Minty Yogurt Soda

So, I’ve recently started going out for lunch with a couple of my coworkers, on a fairly consistent basis. It’s something I really enjoy doing. 🙂 And we always go on Friday, which really caps the working week off on a high note.This past week, we went out again, to our usual spot; it’s a nearby restaurant called Zia’s Cafe and Grill. And this week, something caught our eyes. Something unusual.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is Minty Yogurt Soda. It’s carbonated water, plain yogurt, and a bit of mint flavouring.One of my coworkers mentioned it to me, and I instantly knew that all three of us had to try it.

Back at the office, we split the drink three ways, walked confidently into our department, and downed our glasses in front of our other coworkers!

Our reactions were… as you might expect. Let’s just say this drink is not our cup of tea… or glass of soda, you might say. 😉

But the experience was funny and absolutely worth every cent! Things like this are why it’s so much fun to go out for lunch. I hope my next meal with coworkers, friends, or family has just as much fun and adventure in store!

Northward Walk

This weekend, I really needed to get out of my apartment. Thankfully, the weather was sunny and unseasonably warm, so I took advantage of it! I took the SkyTrain up to Langara-49th station, then walked to Roots Cafe at Main Street, and then I continued all the way up north to Broadway Street! Of course, I stopped to enjoy some landmarks along the way.
Roots Cafe

Roots Cafe

One heckuva brunch!

One heckuva brunch!

I stopped for brunch at Roots Cafe in Vancouver. The menu didn’t really impress me, until I noticed they were offering Belgian waffles as a special dish. I ordered some and, oh, they were so good! The sweet and fluffy waffles, along with a cup of hot coffee, were totally satisfying. I do enjoy some decadent dishes, but I mostly just enjoy accompanying food with strong coffee. That’s why I practice the Swedish tradition of fika–coffee and a sweet snack at 0900 and 1500 o’clock–on most days.

While fueling up, I checked my phone for parks in Vancouver, and found Queen Elizabeth Park north of the cafe. Quite a bit of walking later, and I reached the park. It was tranquil, and fairly large, too. There was also a nature conservatory in the middle of the park, though I wasn’t able to see it. The views were spectacular, especially considering how deep in the city the park is!

A grand view of Vancouver!

A grand view of Vancouver!

A garden in Queen Elizabeth Park

A garden in Queen Elizabeth Park

After walking through Queen Elizabeth Park, I decided to keep going north. I wasn’t sure how far I would go, but decided I had nothing better to do.
After even more walking, I reached Vancouver City Hall! It looked nice, but also… surprisingly small, for such an important building. I stopped for a quick photo-op, admired the landmark, and moved on.
Vancouver City Hall, standing tall!

Vancouver City Hall, standing tall!

Me, outside City Hall

Me, outside City Hall

It was almost time to head home, buuut… I had heard of a grocery store in Vancouver, called Whole Foods, that sells organic, vegetarian, and vegan food. I’d never even seen the place before, and I needed to buy some groceries anyways, so I figured, “Why not?”

As I stepped inside Whole Foods, my mouth dropped open. Aisle after aisle of organic, vegan, and vegetarian food just waiting for me to grab it all up! Everything was a little pricey, so I just closed my eyes as I went through the checkout. :pAll told, it was a nice way to spend a day. You know, each time I go back into Vancouver, I enjoy it more and more. Perhaps I’ll make plans to stay there more permanently…

Christmas Shopping, Part 2: Granville Island

For this shopping trip, I went to the fabled Granville Island, just south of the waterfront area in Vancouver. I left the SkyTrain at the Olympic Village stop, and walked west to get to the island. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect as I approached the island.

Looking at the glowing neon sign at Granville Island

For sure, was no mistaking the glowing neon logo and colourful signs that welcomed me; I had definitely come to the right place.

In front of the sign

It turned out to be a fascinating opportunity for sightseeing. There were musicians freely playing their songs for all to hear. There were no traffic lights; people darted out across the streets in packs, while the cars slowly crawled along and waited to spring forward at the next opportunity. There were tiny boutiques and a huge, living public market. There was even a small vegetarian bakery, where I stopped for some hearty chili and one of my most favourite foods: corn bread! So good!

Thankfully there were also some souvenir shops mixed in with all of the other, more specialized stores. I managed to get just about everything on my list from this trip, though it was involved quite a lot of circling the island and checking the maps (which were very handy!) that were displayed on most of the streets.

Granville Island seems primarily to be a shopping- and food-oriented destination. I’m not much for shopping, but I’d definitely come back for more food! Overall, I have to say I’m glad I explored this well-known landmark in Vancouver.

Christmas Shopping, Part 1: Gastown, Vancouver

I went on the first of what will probably be several shopping trips, this weekend. I decided that I’d use touristy souvenirs from Vancouver as the theme of my gifts, so I traveled to the best spot I know in order to get some.

Downtown Vancouver, in the Gastown area, was just as captivating as the last time I was there. Seeing (and hearing!) the Steam Clock, while walking the cobblestone streets and seeing the antiquated buildings all around, is such a fantastic novelty!

Luckily, there were quite a few souvenir shops in the area. I had a lot of options to choose from, and I took my time in deciding what to get for each of my relatives back home. I also came up with the idea to use postcards instead of ordinary Christmas card, which I think was much more fresh and interesting.

It wasn’t all fun, though. I became more and more exhausted as I walked around. My feet were getting tired, and I was hungry. As I desperately scanned the streets for the nearest restaurant where I could have a late lunch, I caught a glimpse of a small wooden sign on the sidewalk. “Cottage Deli”, it read. I looked around. I couldn’t see the restaurant; there was only a path leading into a crescent-shaped arcade filled with tiny shops and boutiques. I followed it.

Me, sitting down to eat inside Cottage Deli

Me, sitting down to eat inside Cottage Deli

It didn’t take too long for me to locate the restaurant among the little stores in the arcade. Oh boy, what a pleasant surprise the Cottage Deli turned out to be! I stumbled into the tiny restaurant, tired and hungry, and ordered a delicious spinach and feta omelet. As I sat down to eat, I noticed the incredible atmosphere in the eatery. And the view! Incredible!

The view from the windows along the dining area in the Cottage Deli! Canada Place, the bay, and the mountains are all visible!

The view from the windows along the dining area in the Cottage Deli! Canada Place, the bay, and the mountains are all visible!

All in all, it was a great experience and a productive one, too! I look forward to where my Christmas shopping journeys will take me next.

A clearer view of the brick-walled dining area inside Cottage Deli!

A clearer view of the brick-walled dining area inside Cottage Deli!

Got My “L”

Got My “L”

Hey, look at this guy! I’ve accomplished my first step in getting my BC driver’s license.

…Does it stand for “Learner”, or “Loser”? 😛

City Life

I finally visited Minoru Park today. It was beautiful, but a bit smaller than I imagined. There was a large, still pond in the centre of the park, surrounded by paths and a wooden bridge.

A pleasant view from Minoru Park. You can see the bridge in the background.

There were flower beds, bushes, and trees all around, which hid the surrounding city life and made the park seem very lush. It was so tranquil.

You know, I think I’m starting to like rural, forested places more than urban ones.

A very relaxing pool that flows into a larger pond.

After my calming walk through the park, I decided to experience the other end of the spectrum by walking around the downtown Richmond area. I eventually stopped at Waves Coffee for lunch. I decided I’d try to fit in with the hipsters and nerds all sipping their lattes and concentrating on their laptops. I ordered a fancy vegetarian samosa, a German chocolate brownie, and my very first cup of espresso! WOW, was the espresso ever a shock to my system. I was sure I’d never have to sleep again.

Once I’d had my fill of lunch and people-watching, I headed over to the grocery store and then back home.

All told, it was a good day.

Enjoying the view from one of the memorial benches in the park

Thanksgiving Weekend

On Saturday morning, I took the SkyTrain to downtown Vancouver, to meet up with my cousins Ariana and Sacha. It was pouring down rain, but that didn’t stop me; I was eager to see some friendly faces and enjoy a good meal together!

We met up at the very well-situated Hyatt Regency–in downtown Vancouver–where Sacha and her significant other Wisam were staying. I also met Ariana’s significant other, Nick, for the first time. After quick salutations were exchanged, we walked over to the Cafe Medina, which seemed more promising by the minute. Maybe our growling stomachs had something to do with that!

Unfortunately, our plan to eat at the Cafe didn’t come to fruition. Our waiting time in the cold, rainy weather was estimated to be about an hour long. Scrap that idea! We wandered back over to the lobby of a nearby office building and sat down in the restaurant within. It turned out to be a great choice! The food was amazing, and the restaurant was warm and dry, but the company was even better–and that’s most important.

We walked around the downtown area for a while after. At one point, we stopped for coffee and donuts. Then we went to the Tesla dealership and had a very informative talk with one of the salespeople. I’m totally convinced that a Tesla will be the right car for me! (Once I have my driving license, that is.)

To end the day, we went over to the MacArthur Glenn outlet mall in Richmond. There were just so many stores to see and so many sales going on! I can see how this would be a shopper’s favourite weekend destination. After we had explored the mall and eaten dinner, I said farewell and headed home.

Us at the outlet mall on Saturday evening; from left to right, we have Nick, Ariana, myself, and Wisam. Sacha’s the photographer.

On Sunday evening, we decided to go out to the Richmond Night Market! It was one of the last nights before the Market closed until next year, so it was a great time to go. Of course, the place was packed with people. There were crowds around all of the tiny food stalls, but we braved them to sample some of the unusual delicacies on offer, like dragon beard candy (kind of like malted cotton candy with nuts) and Rotatoes (potatoes cut into a spiral shape, deep fried, and skewered).

Wisam and I chomp down on our Rotatoes!

I had a lot of fun on Thanksgiving weekend, and I’m so glad I got to share it with family. 🙂

Sacha, myself, and Ariana at the Night Market

Conquering the Tough Mudder Half!

Wow, what a blast that weekend was! I’m still stiff and sore from the experience, but I’ve got a lot of good memories, too. I’ll try to relate just how it all happened.

One of my coworkers at Lucidea picked me up early on Saturday morning. We stopped over at the company parking lot to pick up a third coworker, and then headed to the USA border. Crossing the border was painless; there was no line-up. A few minutes later, and we were in Washington!

But we had one stop to make before heading to our hotel in Seattle. We stopped near Arlington to pick up a fourth coworker, who was staying with a friend. After a hearty welcome and well-needed rest, we continued on our way.

We arrived at the hotel late Saturday afternoon. Since some of the other members of the Lucidea team had already arrived, we decided to grab a late lunch at a local Mexican restaurant—delicious!

Late on Saturday evening, we had a dinner with the full team, and went over what we knew about the Tough Mudder Half event. We shared some trepidation about just what we had gotten ourselves into, but the food and company greatly alleviated that. With full stomachs, we tucked into bed and prepared for a very early start the next morning, at about 6 AM.

Bleary-eyed and ready for the worst, we quietly ate our complimentary hotel breakfast. By 7 AM we were at the coal mine where the event would be held. We waited quite a long while to be signed in and for our turn to run the course. We had a couple of pep talks from some very intense speakers, and then we were off!

Me climbing the "Berlin Walls"!

Me climbing the “Berlin Walls”!

Even from the very beginning, we got muddy. We ran through a river bed that was full of mud, and had to crawl under barbed wire and over muddy gravel. We waded across knee-deep pools of cold, muddy water. And we eventually had to slide through black, coal-ridden mud pits that could suck the shoes right off one’s feet, and that left stains on all clothing. That particular obstacle required some teamwork, too–the walls of each mud pit were too slippery and steep to climb without getting a boost.

Of course, many of the obstacles required teamwork, and that’s the aspect that I enjoyed the very most. For example, the Pyramid Scheme obstacle consisted of a steep and slippery plastic ramp, which would be almost impossible to climb alone. But by leaning several people on top of each other and against the ramp, a “human ladder” could be built to the very top. Then, the person at the bottom would climb up over the people above him or her. The next person from the bottom would follow, and so on.

I also enjoyed the running, since that’s the part I’d practiced the most before the event. I didn’t have any trouble keeping pace with everyone else, even after we’d been worn down by some of the obstacles.

Powering through the "Hero Carry"!

Powering through the “Hero Carry”!

When we reached that finish line, though, I was ready for a break… and a shower. The closest thing available was the ice-cold spray of a garden hose, which I reluctantly accepted. I was also hungry. Thankfully, there were some free snacks given out by the sponsors, and each participant received a lunch token. I was almost overwhelmed at the choices for lunch; I would’ve eaten leather at that point!

We all sat down and had a good lunch together, reviewed the highlights of the Tough Mudder event. There were some great stories, and we were all more comfortable with each other (having to climb over each other helped a lot with that!). Eventually we headed back to our cars and began the long trip home. By late Sunday evening, I was back in my apartment.

Throughout the time since the event, we’ve continued to retell those stories from the Tough Mudder Half event. They’re stories about how each of our team members stepped up and had their moment to shine. Everyone else at the office has been asking us about those stories, and about the experience overall. I think some of them are content to experience the event vicariously. That’s fine, but there’s really only one way to understand what it feels like to have conquered the Tough Mudder–and that’s to go out and do it!

Strolling through Stanley Park

“Why did I come here?” This question echoed in my mind as I approached the entrance to Vancouver’s Stanley Park. It continued to float near the surface of my thoughts as I mingled with the crowds of people who were enjoying Labour Day at the park. I didn’t have a good answer. So, I started to explore.

I walked to the northwestern area of the park, and then back to the southernmost point, along the seawall. I saw totem poles, and the entrance to the aquarium (but I figured I’d save that for my next trip to the park!). I kept walking north on the seawall. It was kind of cloudy and chilly that day, and there were a LOT of people.

“Why did I come?” I looked at one of the signposts near the totem poles, hoping to find something important. I saw Prospect Point at the northern tip of the park, next to Lion’s Gate Bridge, and several kilometres away. “Ah, that would be cool to see. It’s so far away, though. Maybe I’ll go there another time.” I walked away…

Me on the path just underneath Prospect Point

Me on the path just underneath Prospect Point

…Quite a while later, I arrived at Prospect Point, tired from both the distance and the steep hill that I’d just traveled. I took a couple photos and looked at the gorgeous view. I went into the restaurant and had a very good dinner while admiring the view, then grabbed some ice cream and started to head back home. But that question remained unanswered.

Here I am at the very top!

Here I am at the very top!

“I’m still not sure why I came here.” Sure, the experience I’d had so far was good, but I was hoping for something even more… significant. I pondered this as I ate my ice cream and wandered along the forested trail, not entirely sure which way I was going. I was totally alone, with only the trees and birds to provide ambience to the moment. I wondered how long it would take for me to get back home. And I thought, “I don’t really care.”

And then it hit me. This was what I was looking for. It was so simple! What I’d gained from my trip was a chance to relax; to slow down; to silence the cacophony of the city and apply brakes to my life. The relief of not having to ration every second of the day was exactly what I needed, and I found it during a walk through the woods.

He was never seen again...

He was never seen again…

About the Apartment

Whew. It took a lot of effort. I spent a half a month in each of two different AirBnB spots. I also spent hours and hours of time researching, traveling, discussing, and viewing apartments all over Richmond and even in the southern area of Vancouver. But on July 1st, I finally moved into my new apartment, in Richmond BC!

The Living Room

The Living Room

The rent is all-inclusive and a very good price for the area, and it’s only a 25-minute bus ride away from work. I have my own bedroom, a bathroom, as well as a living room with an attached kitchen area. I’ve already bought some basic appliances to put in it, like a kettle and microwave, as well as some plates, cups, cutlery, et cetera.

The Kitchen

The Kitchen

There’s even a combined washer & dryer in the apartment! Actually, I have a funny anecdote about that. The first time I used the washer/dryer, I set the machine to do its longest drying cycle–about three hours. When it was “done”, at about 11:00 PM, I tried to turn it off and pull out my laundry. But it remained locked shut. I couldn’t open it. I wondered if I’d be able to get my clothes out before work the next morning, or if I’d broken the machine! The next morning, I turned on the machine, and it immediately unlocked, mercifully.

The Apartment Bathroom

The Apartment Bathroom

Anyways, the apartment is pretty bare right now, but I’ve been thinking a lot about what furniture I want, as well as where to buy it. I hope to share some more photos of the place soon–and with more stuff in it, for sure!

The Bedroom

The Bedroom