Cars, cars and more cars

My appreciation for cars and the owners who take such pride in modifying them is growing. My fiance & I travelled to Quebec to experience life on the east side of Canada for the first time. We ate all poutine, drank all the beer and saw very many cars.

Our first weekend in Quebec was spent at Eurocracy Montreal which hosted a huge show full of supercars and modified Volkswagens on display, a race track for rallying and a drag race strip.  You could see the pride in the owners faces as they wiped their cars clean and the eager look of spectators as they took photos of all the shiny cars and their rims. My fiance was beside himself trying to breathe calmly as we entered the lot. He was so excited he looked like a child in an all you can eat ice cream candy shop!

The cars were beautiful in all fairness. The shine of these cars, the spotless engines and insane details – it was truly amazing what these owners did to their cars.

The weekend after we headed to the Formula One Grand Prix and those cars were not shiny but very loud and VERY FAST!  The sound of the engines and the huge crowds definitely created a fun atmosphere but I definitely prefered the ease of wandering around the Eurocracy Show and watching random rallies over the international fast cars any day!

 

 

 

A bad day in Vancouver …

IMG_1158

Blogs about Vancouver usually describe its beauty or the many unique cuisines you can find in this tourist gem of a city. I rarely see blog posts about safety or security in Vancouver, so in light of recent events I’m unearthing my blog. Vancouver, as it grows, still also has the pitfalls of many other cities – tourists be wary.

This morning at about 6:30 AM I sat at the Starbucks Coffee shop on Cambie & Broadway earnestly working on my laptop. I guess that I was so focused on my work that someone had the ability to reach into my bag, which was sitting less than a foot beside me, and take my wallet. It was only after a couple hours that I noticed my wallet was missing and went into a panicked frenzy.

No one likes having anything stolen, wallets least of all. Mine contained my ID, debit/credit cards, loyalty cards, gift cards and most importantly however, in my wallet was money for this month’s rent; I was planning to deposit it into my account for the end of the month deadline.

After calling my bank and being told that both my debit and credit card had already been used at the nearby drug store I was hit with a sense of sadness. It was a horrible gut wrenching feeling when I realized it was actually stolen. It wasn’t just the money that my fiance and I worked so hard for but the idea that someone violated my personal space – while I was sitting right there!

Most people around me know how unbearably optimistic and positive I am but when I started thinking about the simple act of a person violating my personal space it dragged me down a wormhole of  questions that rocked my core: why do people do these things? Why is it that in all the dangerous places I’ve travelled I’ve only ever had my belongings stolen in the city I call home? Should I be carrying my cards or money on a strap around my neck as tourists do?

The rhetoric in my head started becoming pretty depressing. My fiance came home and he was far more expressive than I was about this whole situation. As he lamented over losing our rent money with various Irish curses, I came to realize that things could be far far far worse. Throughout the day friends and coworkers generously offered support and getting all my cards re-issued seems to be straightforward. We stopped to think of what would happen if we weren’t as fortunate in a situation as we are now and were filled with so much gratitude.

Vancouver is a beautiful city and most people are generally wonderful but as the city continues to grow we should also remind tourists to keep watch over their belongings. As such with most urban centres, pickpocketing and other big city crimes exist. With summer around the corner I’m hoping to use this blog post as a caution for the tourists that are heading this way.

This beautiful gem of a city also has it’s sharp edges.

Lighthouse Park

I’ve lived in Vancouver for twenty plus years now and until this day I’m still discovering beautiful new places hidden within our amazing city.

Yesterday my fiancé and I, upon the suggestion of a Vancouver hiking guru, trekked to Lighthouse Park in West Vancouver. I had previously heard of this park and had seen it by boat but have never fully hiked around this area.  Driving through Ambleside and Dundarave I realized we really never frequented this area and spotted some gems (like the Savary Pie Co.) I’d like to check out in the future.

Lighthouse park was a good 10KM drive past Park Royal on Marine Drive. It was a long stretch but boy was it worth it! The parking lot wasn’t full, which is always a nice sign. There are actually various entrances to trails from the parking lot but we chose to climb all the way up to the ‘lookout point’ first. From there we took the Valley Trail then veered off through the Arbutus trail. The paths aren’t as clearly marked as I’d like – it was an adventure in and of itself trying to determine whether we were walking the trail or creating our own! Overall the hike took us about 2 hours with beautiful waterfront views. The terrain was rocky and some parts were muddy but there were some knolls or lookout points where you can venture out to the rocky boulders bordering the water.  It was a beautiful day nonetheless my only tip for anyone interested in this hike is to consider your timing. Returning to Vancouver through the Lion’s Gate bridge took us almost as long as it took to hike.

16406663_10154076206341436_6592052647631400398_n

 

 

 

The countdown

weddingAfter I completed my undergraduate degree I completed an Event Marketing Management Certificate at BCIT. On numerous occasions I was offered the opportunity to choose ‘Wedding Planning’ as one of my electives to complete my program and opted for other courses. I believe most aspects of event planning is pretty similar (a matter of goal setting and measuring, coordinating respective parties building rapport and of course the logistics) – the only differing factor were the opinions and people to please.

Since my engagement last August my life has been consumed by wedding planning. I’m not the type of girl that grew up envisioning my wedding day or my perfect man. I never even started dating until I turned twenty five. I’ve spent half of my life planning and executing events so I thought this wedding planning business would be a piece of cake.

Little did I know how much of a challenge planning this event would be. There are so many moving pieces, deadlines and yes important people to please – all the while trying to stay on budget! Midway through my own planning here are my tips to any newly engaged couple out there:

  1. Budgets – I can’t preach about how to stay on budget but just its importance. In retrospect budgeting is the most crucial part of any planning. You need to do thorough market research with every component of your wedding to make sure you have accurate numbers for your plan.
  2. Your Wedding Planning Bible – This is binder/digital spreadsheet that contains ALL the information regarding every supplier, attendee or logistical timeline for your wedding. Create one – JUST ONE. We started with a binder then wrote on notepads and sheets; finally we progressed to an online spreadsheet which was easier to maintain.
  3. Openness – At this stage of the process I think it’s really important to be open with your fiance and family members with their wishes for the wedding. Discussions around who wants what and when will be happening after your engagement – especially if you come from a  family centred culture. So while you have your plan and your discussions with your fiance there needs to be some wiggle room to save you your sanity.

Some days I think of how amazing a destination wedding would be, or better yet, a trip down to city hall (my frugal side). Don’t get me wrong – I value the religious ceremony and having my closest friends and family around – but I’m not sure that I will be sane by the end of these 8 months. Most people I know or have come to know have opted to skip through this stressful limbo of “planning” by either eloping or hiring planners. With my limited budget, I am opting for a Day Of Coordinator but am slowly starting to wish I had a planner. The only challenge a planner would not solve or fix are the (important) people pleasing – that is the biggest challenge I am facing now.

I’ll keep you posted on my next steps!

*advice welcome*

 

 

 

 

 

Holiday Baking – Filipino style

As I had mentioned in my previous blog, I love Christmas. This year I wanted to gift my loved ones with a special gift of value: pandesal.

fullsizerender-2Pandesal is a bread bun found everywhere in the Philippines. It’s made with very simple ingredients but requires special love to make (I found this out).  Made with the recipe found on Salu-Salo.com by Liza A I spent about 3-5 hours last night making my first batch of pandesal and I couldn’t be more happy with the results.

When I think of pandesal I think of the Philippines and mornings of waking up with my Lolas around. Typically eaten at breakfast although I also have memories with one of my Lola’s dipping it into a coke for a mid-day snack. This was the same Lola that mixed egg with her Sarsi! Anyway, this little common bun holds lots of fond memories for me and I can’t help but feel like it would generate the same sentiments with those who receive it.

Here’s the recipe I used (originally by Liza A with minor changes):

  • 2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
  • ¼ cup warm water
  • 1 cup lukewarm milk
  • 2 tablespoon unsalted butter at room temperature
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 4 cups all purpose flour

img_0001I mixed the yeast and water together in a bowl on it’s own and set it aside. In another bowl, I put the milk, butter, sugar, eggs and salt together. Important memo: make sure the butter is at room temperature. My butter was not as warm as I had thought and it was challenging mixing since it stayed in clumps.

After mixing the two bowls together I started adding the flour. This is the process that took lots of time and required lots of love. You basically mix, then transfer the dough onto a lightly floured countertop and then knead until it’s elastic or not sticky.

Once I had a ball of dough, I placed it into bowl, covered with plastic wrap and let it sit for an hour or so until it doubled in size. After it rose, I cut it into about 26 rolls. The little doughs of love then undergo another cover and rise routine. I covered the parchment lined trays for about an hour with a cloth. Once they rose the little dough buns were placed into a preheated oven at 225 degree Fahrenheit for twenty minutes and then I increased the temperature to 325 degree Fahrenheit for 8-10 minutes.

They made my little tiny apartment smell amazing and was reminiscent of my childhood. Once these buns came out of the oven I immediately spread some butter on them. While they required so much time and effort to make I felt they were well worth it.

 

Tis the season

theme-christmasI love Christmas. In the Philippines, where I was born and raised, the decor goes up as soon as September starts. It’s a predominantly Catholic/Christian country entrenched in American consumerism so that’s likely why they go hard in celebrating the holiday. Growing up I don’t think I recall the months or days leading up to Christmas but rather have so many fond memories of that day itself. I am fortunate to have grown up in a large family and every holiday season usually involves celebrating with my aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins.

Over the last few years I’ve come to love the season, not for the day of gift giving but the weeks leading up to Christmas. It’s in these weeks that we get a glimpse of humanity at its finest. There are hoards of individuals volunteering their services for the less fortunate, the marginalized and the sick. And then there are companies and organizations mobilizing to drive funding to the organizations that are the pillars to our social communities. From a macro-society perspective it’s a win-win for everyone.

With the recent loss of a loved one and just this week having heard about the shocking loss of an acquaintance I’m learning to understand that this season is about growth – not materially but spiritually. I’m not going to talk about religion or mysticism here but more so the growth of our self conscience. This is a time to observe the blessings or fortunes around you, to look at the silver linings, the positives in every occasion and reflect on how this has made the life you are happy with or rather has driven you towards working for a life you want.

In today’s world it’s easy to fall into despair but I’m a firm believer that we have to look towards the positive in order to accomplish greater things in life. The cycle downward is easy and the climb up is hard but it is always always worth it.

Ireland (ii): Land of the rainbows

I definitely did not expect Galway to be as great as it was. Upon arrival to downtown my senses were thrilled with all kinds of sights, sounds and scents.

13680697_10153604679976436_5415760361339878812_nCobblestone alleyways filled with al fresco dining, banner flags strung throughout the street, happy fiddlers playing such fun tunes and crowds of people flocked through each establishment. We checked out a few establishments for our first night. We had dinner at the only restaurant that was not overly full – it was an Asian noodle house. But then stopped at various pubs like the Quay, The King’s Head, The Cellar Bar for a pint. When we head back to our Airbnb accommodation we were surprised with a massive loud street party put on by Red Bull energy drink with a live DJ turning tables in a trunk out on the street. It was the craziest and funnest random party ever!

Our first day in Galway was pretty great, although the one thing that I noticed about Galway was that everyone smokes everywhere and the smoke made my eyes dry and my head hurt. Aside from that downtown Galway was beautiful!

13876613_10153604704576436_3723355539356678484_nWe decided to drive to Kerry to do the Ring of Kerry, backwards. We drove around the craziest narrow roadways and the scariest part was that large (I’m talking ginormous) tour buses drove around it. We didn’t pick the greatest day to travel there as the weather was not on our side but it was lush, green and full of sheep 🙂

The next few days spent in Galway were just staying around town lounging and adventuring around neighbouring sights. We checked out the Cliffs of Moher, Bunratty Castle & the Folk Park – both were definitely sites to check out.

13879475_10153604707611436_8167719958109592884_nThe last day my fiance took me for a drive further north of Galway, past Connemara. Our drive took us around some lakes and it was just breathtaking. We stopped at Abbeyglen Castle where I was surprised with a night’s stay…and my now beautiful engagement ring. I won’t go in too much detail but we arrived at the castle and were greeted with a champagne reception, a 5 course dinner and dessert then a beautiful cozy engagement by a fireplace.