Non-Manditory Family Time

3 06 2015

I am sure it is the same with other siblings, but it has taken almost 30 years before my younger brother and older sister and I have truly bonded to each other.  No longer are we forced to spend time with each other by living in the same house, or by being squished three kids in the backseat on family vacations or because we just happened to see each other at school.  Now, as my younger brother approaches 30,  the three of us live in three different cities: Vancouver, BC, Seattle, WA and Houston, TX  – we have finally come to the point of leaning into each other.  We share our stories and want to know updates.  We send a flurry of cat photos back and forth to each other, since we have all ended up with a cat(s) of our own – which I secretly feel is a competition we play to see who has the cutest, most personable cat.  We each have a different answer…go figure. We ask for help, we share our successes and we actually look forward to seeing each other.  I’m sure our parents are happy to see that their children have finally, after almost 30 years, figured out how to do more than just tolerate each other because we have to.

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This year is the first year since we lived together in our family home that we have all seen each other more than twice a year.  I guess that’s what happens when you scatter in all directions after high school, and then even further after University, and then when conflicting significant other familial responsibilities come into play, well, we would be lucky if we saw each other at all during the year.

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So we’ve come together and during my trip to Vancouver we bonded over all you can eat sushi, spring rolls and pho, calamari and bellinis, ketchup and salt and vinegar chips.  Perhaps we have realized that our deep bond is through food…and cats.

I left Vancouver, speeding away on an Amtrak train back to Seattle, feeling like we’ve made peace with our little trio, which, as a middle child who’s role is the peacemaker, made me feel pretty good about how we’ve all grown up.

My train ride photos: From Vancouver BC to Seattle, WA

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The “White Rock” of White Rock, BC

 

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The Elusive Wildlife

27 05 2015

I don’t think I would ever make it as a wildlife photographer.  I’ve come to realize throughout my experiences stalking birds, cats and bumble bees that I just don’t have the ‘spidey senses’ when it comes to spotting animals or the patience when it comes to catching them in some photo worthy action.

It may sound like I’m only focusing on the birds, cats and bumble bees BUT that is pretty much the only subject matter that shows itself to me.  The other day I opted to not join Nathan on an errand.  And what do you know, he sees a young humpback whale breaching in the water and a dolphin was chasing his ferry and playing in the wake.  WHAT!??  Of course this happens, the one time I decide not to go.  It is still my dream, and hopefully achievable goal, to see whales (orcas preferably) in the wild while not on an actual whale watching trip.  You would think living in cities that consider ferry boats to be a normal mode of transportation would allow me tons of opportunities….unfortunately these whales have been playing hard to get….for the last 31 years.

Well I did manage to luck out with some wildlife photos during my last visit to Vancouver.  Stanley Park is home to one of the largest urban Great Blue Heron colonies in North America.  It’s pretty common to see them doing their long-legged strut in Stanley Park and along the seawall at Coal Harbor.  And with Great Blue Herons it’s always nice to snap a couple of photos of them doing there thing, searching the water for their next meal, but rarely do you see them actually ‘fish’, much less catch anything.

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But this time on an evening stroll with my brother and sister as we headed out to dinner, I took a little more time with a specific Great Blue Heron.  Essentially, I had to be willing to be left behind because there was no way my siblings were waiting around for some bird to do something…possibly.    And just when I was about to give up and resign myself to the fact that once again, I was only going to get the standard standing tall, maybe head cocked to the side, photo.  Whoosh.  Great Blue Heron headless – neck deep in the water.  I honestly had put the camera down and started walking away, when I heard the water splashing and whipped the camera back up to see what moments I could catch.

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Head whipping back and forth.  Dinner dropped and picked up again.

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Dropped and picked up again.

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Another round of head thrashing to try to whip that eel into submission.  And finally dinner gave up the fight.

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An eel!  Yeah!  Good job Great Blue Heron!  We’re eating EEL tonight!

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Ta Da!

And yes, this is still in my normal range of birds, bees and cats but I felt just as triumphant getting these shots as that Great Blue Heron felt munching on his eel.

 





Spring Break: WestCoast Style

5 05 2015

Spring is here!  And with Spring comes Spring Break.

Now, it’s been years since I’ve thought about Spring Break and that’s only because I happened to visit Lake Havasu City during Spring Break and got to witness the shenanigans that took place – drunk guys wearing boxes on their heads, girls sporting pasties and old men showing off what they’re working with in waaaay less clothing than they should be wearing.  And before that, when I should have been one of those dancing beach bombshells (kidding) we didn’t really have ‘Spring Break’ – those of you at SFU know that what we had was ‘Reading Break’ – which doesn’t really inspire spontaneous trips to Cancun or Cabo or some other spring break sounding place.

Well this year, Nathan and I took Jonathan, who is now 16 years old, out for Spring Break – WestCoast style.

First up:  Victoria, BC

After narrowly missing the Black Ball Ferry from Port Angeles to Victoria because we just HAD to stop for the ‘Best Fish & Chips’ at JJ’s Fish House in Poulsbo, we found ourselves basking in the sun on the upper deck as we motored our way across the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

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After an hour and a half we found ourselves in downtown Victoria – which brought back memories of Spring Break like times from yesteryear….first year university and all the girls went for a road trip and found ourselves in Victoria.  We all chipped in to stay at Paul’s Motor Inn (which I saw this trip) and after, probably more than a few drinks, found ourselves on the stage at a Karaoke Bar singing Girls Just Want to Have Fun.  And I think we made it through a verse and a chorus before somehow the song was over already and we were being ushered off the stage….still haven’t figured that one out. Ha!

Well for this trip to Victoria, we took the opportunity to walk the harbor and take in the Parliament Buildings.

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After a quick overnight, we were back on the road and headed to Tofino, BC.

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Now, this is the second time we’ve been here with Jonathan so we knew the drill.  Our first stop was to rent a couple of wetsuits and boogie boards.  And after a quick lunch on the water we were suited up like seals with hoods, gloves and booties ready to brave the balmy 48 F waters of the Pacific Ocean.

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Cox Bay Beach

 

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An hour and a half later we dragged ourselves out of the water.  I was still on an adrenaline high – for a girl who can’t really swim and isn’t the best at water sports, I was riding those waves all the way onto the beach!  Now Jonathan on the other hand, well turns out his gloves had holes in them, so after an hour in the water he ended up with white hands and what locals would call ‘The Claw’.  It took a soak in the hot tub and another couple hours inside before his hands started to resemble something other than an arthritic old man.

Our second day in Tofino we decided to ease back on the water activities, at least those as physically demanding as hurling yourself at an oncoming crush of water to see if it’ll let you go along for the ride or if it’ll twirl you around and spit you out on the other side.  So we went on a boat ride in the middle of rainy/stormy weather to enjoy the Hot Springs.

And after a bumpy, slightly nauseating ride where we saw eagles, harbor seals, seal lions and a glimpse of a sea otter, we found ourselves at Maquinna Provincial Park and just a 2km walk through a WestCoast rain forest from the Hot Springs.

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We arrived to the Hot Springs platform and change rooms about 45 minutes later and although there was a slight sulphur smell in the air, the view was enchanting.

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There’s something about sitting in geothermically-heated hot springs with the rain falling down on you as you hear the roar of the waves crash against the rocks around you that just seems a little crazy.

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After a soak and then watching some adrenaline daredevils jump from the rocks into the waves…we headed back to the dock…

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…where we were greeted by our ride home!  After enduring the hour and a half ride jostling in the waves to get there, the Sea Plane – with its 15 minute trip time – never looked so good!

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View of the Hot Springs from above

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It was a gorgeous way to see the coastline and a perfect way to cap off our time in Tofino.

The next day it was an early morning drive to Parksville – a stop in to see my parents – before hopping on a ferry to Vancouver, BC.

I always forget how beautiful and peaceful it is on the Island – I definitely took it for granted growing up there – but I never forget how fortunate I am to have called Vancouver home, even if just for a short time.  It’s just gorgeous!

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View of Coal Harbor from the Westin Bayshore

And so there you have it – ferry boats, boogie boarding in wet suits, marine life, Hot Springs, sea planes, mountain views and all you can eat sushi (not shown but definitely eaten):  Spring Break – WestCoast Style!

 





Transitioning: Summer to Fall

8 10 2014

Now that green is starting to ease into yellow, orange and red and a crispness is starting to add a little snap to the air, I’m starting to reminisce on my summer moments.

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Maybe I was ‘living in the moment’ and really living in the experience rather than thinking about how I was going to re-tell the story.  Or maybe I was too busy trying to pack as much activity into the warm weather as possible that I rushed through one activity in search of the next.  Either way, Fall is approaching, and with the changing of the leaves brings just enough transition that it’s made me pause in place and gather photos from the summer.

Everyone goes through the transition from Summer to Fall.  Preparation for hibernation perhaps?  The excitement to bring back over-sized sweaters, cuddly scarves and of course those Fall boots!  I have a love-hate relationship with said boots.  I spend my days admiring the different boots that I see prancing down the street – chocolate brown, black, wedge heel, flat stomping boots, sleek and stylish high-heeled boots.  Needless to say, I have boot envy.  I see everyone looking fantastic in their fall boots – really the perfect accessory for fall outfits.  But whenever I find myself on the hunt for the perfect boots I end up frustrated and sad because, after all, I carry my height in my torso.  I have short legs and athletic calves.  The worst combination!  Which essentially means that boots don’t fit me – even the ones with extended calf sizes 😦

But enough about the boots.  I find myself on a tangent as meandering as the paths I hope to stroll through this Fall – stomping through all of the fallen leaves and hearing that satisfying ‘crunch crunch crunch‘ as I walk.

Finally I’m looking back at what took place this summer – a summer that took Seattle by surprise with day after day of 80+ degree weather.

Seattle Sights:

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The Great Wheel

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Kayaking around Alki

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Making Discoveries!

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Alki Sunsets

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Great Friends…

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And Ferry Boats.

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Mt. Rainier Sunsets

Exploring the ‘wilderness’ of Port Orchard:

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Whirlwind Work Trips in Chicago:

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Chicago Art

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Chicago Architecture

Home (Vancouver):

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Vancouver Icon – ‘Canada Place’

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Sunsets at Vancouver Harbour

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Deer Lake Park

Food – delicious, beautiful, tasty morsels of goodness!

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Neapolitan Style Pizza

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Farmer Fresh Artisanal Snack Plates

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Chocolate Covered Figs

It feels like the summer was over in a blink but at the same time, with so many consecutive days of sunshine, it seemed like it was gorgeous day after gorgeous day – which puts a lot of pressure on a person.  Especially a person from the Pacific Northwest, where you cannot take sunshine for granted and on each sunny day you feel pressure to kick yourself out of bed and DO something.  Anything really.  You’ve got to head straight to those walking/running paths, be in or on the water, be at the farmers market every weekend, and eat and drink on every patio you come across.  By the time Fall arrives you’re just exhausted from all of those sunny days and secretly wishing for a rainy day so you don’t have to feel so guilty for spending a day inside watching movies (or a How I met your mother/Orange is the new black/House of Cards marathon).  

LOVED summer.  LOVE summer.  But (as I look right and left and duck my head) I’m kind of ready for Fall.  I’m sure in a month, when Seattle descends into its Grey season and there are more rainy days than not rainy days, I will take back those words – but for now, after over 40 days of 80+ degree weather this summer – I’m ready for an excuse to have a lazy day.





I Miss You Vancouver!

12 05 2014

When you catch it from its good side, it’s hard not to fall in love with Vancouver, and really hard not to reminisce on the great times you’ve had there and think about all the summer patio moments you’re going to miss.  But again, you have it catch it from its good side.  The previous times we’ve visited this year it’s been grey, rainy and made you want to get home and curl up under the blankets (even if those blankets are 3 hours away).  But Vancouver when it’s sunny?

Ohhhh…  It’s hard to drag yourself away.

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Lost Lagoon – Stanley Park

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Spring goslings

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Brother & Sister Time!

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Spring Buttercups

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Nesting Trumpeter Swan

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Balancing Turtles

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Lost Lagoon – Stanley Park

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Vancouver Skyline from Lost Lagoon

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Second Beach Views

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Nature’s Art Gallery

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Balancing Rocks





Fire & Ice

1 01 2013

There’s just something about twinkly lights at night that changes the whole atmosphere.   Whistler Village during the day, covered in a layer of fresh powder with buildings rimmed with icicles, beautiful in a pristine and untouchable way.

Whistler Village at night, complete with moonlight reflecting off the snow, colourful lights twinkling between the branches and a combination of fire and ice that just seems to work?

Magical.

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Olympic Plaza at Night

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Whistler’s Fire & Ice show at Whistler Village’s Skier’s Plaza.  Every Sunday night (Dec. – Mar.) the fire dancers congregate, the Ring of Fire is erected and a few crazy skiers and snowboarders barrel down the mountain to jump through that Ring of Fire, to everyone’s delight.

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Whistler!

31 12 2012

Sometimes I forget about the magical atmosphere of a Winter Wonderland.  The past few years we’ve done a pretty good job at avoiding snow.  Last year we spent the majority of December in California beach hopping and for a brief moment, looking for snow at Big Bear (which never appeared), and settled into a wet winter in Seattle.  

This year we took a trek out to Whistler.  Despite growing up in Vancouver Island and spending years in Vancouver, I have never gone to Whistler in the Winter.  And there’s just something about being in a mountain/ski village that says “Welcome to Winter”, “Merry Christmas” and also, “Why not have a drink, or two, or three…..you’re on holiday right?”

Whistler

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Since Whistler hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics, there have been a couple additions.  Both in Whistler Village and at the top of Whistler Mountain.

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Olympic Rings at Whistler Olympic Plaza

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Olympic Rings at Whistler Mountain Peak

Cold noses, cute hats, and good ol’ Canadian Ceasars, fun times were had in Whistler.  Despite the fact that we were neither skiers nor snowboarders, we put in a good effort with a few good snowball fights.  I believe the lesson here was, don’t challenge a Canadian to a snowball fight….especially if you’re from Texas and don’t know what to do with snow (Jonathan!).   We took the gondola to the Tube Park and spent a couple hours night tubing with christmas carols blaring and perfect snowflakes falling around us.  And completed our winter weekend with a Peak 2 Peak Gondola ride, making the 30 minute ride up to the Whistler Mountain Peak, and trying to stay out of everyone’s way as we took the next gondola ride to the Blackcomb Peak and then back to Whistler and down to the village.

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Peak 2 Peak Gondola Ride

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Blackcomb

We experienced a ton of fresh snow, but the snow clouds cleared for our drive down the mountain and we were treated to some amazing views.

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Loved experiencing a true snowy Winter Weekend, although my coordination may be better suited for a summer climate, but overall, it just felt good to be back in Canada!

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True Canadian Spirit!