Eating Kale in Boston

I recently went for a quick work trip to Boston (or “Bawston”). It’s a cool place, one that I’ll definitely have to return to for a proper vacation. Admittedly I didn’t do a lot of planning in advance, save for knowing that I wanted to wander Harvard and pretend that I was a student (someone stopped to ask me for directions and I almost hugged them).

Fenway ParkAfter a restful sleep at an adorable Airbnb and a solid jog around University of Massachusetts, I gave myself the day to wander the city without a set destination in mind. While I’m not a massive baseball fan I still felt the pull of Fenway and wanted to see the Green Monster up close, so I started the morning with a tour of the historic baseball stadium. As I waited for the tour to start, I noticed a number of concessions advertising salads featuring “Fenway kale”. Used to hot dogs and nachos when I hit a Jays game, this made me smile.

Flash forward to the halfway point of the tour when our guide stopped us in front of this:Green roof at Fenway

There is a rooftop garden at Fenway!! Be still my heart. According to the guide, the garden’s crops change seasonally but they grow herbs and veggies such as cucumbers, tomatoes, basil, kale, lettuce, peas, broccoli, cilantro, mint and rosemary. The garden provides the concessions at the Park with home-grown goodies and is also used as an educational facility for local students.

I would be lying if I said this wasn’t one of my favourite parts of the tour (hold your cries of outrage for a second – my favourite moment was in fact baseball-related). But I totally dig this – turning an otherwise unused space into a beautiful garden for the community to enjoy. Plus kale! Well done, Fenway.

My favourite part of the tour was when our guide pointed out the giant CITGO sign that’s one of the most identifiable landmarks in Boston. Joe Carter and the Blue Jays would consistently hammer the Red Sox, and a sports writer reportedly asked Carter why he always seemed to hit homers in the direction of the sign. His response was that he read the sign as “C-it-go”, and felt the need to follow the sign’s instructions and send the ball packing. As the only Torontonian on the tour, I appreciated this little nugget.

After the tour, I went and ate pancakes (not kale! Surprise!)

Boston – A+. I’ll be back.

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72 Hours in: Washington

Almost three years to the day we first met, Steve and I went back to Washington for a long weekend in April. This time, I didn’t make him carry (most of) my boxes and drive my ass around (how kind of me). It was rather surreal to retrace our steps and reflect on how we randomly crossed paths – for once, my lack of preparedness really paid off quite nicely. While we were saddened to see that the piano bar where we’d first chatted had unfortunately moved, the rest of the weekend was pretty swell. Here are six things I’d recommend checking out if you have some time to putter about in this gem of a city/if you’re mulling over the possibility of striking up a conversation with the attractive individual standing across from you at a work event and want stuff to do after.

Nationals Stadium and the Bullpen
Live music, cheap(ish) beers, food trucks and a great atmosphere – the Bullpen was a grand spot to pre-game before the Nationals clobbered the Phillies. While the beer and food wasn’t as great as Safeco Field, it was still a fun stadium and our cheap seats turned out to have pretty good views of not only the game, but also DC. Look at me reviewing baseball stadiums, who’d have thunk it.

Founding Farmers
This turned out to be a nice surprise – a restaurant dedicated to local, healthy and simple ingredients. Steve had what may have been the most Steve-est of menu items – grilled cheese and tomato soup – with a side of fries. I devoured cauliflower steak risotto. There were no leftovers. We also enjoyed a delicious bottle of Oregon pinot noir which we were delighted to be able to take home and enjoy when we were less exhausted. All in all, great service and delicious food, and nicely located near the White House should you feel inclined to check that out.

Cherry Blossoms
FINALLY (also hello, 32-for-32 item). I’ve missed these every time I’ve visited, so it was nice to catch the last blast before they got scorched in the April heatwave. Head’s up – every visitor to DC wants to look at these suckers. Allow for extra time, pack a lunch (or at least a snack) and practice your best friendly smile as you will accidentally photobomb a lot of people.

Eastern Market
After a sombre visit to the Holocaust Museum, I needed a bit of a pick-me-up and wandered over to the Eastern Market. It’s the city’s oldest continually operated fresh food market, and also has a flea market which was full of doilies. Seriously. Doilie-to-antique ratio was off the charts. If doilies are your thing, beeline here. If tacos are your jam (coughs), you will also find delicious ones just around the corner. Following a wander of the market where I smelled fresh flowers and sampled cheese, I strolled around the Capitol Hill neighbourhood and popped into the quaint shops. There’s some great graffiti to be spotted if you hunt out The Fridge DC, a neat little gallery (wander the alleys near Matchbox Pizza and you’ll find it). When you’re full of graffiti and ready for a snack, be sure to pick up some delicious cupcakes at the Sweet Lobby. Unfortunately, said cupcakes don’t travel well if you’re planning to be all fancy and surprise your manfriend with a sweet treat after a long workday. Instead, you’ll give him a delicious cupcake with a glob of half-melted icing slowly sliding off the side. Ta da…

Duke’s Grocery
Full English breakfasts, simple foods and bottomless mimosas with footie on the TV. A small neighbourhood joint near Dupont Circle, this was an absolute gem with an East London vibe, and a lovely spot to kick off our last day in DC. While the patio gets jammed early, the inside is bright and airy if you don’t mind sliding up to the bar. The coffee was also A+.

Hirshhorn Museum
I thought I’d be museum and gallery’d-out, but the Hirshhorn proved me wrong. Initially I was drawn to it because of the quirky nature of the building itself – it looks a bit like a spaceship plunked down in the middle of the National Mall. Admittedly I didn’t spend a lot of time inside (tacos were calling my name, and I was getting a bit hangry), but I was very impressed with the sculpture garden surrounding the museum (hello Rodin!). Next time I’m in DC I’ll ensure I make a stop here to fully appreciate it.

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Do you have a favourite DC recommendation? Leave a comment below!

Eight Hours in NYC

Last weekend, fresh off the plane from Portland, I unpacked my large suitcase and shoved stuff in my carry-on for a quick 72 hour stint in NYC for work. Following my first set of appointments I managed to squeeze in my first Broadway show – Cabaret! I couldn’t have had a better time – Alan Cumming and the supporting cast were phenomenal, and my balcony seats ended up having a decent view. Plus it was at Studio 54! Michelle Williams was meh. Jen Lindley can’t really do a British accent, nor sing…or dance. Basically, she was a bit of a hot mess.

At any rate, the next day I happened to have a glorious day off, and I took advantage of the warm fall weather and went for a long wander without particular destinations in mind (which for me is a mind-boggling move). Here’s how I spent the day, with photos at the bottom.

8:30 a.m. Line up at  Amy’s Bread in Hell’s Kitchen. To be fair, I don’t mind waiting if there are warm treats at the end. Plus they make hella-good croissants. I’ll save this for later when I’m hungry.

9 – 10:30 a.m. Polish off croissant, and opt to log some time in a coffee shop to dig myself out of my inbox a bit (much needed).

11 a.m. – 12 p.m. Wander the Strand. Have to say, if the inevitable happened and I got locked in a bookstore overnight, I would not flip out if I had to sleep here. Exercise restraint and only buy one book, a biography of Mick Jagger which I look forward to reading on a sunny bench this afternoon.

12:15 p.m. Grab a coffee to take across to Brooklyn. Should be a nice day to walk the Brooklyn Bridge!

12:30 p.m. Man alive. EVERY TOURIST in NYC has the same idea as me today and wants to walk across. At least it’s a nice day.

12:55 p.m. Still on the damn bridge.

1:10 p.m. Welp, hope you like my coffee, Brooklyn. It’s now all over a bench in Brooklyn Bridge Park.

1:30 p.m. Abandon efforts to find the Brooklyn Flea although I’m sure it’s probably two steps in the opposite direction from where I’m standing. Feeling hungry, should probably get a salad or some fruit.

2 p.m. Stop at Shake Shack instead. Potatoes are a vegetable, and I think there’s a mushroom in here under all the cheese.

2:30 p.m. Still hoovering fries into my face.

2:35 p.m. Ooo, another bookstore! I should probably check out powerHouse Books for a comparison.

2:56 p.m. Sam, you can’t possibly be hungry.

2:57 p.m. Okay, that passed. Not hungry. Maybe just thirsty.

3 p.m. (spots One Girl Cookies) Oooo cookies!

3:14 p.m. I got a mini whoopie pie so this is half the snack, right? Right??

3:30 – 4 p.m. Need a break from all the eating I’ve been doing, so sit on another bench (coffee-free, thankfully) and start reading book.

4 – 5 p.m. Wander Brooklyn aimlessly picking up a few gifts for Christmas. Notice sunny day has turned to clouds. Feel the need to eat some fruit.

5:15 p.m. Trader Joe’s, yes!

5:17 p.m. Realize line in Trader Joe’s actually snakes around the entire store. Will never complain about lines again. Leave store without fruit.

6 p.m. Toy with the idea of seeing another show while eating a healthy, balanced dinner of veggie tacos and a beer.

6:45 p.m. Head back to hotel room to change for big evening out! Flip on TV and notice The Campaign is on. A few minutes of this won’t hurt, let me just get comfortable to watch.

11:34 p.m. Wake up on bed covered in clothes. How is The Campaign still on?

11:36 p.m. Fall asleep again.

The end.

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Not sure if in future I’d wander without any sort of plan in place, but it was liberating to not travel with a set schedule or itinerary for once. Have you ever done this?

Reasons Why Portland is Awesome, Part Two

Life is all about embracing weird and wacky opportunities when they come your way. So when I discovered that Matthew Inman (The Oatmeal) was leading a 5K run before a book signing in Portland Wednesday night, I signed up.

Thanks to not quite adjusting to the time change and also being inspired by the super healthy lifestyles people embrace in the city, I got up every morning and logged a few miles on the waterfront trail. Running and I have a love-hate relationship, but we were totally in synch. Wednesday would be golden!

Then Wednesday rolled around, along with a colossal amount of rain and The Blerch began to set in. My hotel bed was sooo comfy and warm. The urge to don sweats, scarf a bag of kale chips and crush a bottle of Pinot Noir in bed was strong with this one. But I powered through and trucked over to the Portland Running Company ready to take a leisurely jog through Portland streets.

Rainy RunnerRunning along Portland Waterfront

Flash forward 27 minutes, to me having just run the fastest 5.3K I’ve ever clocked. People of Portland, you are gazelles, albeit super friendly ones. High fives were dished out en mass and one volunteer paced me the last 2 kilometres. Upon completion, I was handed a piece of delicious chocolate cake and a freshly poured beer. I was soaked through but totally inspired – thanks Portland Running Company for pushing me a little bit further and throwing a great party.

Following the run, I refuelled at Boxer Ramen with a bowl of soup that could feed a family of four. This place is quirky – hip-hop soundtrack, funky illustrations on the walls and a simple menu that will crush your hunger. My colleagues and I capped
off the night at the gorgeous Multnomah Whiskey Library. Imagine your favourite cozy library (if your library happens to have wood panelling, a fireplace, ornate chandeliers and good-looking bartenders in bow ties and flat caps, natch) but replace the books with bottles of top-shelf whiskey, scotch and spirits. It was delightful and helped take the edge off the burning pain in my legs from the run…

Lately I’ve been feeling a bit run down and burnt out. This week (while busy) has certainly helped me start to refocus my perspective. Thanks for the hospitality and adventures, Portland.

What’s Up, Seattle!

It’s September 1st and I’ve maxed out my vacation time for the year, ho hum. Thankfully I used up the last of it on a trip which involved lots of Steve, nature and a quick jaunt to a city I really should have visited by now – Seattle!

We had about 48-ish hours to explore, and picked a lovely B&B as our home base for our trip (check out Gaslight Inn – centrally located in Capitol Hill, with cozy rooms and a nice deck for reading. Also a dog, and ample coffee, croissants and fruit for breakfast – we basically hit the jackpot). Not a lot of time, but just enough to find some favourites: 

1. Safeco Field

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We went to not one, but two baseball games and had a blast. Craft beer (helllooo Fat Tire Amber Ale!), friendly employees (having only been to games at Rogers Centre, I was unaware that one could go to a game and be welcomed in such a manner) and great views of the city skyline – the perfect way to spend a warm summer night. Twice. 

2. The Elliott Bay Book Company

Self of books at Elliott Bay BookstoreOH MY GOODNESS. This shop was my dream bookstore. Enormous stationery selection, picks for book clubs, local hikes and travel guides, zines and an entire section on writing. At the back with the cookbooks there’s a cute little cafe (licensed, should you want to enjoy a beverage with your new purchases). Such a great place, we went back twice (surprising to no one who knows either of us). I…bought a few things. 

3. Coffee

Seattle = coffee. Stumptown and Caffe Vita kept us caffeinated and provided some of the best coffee I’ve ever had. We glanced at the original Starbucks location in Pike Place Market with the ginormous line, and opted instead to get our fix elsewhere. We weren’t disappointed.

4. Easy Street Records

Smaller than Amoeba in LA, but with a great selection, good prices and less pretentious staff (I still love you, Amoeba). Despite our GPS’s attempts to make us drive off a bridge and the rainy weather, this was a definite trap for the two of us. Among my purchases I picked up the soundtrack for Singles, because it seemed rather appropriate and proved a nice ambiance for our drive back to Vancouver.

They also have a small cafe, with craft beer. Because everything in Seattle is simple and easy and awesome and sigh. 

Worth a stop as well – Cupcake Royale across the street. Lunch of champions!

5.  Experience Music Project (EMP)

Milky from the Coffee and TV music videoThe Spectacle: The Music Video and Hendrix Hits London exhibits were well worth the price of admission. Steve may have wanted a refund on said admission after my attempts to play the drums in the Sound Lab, oops. It’s pricey, but a cool spot with a lot of content packed into a small space. 

Bonus Seattle nod: Poquitos. Possibly the best guac I’ve ever had (with watermelon, drool) and yam tacos. YAM TACOS. I would go back to Seattle for this food even if I hated everything about Seattle, which is not the case because I REALLY loved Seattle. I’d like to go back now, please. 

Have you been? Give me tips for next time! 

Hiking A Mountain

Friday morning I hiked A Mountain!

Image of Tempe Butte

In name, only. Hayden Butte, also known as A Mountain (due to the giant gold “A” painted on the side near the top) is located in Tempe, Arizona. From the bottom, it looks like a quick jaunt up a rather-large hill. From the top, you get views of downtown Tempe and the Arizona State University campus, and it’s a great place to stretch your legs early in the morning before the sun starts to cook you.

It’s a fairly short but steep climb with a few gravel switchbacks and stairs to help guide your ascent. On your way up, you’ll notice various cacti (don’t veer or wobble off the path, for the end result will be a painful one should you slip) but surprisingly minimal wildlife (something I noticed everywhere in Tempe. Nothing but pigeons.) I did spot signs indicating the snakes (RATTLESNAKES) you could encounter on the trail, as well as a note indicating jackrabbits and pack rats lived there too. Poor pack rats, their name forever synonymous with hoarders. Thankfully, I didn’t spot any snakes. I would’ve jumped clean off that hill.

Cactus View from top of Tempe Butte

I did the climb at 6 a.m., and by the time I’d returned to the bottom it was already quite hot and closing in on 90 degrees. At 7 a.m.! Apparently this time of year is their winter, and while they’re having a heat wave I would not want to see what their summer is like. As such, I would not recommend doing this hike in the afternoon as you will melllllt. Arizona, your heat is nuts. Like wearing an oven. Bring lots of water, sunscreen and a hat.

Day Trip – Washington, in Pictures

Once or twice a year I’m fortunate enough to swing a quick trip to Washington, DC for work. It’s one of my favourite places to visit for a variety of reasons (for one thing, it introduced me to someone rather awesome), and is full of great things to check out and some of the friendliest people you’ll meet. Last fall I had a bit of downtime from work commitments and spent an unusually warm late October day visiting a few memorials and popular attractions. Apologies to my shins for thinking I could keep up with the joggers who were running the Mall, although given the fast speeds they were going, I should really refer to them as gazelles.

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I’d argue that no one does memorials and monuments quite like Washington – on previous visits I’ve spent hours at the Martin Luther King Jr. and Jefferson memorials – and the Korean War Veterans Memorial is particularly chilling to observe. Park staff also offer hourly tours which I highly recommend attending.

After refuelling for lunch I popped over to the National Portrait Gallery on a whim (hat tip to my awesome someone for that suggestion). Best. Gallery. Ever.

National Portrait Gallery

Ladies (and artists) Love Cool James.
Kehinde Wiley. Ladies (and artists) Love Cool James.

I spent over an hour checking out their current exhibition, “Dancing the Dream”, which profiles those who have made significant contributions to American identity and culture through dance. I wandered the presidential portraits (neat!), the contemporary art section (weird and neat!) and was particularly fond of this:

Nam June Paik: Electronic Superhighway
Nam June Paik: Electronic Superhighway

In Electronic Superhighway, each TV plays something that the artist associates with that particular state (so for example, Kansas was playing The Wizard of Oz).

I was sad to have to cut my visit short, but will definitely check this gallery out again on future visits. Have you been to DC? Have any favourites I should add to my itinerary next time?