Weekend in Instagram

This weekend I took it easy.  My ankle was sore and I really just wanted to veg.

 I started Saturday with a delicious homemade nonfat, extra-foamy latte.  My coworker's awesome husband (whom I've never met) gave me this brand-new espresso machine that he got as a gift years ago but has never used.  So, Saturday was the first day I put it in action and boy, oh boy, did it make a killer latte. FYI, the best coffee in Ohio (at least that I've found) is Stauf's, locally roasted in Columbus, Oh.  It's a little pricey, but is totally worth every penny.  Their espresso blend is fantastic, as is there Kaldi's blend and their French Caramel.  (Also, I just put in my first online order to them this morning because they're offering free shipping for the month of February, and they were out of one of the things I ordered, so they immediately called me [we're talking 15 minutes after I put in the order, people] and got something else for me.  Great customer service, so friendly and helpful!)

 Caffeinated human. Groggy basset hound.

 I spent most of the weekend watching Scrubs and working on a Sunburst granny square afghan I just started.  I've done a granny square afghan before, but this is my first time doing the Sunburst.  It's also the first granny square I'm making for our house, but more on that later.  So far I really like it, the pattern is pretty straight-forward and it's easy to keep track of everything since for the first three rows you need 16 of every stitch.  For right now I'm only prepping the circles.  Once I think I have enough of them, then I'll be constructing the squares around them out of an off-white yarn.
 While I was crocheting away, Cheese was keeping me company on the couch.  I love it when he snuggles up in a ball and covers his little nose with his paw to keep it warm.  So precious!

Last night, A and I watched the last two-thirds of the Oscars.  Correction, Antoine, Cheese and I watched the Oscars.  It's funny, I never make a point to watch the Oscars, but when I actually end up watching it I always enjoying myself. 


Bad Juju

The last couple weeks have been riddled with bad luck for me and for a lot of people around me.  First, I fall and fracture my ankle.  Then I come down with a cold this week, after having been around not one person who been sick.  And, I just had a nasty upper respiratory infection in early January which took forever to get rid of.  Something is royally messed up with my immune system!  Anyway, one of our volunteers at work got in a fender bender last week.  A coworker had a rock go into the compressor of his car which cost $1K to replace.  Then this morning Antoine slips on ice and bangs himself all up and his hand starts bleeding.  Jesus, this shit is crazy!  It needs to stop!  So, careful out there people, it's dangerous!


Using Pinterest to Plan Trips

Let's face it, Pinterest is just plain addictive!  Everyone warns you before you get on it, but really they can never properly prepare you for how much it'll suck you in.  I think what makes it so appealing is that it can be used in so many different ways.  There are those who pin every silly DIY and/or crazy shortcut post that ever existed.  Then there are those who create endless fashion and outfit boards (my cousin).  Then there are those like me, who love to find new recipes or pin old favorites.  Besides for recipes and crochet patterns, I love to use Pinterest as my own personal trip planner.

When it comes to planning travel there are generally two types of people, those that leave it to the experts (aka travel agents) and those that enjoy the planning almost as much as the trip itself.  I, of course, fall into the latter category.  I contribute 50% of this to my love of making lists and 50% to my sister, who is a phenomenal travel agent.  My sis took me on several trips in my teens, most notably a stellar 10 day trip to the UK.  It was so beautifully planned and organized.  We flew into Edinburgh, rented a car and drove down to the mid-lands where we visited friends, went to Liverpool and Stratford-Upon-Avon, and then we took a train to London where we spent the last couple nights.  It was an outstanding trip, and it showed me what good travel is all about.  To this day, I almost always run my trip ideas past my sister, you know, since she does it for a living and she's been almost everywhere.  But once I get the thumbs-up from my sis, then I begin researching.

My research is generally just Google-based.  Usually I'll check tripadvisor to see if there's anything I've missed, but generally the top "things to do" on their list aren't usually activities or sights that interest me.  Plus, the ratings and reviews are so subjective.  Though, sometimes tripadvisor will surprise me!  I constantly turn to Google maps to map out and route the trip, especially near the end of planning when I'm deciding on a specific day-by-day agenda.  For our last couple trips and our next one coming up (Vancouver, Montreal, and Seattle, respectively) I used Pinterest to compile ideas, from places to stay, things to see, restaurants to check out and little helpful tidbits that I've discovered and don't want to risk losing.   

This is my board for our next trip Olympic National Park and Seattle, which is coming up in May. [Click to see the full board]

I'll make notes in the pin description, mainly how much it costs, what it is close to and when it might fit best into the trip.  Then I can constantly share the board with Antoine (and my sister) to get feedback and bounce around ideas.  Plus, just looking at the board makes excited for the trip, which can be kind of torturous...especially if it's months and months away, like Seattle!  Another advantage to using Pinterest inn this way is since I have it on my phone, if I need an address, directions or hours while we're on our trip I can just go to my board instead of spending time searching for it online. It's all-around awesome and now I can't imagine planning a trip without it.  I encourage you to try using Pinterest the next time you plan a trip!

Now if Pinterest could only make it so that you could rearrange your pins within a board I would be in seventh heaven! 


Montreal: Notre-Dame Basilica

I'm not a religious person, but I enjoy visiting old, beautiful churches.  It's solely for the architecture, design , and history rather than anything else.  Montreal's Notre-Dame Basilica is definitely a place of beauty.

Look at those stairs!  I'd love to have those in my house, minus the cherubs and old bearded dudes.

 I bet that organ sounds amazing!


Montreal: the Biodome

Whew, what a great birthday weekend in Montreal!  It was snowy and gorgeous, but not too difficult to wander around.  We ate some tasty food: fresh ramen, poutine and frites.  Oh, and AMAZING Montreal-style bagels from Fairmount Bagel.  I didn't even know that Montreal bagels were a thing!  But I'm making sure I tell every person I know about them because they are awesome!  The dough is slightly sweet and chewy with this fantastic good!

We started off my birthday with a trip to the Biodome.  It's a little ways north of downtown but right next to a Metro stop, so super convenient!  It's basically four or so mini-ecosystems in one building, which means whether rain or shine you get to observe all different kinds of creatures.  They were experiencing technical difficulties with their ticketing that morning, but staff was super friendly (even to us non-French speakers) and eventually they ended up letting us in for free.  Happy birthday to me!

Cananda Lynx

Creepy fish

So cute! I swear, it was like he was posing for me.

I have no idea what kind of duck this is, but I love its coloring.


River otter cuteness.  They were so close you could have touched them.

Military Macaw

They also had a sloth there, but he was hiding way up in a tree and you could barely see him.  Bummer!

I'm super excited for this weekend, not only do I get my air boot so I can actually move around without crutches, but also because my best friend and her boyfriend are coming to Cincinnati for the weekend!  Hope you all have a wonderful weekend! 


Mega Klutz

Yep, that's me...Mega Klutz.  Maybe that should be my super hero name, but instead of saving lives, I fall and hurt myself.  Not two days after my twenty-eighth birthday (my first day back from Montreal) and I go tumbling down the stairs.  I was walking down the steps, from our second floor to the living room, when I altogether miss the bottom three steps. Boom! CRASH! *hysterical sobbing*  It's not the first time I've fallen down the steps (read: I've sprained my left ankle three times already) and I'm sure it won't be my last.  I've got a pension for missing steps and hurting myself, the difference is this time I walked hobbled away with three righteous bruises, including a fairly massive one on my hip, and a fractured ankle.  I hope this isn't a sign of things to come in my 28th year...because I gotta say, I can't handle any more.

Anyway, I figured I probably had a sprained ankle, because that's what I do, so I told Antoine he could wait and take me to urgent care the next morning.  Low and behold, I find out via X-rays that I've managed to take a little chip out of fibula.  And I'll have to wear an air cast/boot for at least three weeks.  Happy birthday me!  Actually, I don't get the air boot until Friday.  Until then I'm sporting an incredibly itchy fiberglass splint and crutches.  The doctor told me to elevate my leg and stay home for a couple days.  Of course, I didn't listen and went to work yesterday.  A stupid idea!  Sure, I have a job where I could sit most of the day, but I also work on a floor with no restroom, and while we have a freight elevator, it's not the most reliable thing.  So, after a couple hours I was just plain exhausted from trying to maneuver around and my leg was super sore.  I quickly decided that maybe the doctor had a today and tomorrow I'm pretty much confined to bed, my leg propped up on a pillow.  All I can say, bring on the boot...this shit is getting boring!

On the plus side, I've got time to edit my pictures from Montreal so I'll have a little recap ready for tomorrow.


Soft Focus Cheese

Since I still haven't begun to sort through, organize and edit my photos from (my amazing birthday weekend in) Montreal, let me attempt to regale you with some soft-focus shots of Cheese.  Last week, while waiting for Antoine to get home from work, I decided to play around with my 50mm lens and shoot some photos of Cheese.  Manual focus is definitely something I struggle with, but the only way to get better is to practice, right?! Shooting manually is something I struggle with since I'm still new to it and have never taken a photography class, but I really want to learn and get better at it.  These aren't the best photos ever, but the subject is darn cute, isn't he!?

 He likes to pretend he doesn't like having his picture taken, but we all know he loves the attention!

 So serious!

 I love when he tucks a paw or two under his chest...too cute!


And one of Gui, for good measure.  Because he actually stood still for a couple seconds!


Otters are Awesome!

Because it's Friday and because I am currently on my way to Montreal to celebrate my birthday with Antoine, here's some shots of an adorable otter to make you go, "awwww"...

I took these at the Vancouver Aquarium while this guy was getting fed his lunch.  Aren't otters just the best!?  They make me feel warm and happy on the inside.  I could have stayed and watched this guy for hours.  You don't want to even know how many otter pictures I took within the matter of an's embarassing!

Anyway, happy Friday everyone!  Hope you have a great weekend!


Vancouver: Other Highlights

So, you've made it, my last official recap of our trip to Vancouver!  In a nutshell, it's an awesome city surrounded by nature with such exciting cultural diversity (read: awesome food!) that I'd visit again in a heart beat!

Oddly enough, for my last post on Vancouver I'm going to take you back to the first two days of our trip. For the last three nights of our trip we stayed in the heart of downtown, but for our first two nights we stayed in the northern bit of downtown near the harbor.  While staying in the heart of downtown offers tons of food options, staying a little north near the harbor off you easy access to Stanley Park and the Seawall. Stanley Park is pretty much this gigantic island park full of hiking trails, little lakes, and a variety of sights to see.

The view of Stanley Park from our hotel room.

On our first full day in Vancouver, we put on our raincoats and set out to explore Stanley Park.  First on our list was a trip to the Aquarium.  I have this theory that there are zoo people and there are aquarium people, and you're either one or the other.  Antoine and I are definitely aquarium person.  I personally prefer going to aquariums over zoos.  I find them more interesting and they tend to make me feel less guilty (caged animals and whatnot).  Anyway, the Vancouver Aquarium certainly did not disappoint!  It had a great selection and setup, including an excellent array of local/Pacific Northwest fish.  And some great jellyfish, which are my favorite!

After our visit to the aquarium, we walked along the Seawall and through a bit of the park, stopping at Brockton Point to see the totem poles.

On Thanksgiving day, when we were driving up to Lynn Canyon, we decided to stop in Stanley Park (again) on the way and check out Beaver Lake.  It's a little lake surrounded by trees and filled with lily pads with a great stone trail wrapping around it.  It was beautiful and quiet, great for a morning walk.  And the wildlife seemed to be very friendly...maybe a little too curious for my liking (a squirrel attempted to follow us...I don't like squirrels. They are evil!).

Now, I've saved the best for last!  Get in close and listen to my absolute favorite thing we did in Vancouver...Edible Canada's Granville Market tour.  I know what you're thinking, I thought the same thing myself, but it was awesome!  My sister, who is a kick-ass travel agent, said that we had to do this.  She had gone a couple years before and loved it.  I was skeptical, but I thought, "Sure, why not".  Holy bananas, it was pretty freaking rad.  The tour started at 9am, so I made Antoine get up super early because I wanted to make sure we weren't late, and I wasn't 100% sure how to get there.  Lucky for us, because we ended up getting a bit lost, but then we found it (the market is, no joke, under a, buses confuse me!) and we waited in the rain for the Edible Canada storefront to open up.

Since it was November and the Friday after Thanksgiving (apparently a good number of locals drive south to Washington state to go shopping), the place was pretty dead.  And we shortly found out that we were the only two people on the tour.  For two hours, our tour-guide Chef Bob (an outstanding guide), took us around the market, talking about food, introducing us to vendors, and, best of all, guiding us through a sampling tour of this killer farmer's market.  I don't have any pictures of the tour because I was too busy stuffing my face with food and laughing and having a good time.  We tasted so many delicious things (smoked salmon maple nuggets, locally roasted coffee, locally produced cheese, warm-out-of-the-oven focaccia, beautiful artisan chocolates, etc.) from so many outstanding vendors that I'd do it again without a second thought.

Antoine and I aren't typically "tour people", we'd prefer to be on our own and go at our own pace.  But we both agreed that this one was phenomenal and we would recommend it to anyone.  ANYONE!  Actually, I think we'd skip the whole "suggesting" and just tell them had to do it!  Also, this is something that is probably one of the best activities to do during the off season.  We were able to get out of the rain, and since it was just the two of us, the tour was super intimate and so much fun.  Plus, the market wasn't as packed.  Though, one word of warning, if you take the tour, make sure to give yourself at least 3 to 4 hours of time, 2 hours for the tour and 1-2 hours to explore, buy some goodies, and maybe have lunch...that's what we did!

I hope you've enjoyed my Vancouver recap.  It's a great place to visit that I'd recommend to pretty much anyone.  I know I'll definitely be going back in the future!


Vancouver: Part Three (Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Chinese Garden)

On the last full day of our trip we decided to get up early and head to Chinatown, which was within walking distance of our hotel.  We got their around 9:30am, on a Saturday, and the neighborhood still seemed to be asleep.  Chinatown itself was a little sad looking with its array of local vagrants and panhandlers, but our primary reason for visiting was Dr. Sun Yat-Sen's Classical Chinese Garden.  I had had several people recommend the place as a must-see, so we put it on our list.  Since we got there before they opened at 10am, we walked around to the other side of the garden where there is a public Chinese garden. This Chinese garden is free and open to the public yet is connected to the the classical garden.  It's a little more run-down than Dr. Sun Yat-Sen's garden, which charges admission, but it is still worth a visit. 

The entrance to Dr. Sun Yat-Sen's Classical Garden is just next to the public garden.  Red Chinese lanterns flank the entrance, making it easy to spot.  Again, since we went during the off-season, the garden was crowd-free, with only a couple other groups there visiting.

Though we were lucky to have a break in the rain and the sun came out, I have to admit that Winter isn't the best time to go to the gardens.  While it was still beautiful and worth the experience, I can only imagine how breathtaking the gardens are in the Spring and Summer months!  I'd venture to say that it's probably well worth braving the crowds to see everything in bloom and flourishing.

See you next time (or at least I hope), for a recap of some random highlights from our trip!  Seriously, I hope you come back because I'm going to let you in on one of the best things to do in Vancouver...something I didn't believe was going to be as awesome as it was...