Fields of Gold

14 05 2015

Tulip Festival?  Yeah, that’s exactly what a 16 year old boy wants to do

I detected just a hint of sarcasm when my friend Kyle said this to me after I spoke of our detour plans to cap off our West Coast Spring Break adventures.

Heading back to Seattle after spending a night in Vancouver – it just made perfect sense to stop in at the Skagit Tulip Festival…especially on a week day.

The festival runs April 1 – 30 and hundreds of thousands of people visit each year to take in the immense colour story that takes place.  But, mother nature has a way of marching to the beat of her own drum and there was talk of an early bloom in March.  So since we were passing by anyway, we took a shot and although we were a little early in the season for the rows upon rows of colourful tulip fields, we did get to experience the fields of gold filled with daffodils standing tall….without the weekend crowds.

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Well, Kyle was pretty much spot on.  After an initial nod of appreciation to the seemingly unending yellow fields, Jonathan followed me around the planters filled with early tulips and hyacinth and watched as I crouched down low to get up close and personal with these perennials and tried to capture shots of the buzzing bees busy pollinating up a storm.

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He thought maybe he’d have a little more luck of some sort of entertainment tagging along with Nathan, but those hopes were short lived – as soon as we crossed back onto US soil Nathan’s phone was back ‘online’ and without the fear of exorbitant roaming fees, he was back to work and could be seen ‘enjoying’ the view weaving through daffodil fields aimlessly while talking on his phone.

Jonathan found himself drawn back to me and my honey bee stalking.  After some frustrating moments trying to capture my bees with a camera with no auto focus, I gave up, manual focus requires the guaranteed stillness of plants.  But even that isn’t guaranteed – one stiff breeze, or even a gentle sway, and everything starts to get a little fuzzy.

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Well, there’s only so long you can drag a teenager around in the flower beds, so we headed out for lunch in La Conner – chowder and fish and chips by the waterfront – something a little more exciting than flowers to our ‘foodie in training’.  Well, another visit during peak tulip season is in order, but perhaps we’ll leave the 16 year old at home.

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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!

 





Time to Fly

13 11 2014

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Driving up to the festival grounds I had my eyes peeled.  We were running late and crawling through the traffic trying to get parked and onto the field where the balloons were launching and I didn’t want to miss seeing the balloons in full glow.  Is that one!  No – just a tower light.  That’s definitely one.  There it is – look at it!  No that’s just a tree lit up by a parking lot lamp.  I scoured the darkness around us because you would think that you’d be able to see hot air balloons glowing in the darkness.  Nothing.

And then we got parked and made our way to the ticket booth and gates.  Ahh.  There we are.  Tension was released, and it was like everything was right in the world now.  I found them.  And I just knew.

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Since this was our second time visiting the festival, it was slightly less overwhelming.  I felt like we kind of knew the rules – when you hear the zebras whistling….get back!  So I took time to really see what was happening on the field.

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It was a great opportunity to see the camaraderie and teamwork as balloon after balloon was sent on its way.

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Normally things in large numbers kind of freak me out (birds, ants, really bugs of any kind all in one place), but hot air balloons may be the only exception.   Watching all these balloons float up into the sky is kind of a zen experience.

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It was a privilege to be able to attend this great event for the second time and I don’t think it will ever get old.  But next time, we’ll have to go flying.

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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.





Just Another Day in the Neighbourhood

11 07 2014

It is crazy how things can become familiar so quickly.

A few months ago I hadn’t done any International travel in almost 10 years, and now four months later I’m jetting back off to Geneva, Switzerland.

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Newark Airport with NYC in the background

The all day/all night flights can’t faze me anymore and after leaving Seattle in the wee hours of the morning on Saturday and arriving in Geneva early Sunday morning, I arrived bright-eyed and bushy tailed.  Although I napped my way through a 6 hour flight to Newark, during my 8 hour flight to Geneva I’m not so sure there was a lot of sleeping done – more of a haze I think.  Well my haze must have been exactly what I needed because I was raring to go with a walk along Lac Leman, morning cappuccinos and pastries and a sunny afternoon into sunset into late night of eating and drinking champagne on the balcony.

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Quiet Sunday morning streets on Rue de Rive

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Sunday Sister Moment

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My first trip to Geneva I felt like I was in another world.  I dreamt of french phrases and so day and night I was swimming in a world that I couldn’t quite understand.  I struggled to keep my eyes open at night and I woke up at 3AM almost every morning.  It was a slight understatement that I wasn’t adjusting to the time change very well.

I don’t know if it’s because the streets, the restaurants, the apartment were all familiar to me now, but it felt like I was just in another neighborhood at home.  Crazily enough I didn’t experience any jet lag and could truly enjoy the day to its fullest – and stayed up way later than I would normally have at home (possibly because my sister and I discovered ‘Orange is the New Black’…).  The french didn’t phase me as much as before and most of the time I didn’t even really hear it around me – or at least take notice of it.  And all of that french dreaming from last time did me well and hammered those french phrases into my head so that when it was time to order ‘un boîte de huit macarons’ – it was right there at the tip of my tongue.

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Laduree Macarons

We allowed ourselves one full day of Geneva Sightseeing before we had to get down to work.  So we packed in a train ride along the Lac Leman lakefront, a trolley ride through Old Town Geneva, and a boat ride along the Lake to see Geneva from another perspective.

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Lac Leman (Lake Geneva) waterfront

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L’horloge Fleurie

As we rode through Old Townmy favourite part of Geneva, I came to realize that the last time I visited I did a fantastic job of sightseeing!  And also reminded myself how much I love old towns and window shutters.

 

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Our boat ride was a little breezy, but so great to be out on the water.  The asian tourists didn’t seem to have the same feeling as we did – they spent the first half of the boat ride taking selfies and the second half they all fell asleep!  Ok, well I can’t really complain about them taking selfies…..


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But to fall asleep??!!!  They missed out on a great hour (seriously it was only an hour and they couldn’t stay awake) on the water.

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Thanks for a great day of sightseeing Geneva!  If only you had had Jet d’Eau standing proud – it’s a good thing I took so many photos last time.

 

 





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





Sisters Reunite!

19 02 2014

After all of my practicing… ‘Je voudrais un boîte de douze macarons,’ I got to Laduree and I froze.  Strawberry marshmallow, salted caramel, rose petal, coconut passionfruit, pistachio, praline, lemon, chocolate coffee…..?  How am I supposed to choose only 12 with all of these flavors? Easy solution I guess….’quinze macarons s’il vous plait’.  I just couldn’t leave without a box of 15 macaroons.  And, they almost all made it home.

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During my time in Geneva, I spent a couple afternoons just wandering the streets and looking at the buildings.  If you’re in a place for too long, everything can start to look normal.  Trams and cable lines, futuristic light bulb-looking light posts, french signs, and hundred year old buildings.  So after 2 weeks I kind of had to tap back into my wide-eyed wonder of seeing Geneva (and Switzerland) for the very first time.

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This hundred year old building was my home for 2.5 weeks.

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My sister and her husband were my hospitable hosts and her cats kept me company at night.  Of course, I had my responsibilities while I was there: lift everything that was too heavy for my sister (a lot of things – I’m much stronger), care for the cats which consisted of entertaining them at 3am when they wanted to play, maneuver my body around theirs at night so as not to disturb their slumber, clean up after them when (not if) they were sick, groom them, clean their litter box…and play paparazzi and take hundreds of photos of them.

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Oliver

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Moosh

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And the most difficult of all tasks….keep my sister company = sit at outdoor patios and drink cappuccinos, eat truffle-topped cheesy delights and Chantilly cream and Nutella-laden desserts.

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Patelos: Cheesy, proscuitto-filled dough, topped with sliced truffle

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Mini beignets topped with powdered sugar and drizzled with warm Nutella and hazelnuts

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Baba: rum-soaked brioche, filled with Chantilly Cream and drizzled with Nutella and hazelnuts

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It was a tough couple weeks but we made it through the longest time we’ve spent together in 7 years.  At the end of the trip we both agreed that we had a better time than we both thought we would, and we were equally surprised that she didn’t make me cry (not even once)!

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The Lee Sisters in Geneva, Switzerland








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