Salt Spring Island

My husband’s longtime friend, Jason, turns 30 this week, and as a big giant surprise, his girlfriend and friends planned an incredibly well-done surprise trip for him to Salt Spring Island.

For those who are not familiar with BC geography, Salt Spring Island is located southwest of the city of Vancouver and off the southeast coast of Vancouver Island. From the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal on the mainland to Long Harbour on Salt Spring is just under 40 kilometres.

Early Friday morning we surprised Jason by hiding near his car and jumping out with silly string as he attempted to go to work. His response was, “Guys, it’s not my birthday,” which is true — his birthday is tomorrow. He didn’t realize that we had a lot more than silly string up our sleeves! He laughed and said that he had to get to work, but the six of us cheerily explained that no, he didn’t. His girlfriend had arranged with his place of work to give him the day off without telling him! I think that the delight of hearing that he didn’t have to go to work helped make the silly string ambush more tolerable.

The seven of us, after getting coffee, piled into two cars and headed for the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal. The ferry ride was fun — it was my first BC ferry experience! The food was good, the views were breathtaking, and the company really fun.

After the second ferry ride from Vancouver Island over to Salt Spring, we drove to Cedar Beach Resort on the north end of the island. Sean and I had our own little cabin — our honeymoon suite of sorts, which overlooked a pretty lake — while the other five had a cabin just a one-minute walk away. The resort also has campsites, canoes for guest use, and delightful managers — Gregor and Shona.

We shopped for groceries at the quaint little Country Grocers and then had homemade pizza for dinner. We played Cards Against Humanity and ate a gorgeous Black Forest cake that Jason’s friend Christina made for him for his birthday.

On Saturday we went to the Salt Spring Island Market, which was wonderful. Food (falafel, gluten free everything, ice cream, chocolate, and on and on), art, clothes and jewelry, sunshine, ocean…and coffee. Salt Spring Coffee is the real deal — delicious, Fair Trade, and organic!

In the afternoon, we canoed and swam in the lake by our cabins and then made our way to the marina for a nice dinner at a restaurant called Moby’s Pub. And in between, four of us — went wine-tasting at Mistaken Identity vineyard. It was great to try some local wines (just $4 to try four wines, and they waive that with a purchase of a bottle), and they were really tasty. I especially enjoyed their Bianco 2013, which surprised me because I tend not to be a big fan of white wine. I thought their Pinot Rose 2013 was also great — light, refreshing, and a bit sweet.

On Sunday, we kayaked pretty much all day. Two lovely guides took us around a bunch of little islands off the coast of Salt Spring. We saw seals, sea stars, sea cucumbers, seagulls, and cormorants. Kayaking is so much fun and a very popular activity in BC. I definitely plan to do much more!

We had to say goodbye to everyone from the marina after our kayak tour. Sean and I had to get back to Vancouver, but the other five got to stay on the island for another day. A highlight from the ferry ride back was getting to see a whole pod of orcas just a few metres away from the ferry. It was incredible; I had never seen whales in the wild!

Happy Birthday, Jason!

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Yoga Work-Trade

I met my now good friend, Veronica, about four years ago in San Jose, California. She has an amazing yoga studio in the South First Street neighbourhood of a city that I was calling home for awhile. Downtown Yoga Shala is definitely a place to check out if you live in Silicon Valley or if you’re ever visiting that part of California.

I met Veronica after her studio manager at the time recruited me for work-trade. (Prajna Vieira, by the way, is an inspiring yogini and super talented kirtan singer. Check out her website!) Prajna knew that I was a student at San Jose State and that I lived close by, so she asked me to work at the front desk and help keep the studio tidy in exchange for free yoga. I can’t think of a better payment! I did work-trade for two years, and during that time I became part of a beautiful community of yoga instructors and practitioners. My own practice really took off, I learned a ton, and I had a blast.

Now I’m back in the work-trade field here in Vancouver! This week I’ll begin volunteering at a studio downtown. I’ll be doing laundry; washing, drying, and rolling up mats; sweeping; and generally helping keep this gorgeous studio sparkly.

This is really great timing because I’m about to begin yoga teacher training; I love how yoga is slowly taking over my life again! My mantra is: RUN*-YOGA-EAT-SLEEP-REPEAT! (With some quality husband time and reading and exploring BC mixed in.) Happiness!

*when my ankle is healed

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OK Fine, I Admit It.

I’m an injured runner. As I sit here with an elevated foot and an ice pack on my ankle, I am contemplating what this means for my race. Will it be OK by October 12? Will it be OK by tomorrow — because that’s when I really need it better by so I can train?!

I’m not entirely sure what caused this kink in my left ankle, but I can safely assume that this injury is a result of a combination of running a whole heck of a lot, dancing in heels at my wedding, driving with a clutch for the first time in my life, and doing a challenging yoga class thinking that it would help (yes, Kate, put more stress on an injury — that’s always the way to go…).

I think it’s on the mend at least. I haven’t run since Wednesday. I walked quite a bit this weekend, and it was mostly fine; it only really hurts when I step in a certain way. Then yesterday I kayaked all day, so my ankle got a lot of rest. (More on that later…good times.)

I really don’t want to go to a doctor because he/she will tell me to ice it and rest, and I already know that. If it gets worse or doesn’t heal soon, I guess I’ll break down and go. But for now, I will ask the interwebs…how long will this take? When can I run again? Will I be able to do the marathon in seven weeks? Help! 

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The City with Jake

Right before moving up to Vancouver, Sean and I had the chance to show our dear friend, Jake, around the big city I call mine — and one of Sean’s favourites — San Francisco!

“When I was a child growing up in Salinas we called San Francisco ‘the City’…A strange and exclusive word is ‘city’. Besides San Francisco only small sections of London and Rome stay in mind as the City. New Yorkers say they are going to town. Paris has no title but Paris. Mexico City is the Capital.”
-John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley

Jake is originally from Australia, but now he lives in Bangkok (where we met him) with his lovely girlfriend, Pear. Pear went to visit some friends on the East Coast while Jake had one day to see The City.

The three of us drove into San Francisco and parked in the Mission. We walked a couple blocks in this interesting and diverse neighbourhood that is being gentrified as we speak. There are literally hundreds of fantastic restaurants in San Francisco, and I’ve only sampled a handful, but my favourite one is definitely Gracias Madre. They’re all about organic local vegan Mexican food, and they do a damn good job!

We then decided to drive over to Hayes Valley for some ice cream at my friend Alison’s favourite place — Smitten. Their handmade ice cream, made right on the spot with liquid nitrogen, is simply miraculous. It’s creamy in a way that makes you thank the universe for your very existence.

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After window shopping on Hayes, we decided to walk all the way to the Ferry Building at the Embarcadero (about four kilometres). It was closing for a special, private event (lame), but we were still able to show Jake the awesome stalls and get him some famous Blue Bottle Coffee (I think it’s as good as its hype would lead one to believe). We strolled along the pier there, basked in the sunshine, and then took a bus back to Hayes Valley.

We had to part with Jake at SFO, and it was sad to say goodbye again, but we’re pretty sure that our little tour of SF was enough to make him want to come back to the West Coast one day! (With Pear too!)

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I’m Married Now!

Sean and I tied the knot over the weekend, and it could not have gone any better. It was honestly the best day EVER. Our families and friends worked incredibly hard to make our day special, and it really was. My favourite thing about our wedding was that it was very organic and homemade. From homegrown flowers, home-sewn table runners, and handmade bouquets to my dad and my sister’s boyfriend playing guitar while my friend sang, I felt like Sean’s and my worlds came together in the most beautiful and personalized way possible. I will share photos over the next few weeks!

For now, check out my dear friend Elisabeth’s blog posts about the wedding and Vancouver in general.

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Best Coffee in Vancouver?

My sister and her boyfriend arrive tonight from Asheville, NC. They’re in town for the wedding, but want to check out Vancouver too! As coffee lovers, I’m glad I have a couple reviews for them…

There are multiple coffee shops on every block in this city, dozens of “best of” lists on the web, and I plan to try them all…or at least the ones that consistently get rated as the best of the best.

Until last weekend, I had only tried one place (besides Starbucks, which in my books, doesn’t count), and that was Bean Around the World (the one on South Granville Street). I had their almond milk latte, and I thought it was fantastic. It’s close to our apartment, so it will probably be my local favourite.

One café that had been on my radar — and by radar I mean Pinterest board — for a long time was Revolver. I finally tried it, and I adored my almond milk latte. It was so beautiful and creamy…and better than Bean Around the World’s (sorry, local favourite; you’ll still get more of my money). Sean, on the other hand, got a meticulously crafted drip coffee and absolutely hated it! It was sour and gross, and he was terribly disappointed, but also unwilling to return it due to the incredible amount of time and effort that went into preparing it! I’ll probably go back, but Sean likely will not go out of his way to do so.

Check out this list of best coffee in Vancouver from the Huffington Post. If you live in Vancouver or have visited, what other coffee shops do you recommend? Any objections to ones on the Huff Post list?

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Our Little Apartment in the City

Sean and I have moved in to our new apartment in Vancouver, and we love it! We’re close to everything — grocery stores, yoga studios, restaurants, cafés, and the ocean. We’re just a few blocks from both Sean’s sister and his mom, and only a 35-minute drive from his dad and stepmom. Finn the Fit has a parking spot, we have two sets of keys, and the apartment is livable. After hitting up Anthropologie for some odds and ends (I love that place…), Home Depot for some trash cans, the drugstore across the street for Gladware and tinfoil, and Canadian Superstore for a dish rack, a laundry hamper, and other necessities…we’re pretty darn settled. Once we get a bookshelf we’ll be completely in business; for now, our books and important papers are still in boxes and suitcases.

The most exciting parts of moving have been rediscovering precious items that we packed away pre-Thailand and using our brand new stuff that dear friends and family have given us for my bridal showers or for our wedding. I cannot wait to show off our little place to guests.

Wedding day is just five days away, and we’re getting really excited. Pardon my absence over the next week or so; I’m going to be swamped in a good way with wedding prep and wedding festivities!

Oh and please think SUNNY THOUGHTS because there are showers in the forecast for Saturday. I can handle a few sprinkles, but our outdoor wedding would really be better if everything — and everyone — stayed dry!