealth and was new to me and doesn’t constitute a separate “chapter” of his life; all of background that showed his interest in politics leading to him running for public office; and the particulars of his two terms in office – my overall impression was it wasn’t glorious when he left but what were the high points?

There is so much we already know about Arnold so the only “suspense” for me was how he was going to handle the affair. Was he going to mention it – did it even make publication deadline? Yes, because the memoir was published only last year and the affair came to light several years ago. How would he approach it? With a similar “manly” way as his other relationships, in a way, and tells it as it is. He doesn’t wax poetic about anyone except Maria and when he got to “The Secret”, the last chapter, I realized how the memoir is an apology to her (where she’s mentioned) and I melted a little as he wrote that he’s waiting and working and hopeful they will get back together.

I was reading this for so long (since before May until the beginning of August) that there was a lot of time to observe some curious effects:

  • When we went to California in May, I wanted to visit Muscle Beach portion of Venice Beach – we didn’t though because Venice Beach looked a little skeevy.
  • My new appreciation of body building came through when NPY and I were gossiping about a colleague of his who is a fitness model and I was talking to a colleague who is entertaining the idea of being a bodybuilder in the bikini model class. We all know how resistance training is so essential but I cannot say that reading the memoir has effected any real change in my routine.
  • My indignation when I saw a Facebook post liked by my BIL (I think the page is called “S Lifts”?) where a woman preparing for a bodybuilding competition showed her new purchases including stilettos, rhinestone bangles and blinged out bikini. It sickened me that it’s not good enough for her to be unadorned. But… I don’t know the whole story or what their male counterparts have to do.
  • I saw that CBC was airing The Passionate Eye: The Kennedy Saga (originally aired in 2010), PVR’ed it right away and watched it soon after, unlike other PVR’ed shows languishing on the recorder unwatched.
  • And when Arnold stopped by Jimmy Fallon’s The Tonight Show in March (we probably only watched the episode some time in April or May), of course I watched it!

Dining out around Kelowna/Okanagan

Friends Neighbourhood Pub (West Kelowna)

On the five-hour drive from Vancouver to Kelowna, I started out really disciplined and resisted eating Pringles in the car. But I fell asleep for a stretch and woke up feeling guilty and wanted some “stimulation” and “once you pop, you can’t stop”. I wasn’t overly hungry for dinner. So we went for something casual that would also be open late. The owner of our vacation rental recommended Friends Pub in her information manual and off we went.

The place is a little divey and older but fortunately on a Thursday night, they had a few groups for poker night and other dining in patrons. Sliders were on special so we ordered two burger and one pulled pork and NPY wanted something hot so we got a chicken penne pasta. I forget how big sliders can be and we should only have ordered two in total. And in no small part because one of my dining companions mentioned Sysco food products, then that is exactly what it tasted like to me – which you wouldn’t expect otherwise. Water-injected but tender chicken breast in a heavy cream sauce attenuated slightly with red peppers.

Tree Brewing Company (Kelowna)

One of the breweries we were most excited to visit was Tree Brewing. It came onto our radar when we ordered their Pineapple Hefeweizen at Craft Beer Market and I ordered it and thought it smells like perming solution. That’s not a great assessment but it still put the brewery on our radar and it did not disappoint. In a light industrial district of Kelowna, Tree Brewing occupies a spacious unit and we ordered two flights of four samplers amongst the four of us. They had eight beers on tap and I impulsively suggested NPY and I get two flights to try them all, but NPY does not like all beer and would be drinking most of it.

The first flight we had had Captivator Doppelbock, Raspberry Porter, Mellow Moon Pineapple Hefeweizen, and Grapefruit Radler. We both liked the raspberry porter and of course I liked the 50% beer-50% grapefruit juice radler. We only bought the porter.

The second time we went (two days later), we got another flight, this time with Grapefruit Radler and Duke’s Cider.

Surfside California Tacos [food truck] (Kelowna)

Parked just outside Tree Brewing was a food truck. How perfect since we were started to get a little hungry. Their menu of tacos was appetizing but it being late on a Friday afternoon, all they had were fish tacos, shrimp tacos, cheese quesadilla and fried pickles. A fish and shrimp taco, it was! I liked the fried shrimp taco where the shrimp was fresh and hot. The fish taco was spoiled by cilantro aioli in my opinion. :P When we returned to Tree Brewing a day later, the food truck was not there.

Blue Saffron Bistro at Volcanic Hills Estate Winery (West Kelowna)

It took a really long time to decide on where to go for dinner. Blu Saffron at Volcanic Hills was mentioned early on and it was – besides Quail’s Gate we couldn’t get into – another local winery. But maybe the menu was a tad limiting so we looked around some more and there is one really hot and trendy restaurant but neither I nor the other decision-maker agree with them not posting prices on their website. We found that Yelp reviews for even seemingly good restaurants were inconsistent and we went with the local choice.

We were seated on a patio with a great view of the Volcanic Hills vineyard and the Mt. Boucherie Winery just behind them. Our server kept extolling the talent of the head chef who had worked abroad and daily specials that supplemented the menu added more variety to the selection. We were feeling nutrient-deprived already so we ordered the spinach and arugula salad. It sounded good in theory but I thought the vegetables tasted dry, the portobello mushroom slices tasted odd, fully sliced bacon was lazy and the dressing was underwhelming.

The entrees, on the other hand, were good. The burger was presented really nicely and was very satisfying. The mussels, while not as plump as I desire, were nonetheless consistent and fresh and and the saffron cream broth was delicious.

Kekuli Cafe (West Kelowna)

There’s a place we passed on Highway 97 on the way to Lake Country called The Jammery which actually has a number of reviews and it is well-rated – this following the dearth of reviews when we looked for restaurants for dinner. But it isn’t on the way to Summerland in the least and that was our itinerary for the day along with Penticton and Naramata. Kekuli Cafe, which Cindy found in her research, is on the way and the more I read about it the more excited I was – what should we order…?

Kekuli Cafe specializes in aboriginal cuisine and has a locations in Merritt and Kelowna. It is a quick service restaurant which was a relief when we hadn’t left the house quite early enough. Between a traditional breakfast with as side of bannock as the carb and a bannock breakfast sandwich and eggs benedict on bannock and french toast bannock, I almost melted. But the “practical” choice was the breakfast sandwich for NPY while I had a Saskatoon berry yogurt topped with granola. The latter had a premium attached and I hope it is because it is difficult to get Saskatoon berries. I have my own connection to the place which guides my decisions! The bannock in the sandwich was light and fluffy and just a little sweet – I really liked the whole idea. Then, as a treat for later, we picked up a powdered triple-berry jelly donut bannock, which was also delicious.

The Pecking Room Patio and Grill at Red Rooster Winery (Naramata)

After touring our way through Naramata, we looked at the time and had to eat right away if we wanted to get to Penticton breweries before they closed. We were at Red Rooster and their patio restaurant was very inviting.

We were seated under cover – in case it rained – at a high table which put us closer to the rafters from which fake plastic snakes were draped. Was that a deterrant for birds? A few of us ordered beautiful non-alcoholic drinks served in mason jars. Now there was a limited menu and each couple ordered the chorizo pizza topped with ricotta and – surprise! – salad greens. It wasn’t so bad except there was one substitution and this was not communicated from the server who took our order to the servers who brought us food, so one of our party wasn’t happy the substitution was not made. I enjoyed the crispy black sesame topped flatbread and NPY and I agreed that the tastest spread was the plain hummus we didn’t even know would show up with the two spreads we selected.

A tasty and unique treat was presented to us at the end: candied rose and violet leaves – looked like Nerds candy but more nutritious? :D

Cannery Brewing Company (Penticton)

Cannery Brewing is “the real deal” – it is located in an old and smelly industrial warehouse carved up to house to other shops. No fanfare but it’s busy and loud inside. NPY ordered a flight that included Skaha Summer Ale, Lakeboat Lager, Naramata Nut Brown Ale and Blackberry Porter. I knew from the colour I didn’t care for the first two. The blackberry porter was really fragrant and definitely tasted like blackberry, unlike many another so-called fruit-infused beer. We really liked the maltiness of the nut brown ale and got a bottle of that.

Tin Whistle Brewing Company (Penticton)

With Cannery beer under our belt, we were off to Tin Whistle which needs both a new location and better web presence. Maybe Tin Whistle is in fact the real deal! We stood in the same room as the brewery and the server poured each sample as we got to it into plastic sampling cups – nothing for me to photograph! We sampled so many including a strawberry blonde, a blonde carried by Cactus Club Cafe, peach cream ale and Killer Bee Porter. The latter two were our favourites with the former being oh-so-fruity in fragrance and the latter was just good and malty – we bought both.

Tickleberry’s (Okanagan Falls)

Tickleberry’s was another find by Cindy and we were more than happy to break our drive for ice cream! It’s a cute spot and NPY and I agreed the branding was catchy for the sector and clientele. We also found it was super value for ice cream, too, where a “single” comes with two full-sized scoops and a smaller third one.

From bottom to top, we ordered Root Beer Float, Irish cream brownie and Mango Tango. It was indulgently satisfying.

See Ya Later Ranch Patio Restaurant (Okanagan Falls)

On our last day in the Okanagan, we were sure to visit See Ya Later Ranch. One of our friends joined the Great Estates Okanagan Wine Club and received great bottles of wine from See Ya Later amongst the other participating wineries. We weren’t sure where to eat in Okanagan Falls and See Ya Later had a good vibe. We were forewarned and several times over that the kitchen was a bit delayed, in the midst of replenishing after a rush during lunch.

The beef brisket sandwich surely looked appetizing and one of each of the three couples ordered it. I ordered the quinoa salad to give us some greens. NPY who normally wouldn’t like quinoa enjoyed the saucy mixture. When the sandwich did arrive, it was served with onion soup as a side and generally light and filling.

4th Annual Okanagan trip by the numbers

(our previous trips were in 2007, 2012 and 2013)

Number of vacationers: 8 (4 couples)
Number of days away: 5
Number of breweries: 3
Wines purchased: 7 – amongst them 2 Merlot and 3 Gewurztraminer
Late harvest/dessert wines purchased: 3
Bottles of beer purchased: 5
Games of Game of Thrones played: 1/2
Games of Big 2 played: countless (2 tournaments, of which I won 1)
Amount won in Big 2: 1 meal less 2/3s of a meal
Meals on patios: 3 (Volcanic Hills, Red Rooster, See Ya Later)
Number of wineries visited: can’t remember

This year, we got our ducks in a row and planned early, nabbing a vacation rental home using VRBO. The homeowner is new to vacation home rental this year and this was our first experience so thankfully it was positive all around. Our “home” for four nights was a 2,600 square-foot four-bedroom two-storey home on Sunnyside Drive in West Kelowna, very close to Quail’s Gate. It was a grand amount of space for the eight of us, all condo-dwellers, with three full bathrooms, two living rooms and full-sized kitchen and dining room. We didn’t even get use out of the two patios, hot tub and sauna. But we did enjoy very much the upstairs living room with all-reclining big leather sofas including two swiveling armchairs that could face the lake (Lake Okanagan) and block out the rest of the world. It was really cool to get the run of the house and I know it fascinated my friends to no end how affordable it still is in West Kelowna to check out real estate listings… all compared to Vancouver!

We drove up on Thursday afternoon – I had a four-day weekend thanks to a freebie holiday from work on Friday in addition to the stat holiday on Monday. No matter how many times we do it, it’s a long drive out and you have to break it up with pit stops. And it’s all worth it when you get there (hey, I’m not the one driving) when you still have city access but also endless vistas of Mediterranean-like wine country and water. We were in Napa Valley earlier this year and the view doesn’t compare. Sorry.

At Ex Nihilo, we saw a helicopter parked on the lawn! I naively thought it was just on display but when we left the winery, the other group walking out at the same time head for the helicopter. Wow, that is wine touring in style! Later, we walked to Quail’s Gate – our “neighbourhood winery”, it was so close – we saw an “H” marked on the parking lot and then saw a helicopter flying quite low. An emergency medical helicopter? :( Nope – it was landing at Quail’s Gate! :) How pimpin’ is that?

 

 

This year, we went added breweries to the mix visiting three of the four breweries I wanted them to hit up in Kelowna and Penticton. I can’t wait to plan a local brewery tour to take place next month. We really are enjoying the craft beer trend and I’m reveling living in the center of this reviving Brewery District in East Vancouver.

At wineries, NPY and I have honed our interests. For me, the one with “wine face”, we tend to sample and buy Gewürztraminer and late harvest dessert wines. NPY has narrowed his interest to Merlots.

 

After enjoying two brilliant days on or near the water last year, we were sure to schedule a beach day/afternoon. We were really prepared to be comfortable with an abundance of beach blankets to mark our territory and two hammocks to lie in and enjoy the sun and beach. This time, I actually got into the water, up to my neck, going just tens of meters out in the 135 km long Lake Okanagan!

 

We had a combination of great meals on patios of a few wineries combined with meals at home. The kitchen was fully stocked so we did not have to pick up random things like disposable wine glasses and seasoning. Of course, the patterns at home continued and the girls prepared non-barbecued food and cleaned up and the guys barbecued and/or waited for food.

It was hard to believe but we unplugged from television-watching for four days! We were hardly unplugged from mobile electronics, however. We relied heavily on a Whats App group chat to share photos, status and goings on with each other and friends back in Vancouver.

Our final adventure of the trip was on the way back to Vancouver. Our friends who hit traffic ahead alerted us to the stop-and-go situation on the highway so we broke off from the TransCanada highway. With three phones looking at the immediate area map and Google traffic indicators farther along the route, we navigated our driver through the back roads of Chilliwack and Abbotsford, a stone’s throw from the Canada-US border. It took longer than friends who stuck with the main highway but we were constantly driving and created an adventure out of it!

Our haul
(- “dash” for wineries / * “asterisk” for breweries)
– Intrigue Wines: I Do rose wine, 2013 Gewürztraminer
– Arrowleaf Cellars: 2013 Late Harvest Vidal, 2011 Merlot
– Gray Monk Estate Winery: 2012 Reflection fortified white wine
* Tree Brewing Co.: 2x Raspberry Porter
– Elephant Island Orchard Wines: 2013 Apricot dessert wine
– Moraine Estate Winery: 2012 Late Harvest Merlot
* Cannery Brewing Company: Naramata Nut Brown Ale
* Tin Whistle Brewing Company: Peach Cream Ale, Killer Bee Porter
– Red Rooster Winery: 2010 Reserve Merlot
– Quail’s Gate Winery: 2013 Orchard Block (reserve) Gewürztraminer
– See Ya Later Ranch: 2013 Gewürztraminer

One of my must-see travel destinations

These days, when I’m set to visit somewhere new, I must not forget to add to my list, “Visit the office.” I really (really) kick myself if I forget. With over 700 offices in 150 countries, it’s very likely that where I’m visiting will have an office!

NPY groans when I mention it as an item on our itinerary but the offices tend to be located in financial districts in downtown areas that he would like to visit anyhow. So my desire to head into the core (even when it isn’t that cool to go to the core – like in LA), we both get something out of it! :D

Some offices I have been able to wander around by myself. One office wouldn’t let me wander and I was very surprised and disappointed. Most offices, I just photograph the exterior.

Earlier this year, I became the “social media contributor” for the Vancouver office and through restructuring also have made or reinforced Canada-wide connections – although I’ve been to exactly half (eight) of the Canadian offices.

I can’t wait to wait more international ones. I have, of course, created a Google Maps Engine of the locations I have visited. Just two continents. :)

ey-spotting

Here’s a mini gallery of my visits.

 

 

 

 

Have you ever heard of Saint-Pierre et Miquelon?

saint-pierre-mapI asked a born-and-bred Vancouver coworker. I asked two people from Ontario. I asked someone from Newfoundland and someone in Vancouver from France. From my tiny survey, people outside of the Maritime/Atlantic Provinces of Canada do not know about Saint-Pierre et Miquelon. Amongst all of the years of learning Canadian history and geography, I’ve retained shockingly little. But the little gem that I still remember is that there are some French islands just off the coast of Newfoundland called… Saint-Pierre et Miquelon.

It’s not looking like I will make a big trip in the fall this year. I’d have to win one (oh trust me, I’m trying). In my case, it’s always an honourable thing to go home, see my parents. I used to have just three weeks of vacation and a significant chunk of it was spent in Halifax or Toronto. (Grumble, grumble.) Now I have five weeks and visit a modicum less. Nonetheless, I will scheme how to make a trip “out east” more interesting. It’s my usual strategy of the side trip. A side trip to Toronto is easy but not novel. Halifax is geographically close enough to a lot of New England cities – most of which I’ve been to including New York, Boston and DC. Of the exotic and slightly farther variety from Halifax is Iceland (4 hours away), Bermuda (surprisingly 6 hours away by indirect flight) and Saint-Pierre et Miquelon (90 minutes away).

Yes, it is that close. Only one airline, Air Saint-Pierre, flies in and not from anywhere in Canada except Montreal and cities in the Maritime Provinces and not even from the motherland, France. You can’t even get a quote on the airline’s website for the price but I learned from an email inquiry that the one-way fare is approximately $350. Eeep.

The more viable option is to visit Newfoundland (my first time!) and drive down to Fortune, NL from which a daily 1-hour ferry will take you to Saint-Pierre and it is only $93 for the round-trip.  That sounds more like it.

The scheming continues….