Let’s just leave most of it to the imagination, okay? But this is what my Fitbit Flex logged on Sunday, June 22 when I was in Las Vegas then Bellingham then Vancouver. We waited over 90 minutes to get into the club (Hakkasan) and really just started dancing at midnight… until it closed down at 5 a.m. The rest is self-explanatory. I can’t believe it was just 48 hours ago!
By contrast, below is an ideal sort of day: walk to work (25 minutes), some activity at lunch, walk home from work (25 minutes) then a 35+ minute run. Bliss.
A couple of weeks ago, I had the great pleasure to spend three hours with two chalk artists who were commissioned to do a large sidewalk acrylic painting to celebrate the 150th year of my firm doing business in Canada. They started on a Tuesday and finished on a Thursday afternoon. I volunteered to be a “brand ambassador” Tuesday morning and early Thursday afternoon and dropped by twice in the mornings in between. I observed how the process unfolded and it all the more urged me to put into motion a niggling plan in my head, which looks heavily influenced by my work life.
Amongst a lot of other things, NPY and I are going to struggle with making big, permanent decisions about how to outfit our new place, our first place. But I’m pushing to get the small stuff done. The entryway bench. Small decoration ideas in the less public places. And in our most lived in and cluttered room – the second bedroom that has the small (full size, but compared to no bed in the master bedroom) bed, I wanted to finish it once I got the linens done. (And I’m going away for the weekend and NPY might have guests. Any Lil Sis is visiting next week.)
I’ll drag NPY to museums and, if allowed, I will photograph the artwork. I will especially note that if I think I can reproduce something, to consider it.
I took two or three years of art classes in high school. I wasn’t very daring and limited myself. While my classmates made large canvas and painted, I sketched and stuck to pencil (and I wasn’t very good at it). So I keep thinking that I haven’t done anything artistic like that for (oh, gosh) nearly 20 years. Correction, I was working on a complicated paint-by-numbers canvas two years ago (which I did not complete and recently binned) and last year, we had a work function at Raw Canvas and I freehanded a hilariously ugly porpoise.
I thought I would start with something geometric and see where it takes me…
Hoping that sketching is the most difficult part.
Conclusion: that yellow looks weak.
Painting yellow is DONE.
The whole, complete concept.
- The chevron one was the hardest, by far and I don’t want to paint those again – so much taping and I took three steps to do the yellow before learning how to do the gray in two steps.
- You can’t be sure the masking tape is sealed well enough and paint won’t leak. :S And you can never touch-up enough.
- 3M Command velcro strips are iffy on the bare wood of the canvas, just as the 3M website said it would be. Some Krazy glue helped!
- My local dollar store has great art supplies. These 10″ x 10″ thicker canvases were $5 each. All other supplies were also from the dollar store: three bottles of $1 paint and $1 set of paint brushes. :D
I can’t wait to find my next concept and get started on the next one!
Oh boy, it has been over a week since we’ve been back from our mid-May trip and I can only now finally post about our dining exploits. Nevertheless, the memory lingers and I look upon it all even more fondly as the rude adjustment of returning home is now fading.
Super Duper Burger
We ought to be grateful that California/San Francisco is just a 2.5 hour flight away but with going to the airport that much earlier for a States-bound flight and waiting a touch long for our SuperShuttle, it felt like a lot had gone on during the day and we were wiped upon arriving at our hotel. But there was still daylight and I needed to get in a “snack” meal soon after setting out to explore in order to want to eat again at a late dinner!
Tim’s strong recommendation was that was try Super Duper and we happily did at their Market Street location. It has a cool upper level seating and we enjoyed our full-on combo of burger (single patty, even though we are sharing), garlic fries (YUM) and a twist milkshake.
Barbacco Eno Trattoria
I was looking at some Italian restaurant menus for LA and salivating. It’s comfort food to the hilt but why was even the most standard pasta dish well over $20? Then I came across a slideshow of interesting pasta creations around San Francisco and what caught my attention secondarily was the price. Reasonable ones. I just cross-referenced with a map of where we might be and selected Barbacco in Financial District, not too far from our hotel.
Was the hotel going to be a dive? Was Financial District going to be sketchy? Was the restaurant going to be dull and quiet because people vacated after work? None of the above, thankfully!
Barbacco is located next to its sister (and more formal) restaurant, Perbacco and the California Street strip they are on have a few other busy restaurants. Although I made a reservation, we were seated at the bar but the bartender who was often right in front of us was nice and non-interfering. We were instantly comfortable and the surroundings were cool. We ordered a kale salad to get in some greens and NPY – flooring me – suggested the bruschetta sampler. Then, when we were considering between lasagna and farro “risotto”, he steered us towards lasagna. I dearly wanted to try the orecchiette and justified to myself that I make a pasta like that anyways.
The prices were right and the portions were not overly hearty. I loved how we got an assortment of “bruschetta” that is far from being marinated tomatoes. The lasagna was made with spinach pasta which was a really nice touch. It was a great meal at the end of a traveling day and to kick off our California trip!
We (I) selected an unseasonably hot week to visit California and the sun was out in full force in San Francisco the day we were out and about all day. I was a little loathed to stop in most places at Pier 39 except for at Beer 39. There, we were not sampling some marked up American food for tourists but local beers. They had several flights for us to choose from and based on the composition of the beers, NPY selected the California flight over the San Francisco flight.
I really appreciated how we could duck out of the sun and the bar stools were so high I could take all of the pressure off my feet for a short while!
Seafood sandwiches at Fisherman’s Wharf
When we reached Fisherman’s Wharf – which I learned is distinct from Pier 39 – we faced several stands in a row serving up seafood salad sandwiches. Of course, lobster and crab sandwiches caught our eye but we gravitated towards more economical shrimp salad and walked among the shops to find Alioto’s which had a soup and sandwich combination. Sandwich was just shrimp but it was on Boudin sourdough and the soup was a clam chowder.
Because… right after the sandwich and chowder, we walked over to In-N-Out Burger. NPY has never been to and so I couldn’t order it “Animal Style”. Why must the two In-N-Outs I have been to being zoos and a little divey by fast food standards? That’s all.
We aren’t done yet for our eating, er, walking tour of San Francisco! We finally arrived at our northwestern most destination, Ghirardelli Square and – look! – there is an ice cream shop and we haven’t had a dessert treat yet. Since I was at Ghirardelli Square last year, the Marketplace has changed, taking over the neighbouring shop and expanded to include the ice cream shop. We decided between us to split a banana split and waited and waited for it to arrive. All the better to get a bit hungrier for it!
It was a big treat that we fortunately shared. Chopped pineapple was a nice treat on the vanilla ice cream, there were realy strawberries in the topping and we got to sample the signature hot fudge sauce with the chocolate. It was a delightful stop.
It didn’t take long in Napa for NPY and I to realize, “We’re not in the Okanagan anymore.” For lunch, I had looked up some spots in St. Helena that sounded good, like Market, but the heat just took away our appetites. We poked around in some shops – Olivier was great! – then braved the dull walk on Main Street between the end of the commercial strip to Gott’s Roadside stand. That experience will be imprinted in our memories!
Gott’s came up in my trip research and we saw their second location in the Ferry Building. In our Napa brochure, I saw it was on Main Street so it was decided for me – three burgers in three days (half a burger each, only, mind you). After the fact, I learned that Gott’s first location is in St. Helena and we could see their original sign and name – we liked the retro branding and how utterly satisfying a burger and milkshake was at that point!
About.com pages aren’t entirely useless and when I was overwhelmed with the sheer number of wineries (most of which I hadn’t heard of before) in just Napa (nevermind neighbouring Sonoma), About.com pages told me which 10 were most popular, which 10 are well-kept secrets, which 10 had the best views, etc. That is how I came to select Domaine Carnernos, which has slightly longer hours, for our last stop in the region and where we can dine at a winery. The grounds and terrace was beautiful and many other people had the same idea. The scenery did not impress me so much after many trips to the Okanagan where we would see a glistening lake where instead we as Silverado Trail (road).
Our server was enthusiastic and knoweldgeable and described the sparkling wines – Domaine Carneros’ specialty – in such a way we were sold. NPY ordered a brut while I was persuaded to order a ros&eague; that goes perfectly with a sunny day. The flutes beautifully displayed how effervescent the wines were. To match, we ordered the cheese sampler created for the sparkling wines and we nibbled and enjoyed the whole experience.
La Taqueria [Yelp]
Apparently it was not a day for overly real food. We came back from Napa in the early evening and my mission was to have Mexican food in Mission. And I knew NPY wouldn’t enjoy a sit-down restaurant and I wouldn’t enjoy the expenditure. I found La Taqueria, which shares a name with one of the best taco joints in Vancouver. I didn’t bother to request that they prepare our beef and chicken tacos without cilantro as the flavours were so good I didn’t mind the vile herb amidst it. I introduced NPY to agua fresa – he doesn’t appreciate the difference from a strawberry slush but did appreciate how refreshing it was.
Union Ale Brewing Co.
Our last stop in our eight-hour one-day road trip between San Francisco and Los Angeles was in Santa Barbara. There used to be a soap opera by that name and its nickname as the “American Riviera” intrigued me. We stopped because we needed a break but also because it was a good time for NPY to tune into the playoff hockey game currently airing.
The town was quiet. But in a small area around Union Ale Brewing, some wine bars were hopping. But they weren’t showing the game so we kept with the beer-oriented joint. NPY had a beer, naturally, and we split a nachos on the grounds that it was easier to share and linger over than, say, mac & cheese. The nacho chips seemed to me more like won ton wrappers in texture and flavour but we munched happily on them while watching the game.
Sadly, just ten days later there was a horrify massacre in the Santa Barbara region. :(
The Veggie Grill
The LA Farmer’s Market was a disappointment which meant we could speed on – once me managed to locate it – to the North Market where Veggie Grill is located. A couple of years ago when I followed Lynn Chen’s blog, I was swayed to try All Hail Kale at Veggie Grill. I looked up a recipe and it required too many ingredients and I waited patiently for a trip to LA. (Although there is a Seattle location, too.)
In order to maximize what we could try, I ordered from their pick-a-pair which included All Hail Kale as a salad option. For the second item, I selected a mini Buffalo Chickin’ wrap. I am not so fond of sweet salad dressings so All Hail Kale’s dressing was just okay for me. The additional ingredients to the salad such as cabbage slaw, corn salsa and walnuts were wonderful, however. And I chose the Buffalo Chickin’ because it would be plenty flavourful and warm and I love soy products posing as chicken!
A short while after Veggie Grill, we were at The Grove and NPY watched part of a playoff hockey game and then he had to breakaway or else we would incur more parking charges than we would like. We found The Grove and waited just a short while before we got a seat. Turns out The Grove is their flagship location and it is going for a natural look with light wood and bamboo throughout. We were seated in a booth and the vinyl was sadly (and ugly) torn.
It would be our fourth and final burger on the trip. We went all out on the flavour. NPY suggested we order a smother fries and I rolled with it. The braised pork was okay but the truffle gravy was the hit. I couldn’t decide between an original Umami burger or one with a fried egg and extra truffle flavour and NPY helped me decide on the egg-topped one. Truffle abounded in our dinner – I believe that is an umami flavour!
After leaving The Grove, where were we to go?? Well, we weren’t too far from UCLA and Diddy Riese which is open until midnight. It was settled and NPY did not know what we were headed for until we saw the queue that extended for a block. I need not have worried that Diddy Riese was a thing of the past. A man walking by the queue asked the girl in front of me, “Is it so popular because it’s cheap or because it’s good?” She answered, “Both, actually.” NPY had the time to walk up to the menu and report back on the great prices. So good, we could order a dessert each. And the queue is so long you want to order two by the time you get to order! NPY wanted just one cookie and so ordered a sundae. I love how you can have two different cookies and went with the classic sandwich: cinnamon sugar and chocolate chunk cookies and espresso chip ice cream. We threw in a milk as well because we weren’t having any while we were away from home.
Pink’s Hot Dogs
There was that one day when I stuck NPY to go to Universal Studios alone. Why? I only had one free pass. And I wanted him to see interesting things while I could be amused on the Citywalk (which turned out to be paltry for interesting sights, even for me). How to kill three hours? I thought I would just get a Starbucks at the midway point but I saw Pink’s upstairs. Our friend, Tim, makes Pink’s his first stop so I thought I could try it. Just a chili dog from the food fair that was depressingly not busy. Despite declining onions and mustard on my hot dog, they added it anyhow. I didn’t see the big deal.
We stayed in a hotel in Culver City so I had to wait until Thursday when the Culver City stand for Coolhaus was open. Our GPS flipped out for the second time on the trip as we try to find it on Washington Boulevard (the first time was when we were driving through SoMa in San Francisco) but we eventually found Coolhaus and braved the artificially long line. That was because just one person was tending to giving tastings then preparing sandwiches or shakes and the cash. It was almost enough to make me turn away… but I wanted a Coolhaus sandwich! And so when it came to our turn, I did max out our two samples!
They have intriguing flavours but I seem to have something of a pattern with my selection and my Coolhaus sandwich mirrored my Diddy Riese one: Snickerdoodle (not unlike cinnamon sugar) and double chocolate (a little different from chocolate chunk) with coffee and donuts (like espresso chip) ice cream.
Warner Brothers Studios Commissary
A few things we were not prepared for on our Warner Brothers Studios VIP Tour were the duration, having water handy and going on a full stomach! We were starving afterwards and went to the Commissary next door. Why not? It’s not like you would rub elbows with anyone famous – not like in the employees’ commissary – but it was really decent food and an elevated cafeteria environment of sorts.
Does a chicken sandwich count as a burger? I didn’t think it does.
Tinhorn Flats Saloon & Grill
This would be the third time while we were out and about we had to take a break for playoff hockey watching. That’s okay – I budgeted for that and looked up some places, none of which were used. Well, let NPY direct where he wants to watch hockey!
Tinhorn Flats is across the street from Hollywood & Highland Center and we were provided the option to sit on a couch which is decked out like a country saloon. I loved it. We each just ordered specials but why does my mixed drink have to cost, still, twice as much as a beer?
Uncle Bill’s Pancake House Manhattan Beach
On our last full day in town, we rolled out so very late. Parking in Manhattan Beach was hard to find and scary signs about how strictly parking rules were enforced abound. We rolled into Uncle Bill’s just a few minutes before they stopped serving food, shortly before 3! I ordered a french toast because it would come as a combination with eggs and sausage. NPY ordered eggs and sausage because pancakes could be a side.
While its proximity to a beach and low-key vibe is great for some people, it turned me off. It felt like a dirty restaurant from the seat that stuck to NPY’s shorts to the general disorganization of the servers’ area that I was forced to look at while waiting. I guess if you have sand in every part of your body, you’re less bothered by cleanliness. And the food wasn’t awesome either. NPY and I liked the French toast better – we are also not the biggest pancake fans.
In the afternoon, we were walking around Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive and it is far more to our standard of cleanliness. NPY didn’t know why we were walking on Santa Monica Boulevard and we arrived so late in the afternoon everything was closed. Oh! Is that a Sprinkles Cupcakes? (We had shared a Sprinkles cupcake when we were downtown the day before, at the Ernst & Young Plaza location.) I showed NPY the cupcake ATM and dragged him into the ice cream shop.
I was completely pleased to get to try a Sprinkles sandwich with red velvet and vanilla cupcake tops and – since I couldn’t decide amongst the ice cream flavours – the current special created by Sprinkles in collaboration with Live! co-host Michael Strahan which was a salty and sweet flavour. We enjoyed our sandwich two doors down at window seating in the cupcake store.
Gordon Ramsay at The London
I saved the best dinner for last – at Gordon Ramsay at The London. We had been conservative throughout the trip and – you know what – Gordon Ramsay is that high end. We arrived early for our reservation and had beers in the lounge side. Fortunately, we didn’t have to wait all the way until the original reservation time and we were seated at a table where NPY got a chair and I got a beautiful long couch. Gordon Ramsay – your restaurant is beautiful, luxe and a touch feminine. :)
I dearly wanted us to order the Beef Wellington for Two and when we last saw it on Masterchef, NPY did say it looked good. The issue is there is a lack of sides and we really would have nothing but beef for dinner. On the flip side, ordering separate items exposed us to more variety… We started with a lobster roll where the lobster meat was butter poached and roll was the tastiest and distinctively dinner roll tasting ever. NPY ordered a lamb dish while I went for scallop. My scallop might have been a touch undercooked but… it was a light and good dinner. NPY’s was delicious with tender and seasoned lamb chop and a small pot of shepherd’s pie made property with minced lamb. And NPY was down for dessert and I continued to roll with NPY’s selection and we ordered the lemon meringue.
Ah, the dessert capped it all off and made the dinner splendid. First, coconut ice cream with toasted coconut shreds accompanied the pie and it was delicious. And the lemon and tart could have been average for all I could tell but the slightly browned and creamy meringue convinced my lemon+meringue exists in the first place. It was so good combined. So, I left with good memories and a smile.
I usually dread the, “How was your weekend?” question at work. I don’t ask it and I cringe to be asked. I don’t often remember what I did and so the question almost catches me by surprise although I should expect it by now. I often don’t remember because it was usually pretty boring to talk about.
This weekend, like the past while, has been full-speed and interesting and busy. So busy, I forgot it was my mother’s birthday on Sunday. Partly also because we celebrate her lunar birthday and that is not the calendar I refer to every day. Daddy had to call me to remind me. During my call with mum and when we talked about my preoccupation this weekend, she remarked, “You have moved a lot these past few years!”
- moved out of my “junior one bedroom” of seven years and split my stuff between a storage unit in Vancouver and my sister’s place in Toronto
- moving materials consisted of tens of “banana boxes” procured from Safeway next door
- moved into my one-bedroom apartment on Toronto’s Bay Street
- my belongings were shipped across the country by U-Haul in a U-Box
- moved out of my Bay Street apartment and into NPY’s family’s house
- moving materials consisted of some 30 Frogboxes – moving men praised how organized I was with them
- two young moving men hired who moved my stuff into a U-Box that traveled across the country
- moved out of NPY’s family’s house and into our Olympic Village rental
- easy move as most of my stuff was still in Frogboxes that I could finally return to them
- rented a U-Haul truck for a day and family and friends were free movers who hustled everything over within the span of an elevator reservation (a couple of hours)
- moving out of the Olympic Village rental and into our Olympic Village
This has been the strangest move to date. Originally, I demanded Froxboxes. It is so easy to pack when you have tens of boxes to separate your belongs logically. But it turns out to be overkill when we are moving from one tower to a different tower in the same development, connected by a parking garage. It would be, I laugh to think about it, a “shopping cart move”. Our moving supplies consist of:
- two flatbed dollies – they are adorned with red daisies and identical, belonging to friends who bought them at the same time when on sale at Costco
- about ten large Rubbermaid containers and three large suitcases
- elevator reservation of two hours and use of the family’s SUV
- our own blood and sweat packing several Rubbermaid containers, carting them through the garage, unpacking at the condo and repeat ad nauseum
I got it into my pretty little head to paint the walls since the place is empty, and to introduce some of our personality to our first (owned) home. That is, if we wanted to make a statement, our personality is not beige but gray.
On Saturday, we had a “painting party” wherein six family members and four friends dropped by throughout the day and helped us.
Yes, there was a point earlier in the day when I felt overwhelmed and wondered to myself why I didn’t just leave well-enough alone. What a disaster! What a mistake! It may have been a generational miscommunication but it felt like although Dad had painting knowledge, we were crashing around in the dark. Then friends arrived and they brought confidence and extra helping hands. With the extra labour working on the second room, I started to believe we’d actually finish. Then experienced family members arrived and we pushed through and – all things considered – finished for a day after nine hours of work.
We were back on Saturday, just me and NPY and it was more somber, just the two of us and a Songa playlist going. We went through everything two more times with roller, a brush and a fine brush, touching up the ceiling we accidentally painted, sparsely painted spots and spots revealed to be unpainted when we removed the Frog Tape. It felt never-ending but we finally called it a day when everything is as good as it could be with our hyper-critical eyes.
I’m so very pleased our bedrooms’ colour is definitely different from the default colour. That we took on this eye-opening experience together.
We are so grateful and lucky to have plenty of family and friends to give us a hand. We couldn’t have done painting in two days without them. We couldn’t pack and move within a week without them.
The same set of keys as we are staying in the same development, but our new space is going to be a world different.
By the numbers:
- days away: 9
- burgers + fries and/or milkshake meals: 4
- ice cream sandwiches: 3
- Chinese breakfasts from Wong Lee on Jackson: 3 (i.e., each day we were there)
- Napa wineries visited: 3
- bottles of wine purchased: 2
- hockey play-off games watched in bars ’round town: 3
- studio tours: 2 for NPY, 1 for me
- average steps taken per day (per fitbit): 16,557 (max: 28,750 – a day around SF; min: 8,040 – a day around Napa)
We’re back from eight days in California and straight onto our next project – moving! It all has to happen in the next two weeks and we are practically starting from scratch, i.e., not a thing packed yet. So here is the brief but complete recap.
Saturday, May 10
I really don’t travel often enough. At YVR, we were confronted with the automated customs/immigration kiosks much ballyhooed by the YVR Twitter account (apparently Vancouver is a pioneer) which allowed us to fill out the declaration form electronically. I was tagged for the full-body scanner or pat-down and check for illegal substances in my suitcase. NPY thinks it was related to me traveling with a passport expiring within six months. We flew United which did not let me check-in until we got to the airport, which I will take into consideration next time I book with NPY. I had booked for us a SuperShuttle ride to our hotel (Hilton in the Financial District, an Air Miles redemption – thanks, Mummy!) in advance online and used a discount code. Breathed a sigh of relief that our room was good and it might have been due to the Air Miles redemption that we were put onto an Executive Floor (22nd)… or not. We had a great view looking north at the bay. We picked up a pre-dinner burger-fries-milkshake at Super Duper (Tim’s recommendation) then walked it off around Union Square and shopping at Uniqlo. I had booked a late dinner reservation at Barbacco which turned out to be a nice spot.
Sunday, May 11
We rolled out earlier than I anticipated and walked around Chinatown next door to our hotel. 13 months ago, when I was last in San Francisco, the proprietors of Golden Gate Bakery had shut the place down to go on vacation. It happened again! NPY thinks it is no longer in business. It turns out the ladies who run the place vacation often and there is even a website that tracks if they are open or closed! I visited the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory that I missed last year – $0.50 happily paid in order to take a few photographs of the place. Then we turned east and head to the Ferry Building on the Embarcadero which I also managed to miss last time. It’s a glorious marketplace and NPY picked up a New Orleans style iced coffee from Blue Bottle Coffee Co. We looked up at Coit Tower which I really wanted to go to this time around but it was so unseasonally warm that weekend we stayed along the water – I know I will be back again and so there’s always next time. The Exploratorium had free admission for all so we queued up for it and eventually got into the madhouse. My favourite part of it was a seriously fun-house mirror that really baffled us because we could never see ourselves in it. Slowly and with many breaks, we made it to Pier 39 where we breaked to have a flight of California beers at Beer 39 (get it?) and revel in happy sea lion watching. Next stop was Fisherman’s Wharf (a seafood salad sandwich and In-N-Out Burger) then Ghirardelli Square (a visit to the ice cream shop). Thank goodness we were walking so much! We walked back to the hotel via crooked Lombard Street and had dinner at The House which my cousins took me to last year and just about everyone else I know also ends up there while in San Fran!
Monday, May 12
We didn’t head out overly early and picked up our car from Avis in the Hyatt on the Embarcadero. Initially, I booked at the full price but then found a discount through work and was giddy. Then I found an even better discount through Costco and sat very proud of myself. We would, afterall, have the car for six days so savings helps. Avis is usually my first choice for because their locations tend to work for me and so do their partnerships with travel rewards but to seal the deal, they did not charge a fee for me to drop off the car in a different city. First, on Monday, we were headed to Napa Valley on a compare-and-contrast trip with the Okanagan region we visit annually. On first glance, Napa is about ten times more dense with wineries than the Okanagan and I didn’t know where to start. We visited Darioush which has a very unique exterior. Our next stop was Stag’s Leap because I thought it was closed early. Our tasting room server, Ken, was entertaining and highly knowledgeable. We went to grand Beringer and walked a bit around St. Helena and braved walking the exposed and blazing hot stretch between the main Main Street strip and Gott’s Roadside. All in the name of more milkshake! We took in the Napa Valley vista with sparkling wine and cheese on the patio of Domaine Carneros. After a day in Napa, we surely won’t complain about wine tasting fees in the Okanagan and I’ve concluded we are spoiled with the scenic wine country so close by. I can’t wait for our trip in the summer! There was still daylight when we got back to the city and I visited the Painted Ladies (two of the five are being rejuvenated and behind scaffolds). We had tacos at La Taqueria in Mission and finally got to try Plentea (they were closed due to selling out the first two evenings).
Tuesday, May 13
Tuesday was our big road trip from San Fran down to LA. I plotted it out in the hotel lobby the night before (free WiFi) and tried to make sure NPY didn’t have to drive more than two hours in a stretch. He was doing all of the driving since we didn’t add a driver to the rental and I’m rubbish for long distance driving. Our first stop was at the Apple Company Store in Cupertino, because NPY swears the only smartphone for him (at this time) is an iPhone. Then we stopped in Santa Cruz for gas at Costco and to take in the Natural Bridges. We skipped the Salinas stop and drove until San Luis Obispo (Costco gas) and Pismo Beach where I thought the outlets could be work a break for. They weren’t, so we drove on to Santa Barbara and NPY took in part of the game at Union Ale Brewing Co. while I read Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s memoir, which is so appropriate to read while in California. We arrived in LA at our Culver City Four Points Sheraton hotel (half cash; half Aeroplan redemption) which – sigh of relief – was also nice. I was so grateful to NPY for making good time and – most importantly – getting us there safely.
Wednesday, May 14
It was an unseasonally hot week in LA and even the locals were talking about the weather. NPY noticed since he’s more sensitive to the heat than I was. I was happy as a clam to have no ambiguity about what to wear, not having to worry about a change in weather during the day. We made a pitstop at the mall next to our hotel (Westfield) before heading to the Getty Museum. I was happy to discover that plenty of umbrellas were available to provide cover has you walk around the grounds. We were up there longer than anticipated and starving when we reached the LA Farmer’s Market, the only farmer’s market open during our visit. It didn’t look familiar to me until I saw the shop that sold hot sauce. I want to visit a farmer’s market that is open air, with plenty of white tents stands. So we left the crummy south market for Veggie Grill in the north market – I had heard plenty about it from Lynn Chen’s blog. At The Grove next door, NPY watched the game and made new friends with locals at Marmalade Cafe while I learned that we were just in time to catch Jason Priestley at the Barnes & Noble for a book signing. Okay, I hadn’t purchased his book so I was not allowed to hang out in the book signing area but I figured out he had head to the washroom and lurked outside it (camera not poised to snap a shot). He exited the bathroom hallway surrounded by women who ran into him and I just lingered to catch a real moment of his. We got dinner at Umami Burger at the Grove then head to Santa Monica. We just walked a bit on Third Street Promenade and strategized where to park the next time we tried to go to the beach. Then, since it was open until midnight, we went to Diddy Riese for ice cream sandwich and my worries that I went to a once-popular spot were assuaged – it is as popular as ever.
Thursday, May 15
Funny story when I was in Whistler in March for a work trip: I met a guy at the bar who works at Universal Studios. He gave me one free ticket to the park and only a week later or so, we confirmed we would be going to LA. I wished I had asked for a second ticket! So not both NPY and I could go into the park and based on my experience in 2005, I thought I wasn’t missing too much. At $92 for general admission, we were loathed to buy a second ticket even though one was free. NPY went in alone while I hung out on the CityWalk. Extra had finished filming for the day – darn! – the the CityWalk was almost a ghost town. I got a Pink’s hot dog that is Tim’s first stop in LA and hung out in the upstairs seating near the fast food vendors cluster on free wifi courtesy of Panda Express. Even as a singleton, the queues were long for the popular rides (like Transformers) so NPY only did the studio tour and spent just three hours in the park. We rendezvous and perused the crummy Universal Studios store before leaving. Dinner was in K-town at BCD Tofu House. I was looking forward to it all week and it was delicious and filling but I felt like I hadn’t gotten the real K-town experience. But it was time to move on. We went back to Santa Monica where the Promenade shops were still open and we walked around the pier. The cutest thing happened which was seeing a playful seal bobbing around near the fishing lines and several dolphin swimming near the shore. We aren’t beach people and didn’t even go down to the beach. Dessert was at Coolhaus‘ Culver City location, another Lynn Chen favourite.
Friday, May 16
Friday was a big day. I booked a studio tour at Warner Brothers Studios in Burbank (Tim’s enthusiastic suggestion) and it was all super-cool and our guide Noah was funny and energetic and well-informed. I wonder if we had missed out by not requesting to see the Big Bang Theory set (it may not have been possible anyhow) and not being able to photograph on The Ellen Degeneres Show set – no one is ever allowed to. But we got access to the Friends set and we did luck out to get onto Ellen’s set since she doesn’t tape on Fridays and the lighting crew were testing so we got to see some cool lighting tricks. The number of cameras and lights on overhead tracks were impressive and it was so cool to be on the set when it is otherwise so difficult go as a guest for a taping. It was a lengthy tour and worth the price (less discount found online). We even ate at the commissary and further funded the studios by purchasing a t-shirt each. From Burbank, we went to the Griffith Observatory primarily to glimpse the Hollywood sign but we also went into the observatory – hey, anything for A/C. Then we drove downtown much to NPY’s chagrin because of the traffic because I wanted to check out our LA office. I didn’t go upstairs – forgot to bring my pass – but we have the naming rights to the building and the ground-level plaza which is super cool. I had my first Sprinkles cupcake. Then we were finally off to Hollywood – Hollywood & Highland Center, Hollywood Walk of Fame and TCL Chinese Theatre. We stopped at Tinhorn Flats for NPY to catch part of the game. Dinner was at Palms Thai which Lil’ Sis introduced me to in ’05 and I know why it is so cheap – it is decent but very simple. And to cap off the night, we watched Godzilla on opening night at the Arclight Cinemas Hollywood location and the director was in attendance… because things like that happen in Hollywood. It was superfun to see the creatures stomping all over Honolulu, San Francisco and Las Vegas and the tsunami in Honolulu rang all the more true for us after our “scare” during our 2012 visit!
Saturday, May 17
Because of a late movie night the night before, Saturday was a lazy day. We only made it to a breakfast spot in Manhattan Beach at 3 p.m. Then we went down to the beach, visited the pier and actually waded into the sand. The sand is so gorgeous and stretch of the beach so impressive. We hurried back to our car as the parking limitations were so seriously enforced – we saw several tow trucks at work! Our next stop was Beverly Hills to spend the afternoon. The Beverly Hills Art Show was winding up for the day, not that I could purchase any pieces. We came across the Sprinkles flagship store and got a Spinkles Sandwich – divine. I made a reservation at Gordon Ramsay at The London (Hollywood) and we had a nice dinner to cap off the trip.
Sunday, May 18
We left on a morning flight out of LAX which I recently heard colleagues disparage against. Perhaps other terminals are nicer but the wing we Canada-bound travellers spent an hour in was the dumpiest of the large airports I’ve been through. Just leaving LA, we are treated to one spectacular aeroview, of the miles and miles of sandy beaches and I wonder for the umpteenth time in a week, “People get to live here?!” While in the past I would want to travel until the very last day, it was a good move to return with a full day (Monday) before going off to work. Time to upload photos and set up blog posts, time to unpack and visit with friends, time to unwind before the next push begins.
Now, it’s time to madcap recap the meals because, of course I will.
Last Thursday, we went to view a penthouse condo listed for sale in our neighbourhood. It was my second viewing and NPY’s third. We didn’t find any dealbreakers and good friends who saw it with us have been positive as well.
To view the suite, I had to skip a ballet class. I was planning on going for a run to make up for it, especially since my company also hosted a dim sum lunch for the entire firm the very same day. But our friends who came to view the suit had dining coupons for seafood combos at Cray Kitchen + Bar and invited us to dinner! With one other couple and a friend whose girlfriend is out of town, it was a fun and lively dinner. None of us were pros at eating seafood pot and shelling prickly crayfish!
We kept it simple and to ourselves on Friday night. NPY might have gone back to his parents’ house for dinner and games.
On Saturday, after lunch with the in-laws, we went to visit the condo for my third time and NPY’s fourth during an open house. We are independent and will do our thing but we surely didn’t want to have disapproving parental units. The parents thought it is a great unit.
Soon after the open house – during which I learned the seller’s realtor has family in Halifax and noted that I have a slight accent in how I pronounce some words – it was time to get ready to go out in the evening. I squeezed in a short run and those are some of my favourites. Knocking off a run gives me a such a positive attitude for the rest of the day.
We went to my co-worker and her husband’s place in Richmond. They were so enthusiastic to have us over and made a delicious steak dinner. They introduced and guided us in our first game of Cards Against Humanity which was an awesome “ice breaker” of a game letting us peer into each other’s minds. There were times when I laughed until I tears up, when the card I selected as an answer I just knew was the perfect one!
The next day, Sunday, I had to wake up as early as I do to go to work and I ran in, for once, to set up the pre- and post-party my firm was hosting for its Sun Run run team. I played an appropriate Songza playlist, met with catering and made a cute display of the pastry items and cups of yogurt parfait and chat with the runners when came back in. I got rather tired of the question I kept getting, particularly from the repeat runners, wondering why I didn’t run. Because… no matter who in our party had done it multiple times, I bet I’ve done it more times than he or she has. (I have done it five times. And ten total 10K races in Vancouver.)
My friend Frank ran with his coworkers but we were both downtown on a lazy Sunday afternoon and met up for a bit to get caught up.
NPY and I joined some of his hockey buddies for patio time at Tap & Barrel Olympic Village. There we were on the large second-floor patio enjoying the sunny afternoon and talking dreamily about upcoming trips to California!
On Monday, we attended a performance of Kim’s Convenience at the Granville Island Stage of Arts Club. I’ve wanted to watch this production ever since I heard of it (after Toronto Fringe) but found Soulpepper Theatre pricing high. But the production is on tour this year and I arranged to go with a fellow Asian-American culture-lover and we brought spouses along. NPY didn’t know what he was headed for but he really enjoyed the play and he’s usually a hard sell. There was just the right amount of laughs and emotion and a fairly tidy ending.
On Tuesday, NPY went back to his parents’ house for dinner and games and I contacted my cousin, Alan, as I was walking home. I was just trying to arrange a time to meet up on the weekend but it turned out he had the evening off and I invited myself over. But first, I went for an hour-long run on the treadmill. Usually, I procrastinate all evening and go just before the gym is officially closed at 10 p.m. so running right after work was odd and really early! But I had incentive which was to be done and showered and at my cousin’s early enough to be there a while. Mission accomplished.
I just love how my cousin who lived in Toronto most of his life ended up living in my neighbourhood, just two blocks away from me. When he lived in Toronto, he lived five minutes from his brother and I envied that scenario. For things like that, and having friends relatively close by in the city, I love living in the city and can’t give it up.
It was a great feeling to get caught up with my cousin. We are not the closest in age (his younger brother is only two years older than I am) but we can talk about anything. I got a lot of things off my chest and his experience and distance from the issues I face shone an honest light on things. It’s also fun because he can definitely hold his alcohol and we didn’t wimp out and make nary a dent into a bottle of wine.
Then, on Wednesday, my firm held an End of Busy Season social at PiDGiN in Gastown and I was excited for weeks about the venue and event. A year ago, I stuck close by to a girlfriend and her coworkers but this year, I could stand on my own. These days, I have less face-to-face contact with my new role so it was good to put a face to the names I worked with. The tapas were good and the real food we got later even better – the alcohol kept flowing and there were splendid no-holds-barred strong cocktails to select as your next choice.
It kind of occurred to me to cram in fun now. Inside half a year from now, I have to start being a lot more vigilant and self-denying. Within the next month, we will go on our California trip and – it seems – move again! It doesn’t rain but it pours.
Since wrapping up a course in the beginning of March, I have been blissfully free of studying and serious thoughts pertaining to higher learning and felt oddly … guilty. That is banished with us finally booked our May trip … to California!
After a lot of debating (internal and external), we are forgoing going to the East Coast (Halifax and New York City) due to the heady cost and to Hawaii. The latter was forgone because there *just might* be a destination wedding there later this year or next year. NPY and I haven’t been to California together – I was in SF last year and LA in 2005 while he was in SF in 2006 – so it’s a short week-long trip nearby that is also fabulous.
Of course, I made it a trip planning challenge and not only are we flying into San Francisco and spending the weekend there before driving down to LA, I also want to visit Napa Valley. Just a day trip, to compare and contrast with our old standby and neighbour, the Okanagan Valley, we’ll visit later this year.
When I returned from San Francisco last year, I was so disappointed with what I missed that I couldn’t full appreciate the opportunity. I missed a couple of landmarks and the Rock ‘N’ Roll Marathon. It’s not like we are going marathon weekend (that has passed) but it’s all the better because of going with NPY – that’s so sappy, I know – so it’s like a do-over.
I saw the Groupon offer for ten dance classes at iDance and thought, “Perfect! Dance classes just three blocks away–it’s the closest thing to my place other than Tantra (two blocks) that is leaving the area!” But when I looked up the address, I learned iDance had moved from (but left their sign at) their 2nd Avenue and Alberta location to east of Main on 5th Avenue, nine whole blocks away.
(Sorry, Vancouver, but I divide in my mind the city into “Direction I want to go in” and “Direction I don’t.” Heading east is always less desirable and a few blocks in between my place and iDance are Sketch City in the evening.)
Given iDance qualifies as being in the neighbourhood and after I viewed the class schedule, I still wanted to try it. But I also decided to get my 10 classes over with with minimal visits, i.e., two or three classes in a row. If it’s anything like Tantra Fitness, an hour-long class is not so strenuous you couldn’t do a second one.
On the iDance website, their Best of Vancouver Runner-Up badges are prominently displayed. They are the runner-up in 2011 to 2013 (inclusive) to the most centrally located and perennial winner: Harbour Dance Centre. There is also a little table – I love tables – with the following guide.
“Best for Newbies: Dancer’s Body Bootcamp
Best for Burning Calories: Zumba
Best for Stress Release: Hip Hop
Best for Expressing Yourself: Lyrical”
Good thing I plan on trying all of these styles! (btw, when is a “Bootcamp” class best for newbie?)
On my first visit, I learned iDance would be moving! Again! The new location would still be nine blocks away from my place, but the distance is less. I thought that meant I had gone to the old studio in vain but I was simply really early for their first class of the day. I told the receptionist I would take three classes and she processed my Groupon 10-class pass and only took one class off. Like Tantra Fitness, iDance is set up for online registration for classes on zenplanner.com.
To start off my experiment at the runner-up dance studio, I took the ballet class. There is only one level of all the classes, no real explanation of the exercises was given and the demo was brief and not particularly deliberate to teach technique to even an astute observer. However, perhaps being new attracted the teacher’s attention and she attempted to correct my technique. It goes to show that even if you’re a veteran at beginner ballet classes, a new teacher will introduce challenges. Further, I found the floor was too slippery and I struggled to not let my feet slip away on me.
Three moveable barres that each accommodated four people were set up in the center and it was a full class. The lower barre was too short for me while the upper barre was too tall and the whole barre shifted under our weight as we did some exercises. All the exercises were fast as it was a one-hour class – half an hour at the barre, half an hour of center work.
I wore my standard ballet gear of pink tights with black shorts and black t-shirt and ballet shoes. For an informal school, I was pleased so observe most of the students also wore ballet shoes.
iDance Contemporary / Lyrical / Modern
You can’t help but notice when you check in on Foursquare (to the 5th Avenue location), the rave reviews for Rae’s contemporary and hip hop classes and a contemporary class followed my first class, the ballet one.
We did a 20-minute warm-up where you get nice and intimate with the cold hardwood floor. How flexible did we need to be?! Then she introduced the song she choreographed to and it’s one of my favourites – Gary Jules’ Mad World. A slow song is always better than fast song although I’m sure I looked more wooden than I felt. The sequence we did had a large element of pantomiming style and we did some “breakdancing” in the very first bar. I’m just not so very keen to be so close to the floor.
Dancer’s Body Bootcamp
iDance’s “gateway” class is their Dancer’s Body Bootcamp as it requires no dance experience and is offered at least once a day. It contains cardio, movement across the floor, partner work, abs, and stretching.
It was at Tantra where I was first ever exposed to partner work in a dance/fitness class and I didn’t like it. I like how we were holding hands, using each other to balance but also challenge either with our own unsteadiness while we did a series of degage and attitudes.
My biggest dilemma of the day was deciding between wearing socks or no socks! I was back and forth on that throughout the class. I don’t understand how professionals slide their bare feet across the floor! It was also definitely a leggings kind of class else you suffer floor burn (or freeze your legs) in shorts.
That evening, a substitute came in for Rae. We did a half hour of stretching and warm-up and she snuck in some formal jazz moves. Our combo to a song I did not know incorporated jazz arms, kicks and other details swimming in my head. I didn’t love the routine.
iDance Lyrical Jazz
The Lyrical Jazz class followed immediately the Jazz class and it was also suppose to be Rae’s class and a different substitute (Samantha) stepped in. We got even more intimate with the floor, sheesh.
To the song “Rolling Waves” by The Naked and Famous, we learned a routine much more like Contemporary Dance I know of from watching So You Think You Can Dance – again, slower songs are better. The routine included such classic contemporary moves like clutching your front torso, head and upper body crumpling, the backwards running/flying jump on the spot, contemporary-style spinning spread eagle jump, and nice incorporation of a rond de jambe.
When it comes to learning these routines, my first order of business is to get the timing, to be in the right place, on the correct footing. If you don’t have that, you’re hooped for the next portion. Then I’ll try to get the exact movements, but all too soon, the class ends. Samantha video taped our final run through and I’ve been checking out the iDance Studios channel on YouTube. This class renewed my appreciation for how contemporary dancers can throw themselves around and make it look effortless
iDance Hip Hop
Another Rae class and it was Hip Hop (ugh) instead of Lyrical Hip Hop. In any case, I wasn’t a huge fan of the music, some old song called “Break the Window” or something. It was too fast for me and I don’t like being “edgy” – the routine was largely isolations and that sounds fine and well but I couldn’t keep up with the beat or lyrics.
To this class, I wore and felt approaching normal a t-shirt, tights and my New Balance Minimum shoes. Warm-up was fine and well until we had to get down (again!!) to the ground with a crazy series of blanks and crunches!
Hip Hop was my first class in the new studio. The location has better visibility than their most recent one but I don’t see it as place where they can stay long-term. They moved into a space previously occupied by a school of aesthetics and without knowing that bit, I could still tell from the tacky 19080s reception area the former tenants were Chinese. But it’s the studios that count, right? A huge, positive difference is the windows letting light into the larger studio but you’re eye-level with the second floor of surrounding ugly buildings and the window frames are old and look mouldy. Their previous studio had a converted warehouse feel with infinitely high ceilings and now it felt like 7-foot ceilings. Several sinks line the back corner, useful for the last business but ugly when reflected in the wall of mirrors. I felt like I was in a crappy studio apartment with only the advantage of new hardwood floors with the laundry machines, a bathroom and kitchenette inside the studio. No one wants to say it but the space is disappointing, so what I heard a patron soothing say was, “It’s not about the studio, but the instructors.” That’s one way to put it.
iDance Floor Barre / Pilates Mat
There was a lot of back work and less discernible barre work on the floor. It was a slow-going and boring class.
After the chill and boring Floor Barre class, I thought I would have ample energy to do Bollywood. But the warm-up was crazy! It was at 11 on a scale out of 10 for intensity immediately! There was a lot of bouncing – a bra with support is required! I wore tights and my New Balance minimal shoes.
We focused on just four steps and repeated them in sequence then strung them together for “choreography”. Karima Essa, the instructor, is super high energy and took the time to correct people and framed the moves in terms of resistance and isolation exercises. It challenged me and inspired me to get better.
Karima also regaled us with stories of performing in the Canada Day and Pride parades. Hey, that would fulfill my dream of dancing in a parade! But it’s brutal. It’s constant physical work and under potentially sweltering conditions.
I was back six weeks later and mentally prepared for the ass-kicking first half an hour. In the meantime, Karima was away in Toronto vying for the top prize in Canadian reality dance/acting competition Bollywood Star. She was a finalist! That is stupendous. But she was eliminated during the second episode – which is not stupendous. :( I feel sad about that lost opportunity for her but she is definitely someone who will create more in her future!
The second class wasn’t quite so bad since I was prepared with a bottle of water and mentally prepared. I was still challenged and since the front desk associate had recommended I extend my membership, I seriously consider that the Bollywood class was worth sticking with iDance for. It is loud and high-energy and doesn’t required “mood lighting” and the current iDance studio’s state isn’t an issue for me as it was for a real dance class.
iDance Yoga Dance
On a Monday I did not have to go to work, I took the opportunity to attend a 10 a.m. class. I also wanted to go to a 5:00 p.m. class at Harbour Dance that I would otherwise never get to but iDance was in my neighbourhood and Harbour isn’t and one class happened and the other did not.
I had some fancy idea about what Yoga Dance could be but this was just a flow yoga classes. I wasn’t unhappy to get a good stretch in.
My original plan was to do a triple-header on Sunday from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. of Bollywood, Zumba and Pussycat Dolls. But that’s awkward scheduled across lunch hour and when would I have lunch? 2:30?! I’ve had enough of wannabe-sexy classes and nixed the Pussycat Dolls class with no intention to try it.
Zumba is a different story, especially since it was (as above) “Best for Burning Calories.” The Sunday class is co-instructed by Hercy and Rolson which is a cool duo. Hercy was fast paced and dove into each new song’s choreography without a word of explanation but with ample repetition to catch up to the moves, roughly speaking, by the second iteration. Rolson brought the dancehall/hip hop moves and we could catch our breath during his segment. The class was split kind of 35 minutes Hercy and 25 minutes Rolson. We did Gangnam style! It was a fun and satisfying class which and I can see why it is a full class. I felt super limber after the class which is exactly what I need to shake up my running-and-ballet routine.
After trying ten different classes at iDance, I have gone from decidedly not renewing my membership to agreeing to a 10-class card which I will use for Bollywood-Zumba doubleheaders in Sundays. The 10-class card expires after just three months so I have to take care of (i.e., attend) some other dance studios I have class cards for before purchasing another iDance pass!
Winnie, Andrea, Juliana and… Yoda.
Those aren’t our real names. They are the Starbucks names of our little merry band that went to Whistler last weekend. Our firm hosted a weekend in Whistler to celebrate the end of another busy season. The total head count was 90 people, nearly a quarter of the Vancouver office and representing a large portion of the audit practice. The four of us provide support to the accountants – Andrea and me in administration and the others in HR. We’re invited to the party but a little different. A little older.
Last year, I was not supporting anyone in the audit practice but I have been for the past eight months. This year, I was “eligible” to go and I practically jumped on the chance because the timing was right. I’ve never stayed overnight in Whistler for a “ski trip”. This is my final year of “partying” as I know it. I was done a final exam a week earlier. NPY could use the wyn-free weekend to study for his upcoming exam (or not). I was soon ending two weeks of vacation coverage for a colleague which was nothing short of stressful. And I needed a getaway at that particular point.
We set out on Friday after work and admired the dark, sparkling waters of the Howe Sound. (It will look so much better and blue in summer!) The usual pitstop was made in Squamish where I’ve heard there is a very good sushi restaurant but since I did not confirm which one it was ahead of time, we went to Wendy’s which was low-key and forgoing the pizza and booze party in a hotel room that evening. It was the right decision afterall although I wasn’t sure at the time.
In Whistler, I’d love to stay in the Westin foremost, then the Fairmont. The Hilton Whistler Resort & Spa we were booked in was nothing to complain about, as it turned out. The room had two double beds but two sinks and a long hall creating more space. Given my uneasiness with being locked up in a bathroom to brush my teeth, I was using the exterior sink almost exclusively.
We were greeted with a Whistler weekend “survival kit” and we were so touched that we gave it a good paparazzi treatment. It wasn’t just bulk treats tossed into the bag. Someone had taken the time to write a personalized note in the cardholders of our Starbucks cards!
We chilled the bottle of wine and unwinded from the day and the drive before getting ready to go out. It’s Whistler so no one is dressed to the nines. I wore what I wore to work (which was selected with the evening in mind) and shed my cardigan.
The music was good at Buffalo Bills. It was mostly mainstream stuff that I’m happy to dance to (not so happy to hear ad nauseum on the radio in the car). And I recalled that Buffalo Bills was the place our hotel recommended last time and we went to for the Whistler stagette I went to last year… what a difference going out in Whistler in the winter makes!
I would learn on the weekend how much my experiences going out shape my expectations. (And you know what they say about expectations….) Friday night was quite brilliant and I attribute it to the crowd, the mix of people there.
We made a lot of new “friends” for the evening. I met Claude at the bar who gave me a free pass to Universal Studios where he works. Then I met Brian on the dance floor and learned he’s a CxO at a bank close to where I work. A cute Polish guy with a Polish name I can’t remember invited me to have a drink at the bar. He’s in Whistler from New York. There was but one person who conferred unwanted attention – a guy from DC. He was in stark contrast to the other guys and it was painfully obvious to us girls.
One of the girls wasn’t pleased with the male attention. “Can’t they see I’m wearing a ring?!” Actually, I don’t think you can see that in the dark. And I’m a little more non-plussed about it. No one is making surprise and prolonged contact with you from behind. If I could profile the guys: mid-twenties and older, often in the finance industry (and then you throw into the mix my financial services firm!), at Whistler and/or the club alone, very enthusiastic about skiing/snowboarding, and not looking for anything.
Four new friends joined us leaving the bar after it closed and we hung out waiting to order and then waiting for a whole pizza to be made. I was feeling virtuous from working off the Wendy’s dinner with dancing and could abstain. We enjoyed the pizza and company in a comfortable circle of armchairs at the hotel before sending them off to their own hotels.
It’s impressive we got out of bed after just five hours of sleep. I didn’t want to miss my chance to zipline with two other first-timers and we were beyond the free cancellation time! Juliana wavered between coming with us or not because she’s afraid of heights and ultimately it was just the three of us. She had watched some videos and when she asked if we had, I started to worry that I didn’t know what I had gotten myself into! But also knowing that children and one colleague we assume to be conservative had done it, it can’t be too bad!
Our tour group consisted of nine people and with two guides and a driver, we ascended Whistler to the A-frame where we got into our gear. On the way, we drove by the Whistler Sliding Centre, a venue for the 2010 Olympic games. It was covered but you could try to peer inside as you drive by. We turned onto an old access road and it was snow covered and the van had poor suspension and it was bumpy and swaying like an old wooden rollercoaster. That’s what happens when Andrea enthusiastically calls dibs on the backseat and we follow her!
We opted to do the Bear Tour of the two tours offered by Ziptrek Ecotours that last 2.5-3.0 hours. The other option was Eagle which has a “monster 20-storey drop” and costs $20 more. We had nothing to compare ziplining to so chose Bear. Both tours have five ziplines.
The first line was short and low. It was to give you a taste and feel and learn where to put your hands. After initial wariness about stepping off into nothing and relying on the harness and zipline to catch you and uncertainty about the speed, I was not overly impressed with the first line! But it got progressively higher and longer and I was impressed again. On the really long lines, we were advised to tuck into a compact cannonball shape or risk being stuck out in the middle. While it would extend the time the tour takes, it might be miserable, uncomfortable and cold hanging out in the open waiting to be retrieved.
When we were at the second line, we looked overhead to see a line that extended from behind the trees to our left, across the widest part of the valley and not ending until beyond the trees to our right. It was so much higher and so much longer than any of the lines on our tour and I wanted to ride on just that one!
The fifth and final line was short and by then we were comfortable enough to try something different. The guides dubbed it the “freestyle line” and we were instructed how to flip ourselves upside down (hold harness at your abdomen, kick up feet, throw head back, clamp harness with feet to stay inverted, spread your arms… enjoy!) and flip up again (just drop your legs towards the ground). The three of us attempted going upside down. Andrea jumped up to zipline first. I must say that I was concentrating on the various steps such that I wasn’t even inverted very long and didn’t take in the view! Yoda didn’t kick up her feet enough and her back stayed parallel to the ground while she waved her arms and legs – the guides named that the “Inverted Beetle” maneuver!
It turns out that ziplining might be right up my alley with my interest in floating/flying aerial activities evidenced by trying out aerial yoga and (I’ll get back to it/classes) silks. The zipline is smooth and with the freedom on the harness, I wanted to pose! To artistically extend my arms!
I would go ziplining again. It wasn’t the poorest value. (Unlike, say, bungee jumping.) Two separate people said zipling in Costa Rica is insane. So I would do it again in a different (and awesome) locale. Also, from a weekend of hearing Andrea and Yoda talk about skydiving (the former did it in Hawaii last fall), it’s back on my radar. Bungee jumping never was but it makes absolute sense with my predilection for flying I would want to jump out of an airplane!
Since the pub was on the way back to the hotel and we were back in the Village at 3 p.m., we checked out the firm’s event starting at 3 at Longhorn Saloon that boasts of having the best Après Party in the Village. The firm reserved the elevated section where the pool table is located. It was the first time we saw our colleagues and felt like a work trip/retreat! It was funny how we didn’t have a day of skiing but something about being in the cold really boosted my appetite. So many nachos and so much poutine. At least, then, I refrained from the yam fries! And dinner was scheduled for just four hours later.
Dinner was an elegant affair. We closed down the hotel restaurant, Cinnamon Bear Bar & Grille, for the dinner. The menu was a three-course meal with two choices for each of appetizer and main and no choices for dessert. I cursed a little at the choice. Junk food at the pub was incentive to pick the lighter choices but I could justify my choices like the follows: beet and goat cheese salad is lighter but who really prefers that to a smoked black cod chowder with a salmon melt; and I do like to order salmon but fennel in the side and citrus-based sauce was not to my liking so I ordered the “meat and potatoes” short rib entrée. The dessert was a chocolate pistachio semifreddo. I’ve broken my Lent resolution to give up chocolate two times so far and with no choice for dessert….
It was a lovely dinner with colleagues that stretched out for three hours. There are so many people at the firm that I recognize but never talked to. It was fun to ascribe a personality to those people!
On Saturday, more of our group had arrived in Whistler and more of us were out at the club. It was arranged for us to go to Garfinkel’s, where I went seven years ago when I visited in the summer with NPY and my sister. Once again, the music was mostly mainstream but mixed by an EDM-oriented DJ. We could easily find people from the firm and danced with different groups in turn. I didn’t like the crowd other than that very much. It felt younger and more party-oriented. Definitely not as friendly and no new friends were made. I was reminded how there is no such thing as two really good nights in a row and we left half an hour before closing.
The next morning, I woke up at 8:30 because we hadn’t slept late. I luxuriated in the hotel bed for a long interval and only went to the gym at the latest time possible. Yay – I got in a 45-minute run. Boo – I didn’t leave enough time to go for a dip in the outdoor hot tub. The girls woke up and didn’t see me in bed and thought I was hogging the bathroom the entire time!!
We checked out and then head towards a restaurant on the other end of the village specializing in crepes and which had great reviews. But the prices were stupid, like at least $18 for any kind of savory crepe. So we walked back through the Village and ended up at La Brasserie des Artistes because they served breakfast, back close to the hotel.
After starting off the weekend with junk food on Friday, there was chatter about eating lighter, choosing lighter options. Andrea ordered “Clean Living”, consisting of yogurt and granola. Juliana and Yoda each ordered “The Lighter Side”, half a traditional breakfast and had no meat. I ordered the “Wanderlust Breakfast” which had the two eggs but all of the sides were fruits and vegetables. Light breakfast accomplished!
After lunch, I could have gone for Cows for ice cream but we were already past it and we went to the Starbucks on the Village Stroll like we did the day before – our Starbucks. On Sunday, we got a sofa that seated three and sat across from Andrea. It was a better idea than getting and slurping down ice cream outdoors. In a coffee shop, it was chill and we debriefed a little. Notably, everyone was so positive about the weekend. I also noticed after the fact how it says something – we are colleagues with a lot of people we know in common but we didn’t gossip and backstab at all. Then it was time to drive back.
Driving away, we could see the slopes and runs of Whistler and Blackcomb in all their glory and I felt like kicking myself for not going skiing! We came all of that way to not ski! At the same time, I wanted to go ziplining with newbies once the opportunity presented itself. If I go again next year, damn straight I’m going skiing!
As we were nearing Vancouver, it was a nice feeling to go back. I really felt kind of blessed to return to a scenic city and it has such easy access to wondferul Whistler. How Vancouverite is that?!
* With all of the proper accents: K’emk’emláý which is the Squamish (Skwxwú7mesh) name for Vancouver
I think the food I hate eating most of all, that is entirely too common, is … watery vegetables. The following vegetables form a class in my mind that taste like mildly flavoured water and thus vile: celery, cucumber, peppers, bean sprouts and water chesnuts. Most of these vegetables are crunchy but they are certainly not satisfying like a crunchy potato chips. I have historically only been able to eat them when they been cooked to
I have had a pretty good fruit habit. At the grocer’s on the weekend, I pick up five pieces of a few types of fruit – usually handheld ones like apples, oranges, pears, bananas and tomatoes and finger fruits like grapes, berries, baby carrots, cherries and tomatoes – and finish the haul by the end of the workweek. Because the fruit diversity is not so large (typically confined to apples, oranges and bananas on sale), I knew I need to diversify to vegetables.
Two of my colleagues at work are really inspiring. Andrea “meal preps” once or twice a week and she looks so disciplined with her baked lightly seasoned chicken breast in a small Ziplock bag and her raw vegetables in another. The results of her discipline are enviable. Lori seems to bring a cornucopia of vegetables to work and prepares her raw vegetables with some flair every day in the lunchroom. If Lori can do it, so can I!
I tend towards the do-it-once eat-all-week meal prep route and gave up hot lunches. I think the nutritional value of the vegetables is higher than a mixed green salad and the latter requires two liters of space in my satchel. I had several bottles of salad dressing lurking in the back of my fridge and as you can see from the image above, I started with dousing my vegetables!
Then I felt it was just messy to eat vegetables with all the dressing and I lightened up (below) or else I’ll be visiting the salad dressing aisle all too frequently.
Sometimes, I will feel like I have overdone it by lunch hour. Maybe I had a pastry for breakfast or some other incident that makes me want to eat clean (without dressing). And if I’m hungry enough, naked, flavourless vegetables will do. It took just three weeks to complete the transition from starting to prep vegetables like below and eating them naked as you see them below.
NPY has not joined me on this endeavour. He still gets hot lunches from leftovers from earlier in the week because he couldn’t fathom cold, meat- and carb-free lunches nor would he be full. Which is fine because then each hot dinner lasts all the longer when I’m not taking it for lunch!