Monday, December 30, 2019

Adventure 50/50 : Wild Lights

Every year the Woodland Park Zoo puts on Wild Lights, a huge display of sparkling lights around the zoo. We've wanted to go for for years, but never managed to.

The neighborhood next to ours -- Phinney Ridge -- does a festive fundraiser every year involving illuminated holiday monkeys. ("Why monkeys? Because they're fun and unique, and they complement Wild Lights at the Woodland Park Zoo...").  This year we decided to sponsor a monkey (after all, it's a fundraiser), and for our donation, were rewarded with a pair of Wild Lights tickets.

Tonight we managed to get the stars to align... and right in time as it's the LAST DAY BEFORE I TURN 51. (How is this possible???)


Here's what's weird. I think if we hadn't just been to Butchart Gardens we would have enjoyed it more. It was pretty, yes. But it felt like a lot of people all trying to take selfies, rather than admiring the pretty lights. But maybe that's how things always are.

Still, we did admire the pretty lights, like these lovely siamangs going over the path:

and this procession of komodo dragons:

and this frolic of otters:

this sweet pair of ostriches:

and a frosty narwhal:

The nicest display was the "African watering hole", complete with elephants approaching and retreating, and Thompson's gazelles leaping in the background:

 and a smiling hippo in the water, too...

Plus lots of just random pretty lights.

One place we didn't visit... but we were happy to see it was there...

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Adventure 49/50: Let's go to Victoria!

When I was a kid the epitome of class was a trip to Victoria, BC, aboard the Princess Marguerite. Anyone who lived in Seattle then will remember the jingle:

Take a princess to sea
Have a crumpet and tea
It's fun aboard, all the way
Sail away for the day, hey hey hey
Let's go to Victoria on the Princess Marguerite

image from
She was a lovely, 2-funnel steamship, with decks and passenger lounges and even CABINS that one could book. It was like having a little ocean liner that just steamed back and forth between Seattle and Victoria. And though I only sailed on her 3 or 4 times, I remember her dearly.

Victoria Clipper V image from Clipper Vacations
She has long since stopped sailing, and been replaced by faster vessels running the route. The latest is the Victoria Clipper V, a high-speed catamaran that makes the trip in under 3 hours. As part of my 50@50 project, I wanted to go up to Victoria to see the Butchart Gardens Christmas displays and the Maya exhibit at the Royal BC Museum, so a weekend trip on the Clipper seemed the perfect fit.

Image from
For the most part, it was -- we got a nice pair of seats near the window (which stayed fogged up most of the way, but what can you do), and the trip was comfortable both up and down. We even saw "local celebrity" ORCAMAN -- a guy on a jetski wearing a wetsuit and an orca fin, speeding along next to the ship. I loved that the captain called him out -- though I would have been even happier to see real orcas.

One problem however was unexpected -- if you don't upgrade to "Comfort Class", you get held up when you try to get off the ship. We were lucky -- our extra 25 minutes of waiting while the Comfort Class passengers got their luggage and realized that they indeed needed their passports, and the distracted Clipper attendant chatted with them rather than directed them to the immigration officers who were standing waiting -- all of that happened inside a building, rather than the majority of passengers who were standing waiting outside. But I guess all of us in "steerage" were all lucky because it didn't rain.

But once we were allowed out of the pen we were FREE! We hustled outside and walked toward the Empress hotel. We wandered through the lobby, admiring the decorations, and then strolled up Government Street, browsing in the shops along the way. My number one destination was the Button and Needlework Boutique in Trounce Alley -- an Aladdin's Cave of stitching supplies.

I could have spent thousands there -- so many charts and threads and kits -- but I was mindful that I have more kits and things in my basement stash than I can really accomplish in this lifetime. So I satisfied my shopping urge with a small pair of folding scissors, some needle threaders to carry with my little project pouch, and a pocket-size book of embroidery stitches as I want to learn how to embroider more in 2020.

Another favorite stop was the glorious PERVERTED Ice Cream store, which makes gorgeous ice creams. Their standard menu is amazing, but I couldn't resist one of their holiday specials, the Vixen: black peppermint ice cream with black chocolate drizzle, rolled in crushed candy canes and served in a black cone. The bright sunlight makes this photo quite faded, but the cone and the drizzle were nearly black, and the ice cream was a very dark charcoal. Festive, gothy, and delicious -- perfect!

Eventually we headed to our hotel, the Coast Victoria Hotel, where we had booked a view room. Our room was lovely -- we had a view of the harbour (not the inner harbour, but still pretty), a nice comfy bed, and a little balcony. AND, because the hotel is owned by ANA, a Japanese hotel conglomerate ... IT HAD A TOTO WASHLET. I do love a fancy toilet...

In the afternoon we headed to Butchart Gardens to see the Christmas lights (sparkly!), grabbed some dinner and some supplies back in town, and then sat on our balcony all bundled up enjoying the view.

The next morning we got up and had a delicious breakfast at Nourish, only a few blocks from the hotel. The restaurant is in a house and has lots of lovely vegetarian and vegan dishes -- but also meaty ones. We were giggling at a diner at a nearby table who was complaining that the menu was mainly "vegetables on toast" before leaving for a suspiciously long time to quiet a screaming child.

Fully sated, we went to the Maya exhibit at the Royal BC Museum (rowr!), and then did some more wandering around. I managed to talk myself out of a new fountain pen and notebook at Munro's Books, Wil managed to talk himself out of some not-quite-perfectly sized gore-tex shoes at MEC. We were, however, unable to resist fancy chocolates at Roger's Chocolates (who could???).

We walked up to Chinatown and the celebrated Fan Tan Alley, where we *should* have had noodles at Fan Tan Cafe, but we weren't hungry at the time.

We did, however, stop in at Patisserie La Roux because the cakes in the window were irresistible. Just look at this chestnut cake. It was denser than I expected and crazy rich. Delicious!

Wil had an amazing cheesecake -- almost inverted, with the oversized crumble crust on the top and  the cheesecake below.

Some more browsing, walking, nosing around, and a drink at the Bard and Banker, and we decided to get a late lunch at the Sult Pierogi Bar before heading back to the ship to go home. We had passed this place a number of times -- and given that we have equated pierogis with Canada since our trip to the Spirit Spheres several years ago -- it seemed a good choice to wrap up our visit.

In the end, well, it was just okay -- we had 4 different types of vegetarian pierogis: a standard garlic and cheese one, a spinach and jalapeno one, a kimchi and tofu one, and a "seasonal" one with stuffing and sprouts. But it did the job, and we headed back to the harbour for our trip home.

Again we got decent seats, and this time hustled to get off the boat before the Comfort Class folks with their luggage -- so we were on the couch covered in cats within 45 minutes of the boat docking. A great end to a great weekend.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Adventure 48/50 : the Maya exhibit at the Royal BC Museum

Earlier this year we were lucky enough to spend Wil's birthday at one of the Seven Wonders of the World: Chichen Itza. I was intrigued by what we learned about the Maya and their culture, but never followed up. (Sigh.)

Then I heard that a major exhibition on the Maya was being staged by one of my favorite museums in the world: the Royal BC Museum in Victoria. And that the exhibit would run through the end of 2019 -- so we could combine it with a trip to see the Christmas lights at the Butchart Gardens. Perfect!

So on our trip to Victoria last weekend, we spend several hours on Sunday morning poking around the museum.

Our first stop, of course, was the exhibit, Maya: The Great Jaguar Rises:

With over 300 artifacts from Guatemala, including jade, ceramics, gold, stone, and textiles, all arranged in various rooms:

I loved this "lidded vessel with jaguar-shaped handle" -- look at how the body is painted on the lid, extending from the 3-D head!

There were lots of large carved stones -- these are some of my favorites:

I especially admired this one of a Maya Queen, Lady Six Sky; I liked the look on her face...

Until I noticed that she was trampling on a captive. I guess that's why she looks so happy...

And these gorgeous tiny mosaic pieces, only a little larger than a quarter coin, portraying the gods of scribes -- "who can be recognized by their monkey features". Oh...

And this irresistible codex -- I love love love the images on it!

The rest of the museum is glorious, too. Who can resist this lovely mammoth?

And the river otter hiding in a corner of a coastal diorama?

And the lovely totem poles...

No matter what temporary exhibit is on, the Royal BC Museum is a destination in and of itself.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Adventure 47/50 : (Un)Boxing Day for My New Bike

It's Boxing Day -- which was the perfect day for me to take my new bike OUT OF THE BOX and assemble it.

I started a new job in November (hooray!) for Rad Power Bikes and one of the benefits is a bike. Because of the holidays and various other schedule conflicts, tonight was the first Thursday that I was able to attend a Bike Build Party at work ... and build my bike!

Thanks to a lot of help from gen-u-ine bike mechanics Josh and Chris, I was able to put my bike together and install all the accessories (fender, passenger package) on my brand new RadRunner.

Here's my bike, still in the box:

We lifted it out of the box, I cut off all the zip ties and removed all the foam, and it looked like this:

We attached the handlebars first, then set the front wheel, and then the front fender and headlight. This all went so quickly I didn't take a single picture.

Then we flipped over the bike so we could take off the rear wheel to attach the rear fender. I'm not gonna lie, this would have been a bit beyond my skillset. Maybe not if I watched the videos, but it seemed difficult. Here's the frame with the rear wheel off.

We attached the fender, re-attached the rear wheel, and then flipped it over to attach the passenger seat. Then Josh put it up on a rack, checked all the brakes and double checked the torque and such, and I was good to go. Not that I took a picture of my assembled bike, somehow... but here's a picture of what the passenger seat and rear fender look like:

Wil came down, met the guys, and we rode off together into the night. Bonus awesome: for Christmas Wil bought us new bike helmets with microphones and speakers so we can talk to each other while we're riding. I love my Sena R1 Smart Helmet!

It may not have been a traditional Boxing Day, but I'm really happy to have my bike and can't wait for the weekend to take it out for a longer spin!