A Day in Victoria BC

Well, it’s been two months since we took this trip but my excuse is that you may find it more enjoyable to visit now that the summer high season has ended. (How’s that for turning procrastination into a benefit?) Fewer tourists and cruise ships make it a lot nicer to maneuver through downtown. On the minus side, though, it’s more likely to rain so the crossing could get a bit rough.

I won’t begin to attempt a comprehensive travelogue, especially at this late date. There’s a ton of info online, after all. The lovely thing about Victoria is that you leave the very American city of Seattle and three hours later it feels as though you’re in Europe. Heaven for an Anglophile like me.

We stayed in Seattle the day before and the day after, which made for a nice little getaway. There’s plenty to do in both cities if you have time.

But if you only have 24 hours, as we did, here’s a quick snapshot.

We board the Victoria Clipper ferry in downtown Seattle. Food and drink options, plus a basket of free chewable Dramamine. Because who wants to be sitting near someone who’s seasick for three hours? (Tip: half a tablet keeps your stomach calm without making you too sleepy.)

(Can we say “Bad hair day?!?”) Arrive at Victoria’s Inner Harbour around noon. Check in at our hotel, the Grand Pacific, which is modern and spacious.)

Lunch: Steamship Grill and Bar. Waterfront views and delicious seafood in a beautiful Beaux Arts building. A glass of wine and now I really feel that I’m on vacation. Check out this adorable water taxi!

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Walk off lunch: Victoria’s easy to get around on foot. Other attractions, such as the famous and gorgeous Butchart Gardens, are a short ride away.

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IMG_2573Up Government Street past Parliament and Royal BC Museum…

FullSizeRender (3)to Market Square, lower Johnson St. shopping area (LoJo to the locals) and Canada’s oldest Chinatown.

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After sampling a couple of chocolate shops, my recco is Pure Lovin’ Chocolate in twisty, cramped, Dickensian Fan Tan Alley, named after a popular gambling game from the 1940s.

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Rare photo of husband looking relaxed!

IMG_2561 (1).jpgThere are flowers everywhere!

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Amble back to hotel via Wharf Street to enjoy views of ferries and seaplanes.

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Cocktails and dinner: If you don’t opt for the Empress Hotel’s lavish and pricey afternoon tea — or aren’t staying there — grab a drink before dinner in the Q bar and scarf down their yummy charcoal-dusted popcorn.

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IMG-2563The restaurant is good too.IMG_2567.jpgIMG_2569.jpg

 

After dinner, stroll through the public spaces and lavish grounds of this venerable grande dame, and see the government buildings all lit up.

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The next morning, we grab some coffee and explore the neighborhood, which is quiet and peaceful. IMG-2578IMG-2577Winding up with a scenic walk along the Foster pathway, named for (and presumably funded by) David Foster, Canadian musician and ex-husband of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills’ Yolanda.

We catch the 11:30 ferry back to Seattle, which arrives at 2:15 pm — time to enjoy the city!

I Vant To Be Alone (Sort Of)

Do you consider yourself an introvert or an extravert? For me, it’s a frequent tug of war. While I love spending time with our family and friends, I’m basically shy and easily exhausted/overwhelmed by constant conversation. At the same time, I’d find it depressing to be a total recluse. Call me a closet introvert — or perhaps more accurately, a “schizovert” (a description I like better than ambivert, which sounds as though you have mixed feelings about standing upright.)

Where do you fall on the spectrum? Are you outgoing, a homebody, or a bit of both?

11 Signs You’re a Schizovert

  1. You dread parties but have fun once you’ve settled in.
  2. Your big presentation went well; now you need a nap.
  3. A lot of people think you’re salt-of-the-earth; just as many think you’re an asshole.
  4. You can whip up something for dinner when the kids bring unexpected friends over… but you’d rather they didn’t.
  5. At any gathering, you’re the last to arrive and the first to exit. (It’s not personal, I promise. We schizoverts just have a short social-attention span!)
  6. When your significant other is away, you leave the TV on to keep you company.
  7. You’re equally spontaneous and rigid.
  8. Going to the hairdresser and doctor qualify as social engagements.
  9. The busier you get, the more you want to take your phone off the hook.
  10. Your ideal number of pets is 0-1.
  11. You enjoy coming home from vacation as much as you enjoy leaving home.

Ironically, as I was writing this, I was invited to something — a result of making some wonderful new friends this summer. Note to P: I really would go if I could.

xo, AG

 

The Joys of Improv

Leftovers! Why does that word have such an unfortunate connotation — “sad”, “dreary”, “unwanted”? For example: Last to be chosen for softball (that would be me in 6th grade). Late to losing one’s virginity (also me… age 20). Third tier invitee to a wedding or party (not me I hope, although I’ve never found out if I was on the C list.)

But in fact you can make amazing things out of leftovers because they invoke your creativity. Only downside… you’ll never make that dish the same way twice.

I refuse to take credit when a recipe I’ve read in a book turns out ok. All I had to do was read and follow instructions. (On second thought, maybe credit IS due because I suck at following instructions; just ask my Long Suffering Husband.)

Still, isn’t it much more fun to wing it without a net and make something up? That’s what we’re faced with at this point in the season, when we’re close to shutting down the summer house and have to invent recipes based on what’s in the fridge/freezer that needs to be used because I have some weird Puritanical Streak or Jewish Guilt telling me it’s a SIN TO WASTE FOOD!!!!

Last night, the LSH combined basic rice with leftover salsa, leftover cheddar and mozzarella, turmeric, salt and pepper, paprika, chili powder and moribund sliced jalapenos to create Mexican rice. Probably not authentic, but definitely tasty and it hit all the points for Using Up Crap In the Fridge.

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Below is an adaptation of a favorite recipe, tweaked to use up various bits of excellent cheese that were malingering in the fridge. Feel free to substitute other nuts and adjust based on your own leftovers; there’s pretty much no wrong way to make this.

Cheesy Shortbread Leaves

Ingredients

  • 3.5 ounces crumbled cheese (about ½ cup), e.g. gruyère/cheddar/conté
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • ½ cup all purpose flour
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • ¼ teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh tarragon
  • 1/3 cup almonds, finely chopped

Preparation

  1. Blend cheese and butter in food processor until creamy.
  2. Add flour, cornstarch, mustard, tarragon, salt and pepper. Pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal.
  3. Add nuts and process just until it forms moist clumps.
  4. Gather dough into a ball. Flatten into a disk and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.
  5. Preheat oven to 325° F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  6. Roll out dough between sheets of plastic wrap to 1/8″-1/4” thickness. Remove the top sheet of plastic and using a 2” x 1” leaf-shaped cookie cutter, cut out leaves. Note: if you don’t have a cookie cutter, you can roll the dough into a log, chill until firm enough to cut but not super-cold, and then cut slices instead. Gather dough scraps and re-roll to make additional leaves.
  7. Transfer leaves to baking sheets and bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Makes about 4 dozen, depending on thickness of dough and size of cookie cutter.

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Random Hacks

The Internet was full of interesting tips this week!

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7 ways to prevent (and fix!) smelly shoes

1. Start with clean feet: Soak them in salt water, then dry off and dust with talcum powder (baby powder or Gold Bond).

2. Put antiperspirant on the soles of your feet.

3. Sprinkle the inside of your shoes with baking soda and leave overnight. Vacuum or shake out in the morning.

4. Place dry tea bags inside your shoes and leave them overnight.

5. Put crumpled newspaper inside your shoes and leave overnight. It absorbs odor-retaining moisture.

6. Place your shoes in individual plastic zip bags and leave them in your freezer overnight to kill bacteria. During the winter, leaving them overnight in a cold car will work too. Let your shoes slowly return to room temperature before wearing.

7. Spritz sneakers or fabric-lined shoes with mixture of water and white vinegar. Let dry thoroughly.

 

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5 steps to relaxation

1. Place the tip of your tongue just behind your front teeth and exhale sharply.

2. Close your mouth and inhale slowly through your nose for a count of four.

3. Hold your breath for a count of seven.

4. Exhale strongly to a count of eight.

5. Repeat 3 times. Ahhhhh.

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17 ways to save money

  1. Clear your browsing history. When shopping online – especially for airline tickets – make sure to empty your cache. Online companies follow your history and raise prices based on this information.
  2. Shop as a guest. When buying online, use the Guest option instead of creating an account. New customers usually get lower prices.
  3. Leave items in your online cart. Get everything filled in, with your name, e-mail address etc., but don’t purchase immediately. You’ll often get a follow-up e-mail a day or two later offering a discount code to incentivize you to complete the sale.
  4. Lower the brightness on your TV and computer screen. Reducing the brightness of your TV and/or computer monitors from their default settings can reduce power consumption by up to 40%. 
  5. Carry large bills. Research shows that you’re likely to pay less if you use cash instead of a credit card. That’s because purchases feel more “real” when you see the amount you’re spending. If you carry only $50 bills you’ll be less inclined to break them, which helps avoid impulse buys.
  6. Make lists. You’re also less likely to succumb to impulse buys at the mall or grocery store if you’ve decided ahead of time what you need and plan to buy.
  7. Build your credit. Your credit score determines your rate on loans; nowadays utility and insurance companies use these scores to calculate monthly premiums.
  8. Make large purchases at the end of the month. Buying a couch, car or electronics? All sales reps have to meet monthly quotas. If they’ve had a slow month they may be willing to give you a deep discount in order to make a sale—and reach their quota. 
  9. Paint your roof white. If you live in a warm climate, this quirky idea could save you a bundle on air conditioning bills. Traditional roofs are dark, and dark colors absorb more heat.  Go even further and install solar panels – the upfront cost will be worth it if you plan to live in your house for a long time.
  10. Brew your own coffee. Home brewing cuts your cost to about $0.25 per cup vs. $3 at a pricey coffee shop, saving you hundreds per year (and over $1000 if you have a 2/day habit!) 
  11. Eat less meat. Eating vegetable-centric meals 2-3 times per week will save you some major cash.
  12. Buy generic. Store brands often have the same ingredients as name brands and may even be made by the same companies. Same with prescriptions – ask your doctor if the generic version is an effective option. 
  13. Buy a water filter. Bottled water isn’t just expensive; it’s not necessarily healthier than tap water. The filtration process may result in water that’s actually better for you than spring water!
  14. Exercise daily. Research confirms that working out regularly limits the number of trips you’ll take to the doctor’s office.
  15. Eat out at culinary schools. If you love dining out, investigate culinary schools in your area. You can enjoy delicious meals from up-and-coming chefs at significant savings vs. restaurants.  
  16. Stay hydrated. Many people overeat because they mistake thirst for hunger. Drinking water before a meal will help you to only consume what you need. Result: lower grocery bills!
  17. Ask for discounts. Most companies offer money-saving promotions but may not advertise them. When contacting your cable, gas, phone, or credit card companies, ask if there’s a way to reduce your bills. Sometimes, mentioning that you’re ready to cancel a service or switch providers is all it takes for them to “magically” come up with a better deal.

The Eclipse is Coming, the Eclipse is Coming!

Panic in Otter Rock! 100,000 extra visitors are expected to swarm the Oregon coast next weekend where we’ll be Visibility Central. We have one main thoroughfare, which is sure to be bumper-to-bumper, so locals (we summer residents included) have been warned to stay indoors for the duration of the long weekend. Good times.

One worried resident recommends that we padlock the gate between our little development and the neighboring hotel. As if that would deter any would-be miscreants who want to sneak into a community full of retirees.

I’m not sure exactly why she thinks the unwashed hordes are about to descend. To do what? Crash a canasta game? Knock down geezers on their morning walkabout? Trample the brambles? The sky goes dark every day, ‘ya know. Get a grip, people.

To be on the safe side, though, we’re stocking up on necessities: gas, batteries, brie and chocolate. This will require fighting for provisions along with the toothless crackheads who frequent our local grocery store– unless they’re too stoned to know about the Big Event. Luckily we have enough pinot noir to sit out several months of siege.

But what if it’s cloudy/foggy that morning, as it so often is? People who are paying $100 for a parking space are going to be pissed off big time.

Then what?? Riots in the streets? Tacky tee shirts ripped from their hangers? Mugs with “I heart Oregon” smashed to the curbs? Local hazelnuts hurled at the windshields of unsuspecting motorists? Tourists pelted with saltwater taffy? Maybe I should be less blasé.

Still. We’ve got eclipse goggles. We’ve got candles. We’ve got vodka. We can do this.

Just pray for sun.

 

 

 

 

My Bitter Life of Crime

Very funny; thought you’d enjoy it (but not too much)!

Ben's Bitter Blog

The crime lord.

You would think that a guy that sits on the couch as much as I do, wouldn’t attract the law as much as I do.

You would think that a guy that drives like an old grandma that can barely see over her steering wheel, wouldn’t have as many speeding tickets as I do.

My life of crime started innocently enough. I was pulled over for the first time by a cop probably before most of you people ever even got a driver’s license.

I was 14 years old, living large in my grey Chevy Citation (ironic name considering what is coming next) and my parents let me drive without them for the first time. My friend and I went to a movie and decided to go the “strip” afterwards. I think that is what they called it, but it was essentially the place where all the…

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