Ten Days in California

Ten Days in California: Favourite Moments

My brother has been living in San Francisco for nearly four years now, which gave me a reason and an opportunity to visit California frequently. Traveling from one major North American City to another might not initially appeal as a true vacation. But, there is something about the West Coast way of life that makes every trip there feel like an exciting and rejuvenating experience.

Here are my ten favourite moments over the ten days I spent in California this May: around LA, San Francisco, and the greater Bay area.

1. Staying on the historic canals in Venice.

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This was my second time staying in this Airbnb right on the canals in Venice. Nothing beats an early morning walk towards the beach through this colourful and unique neighbourhood filled with blooming trees, flowers, succulent beds, and the buzz of hummingbirds.

2. Going to see a play in Los Angeles and spending an evening drinking wine among the dressed up crowd in the plaza outside of the LA Opera.

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3. Exploring the desert garden at the Huntington in Pasadena.

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4. Going for a solo climbing session at Planet Granite in San Francisco.

Planet Granite is the best climbing gym I have visited to date. There are many things to love about this gym: historic Presidio location, large windows overlooking the San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate bridge, posters of the routes on El Cap, VERY tall roped walls, many floors of bouldering walls, a change room with showers and a sauna, an in-shop store the size of a small MEC, the list goes on… What I loved about this particular visit was that I had to go climbing on my own, which is not something I would have been comfortable with even six months ago. I also appreciated being able to go climbing first thing in the morning on a weekday and having almost the entire gym to myself.

5. Going to Readers Bookstore at Fort Mason.

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I go to this bookstore every time I visit San Francisco. The store sells mostly used books as well as some vintage books and posters. Readers Books is located within the historic landmark Fort Mason, which on its own is worth a visit. The store is spacious, carries a wide selection of books, and houses an in-store coffee shop. I was able to get the latest best sellers as well as the classics for as little as 4 bucks. I honestly prefer Readers Books to the iconic City Lights.

6. Vintage shopping on Haight Street.

The neighbourhood of Haight-Ashbury is where the hippie culture was born. The area retained its whimsical character and now has a variety of vintage and specialty stores. I browsed through Decades of Fashion, which sold real vintage clothing organized by different eras. The store felt like a fashion museum and the items were quite expensive. Wasteland, on the other hand, was set up like a large Gap store and carried a variety of affordable second-hand and vintage items.

7. Sailing around San Francisco Bay.

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This is my second time on the boat with my brother who’s been sailing for a couple of years now. I enjoyed being on a larger boat with a living space downstairs with 3 bedrooms, a common area, a kitchen, and a bathroom.

8. Views from the hills of San Francisco.

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Just walk along the Pacific Avenue or get up the Golden Gate Heights park for breathtaking views of the city and the bay.

9. Walking across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito.

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This is still one of my favourite things to do in San Francisco. Most people do this route on a bike. But, I find it that traveling on foot makes it easier to navigate the tourist traffic and leaves your hands free for photo opportunities. Once in Sausalito, you can hop on a ferry back to San Francisco.

10. Exploring the stairways of San Francisco.

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San Francisco is very hilly and some of the uphill streets feature stunning mosaic embellished staircases. On this trip, we visited the 16th Avenue Moraga Staircase as well as the Hidden Garden Steps, among others.

Visit Ottawa: the Ultimate Winter Weekend Getaway

Usually, I am over winter weather by mid-January. This year, however, real winter has not reached the east coast until February. It’s been cold and snowy over the past couple of weeks. Instead of fighting what’s left of this season, we decided to embrace it.

What could be a more quintessentially Canadian way to celebrate winter than go ice skating on the Rideau Canal in Ottawa? Ever since we decided on our move back east, I thought of the places I would love to visit and a list of things iIwould like to accomplish while living in this part of the world. I wanted to see Quebec City, visit Boston and Newfoundland, rock climb in Quebec, go on weekend trips to NYC, and skate on Rideau Canal in winter. I was happy to get that last one off my list during our first winter out east.

Ottawa in Winter

Ottawa turned out to be the perfect winter weekend getaway. Just over 4 hours away from Toronto, Ottawa has plenty of affordable hotels located in the walkable historic downtown. There were also a ton of things to do in the city. During our visit, the city was hosting Winterlude: a city-wide festival that celebrates the season for three weekends each February.

There were ice sculptures, live music, and winter menus at the local restaurants. In addition, it is Canada’s 150th birthday this year so the city was upgrading its structures and memorials and getting to host a huge celebration in July.

We drove in on Saturday morning, visited the Hill and a few of the sights nearby, spent about 4 hours skating, grabbed some dinner and had a nice evening in our cozy hotel. The following morning we checked out ice sculptures around the city and visited the National Art Gallery, which is probably the best art museum in Canada.

The Canal

The weekend of our visit was the first time this season that the entire canal was open for business. 7.8k in length, Rideau Canal claims to be the largest natural skating rink in the world. We skated the full length of the canal and back, completing the 15+ k outdoors skate in about 4 hours (we skated VERY leisurely and made stops for food and photos).

The skating rink is seriously awesome. I skated outdoors my entire life: natural frozen lakes in Ukraine, the man-made rink in Nathan Phillip’s Square in Toronto, and the artificial Central Park rink in NYC. Skating on Rideau beat all of those experiences by a long shot.

First of all, the ice is natural so you get a completely different feeling against your skates. The ride is rougher and noisier and the ice “groans” as you slide across it. It felt like going for the first spring run outdoors after a winter of training on a treadmill.

There are five entertainment areas on the Canal with skates rentals, food trucks, hot chocolate, fire pits, and music stages in certain areas.

The Canal has its own informative website. The website is frequently updated so that you can check it to learn about ice conditions.

Lastly, Ottawans (?) know how to enjoy winter. There were thousands of people out for a skate or a walk on the Canal. People wore snow gear, put their babies in sleds, and went skating with the entire family.


Setting Goals and Intentions for 2017

Setting Goals and Intentions for 2017

My birthday is shortly after the New Year’s festivities, so every new year as celebrated by the Western world pretty much matches another year of my life. I set my intentions for the coming year in the weeks between the beginning of the new year and my birthday.

Over the past couple of weeks, I wrote many things down in my journal. I think, that this is what most people get wrong when they set intentions: they make a long to-do list for the year ahead, rather than select individual areas of focus. The problem is that if we set out to accomplish too many things at once, we might not have enough energy to focus on any one of them seriously.

I realized that my long list consisted of things that were rather trivial. For example, I no longer need to set out to run two major races a year, since this is what I have done successfully for the past 4 years. This is not a challenging area for me anymore. Writing this goal down even feels like cheating, where I am putting it down only so that I can cross it off the list at the end of the year. The truth is–it’s gonna get done even if I don’t write it down. And so will my staying active, eating healthy, getting enough sleep, and traveling.

I encourage you to approach your goal- and intention-setting in a similar way. Check in with yourself to see if you are writing things down that can get done without any special effort from you. Things that come effortlessly are no longer areas of personal growth that need your special attention, so keep them off your list.

Put down projects that will ask more of you. These are the projects that, as you complete them, require you to develop more skills, try new things, connect with different people, change your habits, in short, transform who you are. Pick projects that you can look back on at the end of the year and think “wow, I did that!” This helpful article on Oprah.com suggests you ask yourself these 5 questions when setting intentions and making resolutions for the year ahead.

My Goals and Intentions for 2017

Here are the areas of my life I want to focus on this year:

Start saving

I am to work out a system that works best for me and makes sense in the long-run

Write 100 words every day

I am experimenting with the different ways in which I can bring more writing into my life. The goal is to find a solution that requires a consistent commitment, yet is achievable. I was initially going to try this as a 100 Day Project but then decided to go for the whole year. 100 words a day works because I can do it anywhere: on my phone while commuting, during a short break at work, really, pretty much anywhere.

Read challenging books

I will not buy any new books for the entire year and will focus on reading books I already have at home or borrow books from the library. The aim here is to stop trying to read every latest bestseller or self-help book and reach for the titles I have been meaning to read for years.

You know those books you wish you have read and that you keep saying you will read one day? This year my goal is to read as many of those books as possible.

Figure our this small business/side-gig/freelancing life

To me, this means starting to work with my Mom on her creative business and doing more with my coaching practice.

Learn Russian with D

D is the one learning, but I commit to being a proactive tutor. We are to have weekly lessons together and do extracurricular activities.

Get more mindfulness and yoga into your life

This goal open-ended as I am still figuring out the best solution for myself.

Start a small garden

Our current apartment boasts a large balcony where I am determined to grow edible things this summer.


Have you set any personal goals for yourself for the coming year? How do you make sure you reach for intentions that are meaningful to you?

Welcome Back

Welcome Back

Hello world,

I am finally coming out of the shadows. I dislike the posts filled with self-loathing about not having written anything in a long time, in which the writer then makes a renewed commitment to start writing on a regular basis. And yet, I am now writing one of those posts myself.

We made a move to Toronto in September. Here, we live out in the west end of the city and work at two of the local universities downtown. The daily commute on the subway offers an opportunity to read. The winter has not been the worst of what the east coast can offer, but it felt gray and uniform nevertheless. I am already looking forward to spring, putting tulips and daffodils around the apartment and getting ready for the patio season.

About the renewed commitment to writing: I aim to produce something once a week. The truth is that I miss everything about writing. I miss the feeling of the struggle of trying to articulate something from my mind and my heart into words on paper. I also miss the weird incessant desire to keep tinkering with words until they fit into a sentence just so and the feeling of joy I get when I finally arrive at that sentence.

Scrolling back through my old posts on this blog also makes me realize that I value keeping a record of my life. Posts that made me cringe with embarrassment earlier now read as pleasant reminders of past accomplishments and adventures. I also appreciate this blog as a platform for my photos: I take many and I need an external push to encourage me to go through my albums, clean my photos, and actually appreciate the memories captured in them. I think that blogging regularly can serve as an excellent motivation to keep my digital library organized.

There are two more things that I feel I need to do in this post to clear my conscience. First, here’s a link to my updated BC Bucket List that tracks what we actually accomplished. Second, here’s an honest reflection on my 2016 Goals.

That’s all for now. Until next week!