Old, new, Easter & blue

On Friday, I discovered (rediscovered? I somehow have a feeling that this isn’t the first time I learned it…) that Easter isn’t a big deal in the USA. I mean, I’m sure it’s a big deal for some, but it isn’t a widely observed holiday like it is here in Canada. Here, it’s a holiday on Good Friday AND Easter Monday. For our neighbours to the south, nada. (Sorry for rubbing it in there on Friday, friends! I’d feel bad if you didn’t seem to prioritize holidays like the day after Thanksgiving instead…)

We had a little tea (actually coffee) party-esque Good Friday get together and that was a lot of fun. We bought an amazing loaf from Fratelli Italian Bakery (lemon and raspberry – two of my favourites, but taken to a whole new level!) and got out the good dishes (some – most! – of which had actually already been unpacked a put away) and welcomed our first visitors to the new place. We are far from finished unpacking and settling in,  but we’ve made enough progress that it was good timing. (Also, having just moved lends a certain amount of freedom to be messy that suits me perfectly.)

I was thrilled with this gathering – a lot because I enjoyed spending time with our guests, but also because it was the first significant coming together of something I’d been envisioning for a while. Last year, I started rounding up the vintage dishes that were circulating throughout the homes of family members on both sides. There were plenty in existence, but they were scattered throughout hutches and cupboards of my mom and my aunts. So, I started to ask around and it turned out that it was a common feeling that somebody wished someone would use the stuff, it just wasn’t going to be them.

It’s a funny thing, isn’t it? We all get our hands on these pieces that used to belong to the people who came before us – whether they’re dishes or anything else – and then we just keep them someplace without ever putting them to use. This is, of course, a practice that is becoming more and more antiquated as time passes. We are in a time when people are certainly more motivated to minimize and only keep the things they use or, rather, to use all the things they keep. Like others, I’m working to get better at that. For now, it’s antique dishes. Next, I’m going to get my grandfather’s vintage typewriter refurbished. Yay!

But, back to the dishes. This party was the first time I actually put into practice what I have been dreaming of using old dishes with new accents to create an eclectic feeling when hosting others. This was the first time I remembered my first chance to execute my vision using my great grandmother’s dishes, my grandmother’s tea set and my own silverware plus a few modern pieces that I’ve collected myself. I was so happy!

Today, we spent the day mostly at home until we made a run downtown to pick up dessert for Easter dinner with my family.

I’m going to level with you here: I’m not that into desserts so asking me to be in charge of desserts is not the best idea. It’s probably the worst part of a meal to depend on me for. But we came through after picking up some minis (tiramisu, passionfruit & strawberry cheesecake, macaroon, lemon, salted caramel, london fog) from Trafiq Cafe and Bakery on Main Street.

I also picked up five of the most oddball ingredients – for me – at the grocery store to put together a recipe that is totally out of my wheelhouse, but one that is rich in family history. This was one of only a few things I have memories of my mom’s mom making and it hit my radar because my pal Laura over at Real Momma shared it on her Facebook page earlier in the day: Ambrosia Salad. Five ingredients (only one of them fresh), one action (mixing them all up), a final weird soupy marshmallow concoction that you’ll be forced to admit is delicious in spite of the fact that it is so very, very weird. (70s “cooking” at its finest…)

We aren’t a super conventional family when it comes to holiday meals, though barbecuing has become our own tradition in itself. Be it Christmas, birthdays – summer or winter, Easter and even Thanksgiving once, we light some charcoal and grill. Tonight was no different with beef, fish and plenty of veggies on the menu. If you get the chance to spend time together, does it really matter what you eat?

What are your family’s Easter traditions? What’s your go-to when you’re put in charge of desserts? What family heirlooms do you try to collect? Which ones do you avoid?

Valentines is my love language

I love Valentine’s Day. Always have. As a kid, as an adult, weekday, weekend, single, not single, all of the above. The funny part about saying that is that I’ve never been particular about DOING SOMETHING for Valentine’s Day, it’s more like I just love EMBRACING THE SPIRIT. Because we don’t generally do much. In fact, we never go out – too crowded, and I never ask for gifts – too expensive, (but, okay, I did ask for a spiralizer last year – I really wanted one and I just couldn’t resist when asked), and I don’t even yearn for any romantic gestures. I just like it – the pink, the red, the hearts of a cinnamon nature…

One of my favourite online escapes, A Fanciful Twist,
shared all of their downloadable (and free!) Valentines

Though I’d heard of it in the past, the first time I really came across Gary Chapman‘s “The Five Love Languages” was when it was discussed on the Happier Podcast last year. I was interested in the idea that each of us expresses love and feels loved in a different way.

The five love languages are:

  • Words of Affirmation
  • Quality Time
  • Receiving Gifts
  • Acts of Service
  • Physical Touch

I’ve recently read the book and it expanded on Chapman’s theory. While it’s focused mostly on romantic relationships, I can see how its applicable in relationships of every other kind.

An example: someone who speaks the love language of acts of service may not appreciate when their partner pays them a compliment in the same way someone who speaks words of affirmation. They might feel much more love out of having the house vacuumed by their partner than they would an extravagant gift.

Basically, we all measure love using different currencies.

For me, I’m a quality time love language kind of gal (and after reading the book, I believe in my pretty serious acts of service bent.) Kevin is also a quality time guy with words of affirmation coming in second. (I suspected both of those and confirmed them with him later.)

The discussion on the podcast was interesting. Both hosts identified words of affirmation as their love language and they proceeded to talk about how it’s probably the easiest love language to be partnered with. I remember exactly where I was exactly when I heard it because I reacted so strongly to their statements. Words of affirmation are anything but easy for me. I measure very low in that love language and, as such, I don’t practice it because I’ve never felt much appreciation for it. (They mentioned on a later podcast that they’d heard from several readers who said what I’d thought and recognized their error in judgment.)

So, what’s your love language, you wonder? First, give it some thought. Ponder the list of love languages and see which one you most closely identify with. Once you’ve given it some thought, take the quiz.

Let me know what your results show. I’ll just be over here celebrating with some quality time with my office today and then hopefully a little tonight with my beau as well.

Vegas, Las Vegas

If we’re connected on social media (and if we’re not, why not?) you probably know that we were recently in Vegas on a big old family vacation. Yep, five days with my entire immediate family and +1s made us a traveling pack of six. The basics were all arranged by my brother who fell in love with Sin City after his first trip there a couple of years ago. He surprised all of us with the travel details midway through last year and we’d been looking forward to the vacation ever since.

We departed on Sunday, February 7th aka Super Bowl Sunday. It’s not like that’s quite holiday status in our family, but it’s up there. Of course, this would be the year that one of us had a team appearing in the big showdown and that was my dad, the Carolina Panthers fan. Our arrival in Las Vegas was scheduled for just-in-time-to-miss-the-start-of-the-game o’clock so we had two options: 1. scramble to find a bar or other place to sit and watch the game or 2. get checked in as quickly as we could, hole up in one of our rooms and send scouts out for snacks and beverages. We opted for #2. Let’s not get into how the game played out and the widespread disappointment suffered by the family. Our first night in Vegas was largely dominated by that. We got out and explored our casino, grabbed some pizza and drinks after the game, but the day of travel got the best of us and we were all pretty wiped out.

FullSizeRender-1Caesars Palace lobby

On Monday, we three girls headed to the Qua Baths & Spa at Caesars Palace for a day of relaxation. Complete with four luxurious pools, a steam room (my favourite), sauna, Arctic Ice Room (my second favourite) and beautiful relaxation room for loungey tea, fruit and water breaks, this is a new must for me every time I visit Vegas. Pro tip: bring along your own flip flops (the ones I was given to borrow were NOT comfortable), a good book and plan to be there for a while.

Once we met up with the guys later, we explored a few of the nearby hotels and made our way up to the Monte Carlo where we had dinner and hung around. We checked out the Minus 5 Bar (overpriced, but the boozers said the drinks were fantastic) and then eventually made our way back to our hotel. None of us are really heavy gamblers, but we can all spend some time in the casino or wandering through the other attractions.

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On Tuesday, Kevin and I spent the majority of the day on our own doing a few of the things that we had on our Vegas Bucket List. This included the Big Apple Coaster at New York New York and the High Roller at The Linq. I introduced Kevin my old stomping grounds at the Aria Hotel (that’s where I go for the KronosWorks conference) and we took in many of the Chinese New Year – Year of the Monkey displays around town.

The weather in Vegas was really nice. It was warm enough that all the locals were raving about the temperature, but it was only warm in that spring sort of way that still has a tiny chill to it. Sunglasses were necessary, jackets were not.

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That afternoon, we met up with everyone at the place I think my parents were most excited about for the entire trip – PF Chang’s. They had very fond recollections of enjoying their lettuce wraps and beef and broccoli dish in the times they’d been to Vegas in the past. Me, my PF Chang’s history is rich with memories of visiting Amy in Portland. We way over-ordered at our big round table, but the food was delicious and we packed up the leftovers and handed it off to someone in need on the street.

Fortunately for all of us, we had time to walk the meal off as we headed further up the Strip to Treasure Island where we were seeing Cirque du Soleil’s Mystere that night. My folks had never seen a Cirque show and I was excited to see what they thought. They, of course, loved it. Having seen others, I didn’t think it was the best, but I don’t think it’s possible for them to be bad. For the rest of the night, we split up and got together, split up and got together as we made our way the length of the strip back to the Luxor.

IMG_5172Aria Resort & Casino lobby

I was really happy that our group was well matched because nobody was really clingy and everyone had the freedom to do their thing without having to appease the others. We were all able to break off into pairs and do our own thing without anyone getting their nose out of joint. With so much to do at all times, Vegas definitely makes it easier for groups like ours to mix and mingle throughout their stay.

IMG_5236Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens

Wednesday was the big day and the biggest event of our trip – we took a helicopter ride to the Grand Canyon! We’d booked ahead through Viator and they’d set us up with a four-hour sightseeing tour through Mustang Helicopters. The tour took us to the West Rim of the canyon where we landed to enjoy some leisurely champagne, snacks and picture taking.

If you enjoy flying (which I do) the chance to get in a helicopter is one you won’t want to turn away from. I was lucky that the first time I was ever in a helicopter, it was flown by my amazing friend Rachael who gave me an aerial tour of Austin, Texas. I was pumped to get back into a chopper and because of the size of our group, we got one all to ourselves! (If you don’t enjoy flying – like my brother – it’s a good idea to sit in one of the inner seats of the helicopter. Apparently, there is less jiggling and vibration there.)

There is something about the desert that I just love. Seeing it from above was even more exciting.

We were picked up from our hotel and delivered to the airport in Henderson. From there we flew out over Lake Mead with a quick circle around the Hoover Dam. It took about 45 minutes to get all the way out to the Grand Canyon and it was beautiful! As we flew over the crest of the canyon, the scenery just opened up in front of us. There aren’t words to express how incredible the view really is. It was awesome.

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I think everyone would agree that the Grand Canyon and/or helicopter were the high point of the trip, though there were many good times and fun things.

Once our bus dropped us back off at the hotel, we all went out to do the things we wanted to get done before we left the next afternoon. For the two of us, that meant a great Mexican meal at Tacos & Tequila, exploring the only hotel we hadn’t already seen, buying socks of all things and big, colourful, frozen drinks!

Highlights & must-sees in Las Vegas

Other notes:

  •  I didn’t buy a roaming data plan for the trip because I intended on using free wifi wherever it was available. I was glad because there is wifi everywhere. (Treasure Island was the only hotel where we were asked to pay. How archaic!)
  • We stayed at the Luxor. The rooms are a little dark for my liking and we weren’t too impressed at first, but it grew on us. It was a nice central location with plenty of amenities and the casino was nice to hang out in, but (Super Bowl Sunday aside) never too busy.
  • New York New York was my favourite casino. I don’t really know why, I just liked the vibe. Aria was my favourite hotel.
  • If you’re planning to go to Vegas, check out the myVegas games. By playing slots and blackjack on your phone, tablet or Facebook, you can accumulate points that can actually be used for decent rewards. For this trip alone, we picked up $50 in free play, a ride on the roller coaster, a souvenir photo from our helicopter trip and a breakfast buffet!
  • Chinese New Year was a super fun time to be in town because there were celebrations and decorations everywhere we turned.

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Let me take a moment here to mention that flying out of Abbotsford Airport is a very viable option if you live in the Lower Mainland. Leaving Port Moody at around 8am, it only took us thirty minutes to get there. There were few people there so line-ups weren’t a concern and all amenities were at our fingertips with a snack bar and magazine shop on-site. Also, parking is $9 per day which could be a dealbreaker depending on how long you’re gone.

If you’re planning a visit to Vegas, be careful. That whole ” what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” promise does not extend to everything, evidently. (Thanks for sharing, Barb.)

If you’re a Vegas regular, let me know your favourite spots!