Monday, August 29, 2011

You wouldn't even be yourself if you weren't telling a lie.

Here's a rundown of a few days of epicness in reverse.

Today: I had a lazy morning of sleep, TV, and breakfast, and then I hopped on my bike to go to the gym for a Body Pump class. After I got home from the gym, I felt like I'd been hit by a truck - I was really tired. I spent the afternoon napping and watching TV, which is so not like me. After dinner, I got back on my bike and rode over to my work spouse's house. Our back-to-school plan was to create a "wall of fun" to hang up in our office. Basically, we went through old pictures of trips, parties, and random things that we have done together, and made a collage. It turned out well, and will cheer us up on stressful days.



Sunday: A morning of sloth, followed by a good run at the gym. I have another 5K race that I'm training for. This one occurs at dusk on Sept. 10th, and you run through a park with a light on your head. It sounded fun, so that's why I signed up.

After the gym, I met up with an old-time blog friend at a neighbourhood bakery. Readers who have been in my "blog circle" for ages probably remember Katie, who used to live in Montreal but then re-located to Toronto a few years ago. Anyway, we never had met each other in person, and decided this needed to be fixed. It was super fun hanging out IRL, and discussing work, life, politics, and all the great people we've both met from blogging, and the one person who was definitely not great. It's awesome that we live in the same 'hood, and I predict more coffees in our future.

Next up on my blog-buddy-to-meet list is Miss Ash. She's someone else who's so geographically close, but we've never organized ourselves to hang out. It will happen this fall. Stay tuned.

Sunday's fun doesn't end there. Jason dropped by for dinner, and then we headed to The Dakota Tavern to catch a small show featuring Kathleen Edwards (with Jim Bryson). We found out about it via Twitter, and it was a super intimate and fun. She played a few new songs too, and I think she mentioned her new album was coming soon. I'm excited.

She opened with the song below, so check it out if you'd like to introduce some gritty alt.country/folk/rock in your life.



Actually, Jason took a video of one of the songs and posted it on Youtube, so here it is. It gives you a good idea of what a tiny show it was.



Saturday: I hadn't seen my friend Wendy in forever, so I couldn't let the summer go by without spending a day with her. She lives in Hamilton, so I took the GO bus out there, and suggested we head to Niagara Falls for the hell of it. It was a beautiful day for a road-trip, and quite frankly, I was craving a chocolate-covered strawberry from the Hershey store.

Not only did I get my strawberry, I had ducked into Starbucks to use the washroom, and they now have a Niagara Falls Starbucks mug! Another one for my collection, woot!

We walked around for a bit, but it was so freakin' hot that we decided a nice air-conditioned lunch was necessary. Everything in downtown NF is pretty much a chain restaurant, so we settled on Boston Pizza. I never eat at chain restaurants in Toronto, so it's a weird treat to have the opportunity to do so.

The restaurant was by the Sky Wheel, and I decided we should go on that to get a nice aerial view of the Falls. Here's a nice view of the Canadian Falls that I took from the Sky Wheel. The mist coming up from the Falls is pretty impressive, eh?



However, from the Sky Wheel, you also get a great view of the Dinosaur Adventure mini-golf course, so we decided we needed to do that too.



It was lived up to its name, with a lot of fake dinosaurs, and we tied, so it was a nice game.



Our parking was up by then, so we headed back to Hamilton but stopped at the Winona Peach Festival on the outskirts. It was pretty crazy - lots of tents of vendors and food and stuff, but I was quite frankly expecting more peaches. However, I did come home with a big basket.

After that, I met her cat for the first time, and then I had to head back on the bus to Toronto. It was nice to get a good view of the CN Tower lit up orange for Jack Layton as the bus drove into the downtown core.


Friday: I was up early and off to the gym, and got a lot of errands done too. I didn't really have any evening plans, but luckily two of my pals from work were back in town after their summer trips, so we had a nice impromptu catch-up session.

Thursday: I totally don't remember what I did this day. It will remain a mystery for the ages.

Wednesday: While I was writing my previous blog post, I had the TV on with coverage of the memorial events that were happening for Jack Layton. I decided to go down to City Hall to pay my respects. I wrote "thank you Jack" in chalk on the sidewalk, and signed the condolence book. I think the past week since Jack's death has been a really surreal and emotional experience for most Canadians. When I went down to City Hall the mood was very sombre and quiet. I had to hold back tears. I know I, like many other people, didn't realize quite what an impact Jack Layton had on them until he was gone. I will carry his message of love, hope, and optimism always.


That night Jason and I were supposed to go see the outdoors screening of The Muppet Movie, but tornado warnings changed those plans. We ended up staying in and having dinner. We were treated to a wicked thunderstorm with lightning that seemed to last for hours.

And that my friends, brings you up to date on my penultimate week of summer vacation. And now we're on to the home stretch. Hope your weeks treat you well!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Rachel, Rachel, Rachel, wake up.

After a couple of sunny days where I went on some bike rides and sat in the sun on a patio and read a bit, the weather's turned a little cloudy and ominous. And what bad timing. There is a screening of The Muppet Movie in a park downtown courtesy of TIFF, and Jason and I had plans to go, but it looks like it's gonna thunderstorm, so that might not happen.

Yesterday, I received a letter from AA in the mail in response to my complaint about the customer service I received after my cancelled flight. It included a voucher towards a flight in the future. It could cover a trip to NYC, Chicago, or Boston (I've been doing my research), but I've been to those places all recently. It's not like I have to use it right away; it doesn't seem to have an expiry date, but I've already been thinking about how I could use it. I've always wanted to experience NYC at Christmastime and go skating at Rockefeller Centre. Or maybe I can use it to go somewhere warm (Miami? California?) in the the winter. Anyway, it's just a fun thing to think about.

Yesterday, a new album came out by a band I recently discovered: Library Voices. It's called "Summer of Lust" and it's a really catchy album. I love it. My favourite song on it is "The Prime Minister's Daughter". It's a pretty catchy tune that imagines that Stephen Harper's daughter will grow up to date a dude in a band which would be highly ironic considering his views on arts-funding. Give it a listen:


All the other songs are similarly clever and catchy. Another catchy song, sung to the city of Regina, is "Regina, I Don't Want to Fight", which I found ironic listening to considering my recent post about never having been to Saskatchewan.

Hmmm, what else? I've been having such a laid-back week this week. It's my first this summer. I've been using extra time to cook a little bit, sleep in, catch up with some friends online, and to chill. I'm getting a mani-pedi tomorrow, and I have plans to go on a mini road-trip to Niagara Falls with a friend on Saturday. Next week, I'll have to start planning lessons and photocopying. I think I'm a bit ready to go back. Daresay I'm getting bored and I could use money. I could have more summer vacation, but to enjoy it, I'd have to go on another trip, and that costs money, and I need to work for more money, so that's where I am now - I need to work another year to support my holidays. But I'm hoping I have some nice classes that will allow me to nerd out and plan some fun lessons.

Happy Wednesday everyone!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Sadness, but hope.

I woke up this morning to find out that Canada lost an amazing political leader to cancer. I always hoped that one day I'd be able to call Jack Layton our Prime Minister, but sadly, that won't happen.

I highly doubt that any Canadian, regardless of their political stripes, could read his last letter to Canadians without feeling emotional and sadness that Canada lost an amazing leader at his peak.

The closing lines of his letter leave all Canadians, and I think everyone around the world, with words to live by.

"My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world."

Well said, Mr. Layton. May you rest in peace. I hope that one day your vision of Canada, and the world, is realized.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

I never...

I am procrastinating right now, and what better to do whilst procrastinating than to steal a meme from someone's blog (in this case wigsf's)?

I never...

...have travelled to Asia, South America, Africa, or Antarctica. There are a lot of continents left on my travel list.

...have been to Saskatchewan or Newfoundland. It's one of my goals to have visited all ten provinces, so those are two travel destinations on my list. (Wait, can one call Saskatchewan a travel destination?)

...have seen Death Cab for Cutie in concert. I think I've pretty much seen every other band I love live.

...have tried Jagermeister.

...got around to buying an air-conditioner, nor a new couch this summer. I swore up and down that I'd do both, but here we are in the waning days of August.

...have been downhill skiing. Or water-skiing either.

...will forget the entire lyrics to Weezer's "El Scorcho". They've been in my head since 1996, and I'm pretty sure they will stay there.

...will be able to get rid of my black Doc Martens from the 90s.

...tried Mr. Pibb + Red Vines. Apparently, they equal crazy delicious.

...posted any pictures from Chicago. So here are some!



Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Swim until you can't see land.

I am back from a quick trip to St. Ratford and back to retrieve one cat. I left here on Monday morning, and made it there by noon. I relaxed, chilled with the 'rents, visited my aunt, and then I spent today running errands and went to the gym which was really good. I've been feeling pretty lazy post-trip, so that first good workout felt invigorating.

And now we're home and I'm feeling the need for a random-ish post. My friend Heather is visiting me for a couple days and arrives tomorrow morning. We've got a spa day planned for Thursday and I'm not sure what else, but it will be fun catching up and doing girly things.

Now for the random.

1) The Winter of Mixed Drinks

Jason brought me this album by the band Frightened Rabbit back from when he visited Montreal while I was in the US. He saw this Scottish band play at a music festival there. Anyway, I really love the album; it makes me nostalgic for the summer where I visited Claire in Scotland since they mention the North Sea. It's a great road-trip listen too. I had it in the car with me on my way to St. Ratford and back. I recommend it. Its title gives me an idea of what my winter should be.


2) My emo heart is beating fast.

Jack's Mannequin, the band that appeals oh-so-well to my inner-sixteen year old, just released a new song and the video makes me oh-so-happy!


3) I will most liked explode on October 4th.

That's when the new Jack's Mannequin album comes out, AND the new Feist album too! I think the Feist album will win the battle, but seriously, I will be over-stimulated that day.

4) Some random pictures of NYC.

This evening as I was walking down my street here in Toronto, I thought "I miss New York!" I thinking I was daydreaming about Central Park. Here are some pictures of NYC, since I haven't posted any (anywhere!) yet.

Statue of Liberty as seen from our 'round Manhattan boat cruise.


View of our lovely hotel from Central Park:


Me walking in Central Park:


The memorial for John Lennon in Strawberry Fields in Central Park. I think I look for it every time I visit NYC.


Me at Tiffany's. No, I'm not giving the peace sign like a silly teenager. I am holding up two fingers to symbolize the fact that I had to go to Tiffany's twice. The first time I bought a necklace that upon further reflection, I thought made me look too old. I exchanged it for a bracelet. (Rare photo of my on my blog: note, it was windy!)


Here's the bracelet. (And a sparkly ring I bought at Swarovski. The picture doesn't do it justice.I blame Vern for that purchase.)


Times Square. I love this picture (taken by Vern) of the Wicked sign. Oh, how I loved that musical. Also, the Sbarro makes me think of the episode of the office where Michael goes to NYC and eats at Sbarro. Oh, and can you spot Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) in the ad for his Broadway musical?


Here's a view of the Manhattan Bridge from my favourite Brooklyn neighbourhood - DUMBO.

And here, from the same beach, is a view of the Brooklyn Bridge. (You have one bridge on your left, one bridge on your right.) We crossed that sucka three times that day: twice during our race, and once we walked it on our way home from DUMBO, so that we could take in the view at a more leisurely pace.

Lastly, here I am walking in one of my favourite Manhattan neighbourhoods: Greenwich Village. We went there for lunch on our supposed-to-be-last-day in NYC. It started to pour, and I left my umbrella packed in my suitcase (silly) so I had to buy this new purple one at CVS.


Ahh, I do <3 NY even though it never wants to let me leave. My 2009 trip to NYC also had a cancelled flight home, but that time, it just meant that we were put on a plane that left 1.5 hours later. Hell, I still love you New York. (I stole that line from Ryan Adams.)


Happy Wednesday pals!

Friday, August 12, 2011

How Come You Never Go There?

I survived the night in the fleabag hotel and made it back home to Toronto. I've never been up and at them so early and quickly than I was on Wednesday morning. We made it out of that place at 7:30 am, even though our rescheduled flight was at 11:20 am.

Of course, things didn't go 100% smoothly from there. When we arrived to the airport, we couldn't check in using the self-service kiosk, so we had to stand in the "problem line" for about twenty minutes. When we got to the agent and gave her our confirmations that we had received the prior evening, she said "you missed your flight."

WTF, I thought as my heart dropped. How hard is it for me to get home? Also, how can you tell me that I've missed my flight when I'm here almost four hours early?

"You were originally scheduled on the 6:45 am flight from La Guardia," the agent explained.

"Yes, we told the agent last night that we wanted that changed," I explained. Who wanted the trouble of moving to another airport, and getting there in time for 6:45 am?

"She didn't cancel that flight, so when you didn't show up for that flight, your booking on the 11:20 am flight was cancelled," she continued using a tone that insinuated that this was somehow our fault.

I asked her if she could fix that, and she could, but seriously, who needs a couple more minutes of stress after your flight was cancelled in the first place? Seriously, I am never flying American Airlines again. I already wrote them an email where I explained that the service at the airport the first night sucked (the agent gave us the wrong reason for our flight cancellation and did not give us a "distressed traveller" voucher for a discount on our fleabag hotel). They haven't responded yet. Boo.

However, we did manage to check in, have a nice enough breakfast at the airport, and chill in the terminal for a bit. Of course, our flight was delayed by another 45 minutes, but we made it Toronto, and there was absolutely no line at customs and our baggage got to us quickly, so at least there were some silver linings.

***

It's so nice to be home though! We've had some really nice summer weather the past couple of days (not too hot and no humidity) and I'm glad to have some down time. I'm going to pick up Miss Rilo on Monday and spend the night at my parents', but I'm glad to have a chill weekend ahead of me. I have to do some heavy-duty apartment cleaning (as always, I never seem to beat the clutter), but I think I'm going to bike to Starbucks this afternoon and finish reading the novel about Frank Lloyd Wright that I picked up while visiting Oak Park.

I also have to write up some proper posts (with pictures) about my trip! My last few days in NYC were great. The run went really well. My time was really similar to my first 5K in May, which I was pleased with since I hadn't been training too hard since then. Also, the weather was pretty hot and humid that day, and there were two hills on the route, so I think having an equal time on a tougher route is a bit of an improvement. The scenery was beautiful and I waved to the Statue of Liberty when I saw her.

I'm not emotionally ready to go back to school yet, but my bank account sure is. However, I'm looking forward to the fall/winter already. I have some really awesome concerts lined up: Dan Mangan, Matthew Good, Feist, and Tori Amos. I'm totally pumped for Feist's new album. I came across the first single on the internet today, and I like it a lot.

Hope you all have a great weekend. Just think, soon enough the days of the week will have meaning for me yet again.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Silver linings and first world problems.

As you all know, I like to travel. And thus far, all of my travels have gone relatively problem free. There's been a delayed-flight here, a lost bag there, and a couple express trains hopped when they should have been locals. However, right now I am facing my biggest travel SNAFU ever.

My flight home was cancelled because of "air traffic control". Airline policy is that we are responsible for finding and paying for our own accommodations. We did our best while tired, annoyed, and lost since we don't know Queens, and have ended up in a scuzzy hotel by the airport. And I won't even tell you about how I got us on the wrong hotel shuttle, which ended up bringing us to an even worse place than this one. I guess the fact that we're not there is a silver lining.

Another silver lining is that we do have free wifi, which our swanky Manhattan hotel did not have.

I had potato chips and peanut butter M&Ms for dinner. We walked over to nicer hotels to see if we could eat in one of their restaurants (closed), and tried to order pizza, but they wouldn't deliver. At least this place has vastly available junk food, I guess, which is yet another silver lining.

We could have stayed at the Sheraton. But our reasoning was that this was cheaper, but still expensive enough to be nice, right? Wrong. If you're ever stuck in this situation, go brand name. Of course, if we had been travelling in Canada, I would have had my handy data plan on my iPhone, and would have looked this place up, so that would have saved us some grief.

Anyway, I do realize that after having a really amazing holiday (I'll blog about the rest later, I swear), this isn't the worst thing in the world that can happen. Hence, it really is a first world problem, that a lot of people would be more than happy to have. However, right now, all I can think about is how much I would love to be at home in my own bed.

Please let there be no cancellation tomorrow. Cross your fingers for me, blogosphere.

p.s. And another silver lining - Vern has gummy bears from FAO Schwarz in her suitcase. Oh, and we have time to share photos!

p.p.s. And I do realize as well how my problems could be way worse, especially considering the riots in London. If things were different, I very well could be there right now, since it's another favourite city of mine. However, I'm not, and my prayers are with my friends in London right now.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

NYC!

I love this city. This is my third time visiting, but my first in the summer, so it's nice to see a different side of it. Here's a rundown of what I've packed into the last 24 hours or so.

1) Cabbed from the airport to our really nice hotel on Central Park South. We have been schlepping our stuff on public transit thus far, and after a long flight from SLC to NYC, we splurged on a cab. Plus, the bumpy, crazy, heart-rate-increasing ride is definitely the way to arrive to the city.

2) We navigated the subway to go to little Italy for a nice dinner. My travel buddy loves Italian food, and I love starting NYC trips with a random dinner in Little Italy. Last time I was in NYC we did the same, and I actually found the same yummy restaurant so it was nice to return. Little Italy is awesome on a Friday night in the summer: the streets are closed off to traffic, there are patios everywhere, and there are carts selling gelato and canolis. I was very full when I left Mulberry Street.

3) I woke up early, and went for a nice jog in Central Park. There was some sort of race going on at the same time, yet I was still able to carve my own route on a different path. I love Central Park so much, and I plan on going there a few more times, hopefully for some biking and sight-seeing, before we leave Tuesday night.

4) We started our afternoon by going down Fifth Avenue and doing some shopping. I had decided my big souvenir from this trip would be something shiny from the original Tiffany & Co. It's only a little silver necklace, but I love it. I love the NYC Tiffany shopping experience. All the sales people are really nice, and you get to take the elevator (complete with happy elevator operator) to the third floor where they sell the silver that is affordable for regular people. As I was leaving the store, one saleslady commented "oh, I see you got yourself a blue bag of happiness!" It was very sweet.

5) We headed to one of my fave NYC spots: 30 Rockerfeller Plaza. It's always nice to walk around and see sights familiar from my favourite NBC TV shows.

6) After a completely meh lunch (were running short on time, so went to the first restaurant we saw), we headed to the Gershwin Theatre for Wicked. WOW. It was an amazing show. It might be my favourite musical ever. It's much much different from the book, so Jabba, you'd even like it! I missed it when it was in Toronto awhile ago; but I think seeing it on Broadway must have been better because the sets and the effects were extremely effective. I got teary-eyed at the end of Act One just because the show (and the singing) were so good.

7) We headed back to our hotel to relax, and then headed off to Starbucks* in the rain. We are doing a 5K run across the Brooklyn Bridge tomorrow, so we had to figure out the details and how to get there, hence I'm sitting and blogging. With the rain, and the fact I'll have to be up tomorrow morning at about 6 am, it's going to be a chill night. I think I'll just enjoy the comfy couch in the hotel room and do some reading.

Hope you are all having fabulous weekends! :)

*I like Starbucks in general, but it's so handy when you're on vacation for the free wifi!

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Utah in a Nutshell.

I haven't blogged yet from Utah, and I apologize. This part of my trip has been way more laid-back than the Chicago part, and I had ample time, but I think I was just too busy hanging out and chilling to really get to it. But now I will.

We arrived in Utah on Saturday, which now feels like a lifetime ago. I love how time goes so much slower when you are away from home and having fun. Anyway, once our plane landed in Salt Lake City, we rented a car, and I drove twisty mountain roads (it was a little scary!) to arrive in Mount Pleasant, Utah.

We spent the first night catching up with our friends Sandra (Go9) and her husband Jason. We even went out for ice cream at the Shave 'N Cream. As soon as we drove by this place, I died laughing at the name, and knew I had to go. We went the first night and got a tonne of ice cream for $7.50. I asked for a single scoop of ice cream (cost = $1) and got three giant scoops. And yes, I checked, and that was indeed a single scoop. After that I was on a giant sugar high, and composed a song in the car.

On Sunday, we took a long ride out to Arches National Park. It took almost three hours to get there, but it was worth it. Utah's a big state.

Here's a picture of a lookout that we stopped at:


Here's one of the arches at the park. I forget which one it is.


We then hiked up to the arch and climbed in it. Can you spot 1/3 of the Go9?


Here I am walking towards another arch. I've also forgotten the name of this one.


Monday and Tuesday were spent just chilling around town. We went for a road-trip to the nearest "big" city (Provo: an hour's drive away) to go to Best Buy. I thought I'd broken my camera near the end of my hike in the park. I got some sand in the lens and it wouldn't go in and out any more, but it worked again by the time we got to Provo. We still did some shopping, and everyone else bought new electronics except me.

On Monday evening, I cooked my awesome veggie chili for dinner, and we had a nice meal with the very classy wine that Vern and I brought from Chicago. We bought it at Walgreen's one night with the intent of drinking it in our hotel room, but that never happened, so it came to Utah with us. We had a nice campfire in the backyard, made s'mores, and then we girls stayed up talking past 2 am.

Vern and I left Mount Pleasant at noon today, and drove to Park City, where we'll be spending the next two nights. Before we left town, one last stop at the Shave 'N Cream was needed, as well as a photo of us, the sign, and our rental car taken with the self-timer on my now-alive camera.


The drive to Park City was very scenic, with many mountains, lakes, and twisty roads. I'm getting pretty good at this mountain driving, I tell you. After we checked into our hotel, we drove to Main Street and spent the evening wandering around, doing a little shopping, and having a nice supper of some pretty yummy pepperoni pizza. Here's a picture of Main Street:


Tomorrow we have lots on our plate: perhaps a scenic train ride, a visit to an Olympic site where Vern's going to force me to zipline, and then we will head off to Salt Lake City to meet up with The Grunt! I'm excited!

Hope you're all having great weeks. I will hopefully get in a post from NYC, and I will definitely have to backtrack at some point and post pictures from Chicago!

p.s. Vern was commenting that my Utah post is way longer than my Chicago post. That's because that one was from my iPhone, and this one's from my laptop. Yay for hotels with free wi-fi!