Thursday, November 10, 2016

gratitude: days 1-11

Ten days ago, a former colleague from my fun, editorial house of mouse publishing past, started posting a daily thing he was thankful for... it's his "30 Days of Gratitude Challenge." 

And since we need more good vibes out in the world right now, I'm going to play catch-up here and now, plus get tomorrow on the books, then post for the rest of month. (Knowing me.. there will be multiple catch up posts vs. daily ones, but that's better than nothing :p)

I'm also going to turn these into slips of paper and everyone at my Thanksgiving table will get one to read while we eat to keep the conversation off of politics and football.

Thanks for this idea Scott Appel!

#1 - What smell are you most grateful for today? My red roses

#2 - What technology are you most grateful for? Video chat that lets me see my little nephew from 300 miles away

#3 - What color are you most grateful for? Purple (duh.)

#4 - What food are you most grateful for? Italian (see what I did there.. I don't have to choose between pizza and pasta now :)

#5 - What sound are you most grateful for today? Music... can't live without it

#6 - What in nature are you most grateful for? Tall trees creating a forest of fresh air and secret silence

#7 - What memory are you most grateful for? I can't choose just one... time spent with my loved ones who are no longer with us, finally seeing my view of the Tuscan hills in person, holding my nephew for the first time. 

#8 - What book are you most grateful for? Harry Potter .. all of them, and the amazing mom who created his world.

#9 - What place are you most grateful for? My home

#10 - What taste are you grateful for today? Chai tea latte

#11 - What holiday are you grateful for? Christmas... it's a whole season of wonder and love, not just a day.

shaken. shocked. saddened. strenghtened.

On June 11, 2012 at approximately 7:40pm, I was sitting in row 7 of section 206 at Staples Center when my legs began to shake uncontrollably.

My dad was sitting next to me, texting with my mom, who apparently asked him if I was crying. He said something to the effect of "No, she looks like she's in shock." And I was. After 45 years, my LA Kings were minutes away from winning their first Stanley Cup. They were up 5-1 and it hit me that they were actually, finally going to win the Cup -- there wasn't enough time left in the game for them to realistically not win. And as that realization spread from my brain to the rest of my body, my legs began to shake. Eight minutes later, with the final score 6-1, I jumped up and down in jubilation, and the shaking stopped.

My legs haven't shaken uncontrollably like that since then... until Tuesday night.

I was sitting on my sofa, flipping between CNN, ABC and NBC, doing frantic math in my head, reloading multiple websites showing electoral college maps on my laptop, and the shaking started again. Another life-altering realization began to spread through my body. But unlike 2012, this was not a jubilant realization... it was fear.

Percentages of votes counted were going up. Hillary Clinton's electoral college numbers were not.

It began to hit me that I lived in a country where enough people had gone out that day and made a decision I did not agree with or understand and, because of that (and our archaic electoral system), our world was going to madly change.

Those people had cast a ballot saying they believed a bigoted bully with zero experience in public service or foreign relations was a better choice for US President than quite possibly the most qualified presidential candidate in recent history.

They had cast a ballot saying they believed a man whose only goal in life has been to make and keep money for himself would be able to make un-biased decisions about what is best for our country, our environment and our planet.

They had cast a ballot saying they believed that a man who objectifies, cheats on and shows zero respect for women should have the power to nominate Supreme Court justices who can legislate what decisions women can and cannot make about their own bodies.

And they had cast a ballot saying they believed a man who made a boatload of promises about "change" that are clearly unconstitutional will actually be able to fulfill them.

Rather than jumping up and down in jubilation as I had on that great night in 2012, I began to cry out of utter disbelief and confusion.

I didn't understand how this could be happening, and 24 hours later I still don't.

Maybe that's because I was lucky enough to be raised by two parents who always put food on my plate and a roof over my head and sent me to college where I got an education focused on the First Amendment.

Maybe that's because I have gay friends who were finally able to get married three years ago.

Or maybe that's because it's November and it's going to be 90 degrees outside my house tomorrow.

I'm scared for me, for my friends and for the planet my baby nephew and soon-to-be-here baby niece are going to inherit.

I went to bed last night emotionally exhausted.

I woke up this morning and for a few brief moments thought it had all been a bad dream. Then I realized it was not.

I was numb this morning. Then I went on social media. I began to see communities comforting each other. And then I saw this...

And those poetic words from Maya Angelou reminded me of the wise words of our sadly outgoing First Lady Michelle Obama -- "When they go low, we go high."

So now that the shock is starting to wear off 24 hours later and reality is setting in, I am (for the time being) putting my Canadian immigration plans on hold. (Their website crashed last night about the time my legs started spasming anyway.) Instead, inspired by posts of friends and like-minded community members today, I've decided to turn my sadness and disappointment into action...

It's time that we -- the lucky ones who have a voice to speak up and time and/or money to spare -- become the helpers and make sure that the world we live in is not destroyed over the next four years.

I have been a proud member of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) for years, but I will become more involved now that we will soon have a President who doesn't believe in Global Warming and wants to create jobs by reinvigorating dirty fuel sources like mining and oil pipelines when we have progressed so far with clean energy (which also offers multiple employment opportunities) over the last eight years.

The American Civil Liberties Union has already assessed the President-Elect's unconstitutional proposals and are ready to fight in court to protect our rights. They are also working on ways non-lawyers can help them take action in addition to/in lieu of just making donations.

And Trump has vowed to defund Planned Parenthood, which would mean the end of quality, affordable healthcare for many woman who have no other options. We can't let that happen.

These are just a few of the organizations I will be "helping."

Who will you help? How will you rise?

Please share in the comments. I need to hear that "the good" is still out there.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

vancouver food file

One week ago at this time I was looking at whales and dolphins at Vancouver Aquarium. Now, I'm on the sofa in sweltering SoCal, binge-watching Mr. Robot and remembering all the fun food places I visited in Vancouver. Here are the food fotos!

Once we'd landed at YVR (that's the airport code for Vancouver if you need it for your Expedia search) and gotten checked into The Burrard, we realized we were starving, and considering we were basically surrounded by water, decided to go eat fish. So we went down the street and around the corner to a recommended sushi restaurant - Shizen Ya. They are known as the only place in Vancouver to use only organic brown rice. While it looked a bit odd, it's stickiness actually made the rolls a lot easier to eat. We ordered Spicy Tuna and Salmon Avocado rolls + Quinoa vegetable cones and SAPPORO! (You have to have eaten at Tokyo Delves in NoHo to get that last reference.) And yes, it was only lunchtime, but by then it was 5pm on the east coast and we were on VACATION!

After lunch, we went to Granville Public Market, which was full of food and had a bunch of restaurants and wine bars outside the market. I wanted to buy all of these towers of strawberries that greeted me almost as soon as I walked into the market, but alas, even I can't eat that many strawberries in two and a half days...

I could, however, eat some really yummy strawberry swirl gelato while listening to a local singer/guitarist play on the pier as small children chased pigeons all around him. He deserved every tip people dropped in his guitar case. 

For dinner, we also took a friend's recommendation and when to The Mexican Antojitos Y Cantina. Sadly, you don't get free chips and salsa at Mexican restaurants in Canada. You do get really good margaritas though. And okay food... I mean, they are a whole United States away from Mexico. And I was born in El Paso, TX, which has its own Mexican food brand named after it, so I have kinda high Mexican food standards.... I ordered enchiladas with the chile sauce. To me (and everyone in Texas, New Mexico and most of California) that usually means a green chile sauce. Not in Canadia though... lol.

Canadian Mexican food

Breakfast almost every day included a stop across the street at Starbucks because a) I'm a chai tea latte addict and b) I didn't have to deal with foreign transaction fees on my pre-loaded Starbucks app. Starbucks' cup lids (which you put on yourself if you want one vs. the barrista doing for you automatically, which to me seems a bit dangerous, but maybe Canadians aren't as clumsy as Americans. They are definitely more polite.. but I digress.) Starbucks cup lids illustrate one of the really lovely things about Canada. Everything is in two languages.. English and Le Francais. Even the "Caution Hot"  warnings :)

The next night we again took recommendations (from the hotel and my financial adviser) and went to The Flying Pig in Yaletown. We were immediately drawn to all the appetizers so we ordered a bunch of those instead of a meal -- the BC Salmon sampler, crispy brussels sprouts and the TO DIE FOR truffled jumbo macaroni. (Sorry no photos.. it was too dark inside.)

Combined with cocktails and catching up with one of QBall's friends now living in Vancouver, this was a fun and yummy Friday night.

Saturday was nature day -- walking across the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park and a bike ride around the Stanley Park Seawall. But in the middle of our bike ride, we stopped for lunch at The Teahouse in Stanley Park. It was kinda fancy, but there were lots of people in the middle of nature days too. (The waitress even offered to store our bike helmets for us.) I was kinda looking forward to afternoon tea, but The Teahouse is a restaurant, not actually a tea house, thus no afternoon tea service. But they did have (mmm) hot tea that I ordered to go with my AMAZING Belgian Waffle covered (and I mean COVERED) in fresh fruit! 

Mmm hot tea with a view of the Pacific Ocean

There are actually two Belgian Waffles buried under all that kiwi, strawberry, blackberry, banana and grapes. This became not only my lunch but my dinner too. #foodcoma

QBall ordered the Kassler Pork and Apple Sausage Benedict. I had some of the sausage to counteract my sweet waffles with some savory protein.

After walking across bridges and riding bikes all day, we stopped on the way home for some beverages and to watch Team Canada beat Team Russia in the semi-finals of the World Cup at Elephant & Castle Pub in the historic Marine Building.

On our final day, we went to brunch before going for massages. Yelp named Twisted Fork one of the best brunches in Vancouver, and it was just down the street so we headed over ... and then waited 45 minutes for a table. But it was worth it. They make their own crispy Asagio scones and preserves, which Qball ordered that comes with a giant fruit salad. I was craving eggs and ordered the first thing on the brunch menu - the "Green onion, mixed bell peppers and zucchini Scrambled Eggs served with toasted sourdough and housemade jam, roasted roma tomatoes, rosti and sauteed spinach".... make that garlicy spinach. It was delish! As were the roasted tomatoes.

This was our view (sitting on one of the breakfast bars) as we waited for our food. Pretty. 

Monday, September 26, 2016

visting vancouver

So I was supposed to spend last New Year's Eve in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. But those plans never materialized. Then I was supposed to go there this summer. But work stuff with my travel buddy Qball pushed our trip to the first day of Fall, which was fine by me. It was 100 degrees in LA, but a nice 50-70 over four days in Vancouver... we even felt wet stuff falling from the sky on Friday. (I'm told this is called rain, and apparently they get it a lot in Vancouver, which is why their trees are pretty and green not brown and dead like the ones in LA).

Here's how we spent last Thursday through Sunday (minus the food.. I'll have a separate post of food photos). Big thanks to my Canucklehead Friend Juanita for a great list of stuff to do and see!

Homebase: The Burrard

Qball's friends recommended The Burrard, a centrally-located, retro-chic, boutique hotel in Downtown Vancouver. It's across the street from St. Paul's Hospital, which is its main con... I did hear ambulances in the middle of the night a few times. It also has supertiny bathroom sinks (washing my face without getting water everywhere was impossible). But there is a Starbucks right across the street, which is a HUGE plus in my book. It's also halfway between False Creek (where Granville Island is) and Coal Harbour (where Stanley Park and other touristy stuff is), so we were able to walk everywhere easily, including to restaurants and shopping in the nearby City Centre and Yaletown neighborhoods, where we also caught the Canada Line to/from the airport. And the staff was super-friendly and the place was just fun... "lyrics of the day" were posted in the elevator every day and cool quiet music played in the central patio and lobby. There was free bottled water, cable TV and phone calls to North America.

Our welcome candy and info cards about the hotel and the 'hood. 
View from our 4th floor room of the hospital ER driveway (con) and the Starbucks on the corner (pro)

Thursday: Granville Island

Thursday after we settled into the hotel, we went to lunch then went exploring. We ended up near the water at False Creek and decided to hop on an Aquabus and go across the bay to Granville Island. The island (really a "sandbar") is home to the Granville Public Market, an Art School, restaurants and a bunch of shopping with local artists and vendors. There were also a lot of local musicians playing on corners and squares around the Public Market. It was a gorgeous day and a fun afternoon. I bought Christmas ornaments from a local artist named Darla Zary, locally-made skincare products from Cascadia Soap Company and cute presents for my nephew and niece-to-be.

Boats in Broker's Bay
The Public Market below Granville Bridge

Inside the Public Market
Part of the Vancouver Biennale Open Air Museum, this is called "Giants" by Osgemeos. These artists turned ugly cement cylinders on Granville Island into giant murals. Learn more here.
View of Downtown Vancouver apartments from Granville Island
Burrard Bridge looking towards the Stanley Park end of the island.

Friday: The Waterfront

Friday was going to be a rainy day, which we knew before we left. Originally I wanted to go whale watching, but decided we'd go do touristy local stuff instead. We headed to tourist-central: Coal Harbour and Canada Place, which two days later would welcome the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who landed at the Float Plane Terminal for their Sunday in Vancouver.

The Float Plane Terminal. It was fun watching planes take off from the water as we wandered the waterfront.
View across Coal Harbour, looking at the Lions Gate Bridge we'd cross on our trek to Capilano the next day.
The Olympic Cauldron from the 2010 Winter Games was relocated to the Vancouver Convention Centre's Jack Poole Plaza.

Fly Over Canada at Canada Place is Canada's version of California Adventure's Soaring ride, but a bit longer and obviously just about Canada. No photos allowed inside, so this hanging maple leaf sign will have to do. 

Totems are everywhere in Vancouver. This giant one is inside the Pan Pacific Hotel, which is part of Canada Place and attached to the Cruise Ship terminal.

Friday: The Marine Building

After Flying Over Canada, we went to lunch at a natural food place called Tractor. It was, we realized, in a historic building - the Marine Building. QBall used to work for real estate developers in DTLA, so she was fascinated by it. I liked the cool photo op ;)

The entrance on Burrard St.

Interior of the lobby looking in and out. Beautiful stained glass.

The elevators, with gorgeous brass doors and mosaic tiles above.

Close-up of the elevator doors and maildrop

The astrological floor

Looking up a the 2nd Floor landing and the ceiling moldings.

Saturday: Capilano Suspension Bridge Park

While wandering the touristy waterfront Friday, we discovered that there were FREE shuttles to Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. Qball wanted to go to this bridge more than anything, but since we weren't renting a car, we'd ruled it out. Well, once we found out one of the shuttle stops was practically across the street from our hotel (and did I mention it's FREE?), this adventure was back on! We took off to explore nature and get over my fear of falling off a swinging bridge into the gorge below.

Kia’palano means “beautiful river”

Fun Facts to reassure you as you're waiting in line to walk across the suspension bridge.

Heading across the bridge. Qball is so excited; me, not so much.

Beautiful nature. The Cliffwalk is top right near those orange trees.

We made it across (almost) and survived
I even got a sticker to prove it!

The Treetops Adventure on the other side of the bridge lets you walk across bridges and landings connecting all the 300+ year old trees in the rainforest. After the swingy suspension bridge, this was a piece of cake!

Video of pretty nature on the path between the Treetop Adventure and Raptors Ridge

Looking up at a 400-800-year old Douglas Fir, and coming eye to eye with an owl that weighs only two pounds 
but could decapitate a turkey with its talon.

The trees have eyes.. or hidden cameras under their birdhouses. And watching walkers on the bridge.

Heading back across the suspension bridge to do the Cliffwalk... "I'm not even holding on. Don't look down."

Me on the Cliffwalk, stuck in a photo-taking traffic jam.

I "found fall" from the top of the Cliffwalk... and a hidden waterfall and little lake up the river.

Saturday: Biking the Stanley Park Seawall

Our original Saturday plan had been to bike around the Stanley Park Seawall. We decided to still attempt it after spending the morning at the Suspension Bridge. And luckily, the FREE shuttle driver was awesome and dropped us off at an unscheduled stop, right near the bike rentals, where we learned it only takes about an hour to bike around the seawall, which is a one-way bike and walking path (two lanes) that spans a 9.5km loop. We stopped in the middle for lunch at The Teahouse.. more on that in my foodie post.

View of Coal Harbour

A big rock, with a tree growing out of the top of it, with a bird nesting on top of it in the harbour, dwarfs two fishermen in a rowboat. 

Vancouver Aquarium

After returning our bikes, we walked back through Stanley Park to the Vancouver Aquarium and did some dolphin, sea and whale watching without having to get on a boat. Also saw lots of pretty fishes inside the aquarium...  you'll be seeing these photos as my FB cover photos soon ;)

This dolphin reminded me of the dolphin pod I saw going to Santa Rosa Island last month... and made me sad cuz it was all alone in a pool, just swimming in circles and playing with a ball vs. flying through the ocean at full speed :(

They have two rescued harbor seals and two beluga whales, a mom and her daughter, who was born at the aquarium.

Sunday: Relaxation & Travel Day

After brunching, we split up. Qball went to go get stretched at a Thai Spa in Yaletown. I went to get massaged and pampered (and watch the World Cup of Hockey in the cafe) at Absolute Spa at the Century Plaza Hotel across the street.

Signs That Made Me Smile...

A building on Granville Island

We stayed on this floor of the Burrard ;) The 3rd floor was for rock stars and the 2nd for models. 

Insert Bon Jovi reference here.
Inside The Flying Pig restaurant in Yaletown