Lemon Cloud Bars

Had a bunch of lemons leftover from a chicken recipe I made last week.

So… what do you do with leftover lemons? Lemon Drop Martinis? Juice the lemons and freeze them into cubes?  Zest the lemons and use the zest in your sauces and smoothies? Make lemonade?  Me…. I make Not-Your-Typical-Lemon-Bars.  Or as I like to call them Lemon Cloud Bars…. because the White Chocolate Chips are like little clouds floating in/on the lemon bars.

These bars are tart and have just the right notes of sweet and tart.  I think it might work well with a raspberry or blueberry sauce.  I need to find a recipe for that.

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Pan size: 8×8

Servings: Depending on how small you like your bars: 15 small bite-sized bars  or 9 good-sized ones.

 

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup AP flour
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 Tbsp whip cream vodka
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon zest
  • 2/3 cup white chocolate chips

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farenheit.
  • Take a small handful of white chocolate chips and set aside.
  • In large bowl, stir together: AP flour, sugar, salt.  Then mix in (with a blender) the soft butter.
  • In a separate bowl, hand mix the following: eggs, whip cream vodka, vanilla extract, fresh lemon juice, fresh lemon zest.
  • Combine the egg mixture into the butter mixture.
  • Stir in the majority of the white chocolate chips.
  • Prepare an 8×8 pan. (I used a glass square dish.)
  • Pour mix into pan.
  • Sprinkle with reserved white chocolate chips.
  • Bake for 24-25 minutes.
  • Do the toothpick test.  If toothpick comes out clean, it’s done.  If not, then keep baking.  Know your oven and adjust accordingly.

#LemonBars  #WhiteChocolateChips #Tart #UseFreshLemons #SweetTooth

Cheers to Birthday Season 2014!

That’s right … SEASON.  As in more than 1 month.

Normally, it’s just Birthday Month (November), but we (note, the hubby will not admit to this) started the Birthday “season” off in October this year.  And I managed to continue it through October, all the way through November.  Really not all that hard to do if you “know how to work it.” WooHoo, and I do!

So… here’s how “The Season” went this year:

OCTOBER’s Festivities

  • Weekend Trip to Denver to see my beloved Peyton and Broncos (birthday present from Hubby)
  • Wicked at The Smith’s Center (birthday present from Mom)
  • Weekend Trip to Santa Fe, NM (because the hubby was out of town, and Mom and I have never been so … why not?!)
  • Golf w/ Mom
  • Halloween Candy Distribution while Drinking Wine Evening

NOVEMBER’s Festivities

  • Homecooked Seafood Dinner (with salmon and King crab legs flown in from Pike’s in Seattle)
  • Champagne Brunch at Mozen inside the Mandarin Oriental
  • Trip to SoCA to see family and celebrate my cousin’s b-day too
  • Golf w/ hubby and Mom at Bali Hai (my first time playing here)
  • Dinner at Todd’s Unique Dining in Henderson
  • Girlie Tea (and sparkling wine) Party at English’s Town Square
  • FTDFTD
  • Happy Hour at Tommy Bahamas
  • Lunch at Cili’s (Bali Hai) to celebrate another friend’s November birthday (woohoo!)
  • Dinner w/ friends at Rose. Rabbit. Lie. @ Cosmoplitan
  • Absinthe at Caesars
  • Dinner w/ friends at Korean Garden BBQ (my first time doing Korean BBQ)
  • Golf w/ hubby at Reflection Bay

Loaded Spiced Muffins

So… with the Doom and Gloom looking clouds outside, I decided to bake…. and have a glass or 2 (or a bottle of sparkly).  No judgment!  LOL!  🙂

DSC_0076

It’s a good thing I don’t live someplace where it’s cloudy all the time, otherwise I’d be baking up a storm (ha.. ha.. pun) all the time.

Today’s muffins are a little bit of this and that… and packed full of yumminess. This oughta be good for a Grab n Go breakfast. Or as a snack. I’m thinking with the chia seeds and nuts, this might be a good post-workout snack with a green smoothie.

2016-01-31 13.03.06

As some or all of you know, I like to experiment with recipes and add booze. Why? Because why not. It’s fun and I find it helps keep a product more moist and pump up flavors. But that might just be me. Feel free to NOT use the booze. In this recipe…. you might even consider a bit of apple cider.

Makes 6 regular muffins.

 

Ingredients:
1 cup Bob’s Red Mill Spiced Apple Bran Muffin mix
1/2 cup cinnamon apple sauce
1/8 cup spiced rum
3/8 cup water
1/4 cup honey
1/8 cup coconut oil
1 1/2 Tbsp egg whites
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp chia seeds
1/4 cup coconut flakes (sweetened or unsweetened… dealers choice)
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Mix wet ingredients: apple sauce, spiced rum, water, honey, coconut oil, egg whites, vanilla extract.
In a large bowl, stir together BRM spiced apple bran muffin mix, cinnamon, chia seeds.
Mix in the wet ingredients to the dry.
Fold in the coconut flakes and chopped walnuts.
Prepare muffin pan.
Portion out the mix into the muffin pan.
Bake for 14-15 minutes.
Do the toothpick test. If it comes out clean, they are done. If it comes out gooey, it’s not done. Keep baking and testing periodically. (Everyone’s oven is different ya know.)

2016-01-31 13.58.37** I think next time I’ll add some raisins.

#AppleSpice #SpicedMuffins #ChiaMuffins #iBakeWithBooze #EatsAndDrinks

Healthy-ish Pumpkin Banana Nut Bread

Wow! It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything.

I often experiment with recipes and ingredients… but I forget to write about them.

Today… I’m writing about it!

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Lazy to the core… I took a shortcut… I used my Bullet to mix the wet ingredients. We’ll see if it works out… maybe… maybe not.

Yield: 8×4 inch loaf pan and 6 medium muffins (Picture shows 5 because I had to sample one.)

Ingredients
½ cup olive oil
¾ cup honey
2 eggs
2 very ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons bourbon (optional, in my case it’s NOT)
¾ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cups whole wheat flour
¾ cups ground flaxseed
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup chopped pecans (or nut of your choice, optional)

Instructions
Preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit. Prepare 8×4 loaf pan and medium sized 6-muffin pan. (I used Baking Pam.)
In your blender, mix the following: olive oil, honey, eggs, bananas, yogurt, pumpkin puree, bourbon and vanilla extract.
In a medium bowl, combine AP Flour, WW Flour and Ground Flaxseed, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon. Gently mix.
Pour liquid/wet ingredients into dry ingredients, stirring gently until just combined. DO NOT OVERMIX.
Fold in nuts.
Pour the batter into pans.
Bake loaf pan for 55 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
Bake muffin pan for 12-15 minutes (depends on your oven) or until toothpick comes out clean.

Results: Light and moist (sorry, I know some folks don’t like that word but it fits).  I rule this recipe a success.  WooHoo!

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#PumpkinBananaBread #iBakeWithBooze #Healthyish #NutsOptional

 

The Giving Season

We all know that Christmas, “The Holidays”, as we now refer to them is for Giving.  (Yea… whatever… I call it Christmas, you call it whatever you want.)

As the saying goes… “It’s better to give than to receive.” The act of giving allows you to receive the joy, love, gratitude, excitement, etc. from the person you are giving to.  But Giving doesn’t have to be material/physical in nature. (Unless you want to give me a bottle of wine or a million dollars, I’m not going to dissuade you.  LOL!)

Sure, you can give someone a gift that is heartfelt, homemade, a memento of past experiences, a symbol of your love… yada yada.

The Evil Retailers  …. have turned the Giving Season into an over-crazed spending holiday to get people to buy more and more crap we don’t really need to begin with.  They’ve managed to convince everyone that it’s better to spend a gazillion dollars on “stuff” rather than to spend time with one another.  In some cases, the only reason we get together is so we can exchange the “stuff-that-we-don’t-need-or-want”.

So… stop giving “stuff” and start giving your time, your efforts, your friendship, your camaraderie, your love through other means.  AKA… Spend time with friends and family.

Go to lunch, go window shopping, get everyone together to cruise holiday decorations, happy hour…. Share a cup of coffee, cocoa, tea, (or in my case a glass of wine)…. Take an exercise class together, help each other wrap presents, bake cookies… Whatever… The point is…. Do something fun that will create a memory…. GIVE a little bit of yourself.

Giving your time is something that is much more meaningful and in my opinion much more valuable.  Everyone is rushing around to shop for presents when what we really should be doing is spending time with one another.  Ditch the gifts (unless they are white elephant … because seriously I love how creative some people get), and let’s just hang out and do something together.  The pictures and selfies we take will for sure be memorialized forever on social media, and probably pop back up from time to time.  It’s the gift that keeps giving especially if they are silly.  🙂

I consider myself lucky in that the people in my life like to “do stuff”…. like go to a concert, a movie or my favorite… do an exercise class and then go drinking afterwards. #WeWorkoutToDrink

Ok…. enough ranting…. I’d like to Thank my family and friends who take time out of their days to give their time to me.  You know who you are… Seriously if I have to call you out, you aren’t paying attention.  And if you want me to come over and help you bake while drinking wine or wrap presents while drinking wine (you see a trend, right?), Call Me!

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Healthy-ish Coconut Banana Muffins

I have a “thing” for coconut banana muffins… still tweaking recipe til they are super awesome. These are good, just not yet to the Awesome level yet.

Next time I plan on adding some coconut flakes and some chopped mac nuts.

MAKES: 12 muffins2015-02-13 11.08.00 (2)

INGREDIENTS

 

DIRECTIONS

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Prep muffin pan.
  • In a medium bowl, mix coconut oil and sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Stir in the vanilla extract and coconut rum.
  • In another bowl, whisk together dry ingredients (flours, flaxseed, baking powder, baking soda and salt).
  • In yet another bowl, mix the mashed banana and the coconut milk.
  • In a big mixing bowl (or maybe a standing mixer if you have one, I don’t), gradually mix in the dry ingredients alternately with the wet ingredients. Start and end with the dry mixture. Don’t over mix.
  • Spoon mixture into muffin pan.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes. Toothpick test should come out clean when done.

#iBakeWithBooze #CoconutBananaMuffins

Non-Dairy Artichoke Spinach Dip

This being an experiment; I made a small dish. (Round Pyrex that was 5.5″ in diameter and 2.25″ in depth.)

Non-Dairy Artichoke Spinach Dip

Non-Dairy Artichoke Spinach Dip

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:

  • 6oz artichoke hearts, drained and coarsely chopped
  • 6oz frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 5oz Daiya Mozzarella cheese (or more if you like it cheesey – set aside 1oz for topping)
  • 2oz Tofutti’s Better than Sour Cream
  • 4oz Tofutti’s Better than Cream Cheese, softened
  • 1Tbsp garlic, minced  (use less if you don’t love garlic as much as I do)
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp Cajun seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp Frank’s hot sauce
  • Fresh ground pepper (as much as you like)

 

DIRECTIONS:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Mix all ingredients together and spoon into greased baking dish.
  • Sprinkle 1oz of Daiya Mozzarella on top of mixture.
  • Bake uncovered for 35-40 minutes or until bubbly.
  • Serve with: celery, carrots, crackers, chips, pita bread… you name it…. anything you like.

 

Now for the narrative….

Now that I have a bit more time on my hands, I’ve started to get creative in the kitchen.  Mind you… I’m no Giada, and some of the things I make don’t turn out well, so there’s always the Chinese place or Crazy Pita for take-out when that happens.

Why make a Non-Dairy dip?  Well… I’m more or less lactose intolerant.  Mostly… on the “more” side. I can tolerate a little bit of dairy (like a barely-there-smidge of cream cheese on my bagel), but lots of dairy (that are often the base ingredients for dips) just doesn’t agree with me.  So, I set out to find a way to make a tasty dip with dairy-substitutes.

It all started when I found Daiya Cheese.  I’m sure it’s been on the market for a while, but I just NOW found it.  I feel like it’s this new miracle product that allows me to enjoy cheese again without the dairy.  Sounds Crazy, I know!   And next to the Daiya Cheese was Tofutti’s Better than Sour Cream and Tofutti’s Better than Cream Cheese.  (Daiya makes a cream cheese and sour cream too, but it’s not sold at my Smith’s, so that’s why I went with the Tofutti products.)

I’m not a big fan of eating “imitation” foods.  But when it comes to dairy…. I’m willing to substitute anything that tastes like dairy for dairy.  Moderation, right?  It’s not like I’m going to eat the tub of these things in 1 sitting.

This dip tasted “almost” like the “real thing”.  Mind you… it was denser and it seemed to take forever for the “cheese” to melt. And the Daiya Mozzarella doesn’t brown and melt like regular Mozzarella.  But the taste and texture were “almost” spot-on.  For that alone, I count this a huge success and I’m totally making this again!

Next time, I think I’ll cut back the “cream cheese” to 3oz and bump up the “sour cream” to 3oz.  That way it might be a bit thinner and more “dippy”.

 

 

Are You Prepared?

For anything life might throw at you?  Are you nimble and can go with the flow and make common-sense, logical decisions quickly?  Are you more the “I need to think about it, make lists and work a plan”?  (I’m the latter.)

Whatever you are… There’s no better time than NOW to start getting prepared.

Apparently, September is National Preparedness Month.  (I found this site which may have some useful info: http://www.ready.gov/september?utm_source=Academy+of+Defensive+And+Protective+Training&utm_campaign=9f05338e9e-Monthly_Newsletter_June_2014_6_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_f08c451ec9-9f05338e9e-67563541)

Who Knew?!  I totally stumbled upon it and luckily so… because according to the calendar September is almost over.  So, I better hop to it. (I bet no one will chastise me for taking a few more weeks or months to get myself and family “prepared”.  Heck… it might take longer, but as long as I’m thinking about the What Ifs and the Options, then I’m probably doing pretty good.)

So.. prepared for what?

  • The Zombie Apocalypse? Ha! Ha!  As far as I’m concerned, this is already upon us and we’re having to deal with crazy people every day in our lives in one way or another.  Now, if you’re looking to outfit yourself with a “zombie kit” or “bug out bag”… just do a quick online search and you’ll have dozen of sites pop up with all sorts of lists of what you should have ready.
  • A natural disaster like a flood or earthquake or tornado or hurricane?  Yea… absolutely.  Stock up the pantry with water and canned goods and have manual tools at the ready…and have some basic first aid handy.  Heck, get a book on first aid. Visit your local camping store like a Big 5 or Bass Pro to buy just a few portable, camping things that will serve you well should your electricity, plumbing, etc… get turned off for a few days. (Now… don’t get crazy and buy the store out.)
  • The next step in your life?  A move?  A job change?  A lay-off that you know is coming up?  Again… yea… there’s some preparation needed for that.  Mentally and physically… there’s a transition so be prepared to make that change.  Change can be fun and scary at the same time.  Prep yourself for it.  However, you think is best.  Personally… I think taking a week off as a “break” from the grind is a good way to mentally and physically break the habits you had with the “old” ways so that you can start the “new” with a fresh breath and fresh perspective.  That way if you are carrying any ill feelings or baggage from the “old”… you give yourself time to “cool down” and re-focus.
  • Getting older?  Yea… I went there.  What are you going to do when you’re *gasp* “old”?

Many people can and do prepare for “emergencies” and “disasters”.  But not many really plan and prepare for when they get old.  They just figure they’ll figure it out “later”.

Getting older is inevitable. It’s the one thing, we all can pretty much figure is going to happen to us or our parents or our kids….. if we don’t die first. I say this half tongue-in-cheek and half seriously. Because the reality is that you are going to die at some point whether you are old or not.  I’ve experienced much too soon that life is full of unexpected unpleasantries.  My dad and my MIL both died when they were 60… 60!!!  That is So-NOT-Old.  That is young by today’s standards.  However, in both cases it was unexpected and quick.  (Thankfully, not in the same year, but still the ramifications were and are clear. Get Your Affairs In Order!)

If you do plan on getting “old” before dying… What’s your plan?

plan

  • Do you have a retirement plan?
    • An actual one, not just a 401k and a portfolio.  These are instruments, not a plan.  An actual plan has benchmarks / milestones which you need to hit in order to retire by “x” age.
  • Are you (or someone) managing your funds so that you are saving money sooner rather than later?
    • Now, don’t get crazy and start moving funds around constantly because there’s a hurricane in the gulf or there’s a freeze in Florida.
    • Listen to your financial advisors, and make smart, calm, rational, logical decisions.  (Oh wait… no one does that anymore.  Oh well.)
  • Are you discussing this with your loved ones and kids?
    • Not only is this a good idea… but guess what?!  They might even have other ideas you didn’t know about or didn’t think about that might be useful.  I know it’s a novel concept… COMMUNICATION!
    • Now, if they don’t want to listen and be part of a constructive discussion and understand your wants and needs because they’d rather stick their head in the sand and not face reality….  Just write it all down and leave if with your lawyer to deal with later.  Your family doesn’t have to like it, they just need to accept that your wants and needs are just that … YOURS!  Even if they are far-fetched and absurd…. in that case they can have you declared mentally unfit.  Ok.. so maybe you are and you should get help. Either way… have a plan, write it down and let someone know.
    • So… maybe evaluate your relationship with your loved ones first before opening the door of communication.  If they have common sense, love and / or respect for you, go with option 1.  If not, go with option 2.
  • Do you have a living trust or will in place? (or at least a draft of one)
    • Always a good idea… as soon as you have anything worth anything.  Don’t leave it to your spouse or family members to figure out what to do with your stuff once you are gone.  Trust me, they will only screw it up or squabble over it.  So,  be sure to document what’s what and have it made legal.
  • Have you talked to your spouse or loved ones about what you want when you pass?
    • Yes, this is a tough one.  But life is full of tough conversations and choices…. the Birds and the Bees with your kids, How to tell your spouse they need to get a prostate exam to make sure their parts are ‘ok’, How you want the end of your life to go… all important and all necessary!

Most probably answered “No” to most of those questions.  I know I did, and it scares the hell out of me.

Time to start making those lists, setting up a living trust and putting the funeral arrangements on a payment plan so it’s a done deal when the time comes. That way I know I’m not burdening someone else to figure it all out at a difficult and possibly sad time.

And if anyone is wondering… when I die, I want a big ass party.  You can cry, but it better be with a cocktail in hand saying “Damn, we had fun! Remember that time when…. ”

 

Whirlwind Weekend in Vancouver

Wow!  We managed to do and see a lot in 3 days.  We arrived Friday morning (YVR)… took about an hour to get through customs/immigration… I have no idea if this is normal or not, but I would assume so.  Then we followed the Ground Transportation signs outside and across the street where we conveniently hopped the train to downtown which was about a 30 minute ride. (I believe it was like CAD9 per person.) It made several stops along the way from the airport to downtown.  Then it was about a mile hike to our hotel (Westin Bayshore).  Nice walk that wasn’t too difficult to navigate once I got pointed in the correct direction, and the area we walked through from the Granville/Pender stop to the hotel was nice and “friendly” (aka not slums, not run down, not worrisome). We were early to our hotel, and decided to ask if our room might be ready and to our surprise, it was.

2014-08-30 09.56.45 (2)

View from our 8th floor room at Westin Bayshore

It was great to get out of Vegas for a few days and explore a city we’ve been wanting to check out for a number of years.  Really glad we did. This city did not disappoint.  If you’re a foodie and / or you like seafood… this city is for you.  LOTS of choices. Too many in fact.  It was distressing to try to pick a place because they all sounded so good, and they all got good reviews.  Alas, we decided to stick to mainly seafood / fish on  this trip because … hey, it’s Vancouver and it must be fresh.

Steam clock in Gastown * so kewl! *

Steam clock in Gastown * so kewl! *

We hit all the major sites too… Waterfront to Downtown to Gastown to Yaletown to Granville to Stanley Park to Capilano Suspension Bridge to Grouse Mountain to Whistler.  (And lots in between… in fact, we accidentally found the skid row area and boy was that a little tense. Other than the homeless, I’m pretty sure we saw several drug deals and hot goods being sold.  We definitely stepped up the pace through this area.  We didn’t realize it was so close to Gastown… just up and over a couple streets… yikes.)

I’m not going to bore you with all the details of all the places we visited.  I am in the process or writing reviews for most of them on Yelp if you are interested. Check them out on my site: aliag.yelp.com

Here are a handful of pictures and blurts.

Legwarmers * who knew? these apparently are all the rage? *

Legwarmers * who knew? these apparently are all the rage? *

Canadian Bear in a MINI * simply awesome *

Canadian Bear in a MINI * simply awesome *

Wine taps at VUW * lots and lots of wines to choose from *

Wine taps at VUW * lots and lots of wines to choose from *

Charcuterie Plate and Wine Tasting at VUW * try the pickled scallions... so d-lish *

Charcuterie Plate and Wine Tasting at VUW * try the pickled scallions… so d-lish *

Capilano Suspension Bridge * exciting and beautiful, highly recommend a visit to this park *

Capilano Suspension Bridge * exciting and beautiful, highly recommend a visit to this park *

Granville Public Market * all sorts of goodies to buy and savor *

Granville Public Market * all sorts of goodies to buy and savor *

Biking the Seawall under Lion's Gate Bridge * rent a bike at Spokes and tootle around Stanley Park *

Biking the Seawall under Lion’s Gate Bridge * rent a bike at Spokes and tootle around Stanley Park *

Story poles at Stanley Park * learn the difference between a "story" pole and a "totem" pole at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park *

Story poles at Stanley Park * learn the difference between a “story” pole and a “totem” pole at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park *

Grouse Mountain Gondola Ride * ride is about 10 minutes, great views of the harbor and whole Vancouver area *

Grouse Mountain Gondola Ride * ride is about 10 minutes one-way, great views of the harbor and whole Vancouver area *

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PLACES WE VISITED:

Westin Bayshore – http://www.westinbayshore.com/

  • Great Location on the West End, super close to Stanley Park

Stanley Park – http://vancouver.ca/parks-recreation-culture/stanley-park.aspx

  • Beautiful and lots of trails around and through the park, highly recommend renting a bike (from Spokes)

The Seawall – http://vancouver.ca/parks-recreation-culture/seawall.aspx

  • The wall is split into a walking trail and a biking trail so everyone “get along nicely”

Gastown – http://www.gastown.org/ or http://bcpassport.com/neighbourhoods/gastown/

  • Shops and bars and restaurants…. meander and enjoy this cute and safe area… beware… don’t head too far south of this area as it gets rough

Waterfront – Downtown – http://www.yelp.com/biz/waterfront-centre-Vancouver

  • You can find lots of food carts and food trucks… and they looked and smelled devine…. sadly we weren’t hungry when we passed them

Yaletown – http://bcpassport.com/shopping/yaletown/

  • Cool, hip, happening area with lots of restaurants and bars

Granville Public Market – http://granvilleisland.com/public-market

  • Eat to your hearts delight… or grab some snacks and bring them back to your hotel to enjoy later… so many “nummies” to be enjoyed here

Grouse Mountain – https://grousemountain.com/about

  • Pretty, but not much to do here unless you want to hike around
  • There is a grizzly bear exhibit if you want to catch a glimpse
  • Note – they have a couple of restaurants and I *HIGHLY* recommend that you make a reservation otherwise you’ll be eating day-old, re-heated hamburgers, pizza and fries that have been sitting around in a warmer most of the day

Capilano Suspension Bridge Park – http://www.capbridge.com/visit/hours-and-rates/

  • Note – there’s a *FREE* shuttle to/from CSBP – http://www.capbridge.com/visit/shuttle-service/
  • Highly recommend you go and explore this park, might take 1.5-2 hours to enjoy it all
  • When you go, definitely take the time to listen to the tour guides… there’s a history tour that is only 15 minutes and starts at the top of every hour
  • Would not suggest this for kids under 5 due to the nature of the attraction

Whistler – Blackcomb Village – http://www.whistler.com/village/

  • Mountain bikers delight during the summer, Skier/Snowborader delight during the winter
  • About 2 hours from Vancouver…. And give yourself a few hours to wander around the village(s), and enjoy a drink at a pub or a meal while admiring the beauty and vastness of the mountain

BUSINESSES and RESTAURANTS WE VISITED:

Our 3-day Itinerary and Journal:

FRIDAY

  • Our flight was about an hour late departing so we were about an hour late arriving YVR.
  • Took about an hour to get through customs.
  • Took the train from airport to Waterfront/Downtown – hoofed it to Westin Bayshore from last stop.
  • Lunch at Cardero’s on the patio… weather was wonderful… a few clouds, plenty of blue skies with a slight breeze.
  • Walk the Waterfront to Gastown, noting all the cool food street vendors and food trucks… too bad we’d already eaten lunch.
  • Shop along Gastown, stop in at Chill Winston’s for a drink at the bar.
  • Continue through Gastown down Alexander through a bit rougher part of town … more industrial, a bit run down, more homeless… for about 1/2 a mile to Vancouver Urban Winery.
  • Note… if going to VUW when dark… highly recommend a taxi to/from … we inadvertently found what must have been Skid Row when we left VUW walking south / southwest a few blocks away from Gastown.
  • Walked back to Westin Bayshore… roundtrip probably close to 5 miles.
  • Relaxed for a bit and then went to dinner at Hapa Izakaya on Robson Street which was thankfully less than 1/2 mile away cuz I was pooped from getting up so early in  the morning to catch our flight and then wandering all over the place when we got there.
  • Fell asleep exhausted!  But it was a good exhausted.

SATURDAY

  • Slept in a bit.
  • Hubby brought me tea and a muffin while I was lounging in bed.  He’s so awesome that way.
  • It “looked” mostly clear out so I left my rain coat when we left the hotel.  (Probably not the best idea.)
  • We headed to Spokes and rented bikes around 10am and tootled around Stanley Park. First stopping at the totem / story pole area.  There are restrooms there and a small gift shop.
  • Continued around the perimeter of the park on the seawall.  Interestingly enough and much appreciated in narrow spots, the trail is “one-way” only… so if you plan on biking around Stanley Park… be sure to start at the trail head closest to Spokes and the Westin.
  • We stopped several times to take pictures, and ended up having lunch at the Fish House (which means you’ve almost gone all the way around the park). It’s in a building that looks like a house and is next to the tennis courts.
  • Lovely brunch on the patio until it started raining.  At first we thought it would just mist, but then it started coming down harder and harder.
  • The staff extended the awning to keep us dry while we dined.
  • The rain ended up being persistent. But we were determined to see the area… so we continued biking along the seawall all the way over the Granville.  We did stop once for about 15 minutes under a crop of trees cuz it was pouring rain.  I was pretty much soaked through all the way.  Oh well.  It’s not like it hurt. And it wasn’t a freezing cold rain.  It was cool, but I wasn’t shivering.
  • The rain let up a little…. still a sprinkle and we made our way over to the Public Market. Lots of areas to lock up your bike.
  • Wandered the stores and market area.  Wow!  I could totally spend all day here just eating myself into a food coma. But we didn’t.  We did get some meat and salami and cheese at Oyama Sausage Company to take back to the hotel for a snack (with a bottle of wine we had purchased the day before while walking around Gastown.)
  • We took the Aquabus back to the other side of the inlet rather than ride all the way back around again.  I believe it was CAD8 for the both of us with our bikes.  YES, you can bring your bikes on the Aquabus.
  • Rode back to Spokes and returned our bikes which was so simple and quick.  (Note: Spokes has wonderful customer service!)
  • Walked the 100 yds or so back to the hotel and enjoyed our snack and wine.
  • At 4:30pm, we were picked up by Vancouver Trolley Company for our “tour” of Capilano Suspension Bridge and Grouse Mountain.  It wasn’t so much a tour as they provided transportation and entrance into both attractions.  (I’d advise just taking a taxi to both so that you don’t have to be on VTC schedule.)
  • Loved Capilano Suspension Bridge Park!
  • Grouse Mountain … not so much.  It wasn’t very interesting and IMO a waste since we got up to the top of the mountain at 7:30pm when it was almost pitch black and you can’t see anything or do anything outside cuz it’s not lit (not that there is anything much “to do” outside other than hike around.)  AND on top of it all, 2 of the 3 restaurants were booked out for the evening which left us to the cafeteria restaurant where the food was prepared earlier in the day and had been in warmers all day so it was stale and not very good.  The one saving grace was that it was a pretty ride UP the mountain in the gondola.  Down the mountain… it’s ok… you can see the city lights if it’s not cloudy (and it was a bit cloudy for us.)  Oh… the one “interesting” thing at Grouse Mountain is the 2 Grizzly Bears… if you’re lucky you might see them.  They had settled down for the night so we only saw “movement” of their outline since they were laying down on the mountain … and brown grizzly on the brown ground when it’s almost dark out is really hard to see.  But we saw movement.
  • We took a taxi back to our hotel (CAD25).  We didn’t use VTC on the way down (even tho we’d paid for it) because we didn’t want to wait another hour… trolley bus wasn’t leaving until 10pm… it was 9pm when we got to the bottom and saw the cabs so we took a cab.
  • Only took like 15 minutes to get back to our hotel from Grouse Mountain so we headed to Cardero’s for a nightcap.
  • Turned in at 10pm… tired again, so fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.

SUNDAY

  • The hubby got up early and went to the airport to get a rental car, and was back by 9:15am.
  • We headed up to Whistler. It was a curvy route, but what a BEAUTIFUL drive!
  • Got up to Whistler about 11:15am… wandered around the village…. and was amazed at all the mountain bikers tearing down the mountain.  It looked like a lot of fun.  There were lots of places to rent bikes from in the village… if you are so inclined… grab a bike and the necessary safety equipment, pay the CAD60+ dollars for a lift ticket and feel the thrill of flying down the mountain.
  • We didn’t do that… we walked over to Blackcomb side where there was a farmer’s market in full swing…I naturally purchased a bag of fresh kettle korn…. and we lunched at Milestones that looks onto the mountain.
  • Drove back where I naturally fell asleep most of the way back to the hotel.
  • Relaxed for a bit at the hotel, but we had an early dinner planned, so we headed out again at 5pm.
  • Dined on the patio at Blue Water Cafe + Raw Bar.  What a lovely way to cap off a wonderful weekend!  Food and service were excellent!
  • After dinner we wandered around Yaletown a bit and noted all the bars and restaurants.  A very “happening” place!
  • Lucked out when we returned to the hotel that we could park on the street, and not have to pay CAD41 to park at the hotel.
    • NOTE:  there’s lots of metered parking in/around Vancouver so if you have a car, I highly recommend you carry coins.  The street we parked at was only “metered” from 9am to 10pm. So, as long as we left before 9am the following morning (which we did), we didn’t have to pay.
  • Before heading in for the evening, we walked the waterfront a bit and drooled over (and made wishes on) the yachts we’d like to have.

MONDAY

  • Got up and headed to the airport.
  • Took us about an hour from the time we dropped the car at the rental return to get through all the checkpoints and sit down at a bar/grill that was near our gate for breakfast.
  • NOTE:  Keep your boarding pass and passport out… you are asked for it like 7 times while you are going through the process

Breathing… Not As Easy As It Sounds

How many of you have actually “thought” about breathing?

Probably not many… unless you start choking or drowning… then all you can do is think about that next breath.

No… I mean on a regular basis, do you think about your breath?
How it feels?
Where you feel it in your body?
Is it a shallow breath?
Is it a deep breath?
Is it slow?
Is it fast?
Does it fill your entire being and make your rib cage expand?
Can you breathe deeper sending your breath to your toes?

While I’m not going to get all philosophical or preachy, I learned to breathe … I mean really breath in my Yoga classes. Some instructors focus on the art of breathing more than others. Some will take like 5-10 minutes of a class to focus on just breathing. While this might sound easy, it’s one of the harder things to do because it requires focus and concentration. I’m thankful for it. It’s helped me with my Yoga practice and with getting into deeper stretches (well for me they are deeper). It’s also helped me in other parts of my life.

Breathing is more than simply inhaling and exhaling. I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on it. But I know this…. Breathing has helped me relax my mind… turn off the noise and fall asleep. Sure… some nights take more focus than others, but it really has helped. By focusing on my breath, slowing it down, deepening the breath and focusing on what I feel and how I feel, has helped me fall asleep without the fight. I’ve cut down the tossing and turning from 2 hours to 30 minutes. That’s good for me.

It also helps me during my Chiropractic visits. Breathe to relax. Breathe to release. Breathe to let go. It’s not easy. It’s a fully conscious effort. Our natural response to things that hurt or are tense is to stop breathing, hold our breath or to take shorter breaths. Don’t. My adjustments are better when I breathe. Of course, it helps that my chiro cues me when to breathe deep and then when to release it slowly.

Breathing… I think this is why when you get angry, people say to take deep breaths. What the saying doesn’t say, is that you should focus on the breath and sending it to different parts of your body. Not an easy feat when you’re fuming.

Breathing… Focus on it. Really feel it. It’s not as easy as it sounds, but I highly recommend you try it sometime. 🙂