Saturday, September 29, 2007

Restaurant review - The Cascade Room

As a Main Street area resident (no, I'm not one of those "Main hipsters" as people have tended to call them), I enjoy enormously hanging out around my neighborhood. It is what people have termed "a vibrant community". And I am about to rave about a newly opened restaurant: The Cascade Room. I went for brunch many times to the restaurant that used to be in this location, the Main Street Cafe (where the brunch was cheap and nice) but that closed I think by the end of last year. Good thing I took my Mom and brother there before it closed.

The re-incarnation of this space is now a posh, stylish, sophisticated and spacious restaurant-lounge called "The Cascade Room" (their menus will tell you why, and I really appreciated the history lesson, as I have always been interested in the historical development of Mount Pleasant).

Since I had been trying to get to this place, C and B and J agreed to come down to my neck of the woods for dinner. Now, bad decision to come on a Friday night at 8 pm. This place was PACKED. I noticed that while the place is stylish and the decor is posh, I didn't feel that the staff were pretentious at all. Granted, you could see dozens of customers who looked sort of Yaletowners, which is a little funny considering that Main Street (South Main or Mount Pleasant) is considered more of an artsy, eclectic mix. When we got there I felt like I had just switched neighborhoods completely and entered a Yaletown restaurant. However, my opinion changed quickly as I got a very enjoyable experience at The Cascade Room.

Their dinner menu is very good, with great variety, from pasta dishes to excellent burgers. The portions are generous, and the presentation for each dish is superb. I had a Cascade burger with salad, which was really tasty. The salad wasn't drenched in dressing, and the burger was very well prepared (on foccacia bread, which was a bit weird but I really appreciated the flavors). Water refills were extremely prompt.

Our waitress was unbelievably sweet, and at one point she said "my only concern is that you guys have a great time". I mean, good service can't get much better than that!!! The hostess was extremely sweet as well, particularly since I came with C, B and J and we waited for over an hour for a table for four. The service was outstanding. While we waited for our table, I paid attention to the waitresses and waiters. They were like, on the ball! Literally, it was hard to believe they had been going at it since 5 pm (one of the main guys at The Cascade Room, who had an interesting accent which I can't place, may be a Londoner or an Aussie, told us that they had filled by 5.30pm). But you really couldn't tell because the level of service was top-notch.

I walked by the kitchen on my way to the restrooms (these restrooms are very well maintained by the way), and I saw the kitchen staff providing the servers with the food orders, and I didn't hear anybody yelling or notice any bad moods. I would think that The Cascade Room really paid a lot of attention when they chose their kitchen staff and their main-floor staff (hostess, waiters and waitresses, bartenders) because everybody exuded a strong positive vibe.

My experience with The Cascade Room was nothing short of excellent, the food was great and the service was unparalleled. Of course, it helps to be hanging out with B, C and J since they are the funniest people you can get. After dinner we came back for a coffee and some puppy loving (they also loved the puppy I am dog-sitting). And we agreed that we are going to come back for more. The drinks look totally delicious (I saw a mojito from afar and I thought it looked very tasty). But next time we'll probably head down there at 5 pm or on a Tuesday afternoon.

Honestly, I do hope that The Cascade Room keeps this level of good service. It would be a pity if their top-notch food, drinks and service were ephemeral. I sort of doubt it, though. As I mentioned before, by the time we were eating (9pm) the staff should have looked sort of exhausted with a fully packed house all evening long and they were friendly, cheerful, fast and prompt. So I have high hopes for the future of The Cascade Room.

PS - I think the owner of The Cascade Room also owns Habit, right next door. I am not very much of a tapas guy, but I'll try Habit perhaps for just a dessert and coffee. Will tell you what I think of it later.

Cascade Room in Vancouver

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Best way to score a smile: Walk a puppy!

I am currently house-sitting and also dog-sitting. For me, this is an entirely new experience. It's been years since I last had a dog, so I've completely forgotten everything my parents taught me on how to treat well puppies. As a result, I have printed out instructions, Google'd lots of websites and spoiled the little puppy rotten.

That being said, there are numerous perks to dog-sit. First, everyone on the street will smile at you. Some of them will say super sweet things to you (like "is this your first dog?" while flashing a mega-watt smile *swoons*), some others will offer pointers on how to treat the puppy and some others will just strike random talk. Second, this particular puppy is totally sweet, and therefore I am enjoying enormously the dog-sitting. Third, walking a puppy will rapidly increase your fitness. At first, he was struggling to walk along with me and now he runs at the same time. So we go for short jogs.

All in all, I would seriously consider having a dog if my place wasn't as ridiculously small as it is and if I didn't lead the hectic life that I have. Puppies are good for my soul.

Inspiring change in Uganda, the Canadian way

I usually peruse numerous news and media outlets because I want to make sure I am always informed, and get my news fix from diverse sources. That's also why the first thing I do every morning is read a substantial number of blogs, both Vancouver and non-Vancouver-centric. I frequently like to read the 24 Hours and Metro on the way to the office as my commute is at least 40 minutes long and I bus to work (see an interesting discussion we had on commute times at Paul Hilldon's blog).

Actually, numerous times I find that 24 Hours has some of my favorite stories. I really like Robyn Stubbs writings, particularly when she looks at environmental issues. Her series on toxins was perhaps one of the best I've seen in a long time.

24 Hours scored another few brownie points in my book by featuring Dr. Erin Baines, an Assistant Professor with the Liu Institute on Global Issues at The University of British Columbia. Erin is an expert in Northern Uganda and conflict.

From her website and in her own words:
Currently, I am focused on working on justice issues, particularly from a youth and gender perspective, in northern Uganda. Since 2003, I have partnered with local researchers on African cultural approaches to justice and reintegration. Today, our project Justice and Reconciliation Project operates in four districts and with nine research officers in northern Uganda.
24 Hours had the good idea of seeking to highlight the issues facing Uganda and thus sought to talk to Erin. The video below is the YouTube version of their interview with her. Erin inspires with her passion to improve the lives of Ugandans.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The good, the bad and the ugly of being a good cook

Not that I am tooting my own horn, but frankly, I cook a great curry chicken. This time I made it with mushrooms, onions, curry paste (red curry) and a bit of tomato sauce to reduce the heat, and boy is it tasty. The only problem now is that, since I cooked a lot of it, now I've had two helpings of rice with curry chicken since lunch (and I did eat a sandwich for lunch!). This is not going to do any wonders to my diet :(

UPDATE .-- I found a recipe for tagliatelle and curry chicken. Yummy! I have always been a fan of pasta with curry. Paesano's (in Richmond) has a mean chicken curry with penne. I am also a fan of Incendio's (Burrard) curry with pasta. But today I'm cooking it with white rice.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

It's all about the equipment installment # 7

Despite how miserable this weather is, I am still trying to run every day. Primarily because it makes me feel energized, keeps me fit and allows me to have some cardiovascular resistance for my volleyball games. It also helps me keep my weight at bay (I lost about 20 pounds in the last couple of months and been able to keep them away with exercise and diet).

Running in the cold rain is bad as is, but there are two pieces of equipment that make it better. One, the iPod that Nomade Moderne gave me (which now, thanks to my newfound knowledge of iTunes, contains my favorite songs in a playlist) and two, the iPod arm brace that LSF gave me for my birthday.

In previous weeks I found that I could run with the iPod in my hand, but it was awkward. Now I can run and listen to music (which makes it all better). This particular arm band also has a belt clip that allows me to go out while wearing street clothes and listen to my iPod.

Monday, September 24, 2007

I'm disappointed

I was hoping to see the 2007 AIDS Walk for Life (which took place right at the same time as the BC Tour of Courage) in the front page of at least one or two major newspapers. But that wasn't the case. Admittedly, I am a big supporter of cancer research, and I was also one of the bloggers who encouraged people to attend. But as it usually happens when many events happen at the same time, I always find that some newspapers put different stories on their front page. There's always that degree of diversity. But every paper I read (including Metro and 24Hrs) had Lance Armstrong and a story about the BC Tour of Courage. No reference whatsoever to the AIDS Walk.

I am a big supporter of both causes and would have liked to see the Vancouver Sun or the Province at least to pick up on the story. AIDS is still a major pandemic and many Vancouver people are affected, so every effort that is made to prevent the spread of this disease should be promoted. Hopefully the AIDS Walk will receive some coverage in the next few days.

So long, good weather

So this is what the rest of the year is going to look like, huh? I had to wear a sweater AND a jacket on top of my t shirt today. The weather was horrible. Despite what my friend J says (yesterday he was wearing shorts and t shirt), I can't cope with less than 15 oC or I feel like I am freezing. And if this is the kind of weather that we are going to have in Vancouver for the rest of the year, I am toast. Darn it!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Restaurant review - Swiss Chalet (Boundary and Lougheed Highway)

In more than a decade living in Canada, I had never set foot on Swiss Chalet. It was always funny to hear the commercials and see the postings for new employees (the branch on Broadway and almost Balaclava is fairly new). But I never actually thought of eating there. So when J suggested that we try it out (given that it's sort of a family place) I thought "heck, why not?". So off we went. I have to say that the portions are generous, the food is fairly good (you can't go wrong with rotisserie chicken, baked potato and garden salad with balsamic vinaigrette) and inexpensive. The dry ribs with honey garlic were very tasty too :) Honestly, I will go back to Swiss Chalet, even if it sounds corny!

Swiss Chalet Rotisserie & Grill (Lougheed Hwy) in Burnaby

Restaurant review - Marpole Grill

While usually my Friday nights are dedicated to dinner with B & C, this weekend we switched our schedule as to accommodate some of my own personal affairs (namely, dealing with work stuff and decompressing). So we set on brunch down in Marpole. Now, I know that Marpole is close enough to them (since they live in Richmond) and to me (it's less than 40 minutes commute, very doable and this area is very well connected - 99 B-Line then 98 B-Line).

So I had to find a place to have brunch there and the only one that I could find was Marpole Grill. I didn't know anything about this place since I rarely go to the Granville and 70th Avenue area, but I am glad we did have breakfast here. B and C treated me to a great brunch. The Marpole Grill is located at 67th Avenue and Granville, it's very well decorated (classy and elegant).

It is well attended (we saw a myriad of senior people, but I think that's just a coincidence) and the waitress was super sweet and very prompt with water and coffee. We had to wait a bit for our orders to come, but I think it was the result of the fact that Marpole Grill has just recently come under new management.

I would come back to the Marpole Grill for brunch for sure. The food was very good, and the service was actually impeccable. If only our brunch had arrived sooner! But that wasn't the waitress' fault, I think they are just experiencing what C indicated "teething pains".

Saturday, September 22, 2007

I'm very privileged

I am a lucky guy. I really am. I just came back from a wonderful birthday celebration with some of my close friends. For one reason or another, several of my good friends were unable to join me tonight but many of them did. We went for dinner at La Bodega (a Spanish restaurant that I've reviewed before on my blog) and then for a drink to 1181 (a bar on Davie Street that has awesome drinks). I had such a great time. I think that I am very lucky to have the friends I do. While admittedly I tend to be self-centered (because, you know, it's all about me), I just told my friends a truth that is always on the back of my mind: I did not have a life to go back to. I always have had a life, and my friends have always been a part of it. Again, thank you. Thank you very much.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Restaurant review - Mirchi Restaurant Ltd (Marpole)

There are three types of food that I never get tired of: Indian (e.g. curry chicken and rice), Ethiopian (e.g. injera and yedoro tebs) and Italian (e.g. penne a la puttanesca). Mirchi is one of those reliable places you can go to if you want amazing Indian food. Located around 63rd Avenue and Granville. Their curry is not for the faint of heart, though. I went there with L and K for dinner, and while we ate as much as we wanted to (and still managed to down a mango lassi), my stomach was a bit upset. It wasn't because of the quality of the food (which is good) but because I ate way too much and it was a tad spicy. But if you can handle hot food, Mirchi is one good place to go to in Marpole.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Support worthy causes this and next weekend

I am beginning to understand the challenges of trying to stay on top of things, as I almost forgot to promote three events that I strongly support. So without further ado, here they are...
  • The AIDS Walk for Life Vancouver takes place this Sunday too, September 23rd, at Stanley Park. Registration begins at 8.30 am and the walk begins at 11 am. This is a cause I have supported since long ago, and recently I Blogathoned for A Loving Spoonful, a charity that provides meals for people living with HIV/AIDS. Please show your support! Most likely, I will be doing the walk with a group of my close friends.
  • The CIBC Run for the Cure happens on September 30th, this event is in support of the fight against breast cancer. Both Rebecca and John will be participating in the run (I'll be cheering online! and might show up in person), so head over to their pages to sponsor them (click on the links above).

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Music Review - Heartbreak Hotel (Whitney Houston)

I hadn't listened to the Elvis Presley version of Heartbreak Hotel (I know - a sacrilege - sorry!) but I found a song with the same name by Whitney Houston recently and I really liked it, since it sounds so sexy and calming. This is not the best song I've heard of Whitney Houston but it certainly qualifies as one of those I really enjoy listening to. The video starts here:

Music Review - Because of You (Reba McEntire and Kelly Clarkson)

As mentioned before, I rarely watch TV, but recently I was watching a broadcast chat between Reba McEntire and Kelly Clarkson, where they were discussing that they kept in touch via email and what not. I kept wondering this until I switched channels and noticed that they had done a duo. I don't follow nor listen to country music myself, although some friends of mine do. But I like this song, included in Reba McEntire's "Reba's Duets" forthcoming album. This version is excellent. I loved Kelly Clarkson's version but I saw this video recently and it made me like this song even more. Yes, it does remind me of someone. No, you can't ask who :)

When being a hummingbird is not so great

I've been nicknamed 'hummingbird' since about 2002 due to my propensity to do things fast and quick. I am lucky enough to have photographic memory, I touch type over 60 words per minute and I speed-read. I have also been considered unhealthy for people with low tolerance for sugar because I am too sweet.

The unfortunate part is that, as a hummingbird, I often tend to make on-the-spot, rushed decisions that not only do not save time but also make me waste money. That was the case with a misunderstanding of the Translink information system that led me to miss the bus 160 to Port Coquitlam.

The 160 would have taken me directly to the Harry Jerome Sports Centre in Burnaby Mountain. I tried to catch up using desperate measures, including switching to the 19 Metrotown, taking the Skytrain to Broadway Station, switching to the Millenium Line eastbound from Commercial Station to Sperling and then taking the 134 Brentwood Mall bus north on Sperling to Kensington and Hastings. As the 134 was turning left, we saw the 160 pass right in front of us.

My frustration increased because I was late for volleyball try-outs and thus I had to take a cab, which cost me less than $ 8.00 CND but still, it was stupid of me because of my lack of patience. Had I been patient enough, I would have not had to pay for a cab, hustle and rush through the transit system to try and catch up to a bus that clearly I wasn't even going to be able to catch up to. Even though I would have arrived a bit later than I anticipated, if I had waited patiently for 30 minutes, I could have taken the 160 without any problems.

I did make it to try-outs reasonably on time because the position I was trying for had been delayed, and I had a really great time (although I was exhausted by mid-afternoon and needed a nap). Having had competitive experience before, I was still surprised by how rusty I was in some areas and how well my body remembers how to do certain things despite the amount of time I've spent not playing volleyball.

Photo source: The Selvatura Canopy Tour Monteverde website.

Viva Mexico!

I didn't attend any of the Mexican Independence Day celebrations in Vancouver, although I did try to find some scoop (by the way, did anybody go? How was it?) for a lot of people in Vancouver (I am assuming, either Mexican or of Mexican heritage) who were desperately Googling for information. I walked by Zocalo on Main Street and apparently there was some sort of celebration. At any rate, Feliz Dia de la Independencia y que viva Mexico!


By the way, Rebecca @ invited me to do a guest blog post on Mexican food in Vancouver! I felt very honored and flattered, and I do hope that my suggestions are helpful. Mosey over to her blog to find my guest post. Thanks Rebecca!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Music Review - Uptown by Aya (Original Version)

Few songs make me dance around like Uptown by Aya. Her style is amazing and the song just transports me to good times. This is the traditional version but the Trentemoller version is just as fun. This song could very well be my "emblematic song" if it weren't because it's too deep house and some people who think of me as the never-tiring hummingbird might think this is not my style of music. However, it is!

So much for not blogging more over the weekend!

Restaurant review - Addis Cafe

This will probably be my last blog post of the weekend as I have a gazillion things to do (unless I get bored with work in which case I might blog again). But I can't leave this one out of print (or online publication) because I had been wanting to go for Ethiopian food at Addis Cafe on Commercial Drive for a long while.

My good friend NW and I hadn't seen each other in a few years (unbelievable considering that we live in the same city and very close neighbourhoods -- but bear in mind I had been away from Vancouver for a couple of years too). N and I share very similar views, and in some ways, there's a lot of work that we do that is similar.

Anyhow, we agreed to meet here for lunch. Ethiopian food is very social and I've become sort of the "guy to ask about where to eat Ethiopian in Vancouver" with my friends and colleagues, so I am pretty confident that I know almost every place that serves this type of food.

The staff were super sweet (I am not sure if they're the owners, but definitely had the feeling that they were). The great advantage: they take credit cards, debit or cash. N was kind enough to treat me to lunch which I really appreciated, but more than that, it was the opportunity to catch up that made the occasion special.

We ordered a vegetarian combo with chicken (5 veggie items and the chicken in the middle). I absolutely loved it. I found the veggie portions a little smaller than I have tried at, for example, Red Sea Cafe and Fassil on Broadway and Fraser but the flavour was great. I couldn't finish eating simply because I was so full.

The great thing about NW and I is that we're able to synthesize what has happened in our lives in a few minutes. We both have MBA training and thus know the value of transmitting our ideas across within a very short time frame. It pretty much took an hour and a half to catch up on the last few years and we both promised we'd get together much more often now.

I also should credit NW with a few lessons (I am not sure she knows I learned all this from here but here they are...
  • How to itemize my work into discrete units (she's great at it).
  • The value of good writing (she's an excellent writer).
  • The value of good people skills (she's fantastic to network with!)
It was a great experience, so the good food was just a nice added touch. "Icing on the cake" as they would say.

Addis Cafe in Vancouver

TV show review - The Smart Woman Survival Guide

I rarely watch TV, considering that I have too much work (and I rarely turn on my TV anyways). But on rare occasions, I find myself at home at 11 am on a Saturday and I turn on the Woman's network (Channel 19, Vancouver cable). Once, I watched a really funny show called "The Smart Woman Survival Guide". This show depicts the behind-the-scenes lives of the creators of 'Smart Woman', a how-to, lifestyle kind of TV show. So it is a show about a show. Would be ridiculous if it wasn't so funny. Watch it and let me know what you think. I couldn't embed a snippet of the show, but you can watch here the YouTube video that shows how the cast and crew pronounce the boss' name (Lana).

Coffee shop review - Bean Around the World Coffees

I am a big supporter of local business, and to be frank, I always had a soft sport for Bean Around the World. One great thing about this particular location on Main and 20th is that it's really close to me and other colleagues, and I thus I can hold work meetings or just relax with a coffee.

Bean Around the World has wireless internet, and a large patio. I would say best place to do work around the Main area, but there are other coffee shops that are so cute. JJ Bean, The Grind, Cuppa Joe and Waves. And the coffee is really good!

Furthermore, BATW has a card similar to Starbuck's with which you can pay your drinks. I quickly proceeded to buy one as I never carry cash with me. So, all around, fun to go to this BATW, I recommend this coffee shop!
Bean Around the World in Vancouver

Upcoming event - Alex Alegria, celebrate Mexican Independence Day

So I did find some scoop. Apparently, Alex Alegria (creator of an all-girls Mariachi band) and his group are giving a performance at La Casa del Artista in Mount Pleasant. You can check the Upcoming webpage for details. You can find La Casa del Artista at 150 East 3rd. Avenue (3rd. between Main and Quebec, if my geography doesn't fail me). I am sure it will be fun.

Mexico's Independence Day

According to Wikipedia, the War of Independence to free Mexico from Spain started on September 16th, 1810. If I recall my history books properly, we were taught that the war itself started at midnight, and thus in Mexico both days are taken as half-holiday and holiday respectively (Sep 15th and 16th). While the English entry in Wikipedia is not that bad, I really like the Spanish version. It's much more complete and filled with details.

What surprises me is that in Canada and the US, so many people celebrate May 5th (Cinco de Mayo) as the Mexican Independence Day. In Mexican history, this is relatively a minor holiday (the Battle of Puebla) compared to September 16th. Some people in Canada and the US consider it a celebration of Mexican heritage (according to the Wikipedia entry) but I always wonder how would Canadians feel if Mexicans started celebrating Victoria Day instead of Canada Day :)

At any rate, tomorrow is a day to celebrate and I am not sure why I haven't seen any promotionals from the Mexican consulate in Vancouver in regards to celebrations. Last year, there were lots of parties organized around the theme, but I haven't seen anything this time around. Anyone has any scoop?

UPDATE - In light of the recent comments, I tried to search for Mexican events at the Plaza of Nations, but didn't find anything. That being said, HURRY to the Rocky Mountaineer Station for a 6pm doors opening start of the Mexican Grito. Here is the scoop:

El Grito en Vivo
Rocky Mountaineer Station
1775 Cotterell Street
(off Terminal Avenue - you can walk from Main St. Skytrain station)

And also, as I mentioned before, there seems to be another event at

La Casa del Artista
150 East 3rd Avenue
(between Main and Quebec)
[Apparently El Mariachi Mexico is playing there]

These events should give me a percentage of the revenue for re-directing traffic to their events! (just kidding hehe). Hope everyone enjoys the celebrations. I can't go to either event as I have too much work. But please leave a comment on the comments section and do tell me how these events were.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Computers are stupid.

My computer is currently on battery and she really thinks she is plugged to the AC power. That's really funny. I am sorry, but computers are stupid. She hasn't shown any issues with power, although I know for a fact that she's pretty much going to complain when she has none (or simply shut down).

Does love mean knowing when to say you're sorry?

I caught a glimpse of a TV show (I rarely watch TV but this was a rare occurrence before heading out to work) where the main character was writing a spiel about the popular phrase "Love means never having to say you're sorry" (immortalized by the amazing movie Love Story with Ryan O'Neal and Ali McGraw).

The truth is, I agree with what the TV show character said... in a nutshell, he basically said that love means knowing how to say you're sorry. I wanted to make a more nuanced proposal... love means knowing WHEN to say you're sorry. A few times I have been stubborn and refused to apologize because I thought I was right. But truth be told, I am just human, and sometimes I am wrong (dead wrong I'd say). So I am grateful when I have the good sense to apologize at the right time. I just hope to always be able to do that!

Movie review - 2 Days in Paris

Since we hadn't hung out in a while, J, B and I decided to stick to our Wednesday movie nights and go out to Fifth Avenue Cinemas, one of the Festival Cinemas (on Burrard and 5th Avenue) to see 2 Days in Paris. I rarely come down to this movie theatre since I moved to East Vancouver, but last night I almost fainted and realized why I don't come here. $12 for a movie ticket! WOWZA.

I am sorry, when I can see movies at the Hollywood Theatre for $3-$5 and at other theatres such as the Rio on Broadway and Dunbar for $8 (and that's full price), I get discouraged when I get charged 12 bucks. That being said, I did get a discount ;) so I am not going to rant that much. Plus it's always so nice to hang out with B and J.

Anyhow, if you have not visited Paris, don't know French culture or have a dislike for strange movies (this one does remind me from Woody Allen's style), don't go see it. You *do* need to understand French culture to some extent.

The movie is both co-produced and directed by Julie Delpy, who in my mind is one of the best contemporary French actresses. Marion (Delpy) has been living in New York and dating Jack (Adam Goldberg), although it would seem from the start that they are so opposite there is no reason why they should be dating.

On the way back from an unsuccessful vacation in Venice, they decide to stop in Marion's hometown, Paris, for a couple of days. Obviously they have to deal with Marion's crazy mother and father and the endless list of former flings that she had in the past (before meeting Jack, apparently). He quickly grows jealous and disaster (and hilarity) ensues. You have to watch it to understand it. While crazy funny, it is also poignant and touching at times.

Another reason why I loved this movie is because it is set in Paris. I missed a chance to see "Paris, Je t'aime" and I wish I hadn't, so I wasn't about to give up another chance to see Paris in film. I am in love with the city, have spent a substantial part of my life there and I think I would like to move there at some point. For now, Vancouver is my home. Nevertheless, Paris is always in my heart. Great movie, "2 Days in Paris". You should go see it.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Restaurant review - Sha Lin Noodle House

I went to Sha Lin Noodle House a couple of weeks back with A, because she was feeling not very well yet hungry, so we headed to Broadway and Cambie for lunch. Now, if it was up to me, I probably would have just made her chicken soup, but she likes this place.

Another strange quirk of mine: I dislike Chinese food, in general. I can do a couple of dishes here and there, but for the most part, I don't like it at all. Bad memories from living in residence. That being said, the gyozas and noodle soups here (they call them pulled noodle soup) are just unbelievable, and not expensive. I can see how A really likes this place, and she is not the only one. I found a review of Sha Lin Noodle House on Beyond Robson as well!

Sha Lin Noodle House in Vancouver

Weekend roundup

So I was in Montreal this past weekend, thus I contacted my friend SF who just recently moved there. It was a rather sweet reunion as we parted ways not too long ago, and since we are very close friends, we missed each other terribly. Saturday started with a walk around the Plateau area, followed by a pitcher of beer at some random bar. I love Montreal all around, and of all the places I knew in Montreal this area was the most mellow.

We then walked around until we found the restaurant with the best Mexican food I've ever been to: Tamales. Owned by Mexicans (who, to my surprise, were fluent in all three languages), this place has the closest thing to authentic Mexican food that I've tasted in my life in Canada. Apparently there are lots of Mexican restaurants in Montreal!

After that we walked down St. Denis and St. Laurent. As we walked by, we bumped into a cute chocolate fondue place. Our conversation was something like this:
"R - Hmmmm.... Chocolate... What'cha think?
S - Let's do it!
R - I'm down!"
You can't really use too many words with chocolate :) hehehe. That's one of the things I enjoy the most about my friends. If we need to improvise or we make decisions "on-the-go", they'll go ahead and join me in my adventures. SF is like this, and that's awesome... Anyhow, the fondue was unbelievably good. Who cares about the calories?

Finally we ended up walking back and taking the Metro to her place, which is starting to get a home feeling. It was an honor, and she wouldn't let me pay anything!!!! So I hope I have the chance to spoil her when she comes back for a visit.

I would write a restaurant review for Tamales, but since I doubt any of my readers will be travelling to Montreal any time soon, I will not. But if anyone needs some guidance, I'll be happy to share what I learned during my travels in Montreal. Ah, the Sin City... :) [disclaimer: I did not sin while there!]

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Are you a night owl like me?

Ok, so here is something I already knew. Duh!

You Are a Night Person

For you, there's nothing worse than having to get up and moving early.
In fact, you probably don't hit your peak until well after the sun has set.
So if your struggling to make it on a normal schedule, realize it's not your fault.
You just weren't meant to do anything during the day!

Anybody who knows anything about me knows that I am the worst morning person ever. Are you a morning or an evening person?

Monday, September 10, 2007

Upcoming event - Navigate the Streets (Vancouver edition)

I've been reading on several blogs about urban races and so on (see Miss604's post on her participation in The Amazing Race Surrey) and I am so tempted to try and do Navigate the Streets Vancouver edition. My friends are geeky enough that I can do this and I've always dreamed of phoning my friends and ask them to locate information through their computers (sort of what Oracle does for The Huntress and Black Canary) so I am seriously thinking about this. Anyone want to team up with me for this event? Even if you don't team up with me, would you be willing to be sitting at your computer and be available for information sharing?

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Blog Action Day 2007

I was perusing Darren Barefoot's blog just briefly and I came across his commentary on Blog Action Day on October 15th, 2007. Given that my blog is "Random Thoughts of a Student of the Environment", it would be a bit dumb if I didn't blog on that day. So I decided to write a little bit about it.

As taken from Blog Action Day's website:
On October 15th, bloggers around the web will unite to put a single important issue on everyone’s mind - the environment. Every blogger will post about the environment in their own way and relating to their own topic. Our aim is to get everyone talking towards a better future.
I have previously blogged for a charity although I did that for A Loving Spoonful (see my Blogathon 2007 posts). I think I am going to do the same again (although luckily, this time I don't need to blog 24 hours straight!). I will, however, commit to at least 12 blog posts throughout the day (on average one an hour) and I will try to send this to my colleagues who work in the environmental field.

I often do post about issues of sustainability and the environment, since that's what I do for most of my waking hours so this seems fitting. Since I'm sort of a non-geeky, newbie kind of blogger I may fail miserably at inserting the banner in my blog, so just don't laugh :) Thanks to Darren for pointing this out. And don't worry Darren, I will remind you a few days in advance :)

I'm out-peopled

This is so out-of-character for me. Anybody who knows me even a little bit knows that I am a people person. I seek the company of people, I enjoy having a good time with friends and I am always on the look-out for new acquaintances/friendships. So, it's strange for everyone who knows me well enough to hear me say that I'm "out-people-d".

My good friend Nomade Moderne has hung out with me when this happens to me, and he knows all too well that I normally avoid large crowds or groups of people when I am feeling like I need space. The great thing about this, he is so laid back and relaxed, that I feel very much at ease. When I feel "engentado" (out-peopled), I still hang out with one or two close friends, but for the most part, I cocoon. Again, I can't stress this enough, this is not normal for me. But after having been at a 5,000 people conference, I am really needing space.

So, to my friends and family: don't worry if I pull a Greta Garbo on you -- I will be back :) [the origin of this phrase, which I have used when I disappear from people's sight for a few days, is derived from the silent film star - legend says that she disappeared from the public eye and she is often quoted as having said these famous last words: "I want to be left alone"]. I have to confess that I never have read Garbo's auto-biography but I can totally understand why she would need space from public scrutiny.

I will of course still blog and will see my close friends, but I may avoid large crowds, so I may not say yes to parties or much socialization this week! :)

And I am back...

After four days of sensory overload and too much people (I am really out-peopled by now), I am back. It'll take me a few days to recover and try to blog about everything I did/see in Montreal, but bear with me :)

Things that I really appreciated during this trip:
  • The hospitality of Nomade Moderne and his parents, who let me stay at their place.
  • The kindness, sweetness and overall super energy from SF, my friend who recently moved to Montreal and who treated me to drinks, dinner and lots of fun.
  • The overall beauty of the city. This is such a great city, and there is so much to do here.
  • Saint Denis. This street is so vibrant! Well, all the city is vibrant for that matter.
  • Being able to function in French again. I rarely have to speak French in Vancouver, so it was great to force myself to do it.
  • The ability to travel lightly. I have traveled so much that I now know how many clothes I have to pack, and I have now a super sturdy backpack that allows me to carry my laptop with me everywhere.
  • The intellectual discussions. Ah, it's fun to be paid to learn.
  • Montrealers. They were so sweet, so understanding when I was not speaking French properly, so patient and such good sports. I really love people from Montreal.
  • The architecture and the city in itself. Can't beat this city (well, maybe Quebec City?) on that account.
  • The transportation system (particularly the Metro). It was a breeze to get from point A to point B in no time.
Things that I did not like during this trip:
  • The guy who wanted to fight with me on the street right across from Concordia University. You know, I could've kicked his ass with my right hand tied to my back, but just the thought of a mob attacking me after having fought with this guy was a bit too scary.
  • The annoying second-hand smoking. God, does every person in Montreal smoke and do they need to do so right in front of me?
  • The lack of respect for people crossing the streets. I almost got run over. Ten times. That's a little bit too much.
  • The weather, because was a bit too hot and humid. And I had to wear a suit as I had to present at the conference. Not fun.
  • The forced tips. "My service is not included in the bill" WHAT?
  • Food and cab prices. OMG. This city may be cheaper in regards to housing, but as far as food and cabs, this beats anything I've seen recently.
  • A screaming kid on the plane on the way to Montreal and the guy who took over two seats in my row on the way back. Not nice.
What I would do differently next time:
  • Give myself two days to recover from sensory overload. But I will stay in Montreal, because I am sure I will appreciate the city more if I rest a couple of days and then hit the streets.
  • Practice my French a few days before I head to Montreal.

Overall, it was great. I had a fabulous time hanging out with SF and I really enjoyed the conference. Now back to reality!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Too much on my plate right now

Sorry to disappoint my loyal readers but I am swamped and at a conference so I really can't blog. I am also having a severe case of sensory overload as I am in Montreal and this city is just way too beautiful, way too intense, way too much. Even hummingbirds get tired. So I'll blog when I get back to Vancouver. Enjoy your weekend!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

My darkest secrets revealed...

As we say in Spanish, "si lo sabe Dios, que lo sepa el mundo" (if God knows about it, let the world know about it too)... This weekend, while chatting with my friend LM, I told her that even though a lot of people have said that I have done it all (my good friend Nomade Moderne said it a few times and I've felt really flattered), it's time I come out of the closet and say that I haven't done it all... Yes, it is true.

Up until two weeks ago, and despite my being trained as a bartender... I had NEVER opened a bottle of wine with a standard corkscrew. Yes. I am ashamed. I am so sorry for keeping this secret for so long... You'll see... when I bar-tended, I never had the need to open a bottle of wine. One of the servers or other bartenders would open the bottle for me (provided I batted my eye-lashes before and gave them my heart-melting mega-watt smile). So when Copper Lioness asked me to be her bartender at her two parties, I had to face my fears of screwing up and had to open the bottles of wine. And I did it... all by my lonesome. I successfully opened four bottles of wine without any external help.

And my second darkest secret... up until January 2007, I had NEVER tied my own tie knots. My brothers or Dad did them for me, and then I just travelled around the world with a handful of pre-tied tie knots. I am also ashamed to say this, but since it's out in the open, I thought I would just confirm the rumours. Yes, up until January of 2007, I did not tie my own knots. Now I do, thanks to YouTube! Faced with an impending talk, I came home only to find that none of my ties fit my new suit. So I had to quickly find on YouTube how to tie a knot and ... luckily, there he was! He taught me to do my tie properly.

So, while it is true that in my life, I have accomplished a lot and I have done a lot, up until this year, I still had two things I hadn't done and I had to conquer my fears. And I did it! I now can confidently uncork wines and do my own tie knots. :-)

Building a more sustainable food system - Upcoming event

For the longest time, I have tried to attend events at the Light House Sustainable Building Centre (located at 1575 Johnson Street on Granville Island). However, what I regret the most is that I always have a conflicting event when they have events that I really want to go ... and this is the case for September 8th, 2007. From 2-4 pm, Andre LaRiviere will speak about "Building a More Sustainable Food System". Basically, the talk will be about "green restaurants", the kind of work I want to do in the future.

This is the abstract of the talk (obtained from the Light House email list-serve)...
What defines a "green" restaurant? It starts with the conscious desire of a growing number of chefs and restaurateurs for clear, measurable steps to effectively reduce their operations’ impact on the environment. This seminar will focus on the topic of making sustainable choices when dining out, whether for a take-out or sit-down meal. Participants will also be given tips on how to bring these sustainable initiatives from the restaurant to their home kitchen
I really would love to attend, but I can't. Can somebody go and tell me how it was?

Monday, September 03, 2007

Shannon Falls & The Chief - My favorite places

A decade ago, a good friend of mine took me to Shannon Falls for the first time. I am pretty sure she did it not only because she is a great person but also because she wanted to showcase the beauty of British Columbia. After doing the Shannon Falls hike for the first time, I simply fell in love with hiking (although this is not by any measure an easy hike).

Over the summer, I have done very few hikes (not because I don't want to but because I have been so busy). So today was a great opportunity to do this hike again. J and I had done it a couple of times before, but this was the first time we had to do The Chief. The reason behind this? Between the last time we did Shannon Falls together and this year, the main Shannon Falls has been de-activated. This is a pity because I thoroughly enjoyed this trail and it gave me the opportunity to be in the near vicinity of the water falls.

So off we went to do the Stawamus Chief hike. Both Shannon Falls Provincial Park and Stawamus Chief Provincial park are adjacent. Known generally as "The Chief", the hike is not an easy one. It's not as challenging as the Grouse Grind, but there are a few things you need to consider:
  • Bring good hiking footwear. Both First Peak and Second Peak require climbing using chains and metal stairs, and on the way back, you really need to find places to hang on to. In my case, I had running shoes but the design of my shoes' sole increased the traction and therefore I was able to climb down relatively easily.
  • Bring enough water. One litre wasn't enough for me. I would have done better with two.
  • Bring a sweater/rain gear. It was raining when we started the hike and on the way back, I felt cold.
  • Bring a small first-aid kit. Because there are so many sharp rocks both on the way up and down, you may want to bring some Band-aids, antiseptic, etc. Not because this is a dangerous trail at all, just because having a first-aid kit is a good idea in general.
After the hike (we only did First Peak and Second Peak) we headed over to Mountain woMan Take Out. I am not kidding you, that's the name of the restaurant (it's located near on the Britannia Beach site, close to the British Columbia Museum of Mining, both amenities I have been to in the past). At Mountain woMan you will find great (and inexpensive!) fish and chips, burgers and other munchies. I read somewhere that this was voted the second best fish-and-chips in British Columbia. I don't doubt it!

Story says that when the current owner (Lynne Cook) got separated from her partner, she had to add the two letters to the name of the restaurant, because nobody would believe she was a man, of course ..."hey, you're not the mountain man!"... so now the place is called Mountain woMan. Click here if you want to read more about this restaurant.

Overall it was a great experience. Few things are better than doing a good hike with a good friend. I love getting out of the city, and on the way back, I was reflecting on the fact that I rarely leave Vancouver. Although I should say that I have started to know more of Richmond now that B and C live there. I know my way around Burnaby a fair bit (thanks to Metrotown and J, who used to live there), and North Vancouver is also a municipality where I know how to get around. I should probably head more towards Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, etc. in the near future.

Another great weekend in Vancouver

If at some point I complain that my social schedule is way too packed, please slap me. This is precisely the kind of weekend I enjoy. Not too full with activities, but just enough to give me time and space to catch up.

My weekend though started early (Thursday), and with a bang. LB and I went for drinks at Cactus Club. This is a great pub to hang out, they have killer bellinis and the company was absolutely amazing. LB is one of those women who chooses to be great and knows that about herself. She is aware that she is a star, and her self-confidence shows. Plus, she is a total sweetheart. We had an awesome time, and after a couple drinks, I walked her back home.

Friday started with lunch with J at Sodas. Ah, Sodas... how can I not love you? The owner knows me already by name, and he knows that J and I go there all the time for lunch (their burgers are unbelievably good). So when I mentioned that I wanted my VIP Card, the owner kindly gave us two smoothies for free as a token of appreciation for being loyal customers. J just shook his head, because he still wonders how can I get away with these things? Well, I get away with these things because of my eye-lash batting powers :-) Hehehe...

Then I had coffee with BA, where we had a chance to catch up about what was going on. It's always great to see her, for a myriad of reasons. Then I had dinner with B and C and J at Kishu Mountain (sushi). I've previously mentioned that B and C are very protective of both J and myself. They enjoy taking on the role of mentors, and always have great advice. Plus their sense of humour is amazing. They are perhaps the only people with whom I see J open up and laugh a lot. J is very smart and he has a really sarcastic sense of humour, even though he tends to be more shy than I am (well, technically, I am NOT shy at all).

Saturday I had brunch with LM at Joe's Grill on Davie Street. We got to meet "the woman who knows what's going on" and not "the guy who is in charge". Joe's Grill is one of my top restaurants for brunch. The food is great, and the service is amazing. I had an opportunity to chat with the staff and servers and I can't believe how they keep their cool even though they have to deal with a lot of customers. Kudos to them. LM and I always have this type of outings: we just get things done. So she needed to go out and buy computer stuff, and we simply took a drive and went where she could buy her stuff. She's very sweet and her sense of humor is totally aligned with mine. And she gets to hear all my adventures.

Sunday I met with LF for brunch at Crave on Main. Oh, Crave... brunch to-die-for. LF and I are both food snobs (foodies as they say) so we rarely settle when we decide to go out for brunch or dinner. LF is perhaps one of the few people who can scold me and still get away with it, because I know she does it because she loves me (like brother and sister).

After brunch I met with A for lunch although by then I already had eaten. She wasn't feeling all too well and she needed food. A and I are like siblings as well, and we enjoy that (plus we get to gossip in Spanish). She wanted lunch so she settled on noodle soup so we went to this place on Broadway near Cambie that serves it (and as I told A, I have already forgotten the name of the damn place -- I should've written it down). Then I walked her home and hung out for a bit, but I had work to do and she needed to rest so I left.

Finally, Sunday night was dinner with C and H which took place on Commercial Drive (the post below will show my restaurant review). Ah, but one additional item: we met at The End Cafe, which is "like, the coolest place". Located at the corner of Grandview and Commercial, it has live jazz on Sunday nights from 7 to 9 pm. This place is definitely going to be my next hangout. The place really rocks.

So you may wonder -- how the heck do I get work done with this kind of social life? Well, two tricks: One, I always carry my laptop with me wherever I go. Two, I know this city well enough to be able to quickly find coffee shops with wireless. So I can work in between appointments all the time. And really, it's not like I hang out with my friends like this all the time. This was Labor Day weekend!

Restaurant review - Bouzyos

As I had mentioned before, Commercial Drive is highly underrated. There are few places in the world where I feel more at ease than walking on the Drive. It's a real mosaic of multiculturalism. On the Drive, you will find just about any type of food you want (Ethiopian, Tunisian, Greek, Nepalese, Mexican, and of course, Italian).

I had the pleasure of going out for dinner with H and C and we quickly settled on Greek (given my absolute dislike for cheese, Greek food is relatively cheese-free, with the exception of feta cheese - but that one is easily removable). So we headed to Bouzyos, a Greek taverna where I had previously had dinner with my brother a couple of years ago (ah, good times! -- that was perhaps one of the best dinners I had had in ages).

Bouzyos is Greek-owned, and it shows in the food. We ordered dolmathes and tzatziki for appetizers and in my case, I had lemon chicken with the works: rice, potato, tzatziki and Greek salad. In C and H's case, they ordered moussaka and souvlaki respectively. Of course, by the time we were done, we basically were so full it was almost impossible to walk. But we had such a good time!

I would strongly recommend Bouzyos, the food is excellent and great service. I would say, though, that the atmosphere is relatively un-Greek. We were listening to 80's music (extremely well chosen, quite frankly, but it was kind of weird to listen to former top-40 pop hits while eating Greek food).

It was great to see C again (we had brunch a few months back at Paul's but now C is here to stay for a longer period of time), and it is really heart-warming to see H and C behave like total lovebirds (*giggles*). Their relationship does give me hope that LDRs (long-distance-relationships) can work out if you put the effort into them.

Bouzyos in Vancouver

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Some truths about love...

Amado Nervo is one of my favorite Mexican poets. In 2003, I emailed the Spanish version of "En Paz" (At Peace) to a former partner of mine. Painfully, my ex never understood what the poem meant to me. But as I was backing up my laptop, I came across the transcript of a conversation I had with a very good friend of mine who made this comment:

"Amado Nervo wasn't that smart when talking about love. People love you the way they want to love you, the way they CAN love you [as in, the way they are capable of loving you] and the way they KNOW how to love. People will never be able to love you the way you need or want to be loved"

The more I reflect on this, the more I believe this is true. Having expectations of people only creates disappointments. But on the other hand, not having any expectations doesn't seem like the way to go either. What do you think?

Getting things accomplished - and chores

One of the greatest frustrations in my life is trying to get a lot of work done and feeling not very productive. Nomade Moderne and I have frequently discussed the importance of getting a few small things accomplished and being efficient/effective. Truth be told, it's always a big challenge.

But tonight I found that getting small things done actually helps me be more productive. As I accomplish a number of small goals, I am encouraged to keep working hard and sustain this level of effort. For example, I sent off birthday cards to my parents, mailed rent cheques, paid bills online and did some shopping for items that I actually need, wrote a summary of a paper...

I got numerous small tasks accomplished and that made me feel energized so as to continue working all night long (I am a night owl). I might stop around 4 am or so, but it's still nice to feel that sense of accomplishment.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Why do we need to monitor human behavior?

I was running this morning at Robson Park, which is a non-unleashed-dog park. I had blogged previously about how I found it annoying that dog owners wanted to unleash their dogs in a park where they are supposed to keep their pets leashed. There are other parks in this city where unleashed dogs can run freely. Well, this morning I had two funny incidents. One pet owner stared at me for a good five minutes while I was running. He stood still at a corner of the park, apparently ready to unleash his dog but unsure if he should or not. Had he done it, I probably would have called him on it. Then, after a few minutes, he and his dog left.

A few minutes later, a woman came with a leashed dog, which I thought was cute. After all, she was abiding by the rules. Well, the surprise came a few minutes later when she unleashed her dog, who then proceeded to run around the whole park. The owner seemed amused, but I was really annoyed. So, as I was coming to confront her, she and her dog left.

Both of these incidents have led me to ponder that, unless we monitor human behavior, non-compliance will always one of the default human responses. Even in a society that prides itself in being rule-abiding and law-compliant, we will always find instances of people breaking the law. Some would say, it's human nature.

Now, I don't want to sound prudish. Some rules can and should be flexible. But how hard can it be to follow a rule that says "if you want to let your dog run here, keep it on a leash"? I just wonder...