Neighbourhood Food: Cadeaux Bakery

A beautiful little spot tucked away at the edges of "respectable" Gastown, at 172 Powell Street, 


is mostly a working kitchen and a counter featuring the daily spread, but there are a few places to sit down, and if you can manage to snag one it's a great place to sit and have a leisurely coffee or tea and chat with a friend.

The London Fog cake is hands down my favourite item here.  A vanilla layered cake, the hint of bergamot is truly evocative of a warm tea latte, and the whipped frosting is not too heavy - it's like the foam on top of that latte.  It's still a super-rich, decadent treat, but you won't feel heavy and weighed down after eating it - just totally, completely satisfied.

On our visit today my fella had the Bacon Swirl - a cinnamon twist featuring bacon.  Now THAT was rich - and S. remarked that he couldn't actually taste the bacon, as opposed to say, the Maple Bacon Fritter at 49th Parallel/Lucky's Donuts.  It was definitely there, but the buttery pastry and the cinnamon really overpowered any accent the bacon could have provided.

The only reason this place doesn't get a 5 stars from me is the lack of sit-down seating, the limited range of take-home treats, and the fact that the coffee is not as great as it could/should be to accompany such sweet treats.  But the baking itself is divine, and the staff is lovely.

The Bacon Swirl.  Yep.

Try one of the truffles if you're looking for a small sweet.  This is Salted Caramel Pecan.

Neighbourhood Food: Nicli Antica Pizzeria

Having spent a fair amount of time in Italy, I like to think I know pizza.  So I am gratified that local neighbourhood joint Nicli Antica Pizzeria, at 62 East Cordova (just before Columbia), also knows pizza.

S. and I went for brunch today and found the place nearly empty at 1 p.m.  S. ordered the Funghi - a pizza with a tomato base featuring basil, mozzarella and mushrooms - and I had the Basil Pesto BBT, which has bacon, basil and baby cherry tomatoes.

The pizza dough, this time, was perfect: chewy but crispy where it had been roasted on the outside edges, and the ingredients were fresh, as always.  My only complaints would be that sometimes the crust is hit or miss - I've had some pizzas delivered to the table on previous visits that were too charred or my liking - and that the BBT was swimming in oil from the pesto - I would have preferred at tomato base for this pizza at the end of the day.

Aside from the food, the atmosphere is great (minimalist white decor, white crisp linens, shining silver flatware and fresh flowers), the service is attentive without being annoying, and the price point is good for a date night or work lunch.  And $5 mimosas for Sunday brunch?  Yes please!

These oils added some colour and warmth to the otherwise white and minimalist table.  Unfortunately my BBT pizza was too oily to warrant giving these a try...

The Most Wonderful (Tea) Time of the Year

Ah, the first week of November.  Some people find it dreary, depressing.  The clocks have turned back, the mornings are bleaker, the evenings darker.  But for some of us, for my people - the tea people - this is a very, very special time of year.  It means it's time for the

David's Tea

Advent Calendar to arrive.  24 days of little tiny tins of tea.  Delicious, delicious tea.

I know, I know.  I've said that

I don't need any more tea

, I have enough.  But as I pointed out to my friend Parm when she reminded me of this fact, this is an


 calendar.  It's a


item that I need to practice my...religion.  


Anyway, I hemmed and hawed about whether I should wait up until midnight to go online to order them off the David's Tea website (as I did last year), or go to the store on Water Street when it opened at 8.  

By 7:50 a.m. I was standing in front of the closed shop - and I wasn't the only one.  At 8 a.m. in we rushed.  I picked up four - one for myself, one for a co-worker who had requested it, and two extras. My friends Caitlin and Cathy are both tea freaks as well and I knew Cathy had been very disappointed to miss out on the calendars last year - and the clerk remarked as she was ringing me in that it looked like they were already sold out online.  I was glad I'd bought few backups - if Caitlin and Cathy didn't need them, I'd sell them off.   Good thing, too, because when I arrived at the office, laden with turquoise David's Tea bags, this is what my iPhone had to say:

We plan our attack.

After further strategizing, Caitlin decided to go into Brentwood Mall for the opening of the David's Tea there regardless, to see if she could procure her own, so we could free up one of my extras for someone else.  It was crowded, but she managed to get one.  RESULT!

Caitlin is triumphant.

So all in all, a successful 24 Days of Tea Day.  We've all got our calendars.  The kettle is on...how many days until December 1st?

So.  Much.  Tea.

Update - A Real-Life Response from Lululemon

As I mentioned in my

blog post

yesterday, a brave and gorgeous friend of mine wrote a heartfelt letter in September to lululemon expressing her disappointment at not being able to fit into their sizing.

With her permission, here is the amazing Dani Fecko's letter to lululemon, and lululemon's response, which can be summarized as, "not changing our sizing structure, but we'll take your feedback into consideration."  I received the identical response when I wrote to them in 2007 - so I guess they're still getting around to taking my feedback into consideration.  Sorry about the highlighting, haven't figured out why it's there or how to get rid of it...

Sent: Sep 16, 2013 8:44:00 PM 

Subject: Disappointment 

Dear Lululemon, 

I'm writing to express my concern at your severe mismanagement of 

expectations. I'm going through a change in my lifestyle right now. I let 

work rule my life for many years, and was not healthy. Now, I have a 

wedding coming up and am working to make fitness a priority. Im watching 

what I eat and I'm working out at least four times a week. I feel awesome. 

I'm revisiting my yoga practice now and I'm really enjoying it. I get to a 

yoga or pilates class at least twice a week and I bike or run at least 

three times a week. I don't feel any pressure from my classmates or 

teachers to look or feel a certain way. I'm doing what's right for me and 

moving at my own pace. I feel like Im really moving along and am more 

comfortable in my skin than I have been in a long time. 

At least I was until I went into your store looking for a new yoga top. It 

was my understanding, based on your company values, that Lululemon is a 

company that stands for inclusion, joy and being healthy. It seems that you 

can only participate in those values, and in trying to get healthy, if you 

wear a size 12 or lower. It would seem that your actual values are quite 

different than what you preach: only people who look healthy now can wear 

your clothes, even if they only wear them to buy groceries. Those of us who 

are not the ideal “lululemon shape” but are working on themselves, to feel 

and be healthier, may not be seen in your clothes. 

I have fit into Lululemon clothes in the past. In fact, I have some pants 

that have stretched out that I still wear. Needless to say, I'll be looking 

for new ones. And when I am a size 12,and then size 10 and then size 8 

again, I won't be coming back to your store. Because I believe in 

practicing what I preach. And I'm working to get healthier – not to fit 

some store's ideal body type. 

With great disappointment, 

Dani Fecko

And here's the response:


lululemon athletica




Date: Tue, Sep 17, 2013 at 5:45 PM

Subject: RE: Disappointment (#2046-380799686-0948)

To: Danielle Fecko 

Hi Dani, 

Thank you for taking the time to write to lululemon athletica. 

Currently our size range is 2 - 12 (or XXS – XL) for women and S-XXL for men. Our goal is to elevate the level of health and fitness in every community we touch and we recognize that people who are passionate about health and fitness come in all shapes and sizes. At this time, we don’t have plans to change our current sizing structure. However, we are a culture based on feedback and are our design team is committed to reviewing guest feedback on an ongoing basis. We are passionate about product innovation and will take your thoughts into consideration as we continue to develop new product that support the sweaty pursuits of our guests. Thank you again for reaching out and sharing your feedback. 

Warm regards, 


lululemon athletica 

Guest Education Centre 

Toll Free (US & Canada): 

1 (877) 263-9300


(604) 215-9300


(604) 638-1200

Shop online at 


Follow us on Twitter: 


Like us on Facebook: 


creating components for people to live a long, healthy, and fun life 

Size Matters.

It seems to me to me like Business 101: if someone repeatedly makes requests to buy your product, then you can probably assume that if you make it available, they will buy it, and you will make money.  If you choose not to make that product available to the people requesting it, then there's something else going on.  You are choosing to exclude that market for a reason, usually one to do with what you may call "corporate strategy" or "brand positioning" but what some people, especially those affected, may call just plain prejudice.

Popular American retailer Abercrombie & Fitch came under fire last year when its CEO, Mike Jeffries explained to Salon magazine the company's decision to limit its sizing to Sizes 0 to 10 as part of a corporate-wide strategy to appeal to the "cool" and "attractive" kids, not just implying that if you didn't fit in a Size 10 or smaller, you weren't cool but actually saying their clothes were not for the "fat kids."   Chip Wilson, founder of lululemon, noted in a recent interview with Bloomberg TV that "some women's bodies just don't work" with their clothing.  

Ignorant comments such as those made by Jeffries or Wilson are not something new to me.    I have been called fat my whole life - even when I wasn't fat.  I can't remember how young I was when I was first called fat by other kids - I literally can't remember a time when that didn't happen.  I have a picture of a gorgeous 6 year old Dani on my fridge who could never be called fat - and yet that's what was happening at school.  And when you hear something often, you start to believe it, and live it.  I was fat, so I ate.  And the insult became the reality.  As a teenager I wanted nothing more than to wear the same clothes as my girlfriends and despaired when, as a 17 year old Size 12, with boobs and hips and a butt, I couldn't fit into the same "baby tees" or low rise jeans.  I cried many times in mall dressing rooms feeling fat and unattractive.   I went on Weight Watchers for the first time when I was 13, and actually did quite well with the program, but I endured taunts from classmates throughout elementary and high school, regardless of how thin/fat I was at the time, because I had already been labelled "the fat girl."   Kids who didn't have better comebacks in our juvenile disagreements often resorted to "Well - you're FAT" to end the discussion.  And it usually did, with me in tears.   

This prejudice did not go away as I got older. I matured, but society didn't.  If I refuse to give money to a panhandler in my Gastown neighbourhood, they will shout after me that I'm fat. I've had drunk guys whose advances I have ignored shout about how fat I am as I walk away from them.  I met a record industry insider in the early 2000s when I was younger and desperate for a career as a singer who told me that the reality was, I didn't look like Christina Aguilera or Britney Spears and that's what I'd need to look like to make it as a singer.   I've been routinely overlooked for parts in theatre because of how I look - even in my early 20s I was being thrown into the "mother" or "old lady" or "funny girl" boat, because how do you cast a big girl, no matter how bright her smile, as the ingenue*?  Regardless of whether I've been a size 8, 12, 16, 18 - and I've been them all - these issues still affect me in my adult life.  The "fat" label, once affixed, is hardly ever removed.   And sometimes we keep it there ourselves: I know even when I've been wearing a Size 2, and been sick and green from starving myself, I've looked in the mirror and still seen a fat person.  

So, no, that companies don't want to make clothes for fat people isn't news to me, but perfectly in keeping with my experience as a big person.   I don't feel the need to make immediate indignant retorts on Facebook when people like Jeffries or Wilson show their true colours.  The message isn't new:  Fat isn't cool.  Curvy isn't cool.  Thin is correct.  It is beautiful. Thin is fit, and healthy, and there is no other possible definition of what "fit" or "healthy" can mean.  And if companies like Abercrombie and Fitch and lululemon would prefer not to cater to myself or other women who do not fit their size charts, it is their prerogative and I don't have to shop there.   

Still, I feel it keenly when a dear friend who I think is beautiful and amazing writes a brave letter to lululemon asking why she can't buy a shirt in their store to wear to her regular Pilates workouts, and receives a flip response about why she does not fit their image of a "target guest."  I feel bad for my male friends who have subjected themselves to gruelling workouts and horrendous diets of shakes and pills to live up to some image of "maleness."  I have lived this frustration.  I've cried those tears, I've fought those battles.  17 year old me would be bitterly disappointed not to have the same clothes as all of my friends.  33 year old me sees it as an opportunity to scour the Interwebs for cool brands and designers who no one else has.  It hurts me, but I also have tools at my disposal (mainly income) to help me cope.

So, some women's bodies, bigger women's bodies, "don't work" for Chip Wilson.  This isn't news. 

What is news to me, and saddening, is how people who I consider intelligent, sensitive and educated - people who know me, and know other bigger people - accept these messages and reinforce them, without a thought to how they affect people they claim to respect and care for.   What is news to me is how people who have experienced weight issues themselves, once resolved, show little empathy for others.  What is news to me is that the media onslaught of "thin is beautiful" has been internalized so much that smart, caring people reduce weight issues to two causes: gluttony, or laziness, and thus justify exclusions like those made by lululemon and A & F ("Well, if you want to wear these clothes, don't be so lazy.  Don't be so fat"), when the reality is that size and weight are so much more complicated, difficult, and sensitive issues.

When the Abercrombie & Fitch story came out, I posted a link to the story on my Facebook and said, "Thanks Abercrombie & Fitch, thanks to companies like you I spent most of my teenage years crying in dressing rooms."  I was half kidding, but also serious.  A firestorm of comments followed, in which a friend who had lost a considerable amount of weight (and was, in my opinion as a person who has had every kind of eating disorder under the sun at some point or another, unhealthily fixated on her "new"body and "new" self) stated that I should suck it up - that if I wanted to wear A & F, I should just lose weight, or shut up about it.  A man who had actually dated me, and so whom I feel reasonably confident in saying thought I was attractive, felt the need to wade in on the comment thread and explain why he preferred thin women.   The majority of comments basically expressed that size was that simple: thin is good, fat is bad, and if you want to be thin, don't eat so damn much.  Go for a run.  And if you're fat, you deserve to be excluded and shouldn't complain.  I was willing to wade into this debate, and hear my friends' positions, as appallingly insensitive as I thought they were being (two of those who commented de-friended me after our exchange of comments, incidentally - so perhaps they were more sensitive than I thought?), in the hopes that maybe I could educate them on what it's like to live in my shoes (a "regular" size 7, in case you're wondering.  My feet aren't fat). 

So today, I read lots of posts by people appalled by Chip Wilson's comments about women's thighs, in particular - and that women's thighs "rubbing together" may be the reason their pants' quality has declined in recent years.   What was disappointing to me however were the social media comments that did NOT find his comments appalling and size-ist: 

 "No man can wear a Speedo either." 

Why not? 

"Of course he's right, some people shouldn't wear those pants."

Who are "some people"?

"I don't understand why people think that every company has to cater to the needs of every body shape around.  If you're plus size you won't look good in it, don't buy it." 

Great - but how come it's always the larger people who don't have a right to be "catered to"?  And who's making an alternative? Oh, nobody?  That's helpful.

"Exactly.  Some people shouldn't wear these clothes.  Period." 

Sorry, who are these "some people" again?  You mean bigger people?

"Plus-size people should stop complaining and get to the gym."

Thanks,  I'll slot it in after my third trip of the day to McDonalds.

Well, I can't help myself.  I feel the need to point out, for Chip, Mike and others, the following:

1.  You don't have to be "plus size" (defined as size 16 and up) to not have a gap between your thighs.   Here's a great article from Slate on that topic.  

2.  It's not plus size people's complaints that Chip is responding to, because lululemon does not make plus size clothes.  Their largest size is a Size 12, and that is only available in limited styles.  I wear tons of lululemon stuff, and there is also tons of lululemon stuff I can't wear.  For instance, most lulu shirts and hoodies feature extremely long and thin arms that just don't fit my chubby, stumpy arms.  

3.  People who do not fit into lululemon or A & F are not necessarily lazy unhealthy people.  My friend who wrote the letter to lululemon is not what I would even call plus size.  She walks, bikes, does yoga and Pilates, but just cannot fit her gorgeous sexy boobs into one of their shirts.  

4.  Fat people like to exercise too.  I do yoga every day.  I dance, I run, I hike.  I am not by any means exceptional in this.   And fat people who like to exercise also like to have clothes to wear while they are doing said exercise.  Sometimes fat people who exercise will, like some of my friends (and like me at some points in my life), turn into thin people who exercise.  Sometimes they won't.  In my book, if they're trying to be healthy, then that's OK, and they should be able to buy a pair of pants to try to be healthy in.

5.  Fat people have jobs and have money to spend in retail therapy, the same as anyone else.  Fat people like shopping when they can find stuff that fits them, and like to look good.  We would be outraged if The Gap said it wanted to exclude, let's say, all people with acne from wearing their clothes.  We wouldn't consider that socially acceptable.  So why is it socially acceptable (or defensible, or explainable) to exclude people based on body type?

 6.  People who are not thin may be so for reasons out of their control and for which they do not "deserve" to be shamed.  Hormones, emotional issues, health conditions, genetics - these are all things that affect weight and shape.   Mike Jeffries and Chip Wilson are not in a position where they can know the story of every potential customer they alienate with their comments.  However, you (my friends, my readers) are in a position to know, or to ask, why the people in your life may choose, or not choose, to be the size that they are.  You are in the privileged position of being able to ask, listen, empathize and accept.  The idea that if you're not thin you're doing something wrong, is well…wrong.   And if you accept that idea, or the real-life consequences of that idea (like the exclusionary policies of companies like lululemon and A & F), then you are doing your friends of all sizes a disservice.

So, no, it's not the comments of people like Mike Jeffries and Chip Wilson that bother me.  I'm bothered by the friends I have who aren't bothered by them.   I'm bothered by the people who buy into one idea of beauty.  I'm bothered about how size-ist attitudes demonstrated by retailers get reflected in the media, and then get reflected in popular culture, so that people find it perfectly OK to judge or place value on someone because of size (or lack thereof).  I'm bothered that looks can limit anyone, in their career, in love, in life.  And I'm mostly bothered that my damn yoga pants are see-through. 

And to all the retailers out there - I like to shop, I have money to spend, and given that I do yoga every day, I need a lot of yoga pants.  Make me a pair that fit, that make me feel good, and that aren't see-through or full of holes within a month (like my last few pairs of lulus) and you'll have my money.  Simple as that.  

*I have also been wonderfully cast against type and given fantastic opportunities to play the ingenue or romantic lead by directors who value talent over conventional beauty.  I will never forget director Matthew Bissett gently admonishing me when I was lamenting about how I was not going to get a particular part because I wasn't thin and pretty, that perhaps I should leave the directing to directors who may, in fact, know better than me.  And in some cases, including Matthew's, they have, and shown confidence in me where I have not had confidence in myself.

UPDATE:  If you'd like to read my friend Dani Fecko's letter to lululemon and their response, you can click here

War Horse at the Queen Elizabeth

I should really never see shows with animals in them.  I wept for a year after the

Lion King

 when (SPOILER) Mufasa died and left Simba all alone in the savanna.  Any of those dog-and-cat-adventure movies?  I basically hyperventilate and hug my own animals so tight they can't breathe, smothering them with kisses.  Don't get me started on having to read

Old Yeller

 in elementary school.  But, when my friend April asked if I wanted to see

War Horse

 last night at the Queen Elizabeth, I said yes, with the caveat that I would be a crying mess the whole time.

War Horse

 opened at the National Theatre when I was living in London and I read the original reviews, in which audiences described themselves as "weeping" and "emotionally drained."  These reviews were also full of glowing praise for the Handspring Puppet Company's amazing life-size horse puppets, but I was fixated on the whole "Horse-has-to-leave-his-family-and-go-off-to-war" thing, which made me tear up right away, so I wasn't choosing to spend my limited London theatre budget on the show.  Here in Vancouver, we have less options when it comes to shows, so it seemed liked a good idea to go see Broadway Across America's touring production.

Albert, Joey and Puppeteer

The play is based on a children's novel by Michael Morpurgo.  It is the story of Joey, a hunter horse who is bought as a foal by the town drunk in a village in Devon, and raised lovingly by the drunk's son, Albert.  Boy and horse quickly become best friends, and Albert is devastated when Drunk Dad sells Joey to the local cavalry officer on the eve of World War I, and shipped to the front lines in France.  Joey and his best horsey-friend Topthorn see everything, from combat as cavalry horses, to the wounded as ambulance horses, and even get captured by the Germans and forced to pull machine guns across muddy fields at the battle of the Somme.  Meanwhile, desperate to find his friend, Albert enlists and is himself shipped overseas, and between cowering in trenches and going Over the Top, is always searching for Joey.  

First, a few technical things about the show.  The production values are fantastic.   There is an animated scrim across which scenes (first of Devon in happier times, then of heaving seas as Joey is shipped, terrified, across the English Channel, to the battlefields) play, in beautiful pen and ink sketches.  The costumes and sets are beautiful.  And the puppets - well.  From the first time the "foal" Joey trots onto the stage, operated by three puppeteers, you see a real character, and forget the people operating the machine.  Joey's ears flick, his chest heaves as he breathes heavily, his tail swishes.   Grown-up Joey is even more impressive, so large he can be ridden by the actors playing Albert and Major Nichols.  So - the puppets.  If you see it for no other reason, you see it for the puppets.  In emotional moments I distracted myself by concentrating on the puppeteers - who was operating Joey's tail and how?  Who was moving his ears, who was making the sound of his breath.  

There are some small touches in the show which I really enjoyed.  The English, French and German officers all speak in English - but cannot understand each other, a neat trick purely for the audience's entertainment that works well.  There is a hilarious goose puppet who rules the roost (literally and figuratively) at Albert and Joey's home farm.  

Despite turning my attention to the technical details of the production, and attempting to focus on the artifice in order to detach a bit from the story, I still cried the entire way through.  And the script - well, it's simplistic and pushes every possible button it can, about war, life, death, friendship and the bond between human and horse.  I cried when baby Joey and Albert bonded.  I cried when Albert hugged Joey and said "We will be together forever" (come on people, this is called

War Horse

, of course that wasn't going to happen).  I cried as Joey and Topthorn stood terrifed on the deck of the ship taking them to war.  I cried when Joey and Topthorn were ridden into their first battle, lamenting at the cruelty of man to inflict human conflict and folly on innocent animals.  And it only got worse from there, as the war only got worse from there.  I tried to distract myself I really did.  As Albert wandered around the trenches calling for Joey, I decided he must have some mental defect, to be so focused on the damn horse when he could die any minute - but cried anyway.  By the time Joey found himself trapped by barbed wire in No Man's Land in 1918, 4 years later (and at the end of Act 2), I was done.  DONE.  And cried to the end of the show.  I'm even crying now freaking blogging about it.

Joey and Topthorn riding into war.

I called my mom this morning to tell her about the show and even started crying as I lamented all the horrible things that Joey sees in his time as a War Horse (she laughed at me of course, and I did too).  "Why did all those things have to happen to poor Joey," I whined down the phone, laughing and weeping at the same time.  "It's just too much for one little horse!" 

"Well, don't you think the horse's experience is a metaphor for our experience in war, and what every innocent young boy shipped overseas felt?" said my mother.  She's pretty smart sometimes, my mother. Because that's exactly what it was about.  I was just crying too hard to notice.  

War Horse plays at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre until September 28, 2013.  

Best friends forever, Albert and Joey.

Police Incident.

On Saturday I met my friend Rosie for coffee at 49th Parallel Coffee Roasters.  It was a beautiful day and since it might be one of the last beautiful days we have in Vancouver until, well, May,  we decided to sit on the patio.  About 10 feet away from the patio, on 13th Avenue, there was some police tape, and the alley behind the cafe was cordoned off, with some police officers standing by.

On my way into 49th Parallel, I had noticed a crowd gathering by the police tape.

"What's going on?" I asked one bystander.  They explained that there was a man barricaded in a house in the alley, who had apparently set the house on fire the night before, and was now refusing any entry by the fire department or police officers.  He was waving a knife around.   At that point I counted about 15 police officers, some in tactical "SWAT" style gear, and figured they had the situation more than under control. 

We were sitting on the patio talking when all of a sudden I started sneezing uncontrollably.   Then, while Rosie was staring at me quizzically as I sneezed again and again, she started sneezing too.  Then we started coughing.  And everyone around us started coughing and sneezing, and choking.

"Oh god," I choked.  "I think they're gassing him out!  Quick, get inside!"

The crowd gathering on 14th and Main to watch what was going on.  They had a better vantage point than we did on 13th.  Photo credit: Georgia Straight. 

As we gathered our stuff and made our way into the cafe, Rosie looked over at the cops manning the police tape.  They were outfitted with masks, and stood watching us, arms crossed, and laughing.  They were



That was it for me.  It would have taken not even 5 minutes for them to walk over, say, "We'd like to clear this patio, please get inside," or ask 49th Parallel's staff to do so, and close the garage doors to the patio.  Not only did they


do that, but they laughed. 

I have been very sympathetic to Vancouver police officers.  I see the beat some of them walk in my neighbourhood every day.  I watched them clear street after street of drunken hockey rioters.   But they lost some support from me in the way they handled this incident.  They would have compromised nothing by asking us to go inside.  It wouldn't have been a red flag to crazy knife wielding guy in any way whatsoever.  They wouldn't have even needed to tell us why they wanted us to go inside.  It was a simple gesture that would have saved a number of us a very uncomfortable afternoon and evening (and even day after) of sore throats, itchy eyes and runny noses.  This was a communication fail and an absolute disregard for affected community members.

So, now I've been tear gassed.  I can cross that off my bucket list, I suppose.

On another note, 49th Parallel is one of my favourite cafes in town.  Beautiful coffee and amazing ambiance - just beware the chemical weapons. 

The amazing Venezualan Latte at 49th Parallel.  Ask for it without the tear gas, and with extra foam. 

Birthday Weekend Update

All I wanted for my birthday this year was some family time.  So on my birthday, June 29, Alex and I went on an overnight camping/hiking trip to Sidney Spit, on Sidney Island, and then I headed to Victoria for a backyard barbecue/campfire with my family the next evening.  Alex and I topped the weekend off with a hike up Mt. Finlayson on Canada Day in 40 degree heat, which I admit was a bit ridiculous and not that fun.  But, we did it anyway.  I spent Canada Day evening in an air conditioned theatre watching The Great Gatsby with Roger and Elizabeth, which was a nice rest after trudging up hot rocks all day.  All in all, it was a perfect birthday weekend.

My gear.

Alex's gear.  Note: we had to carry this all a kilometre into our campsite from the Sidney Spit dock.  Oh, don't worry, they said.  There are wheelbarrows.  Which other campers had totally hoarded within their own campsite...

The back view from our campsite.

The front view from our campsite. 

Master camper. 

In Grade 5 I taught my class how to set up a tent in 3 minutes or less. 

Our mother taught us how to camp with class, OK?  Alex is BBQ'ing my birthday dinner. 

I forgot to bring my flip flops so Al's became the "Family Flip Flops."  Meaning, I wore them the whole time.

We got a lot of good walks in while we were on the island


Victory!  A wheelbarrow for the return trip!  We guilt-tripped a family who were letting their kids use this as a toy.

Hook Spit.

Fordie Cat really likes my hiking boots.

When we got off Sidney Spit, I had a nap lying in my parents' backyard in the shade.  

The view from my nap.

Dad's pond.

On top of Mt. Finlayson.

Artists Who Hike (and the People That Love Them)

So apparently I like hiking now.  After a very very stressful few months professionally, I found myself needing some peace and quiet and an escape from busy Gastown.  My friend Jenny dragged me out reluctantly on her birthday for a hike around Buntzen Lake, which to my surprise, I really enjoyed.  And since then I've been hiking every weekend, sometimes both Saturdays and Sundays, dragging various of my theatre friends out onto the trails with me.  We've started a Facebook Group called "Artists Who Hike and the People That Love Them" where we post our weekly hiking plans, so feel free to find us there if you'd like to join on one of our walks.

On the Buntzen Lake Loop, first week of June.

Some of the gang on the Buntzen trail.

Jenny and Oriana on the Cedars Mill Trail, mid-June.

Amazing.  Even this city girl can appreciate scenery like this, in Lynn Headwaters Regional Park.

Kate, on the Lynn Loop.  This post is revenge for her calling me a "Mountain Goat."

Super Dann!

I'm starting to get headband-tan.  How embarassing.

Cedars Mill Trail.

 Mist on the river. Lynn Headwaters.

Birthday Hike on Sidney Island with my brother.

Canada Day on the top of Mt. Finlayson with Alex.  I look much happier than I felt after this straight-up scramble.

Freedom 33.

Student loans are a dangerous thing.  They're easy to get.  And once you utter the words "professional school," banks are eager to line up and throw money at the doctors, dentists, accountants and lawyers of tomorrow.  That's how I managed to finance three degrees, a visiting year at McGill, and a post-graduate program at London School of Economics.  And it wasn't just enough to scrape by.  It was enough to travel, enjoy London theatre, to see and experience the world.  

When the time came to pay those loans back, I wasn't worried.  After all, I was a lawyer now.  I thought I'd always be making stupid money.  Who cares if it took me 25 years to pay them back?  I could afford it. I thought I could afford a lot of things that suited my newly minted stature as a yuppie.  And the banks kept calling and offering more money, and the monthly payback numbers kept growing.   

After my first several years in big-firm practice, including my years in London, where I worked harder than I ever had before and clocked in more all-nighters than most people will experience in a lifetime, I was burnt out.  And I had to keep working hard, had to stay on the big-firm treadmill, because the big-firm salary was the only way I could afford to make those monthly paybacks.  The numbers were starting to grow faster than I could run.  

By December 2009, I was too tired to keep running.  And I was at a point where the choice to be a lawyer had been taken away from me. I had to do it, there was no walking away.  The Golden Handcuffs which I had willingly thrust my wrists into in order to live the lifestyle to which I thought I was entitled, were starting to chafe.  I wanted to options - to practice law or not, to stay on the big-firm track or not - and I needed to make some changes to open those doors.  

I cut up all my credit cards.  I consolidated all my loans.  And I began paying them back at a rate that amounted to more than half my take-home pay.  I was still making stupid lawyer money, yes, but I was living on a budget smaller than I had set for myself as a freewheeling London student.  I was 29.  My loans would be paid off sometime in 2013.  That seemed a long, long way off.  I jokingly called my new lifestyle the "Freedom 33" plan.  Life, I said repeatedly, would begin at 33.

On June 28, a day before my 33rd birthday, I pressed a button on my online banking, and paid off the last of my loans.  It was very anticlimactic.  I didn't feel different.  I didn't feel free.  I didn't suddenly see my whole life open up in front of me.  But - it is a good feeling, this clean slate.  

The new challenge is to keep to the strict budget and cash-only lifestyle I've been living for almost four years.  With Canadian household debt currently at 165% of disposable income, I don't intend to become part of that statistic.  It's tough though.  When people say, "Oh, treat yourself to that car/ring/condo/pair of Manolos/Indonesian holiday, you deserve it!"  I think, Yeah, I do!  I deserve that!  It's hard not the be proud, the way you are when you finish a long run or a hard workout.  And it's hard not to want a treat as a reward for your efforts.  

So, tomorrow I'm going to celebrate my birthday and my freedom with a number of my friends, on my rooftop terrace.  And that's what I deserve.  The rest can wait.