32-for-32

After much deliberation, I decided to keep the goal-setting party going and set some lofty aspirations for 32! I changed up some of the categories for this year and a few stragglers from 31-for-31 made a return. I think it has the potential to be a pretty stellar year. Here we go…

Adventuring

1. Go to Peru
2. Go camping (have to keep my s’more skills on point)
3. Explore somewhere new in Toronto once a month
4. British passport (update: applying!)
5. Photograph cherry blossoms (nature’s candy floss)
6. Visit a vineyard
7. Go to Raptors game
8. Go to a driving range (this will be an adventure for Steve moreso than me)
9. Go to a First Friday at the ROM or First Thursday at AGO

Arts and Crafts

10. Take an art class
11. Learn all the lyrics to “I Wish I Was a Little Bit Taller”
12. Do something crafty once a month
13. Bake a lemon meringue pie from scratch
14. Go to a concert with my dad (Robert Plant! So aaaaamazing)
15. Watch 10 films from AFI’s 100 Greatest American Films

Health

16. Hold a plank for 3 minutes
17. Run a 10K in 1 hour
18. See a physiotherapist and work on hip and knees
19. Take a dance class
20. Hold crow pose for 10 counts (this will involve core strength developing from #18 and the ability to stop falling on my face)

Sam Time

21. Read four books I should have by now (Lolita…was a difficult read)
22. Commit to getting published
23. Complete a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle(this…was an experience)
24. Write and send letters
25. Make an epic fort in my living room

Personal and Professional Growth

26. Volunteer
27. Dig out my French notes and get back to basics
28. Take a course in InDesign and PhotoShop
29. Master lipstick
30. Learn how to give my bike a tune up
31. Redesign my blog

32. Most importantly, on February 26, 2016, look back on 32 and realize it was an awesome year. And continuing with tradition – resist the urge to end up face-down in a cake.

Let’s go.

(updated February 28)

Fourth Blogiversary!

Four years ago (+2 days), I started this blog as a means to chronicle my backpacking adventures and let people know that I was in fact alive. When I returned, I kept it going because I have tendencies to talk…and talk…and talk about travel and I like writing so it made sense.

I had forgotten about the anniversary until tonight. Not one for checking stats (hello, SEO) I decided to look back at the four most popular posts I’ve written to date.

Drumroll…

4. That Time I Roomed With a 75-Year-Old For a Month
In retrospect it would have made for a great reality show. At the time, I nearly lost my marbles.
Read More

3. That Time I Made Up the History of New Zealand
I still think it’s a totally reasonable way to start a country.
Read More

2. That Time I Decided to See How Much Coffee I Could Consume 
Also known as channeling my inner Lisa Simpson at Duff Gardens
Read More

1. That Time Kevin and I Nearly Died Trying to Find a Plane Crash
Or, why you should always ask for a second set of directions to compare.
Read More

Thanks for still reading this fun side project. While my adventures may not always be solo these days, they’re certainly still involving the same level of clumsiness so at least some things never change.

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.

Reasons Why Portland is Awesome, Part One

Greetings from Portland!

This is my first visit to the city that was essentially made just for me. Mountains, check. Delicious and local organic foods and beverages for me to stuff my face with, check check. Stationery shops everywhere, check check check.

I arrived yesterday afternoon for a three-day conference, and dropped my luggage before making a beeline to the food carts at Alder and SW 10th. Portland has over 500 food carts (including some new options at the airport) and even though many were closed I still had lots of options to choose from. I settled on the Grilled Cheese Grill and ordered The Mondor, with pepperjack, avocado, red onion and roasted red peppers on multigrain. It came with a side of ruffled chips well-seasoned with pepper (my favourite) and an extra pickle. It was melty, gooey and terrible. Just terrible. So terrible, I inhaled it without leaving so much as a crumb, to ensure I wouldn’t have to look at it any longer.

Grilled cheese sandwich

There was also something on the menu called The Cheesus, a fully loaded burger with two grilled cheese sandwiches in lieu of a bun. My arteries said no thanks (also, uh, my vegetarianism).

Content from my grilled cheese, I wandered around Nob Hill and the Pearl District and stumbled upon Oblation Papers & Press, which is probably the best store ever. SO MUCH STATIONERY. A whole room of cards! A letterpress machine! Old school typewriters! My head exploded.

Typewriters

Outside the shop you can type away to your heart’s content on two typewriters set up for public use. There was a line so I had to pass, but I’m keen to wander back and try again.

I ended my first night with a stop at Punch Bowl Social where I enjoyed a local craft beer in a mason jar, surrounded by bowling, darts, shuffleboard and plaid shirts.

I worked most of today, but enjoyed a strong cup of coffee at Stumptown and sampled a craft flight at Deschutes Brewery post-conference. On tap for tomorrow – more conferencing, followed by a trip to the World Forestry Center!

I have some time on Wednesday to putter about – have you checked out anything interesting in the city?

31-for-31: Six-ish Month Check-In

It’s been six-ish months since I made an overly ambitious list to accomplish during my 31st year. I felt the need to check in and make some adjustments.

Ooot and Aboot

1.  Travel to a new country (as in new-to-me, not a newly FORMED country)
2. Check out an awesome music festivalI saw Tom Petty, and will finally see Dylan in November. I think I’ll give myself a pass due to those two.
3. Apply for a British passport
4. Hike in the Rockies – Done! – Consolation Lake hike
5. Reach Air Canada Altitude status – I won’t even come close. This will have to wait for next year!
6. Investigate garden allotmentsTurns out the wait list for these starts on the first working day  in February, so this will be a goal for next year!
7. Explore my own city
8. Go to the middle of nowhere and watch a meteor shower Thank you, camping

Health

9. Go to yoga weekly  – Three times a week. Showing my hips a little love. 
10. Run a 10K race in under 1:05Done! Sporting Life 10K at 1:02:13, such an awesome race
11. Get at least seven hours of sleep a night…consistently
12. Take Meatless Mondays a step further and make mine vegan or gluten-free
13. Conquer my fear of heights and go rock climbing
14. Hold a plank for two minutesDone June 18th! Now working on my forearm plank time as a new goal

Arts and Crafts

15. Watch Good Will HuntingDone! Thanks Target for having cheap, cheap movies. Now I understand the popularity of “How do you like them apples?” and also, it’s a great movie.
16. Get a membership for the Bloor Cinema and check out some docs
17. Learn all the lyrics to “I Wish I Was a Little Bit Taller” – This should be in the next month, almost there!
18. Do something crafty once a monthI’ve sewn bunting, made Steve’s birthday present, made a guestbook tree for my parents’ anniversary, drawn, made birthday cards and will be making centerpieces for this weekend’s Thanksgiving dinner as well as some crafty goodness for Victoria’s wedding. I think this is one of my favourite tasks. 
19. Listen to the entire Rolling Stones catalogue in chronological order in one weekendDone! This was a beast of a weekend. I felt like my life oscillated between feeling as though I was in a Wes Anderson film…to a Scorsese one. Also man there were some dud albums.
20. Take a photography classDone! May 1st. Intro to DSLR at Henry’s Camera, now to put my lesson into practice more often.

Money, Money, Money

21. Meet with a financial planner and determine an investment strategy
22. Set up a weekly and monthly budget. And use it.

Personal and Professional Growth

23. Get my French to a basic conversational level (I’m very good at ordering wine…)
24. Volunteer
25. Learn Photoshop
26. Overcome my fear of needles and donate blood – Done! It was terrifying. But rewarding. 

Sam Time

27. Have a digital detox weekend and disconnect from social media and the internetDone, July 25-28th. It coincided with a trip to BC which helped tremendously, but once the anxiety over not knowing what was happening faded it was very refreshing to just enjoy where I was, read more and not worry about what was going on elsewhere. I think I’ll do this regularly as a reset of sorts. 
28. Make time to write at least once a week
29. Get published
30. Read five books that I really should have read by now but haven’t

31. Most importantly, on February 26, 2015, look back on 31 and realize it was an awesome year, and resist the urge to end up face-down in a cake.

Yikes. 9 out of 30. Need to get moving! (Update as of November 24 – 12 out of 30!) (Update as of January 15 – 16 out of 30!)
Who wants to help with any of these?

Hiking to Consolation Lakes

Trail sign at beginning

I really love mountains. I get squirrely, excited, jazzed about life when I see them. So it made sense that when crafting my 31-for-31 list this year, hiking in the Rockies would be on there because in addition to mountains, I also really enjoy hiking. There’s something about walking through peace and quiet in nature that restores your soul. Or at least mine. Until I inevitably trip.

It seemed, however, like this goal wouldn’t happen – valid reasons kept cropping up to keep me away from setting out on a hike, and I began to think I’d have to put this on the back-burner. Until it seemed almost possible for the end of July. Timing was good, Steve was recovering from knee surgery at a super-human rate, the weather would be perfect. Wildfires almost derailed plans, but thankfully they shifted and air quality was breathable. Rockies hike, ahoy!

We picked Consolation Lakes because reviews listed it as short, flat and totally manageable for small children. We do not have small children, but between my clumsiness and Steve’s recovery, we needed something that would require less effort and provide killer views. This fit the bill, so with a lunch packed we set out to the trail.

Consolation Lakes is one of the trails that starts off of Moraine Lake, so you begin the hike with that gorgeous backdrop and all the tourists you could ever dream of. Many of them were on the path when we started which made me nervous because none were wearing appropriate footwear (or anything appropriate, really. Please, please leave heels at home. They do not belong anywhere in this vicinity). They quickly veered off to a vantage point (again heels! What is wrong with people?) and we set off on the smooth, flat trail.

Except it wasn’t all that flat.

Rocks on trail

Steve was beyond a trooper for the first 15 minutes or so. The rocks, for the most part, are large enough to support weight without wobbling, and a dirt trail with a slow incline greets you at the end. While the trail only has a small elevation gain (about 215 ft), hiking at the higher altitude really knocked me out. Also, I was simultaneously stuffing a peanut butter and banana sandwich into my face which likely didn’t help. I’m all class.

As you proceed along the trail and get used to the thinner air, you’ll be treated to the sounds of quietly murmuring Babel Creek to your left and the smells and sounds of a thick forest all around you. For the last half kilometre the trail opens up and you walk through a beautiful meadow lush with wildflowers during the summer months, until you’re greeted with this:

Consolation LakesConsolation Lakes

Sparkling lake, a glacier and killer views. Totally worth the wobbly rocks at the beginning!

All in, the hike was about six kilometres round-trip and took us less than two hours. As a head’s up, read the signs at the beginning instead of just casually glancing at them – there are currently regulations in place that require a group size of four people or more on the trail due to grizzlies (there is a hefty fine if you’re caught in a smaller group, oops). You’ll no doubt encounter many hikers (in our case, about eight Germans) who will be disappointed if you haven’t spotted any. Pro tip: you don’t want to spot a grizzly. It may not end well. Just enjoy the hike for its beauty!

Enjoying Wine at 30,000+ Feet

Sometimes a flight is long. Perhaps a long day was had prior to take-off, and you merely want to unwind. Or, perhaps, it’s a special occasion. Regardless, sometimes one just wants a glass of vino at 36,000 feet.

I’m certainly no aviation wine specialist but here are a few that I’ve sampled over the years:

American Airlines
I write this from what may be a relic from the 50s (but is in fact simply one of American’s antiquated McDonnell Douglas planes), nursing one of the most generous-sized bottles I’ve ever seen on a flight. It helps make you feel less depressed about your surroundings and the lack of entertainment options. It also helps muffle the sounds of screaming children and the engines, so it’s a win-win!

Glass size: two servings
What’s the pour: Coastal Ridge Merlot and Chardonnay
Cost: 7 bucks (US)
Good to know: A cheese plate is available to go with your wine. Or, if you’re stuffed from dinner like me, Almond M&Ms. Classy!

Air Canada
Air Canada offers complimentary vino when travelling overseas, a nice treat I discovered on a recent flight to Paris. Or, you can purchase options on shorter-haul domestic and US flights. If you’re soaking up the luxury of business class you’ll get a glass as well, however they won’t indulge you if it’s not an appropriate hour. My attempts for a poor woman’s mimosa were thwarted, ho hum.

Glass size: one serving
What’s the pour: Paul Mas white and red
Cost: $6.50 (Canadian) if you’re in economy on flights in Canada and the US, free in business and first class and on international flights
Good to know: the gluten-free crackers and cheese are always the first thing to sell out on flights. Lock eyes with your flight attendant ASAP if you want them.

Porter Airlines
Ahh, Porter. Your delicious pre-take-off lattes and shortbread are complimented nicely by your in-flight (free!) beverage offerings. Get that expansion approved please…

Glass size: one, but generous
What’s the pour: Jackson-Triggs Black Reserve Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc/Cab Sauvignon. Good stuff.
Cost: free!
Good to know: the epic snack basket that comes around is stocked with nuts, cookies and Terra Chips. The perfect accompaniment to your beverage. Also there’s beer, and sometimes on a less busy flight you’ll get to “sample” both! Also they give you actual glasses, a nice touch.

Hawaiian Airlines
I’ve only flown them twice, but really enjoyed the service, snacks and complimentary wine. They also gave me two glasses of wine, which went nicely with the entire loaf of macadamia sweet bread I devoured on the flight back to California. It was a long flight. Don’t judge.

Glass size: one serving
What’s the pour: Red Tree Merlot and Chardonnay
Cost: free!
Good to know: if your flight’s in the morning you’ll get brunch with a delicious rum punch. Wine is only served on later flights. Also, macadamia all the things!

Have you enjoyed a good glass of wine in-flight? Share a comment below!