14 Days of Yoga – Whaaat!

I recently set a new yoga PR.

(Ha ha – imagine we talked about yoga like that?!?)

Cedric’s friend won a two-week pass at my yoga studio, Moksha Squamish. She kindly passed it along to me – best gift ever!

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Photo sniped from the Moksha Yoga Squamish studio FB page, because I’m pretty sure taking your phone to class is a faux pas. Check out the mountain tops from the window!

I have purposely been trying to sloooowly spread out my multi-class pass to make it last all year long. As such, I don’t get to go to yoga as often as I’d like to. I decided to make the most of my 14 days of yoga by hitting 14 classes in as many days*.

*Actually, the 14th day I was in Whistler and couldn’t make any classes – so I two-a-daysed Day 13.

The timing was perfect for two reasons. One, the two-week period I picked happened to coincide with two weeks of horrible, nasty, rainy weather (i.e., a typical Squamish November). There’s nothing better than a cozy yoga class in a hot room when it’s grey and awful outside. Two, this was the perfect way to let my busted up lower leg muscles recover fully after my early November half marathon (and associated training drama).

Having the two-week pass meant that I could try a lot of classes I don’t normally go for. I set a goal to try as many different class styles with as many different teachers as possible. I managed not to hit the same class style with the same teacher at all – this required some serious schedule analysis skills.

Not only did I make a point of mixing up class styles and teaching approaches, but I also tried to hit classes at different times of day (yep – even a 6:30 AM class!), put my mat in different corners of the room each time, and approach similar classes with totally different intentions.

Here are a few takeaways:

  • A typical Moksha class features the same sequence of postures, with a minor mix-up here and there. If you ever feel like it’s starting to feel repetitive, try it with a new teacher. One of my best Moksha classes was the fifth one – despite having done it four times already in a relatively short period of time, for some reason, the fifth felt totally different.
  • As great as it is for saving money, doing yoga alone at home just doesn’t hold a candle for me compared to taking a class in person. I found that the vibe of the class changed significantly depending on whether there were only 8 or so people in the studio or if it was completely full. I liked both for different reasons, but it made me realize that you really do pick up on something from the people around you.
  • It’s hard to pick a favourite class, but if I had to, it would be the 60 minute Moksha with live music. The Squamish studio hosts this class on Friday evenings. I liked it so much that I took it twice (it’s the only one I took twice, but each one had a different teacher). The first time I did it, the teacher didn’t actually instruct – he just lead by doing his own practice in the middle of the room and gave subtle cues with his breath. It was totally different and totally awesome – I highly recommend this one if you’ve got a few Moksha classes under your belt.
  • I looooove hot yoga, but I have to admit I missed going outside and getting fresh air on trail runs. Yes, even in the awful weather. I think my ideal balanced yoga schedule would be three classes a week.
  • The greatest challenge of the 14-day challenge was managing my laundry. Specifically, I only own one yoga towel. I am a very sweaty human, so it is difficult for me to do a non-yin style class without a towel. A lot of laundry was done throughout this two-week period.

I’d love to hear how other people mix up their yoga practice. Here are a few final thoughts re: how I stayed stoke for each and every class by mixing up goals and intentions:

  • Mirror vs. no mirror: I typically set up in a spot where I can see myself in the mirror because I like being able to make adjustments based on what I see. However, it was good to mix it up sometimes and hide behind other people, where I had to rely on other sensations rather than visuals.
  • Go back to basics: I tried an entire class where I always stayed with the first variation (usually the easier one, though I don’t think it’s proper yoga lingo to say that). This was a good way of focusing on squeezing all the right muscles without having to worry too much about balance and other aspects of a pose.
  • Intentions – internal vs. external: I wrote a post about yoga intentions a little while back, but I like to set a key area of focus before I start a class. About 60% of the time, I would come up with an intention on my own, but sometimes the teacher would offer a little preamble and would suggest a pretty good intention that I borrowed for the class.

Namaste, brah!

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Ho Ho Ho! Advent Calendar Season Is BACK!

Folks, I’m unbearably excited to announce that it’s that time of year again: ADVENT CALENDAR TIME!

Okay, so we’re not quite at Day 1 of the advent, but in order to be prepared for the first of December, you need to get your act together in November. Seriously – some of the best advent calendars have already sold out for 2017. As they say, the early bird gets the best calendars.

If you remember my post from last year, I am a total advent calendar nut (see Figure 1 below).

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Figure 1

If you’re on board with the DIY advent concept but want to go a little fancier than paper bags in a shoe holder, I’ve included a few fancy store bought type kits at the bottom of this post. But first: some fabulous, indulgent, and (usually) expensive ways to satisfy your Christmasiest advent wishes.


The David’s Tea Advent Calendar

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Isn’t it beautiful!!!

I bought this calendar for myself the day it came out back in October, and I am so excited to swing open those doors (which have a satisfying magnetic clasp thing) and sample 24 days of teas. I have found that I only need half of the amount in the tin to brew a stellar cup of tea, so I save the other half of each tin for 24 additional glorious days in January. Two months of tea for $45 – that’s well worth it to me for a once a year splurge. Plus, the Christmas joy it brings me is priceless.

FYI: I have recently discovered that Squamish’s own Lucas Teas offers a tea advent calendar, too. I have no idea what they charge, but I love the idea of supporting a local business and I’ve enjoyed every Lucas Tea I’ve ever tried. If you haven’t already picked up a David’s Tea calendar, check out Lucas’s option.

Beauty in Wonderland… WHAT?!?!

It’s not hard to figure out where my advent calendar love comes from – it’s all my mom’s fault. (You can read about her past hits and one miss in last year’s post.) I received a surprise parcel in the mail from my parents that contained this magical box, which opens up to reveal five drawers. Each drawer contains five boxes, and each box is numbered 1 through 25. I have NO IDEA what is going on with this amazing advent calendar other than the following:

  • I’m guessing it has something to do with beauty products
  • It’s from the UK

I am purposely not researching anything about it to maximize the surprise factor.

Bonne Maman 2017 Advent Calendar

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I just about died when I saw this super adorable Bonne Maman advent calendar. I have toast every morning, so this jam fest would be perfect – plus, it’s a fun way to branch beyond the usual raspberry jam and Bonne Maman jams are soooo good. Alas, three advent calendars would be a little much – even for me. Maybe next year?

I’m not sure if this one is still available. If you go to the Bonne Maman website, it is still featured on the front page, but clicking the link leads to a dead page. If you’re able to find it, let me know how the 24 days unfold!

L’Occitane Signature Advent Calendar

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A few years ago, I had an Occitane advent calendar and I adored it. It’s a great way to stock up on little bar soaps, hand lotions, and other divine skin and bath goodies, if that happens to be up your alley. This year’s calendar is $69, which isn’t cheap – but neither are Occitane goods in general.

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They also have a luxury version (ooh la la), which comes with a luxury price tag of $134. I consulted the list of products between the two boxes*, and there are a lot of overlaps – the luxury one seems to contain a few products from their Immortelle line, which are on the pricey side, but I don’t think those merit the substantial price difference. But hey, maybe you’re in the mood to treat yourself, in which case – advent away!

*Note: I would NEVER sneak a peek at the contents of one the calendars I was actually using for the year. This is sacrilegious for an advent calendar devotee.

NYX Kiss and Tell Calendar

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I’m not much of a lipstick person, but I thought this one was pretty fun. It has a variety of NYX lipsticks, glosses, and lip creams and the design is super cool. You can still get your hands on one via Asos. I’ll set you back about a hundred bucks – I can’t decide if this is a lot. On the one hand, $100 for an advent calendar is definitely a lot. On the other hand, $100 for 24 lipsticks – even smallish ones – does not seem terribly unreasonable.

BeerAdvent

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Unlike the other calendars featured on this list thus far, here’s one that I think Cedric could get behind. Twenty four days of craft beer would make for a very merry Christmas indeed. This one is available across most provinces and territories – the Facebook page will tell you where to pick it up. I’ve noticed other beer advent calendars at liquor stores in years past, so it shouldn’t be too hard to get your paws on one. If I didn’t DIY Cedric’s calendar, I’d probably pick one like this up.

Purdy’s Bright Light Advent Calendar

Screen Shot 2017-11-11 at 7.27.08 AMFor many people, an advent calendar is not an advent calendar unless it contains chocolate. If you’re one of these people, I completely respect your advent approach and I offer you an alternative to waxy cardboard-tasting chocolate: this little Purdy’s number. I love Purdy’s chocolate (hedgehogs!) and it’s nice to support a Canadian company. At $25, this advent is also a little more reasonably priced than some of the others on this list.

Saje 12 Days of Wellness

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I’m making a notable exception for the Saje calendar – I generally do not consider “12 days of Christmas” types to be true advent calendars (24 days are required, thank you very much). However, Saje is a popular shop in my group of friends and I thought this calendar of twelve different diffuser blends would be a nice bet for people obsessed with their Saje diffusers (see: my sister). It’s $110 – yikes – but if you’ve ever been to Saje, you already know everything there is pricey.

DIY Advent Calendars

Okay, time to tackle DIY advent calendars. I love using my shoe pocket thingy because it allows for large treats – for instance I’ve included hardcover books and jumbo bottles of beer in the past. The ones below are one the smaller side, but you can still have a lot of fun with them. Ideas of things to stash include, but are not limited to: lip balm or make up, nail polish, extra razor blades (so practical), candy, nuts, mini booze bottles, socks, tiny magnets, jewelry, underwear, gift cards (even $5 for a morning coffee), tea or coffee, a Christmas ornament, etc.

Ikea Vinter 2017

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I think this little paper house village set up is so charming – and it’s only $7.99 from Ikea. They have a multicolour mountain set, too, for the same price (pictured below).

vinter-advent-calender-boxes__0554451_pe659793_s4Holiday Collection Wood Advent Calendar from Canadian Tire

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I see a few main draws to this wooden advent calendar from Canadian Tire. It is solid and sturdy enough to survive storage over the rest of the year, so it can be reused year after year, unlike many others. Plus, it looks like you could easily scramble the order of the boxes, which is always a plus.

Calendar Kit from Billie’s Flower House

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I was recently perusing Billie’s Flower House downtown Squamish and I came across this little fillable advent set on sale for $20. While I’m on the topic of Billie’s, it is a WONDERFUL place to browse for adorable Christmas decorations and gifts. A lot of the companies that the store carries are the same ones you see at some of the local holiday markets. Everything in there is so lovely – and they are also the best place to find a greeting card in Squamish.

Winter Chalet Knit Stockings Advent Calendar from The Bay

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This picture isn’t the best, but this little stocking garland calendar is equal parts advent calendar and decor. One word: CUTE.


The countdown is on, you guys. See you on the 1st!

Hitting the Gym: Strong Curves with Bret Contreras

A little while back, I wrote about my fondness of Millionaire Hoy’s free YouTube workout videos. I still love ’em, but I’ve put them on the back burner for now. I’m sure I’ll get back at it this winter when I’m not getting as much of a cardio fix from running outside.

I dropped off the Millionaire Hoy train last spring when I sprained my ankle. His videos involve lots of jumping around, which wasn’t ideal for a healing ankle, so I sought out something new that focused more on weight training and less on HIIT type stuff.

I stumbled across Bret Contreras’ Strong Curves program. This is based on a book that has a serious cult following. Apparently, Contreras is the glute guy – and glutes happen to be the “en vogue” muscle of the day. That’s lucky for me, because in my ankle repairing physio, I discovered that I actually have very weak glutes.

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Apparently this man is the guru of women’s butts.

This was somewhat shocking to me, as I’d always done lots of bodyweight squats and lunges and stuff as part of dryland training for snowboard season. It turns out I’d been doing them all wrong, relying on various leg muscles to do all the work while letting my glutes chill out. My weak glutes meant I’d been running (and actually even just walking) inefficiently. Say whaaaaat!

So I humbly turned to the Glute Guru and his Strong Curves program. You can get the 36 page free PDF right here, FYI.

A little bit about the Strong Curves program:

  • It actually consists of several small programs with ridiculous names (Booty-ful Beginnings, Gluteal Goddess, and the like) that are divided into different weeks. The weeks progress… or something… to be honest, I just printed out the whole stack and did each workout once. Once I worked my way through the stack, I started over.
  • It’s not all glutes. While there are lots of hip thrusts, bridges, and squats, there are also exercises for your abs, arms, shoulders, and back peppered throughout (usually it’s glutes + one or two others per workout).
  • Each workout takes me between 45 and 60 minutes to do. I always start off with 15 minutes on the bike to get warmed up.
  • Most of the workouts involve gym equipment, though there is one program that’s 100% bodyweight focused.
  • The workouts are all structured like this:
    • Part A: Two exercises, A1 and A2. You do three sets of each, alternating back and forth (A1, A2, A1, A2, A1, A2). They usually work different muscles so you get a little break by switching around.
    • Part B: Same idea as Part A but with two new exercises – B1, B2, B1, B2, B1, B2.
    • Part C: Three sets of a new exercise. I think you’re supposed to do the sets in a row, but I alternate them with the exercises from Part D.
    • Part D: Three different exercises, only one set each. The way I do it is C, D1, C, D2, C, D3.

A lot of these exercises were new to me and I wanted to make sure I was doing them right, so every morning before a new workout, I’d open YouTube and look up video demonstrations while I ate breakfast. I started seeing a few of the same faces over and over, so here are the YouTube personalities I would recommend for learning the basics:

Buff Dudes

The Buff Dudes look ridiculous and at first I thought they might be a joke, but they’re actually my favourite instructional videos. The videos are informative, straightforward, and full of helpful cues.

Scott Herman Fitness

I don’t know Scott Herman, but I do know that he never, ever wears a shirt. I’m not sure of the reasoning – he wants us to see his muscles move as he demonstrates exercises? He wants to prove he knows what he’s doing and has the muscles to prove it? He’s incredibly vain? Who knows. If you can get past the shirtlessness (come on – nobody goes shirtless in the gym!), he’s very helpful and covers a wide range of exercises.

Girls Gone Strong

Girls Gone Strong’s videos are refreshing, since they don’t feature a massive dude with 0% body fat. Their weakness is that they don’t cover a lot of the exercises in the Strong Curves program. Still, whenever they do happen to cover the exercise in question, I find them to be a great resource.


My gym is somewhat limited in equipment (e.g., no squat rack), but I make do with what I’ve got. Whenever there is an exercise I can’t due do to lack of equipment, I usually Google “[exercise name] alternative” and I can find a good substitute that works the same muscle group.

I do the Strong Curves program in addition to trail running (and lately, road running) and yoga, hiking, or whatever else I’ve got going on. On average, I do about two or three days a week of the program, and I definitely feel like I’m getting stronger. Plus, the whole glutes activation business has revolutionized my running, which is a bonus – hopefully I’ve dodged a few future injuries by getting putting in this work.

At the very least, I find the program to be pretty fun. It’s nice gaining confidence with heavier weights and I’ve come to look forward to my gym days.


If you’re serious about Strong Curves (more serious than I am), I’ve heard the book is super helpful:

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You can also check out the Reddit group here.

Happy gains. (Just kidding – that feels weird to say.)


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Yukon Ho! Tombstone, Kluane, Alaska, Oh My!

In case you missed Part I of our Yukon Adventures, let me catch you up: we went to the Yukon, and it was awesome.

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Photo by Cedric

As much as I enjoyed our time in Whitehorse and Dawson City, the real reason we’d come to the Yukon was to explore the great outdoors. I’d heard Tombstone Territorial Park was incredible, and y’all – it did not disappoint.

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Photo by Cedric. See that winding road down below by the lake? That’s the Dempster.

Tombstone Territorial Park stretches along the Dempster Highway, its mountains flanking the infamous road that eventually leads to the Arctic Circle. We unknowingly timed our visit just right – early September meant that we’d caught the first days of fall foliage. It was pretty spectacular.

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Photo by Cedric.

However, our visit also coincided with Labour Day weekend. We had hoped to hike up to Grizzly Lake and spend a night camping out there, but you had to book the campsites online ahead of time – and they were already sold out by the time we looked. We’d heard that they save a few walk-on sites that you can nab the day of, so we made sure to head to the park’s information centre before it opened. Another guy had the same idea (he’d actually been working on getting the single coveted spot since the day before). He got the site – but in the end, it worked out just fine.

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Photo by Cedric.

We grabbed a drive-in “front country” campsite, then set out to hike the Grizzly Lake trail – or at least part of it. When I’d researched trails in the park, it looked like the options were somewhat limited. After speaking with the park rangers, we realized the opposite was true. Although there are few marked trails (similar to what we’re used to in Sea to Sky country), the potential for hiking is virtually limitless. You basically pick a mountain – of which there are many – and walk up it. Since you’re above the treeline, there isn’t much in your way. You basically choose your line and walk up. It’s steep, the ground is squishy, and the whole thing feels very Wild West.

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I was trying to hold hands but we couldn’t time it right with the self-timer feature…

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Photo by Cedric.

In the morning, we hiked about 3/5ths of the Grizzly Lake trail. It was beautiful – the climb was steady, but the views provided plenty of distraction.

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There’s an inspirational quote here somewhere… Photo by Cedric.

We headed back down, ate our usual camp fare in the car (PB & banana sandwiches), then drove up to a mountain on the opposite side of the highway. This one had a short trail, which provided access to countless choose-your-own-adventure lines. Cedric continued on to explore a ridge, while I hung back.

Fun fact about hiking with Magee: I loathe ridges.

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Photo by Cedric.

We spent the night back at our campsite, which had a river running alongside it – it made for a very peaceful backdrop. The campsite was pretty low frills (outhouses, fire pit, picnic table), but it had one major perk: free firewood! We hadn’t planned on making a campfire – I guess we had just accepted our local fire ban as permanent in our lives – so we didn’t have a hatchet or anything, but Cedric Macguyvered his way through a stack of wood and we enjoyed a cozy evening by the fire.

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I was worried that it would be freezing in the night, but we were well-equipped and it wasn’t so bad. I checked outside a couple of times in the night to see if I could catch the Northern Lights, but it was too cloudy. It ended up raining a bit overnight, and we woke up to see a dusting of snow on some of the surrounding mountaintops.

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Photo by Cedric.

After breakfast (PB & banana sandwiches… again), we drove all the way to the top edge of the park. We scoped out a potential hike, but it required a fairly wide river crossing, and though the water was pretty low, it was a little more effort than we were after. That might sound silly, but there were so many accessible mountains all around us – and they were virtually empty. There really was no need to make it harder than it was – although if you wanted to, you could certainly explore well beyond the highway. The mountains go on forever.

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Photo by Cedric. Squishy, squishy, squishy. Up, up, up.

We opted to walk up Angel Comb Mountain. The ground was squishy and bouncy and surprisingly delightful, but it was a steep ascent up the mountain – no switch backs through the trees here. We made it to one ridge, then I stayed put while Cedric continued on to explore another (sketchier, in my wussy opinion) ridge zone.

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Photo by Cedric.

In all, our time in Tombstone was short, but we definitely made the most of it. It’s one of the most beautiful landscapes that I have ever witnessed – it definitely earned a place on my personal list of most impressive scenery in Canada.


The next morning, we continued our counter-clockwise tour of the Yukon. We hopped on the (free) ferry out of Dawson City and made our merry way through the segment of the highway they call the Top of the World. It is a mostly dirt road, and it is incredibly scenic – which is saying a lot, considering the whole darned territory is rather picture perfect. Regrettably, we didn’t take any photos along this stretch – but if you ever get the chance to drive it, do it!

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We crossed the border into Alaska, which meant two things: 1) the dirt road morphed into a perfectly paved road for a little while, and 2) we had our best wildlife encounter: a big old moose. My passenger seat snaps may not quite be worthy of a National Geographic spread, but oh well.

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We made a few stops in Alaska – such as checking out Chicken, AK to buy a chicken key chain and some fudge (at a store that boasted having the only flush toilets in town!), and having lunch in Tok – then after a long day of driving, we pulled into our destination for the night: Beaver Creek.

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Chicken, Alaska

Beaver Creek was not my favourite Yukon destination, so I’m just going to go ahead a gloss over it. If you can drive straight through it, you won’t be missing out on a whole lot (in my opinion) – but you will be missing out if you don’t stop at the Pine Valley creperie just past town. With a few exceptions, I found the food in Yukon to be just okay – but the creperie was a notable exception. It’s like somebody dropped a tiny French countryside bakery into the middle of the Yukon. We savoured every bite of our breakfasts (a quiche and a Nutella crepe), then bought a couple of tarts (apple and blueberry) for later. I also grabbed a jar of their homemade blueberry jam, and my only regret is not getting more.

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This was precisely the fuel we needed to power a visit to Kluane National Park. The views here are spectacular, and they feel radically different from Tombstone.

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Photo by Cedric.

We spied on mountain sheep with binoculars, then headed out to do a pretty and relatively mellow hike called Goat Creek (or something like that).

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Not a mountain goat, but I liked these little guys that we spotted around Kluane. Photo by Cedric.

It looks like many of Kluane’s most spectacular hikes are multi-day affairs, which didn’t jive with our schedule – but I have no doubt they’d be well worth doing. We’d contemplated hiking the King’s Throne at the south end of the park, which is meant to be wonderful, but were advised that the weather in that area was quite cloudy and windy, so we decided to take advantage of the clear skies where we could find them.

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The hike itself was pretty sheltered, but it was very windy when we got back down to the road. Observe Exhibits A and B: that’s all dust, baby!

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Exhibit A: Photo by Cedric.

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Exhibit B: Did somebody say SELFIE!

Eventually, we made our way back to Whitehorse, where we enjoyed another day (and another cinnamon pullapart pastry) until our late evening flight back to Squamish. Yukon, you were something else – I will be back!

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Photo by Cedric.

Yukon Ho! Part I of Our Roadtrip in YT

You heard it here first: the Yukon is the new Iceland.

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Photo by Cedric. This is Tombstone Territorial Park and I will talk more about it in my next post. Consider yourself teased.

Hear me out. Iceland used to be the place to go for outdoor lovers seeking something under the radar. And while Iceland is still very much on my travel wish list, it’s hard to call it a “hidden gem” – it seems that everyone and their grandma has discovered it, visited it, and posted a selfie from the Blue Lagoon to their Instagram.

The Yukon appealed to us for a few different reasons. It’s always been in the back of my mind as a place I’d like to go – and it just so happens that we didn’t get to visit it on our Woods Explorer journey. So, we booked a trip.

We didn’t realize that the Yukon was such a popular place to visit until we were there. Scrolling through our social media during our down time, we noticed that an absurdly high number of our friends and acquaintances were also currently in the territory. Even Justin Trudeau was there.

You could easily spend a month exploring the Yukon. In fact, I would have loved to devote several weeks to driving up through BC, spending some time hiking and camping, then making our way up the Dempster to the Arctic Circle. Alas, our vacation time was limited, so we had to adjust our travel plans to fit with our schedule.

We settled on the Klondike/Kluane Loop suggested by the Travel Yukon website. We liked that:

  • it was a loop, meaning we’d get to see as much as possible;
  • it took us out to Kluane National Park;
  • it lead us through the two “metropolises” of the Yukon, Whitehorse and Dawson City;
  • it brought us close to Tombstone Territorial Park (we planned an extra day and night to explore this gem);
  • it allowed us to dip into Alaska, adding one state to my “have visited” list (I think I’m at 23…); and
  • it fit nicely with our schedule.

We flew from Vancouver to Whitehorse, and let me say – I am a big fan of little airports. Everything always seems so quick and easy. We arrived in Whitehorse mid-day, which gave us plenty of time to do some exploring.

When researching accommodations, I was generally underwhelmed with the options in Whitehorse. The hotels seemed to range from seedy to mediocre – and they weren’t terribly cheap. We opted to stay at a little studio unit from AirBnB, which suited us perfectly. As a bonus, a couple of pups lived in the main home, including this cute little one:

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Whitehorse is right up our alley. Its population is about 25,000 – remember now, the entire population of the territory is only around 36,000. But for the size, it seems to have a heck of a lot of amenities. We found a few gems (Burnt Toast Cafe for lunch, Baked Cafe and Bakery for breakfast – oh my GOSH, the cinnamon pullapart thingies are to die for), toured the local brewery, and decided we quite like Whitehorse.

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Then, we made the six(ish) hour trip up to Dawson City. I thought the drive was quite scenic – little did I know what was yet to come. We pulled over at a few lookouts, grabbed (then ate) a bunch of carrots from a farm stand, and stopped into various gas station general stores to loads up on road trip essentials (Coke Zero, gummy worms, etc.)

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We stayed two nights in Dawson City. In between the two, we camped at Tombstone Territorial Park, which I’ll talk about in my next blog post.

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We spent our first night in Dawson at Juliette’s Manor. The hostess was lovely (but not named Juliette, which threw me off). She said to pretend that we were staying at a long lost relative’s house, and that’s exactly what it felt like – very comfortable. We had an early start the next morning because we wanted to maximize our Tombstone time, and she made sure to set out some breakfast for us despite the ungodly hour.

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Our time in Dawson felt short but sweet – we seemed to always be rushing around and didn’t get to spend as much time exploring it as I would have liked to. I thought the town was positively quaint. We shamelessly did an old-timey photoshoot at Peabody’s Photo Parlour, which was ridiculously fun. We stopped by at the last minute and they stayed open to accommodate us, which was very kind. We didn’t want to take too much of their time since they probably wanted to go home, so I felt kind of panicked as I rooted through their most impressive tickle trunk of Victorian gowns and can-can attire. We rate the Peabody photos as a must do tourist activity. When in Rome, folks!

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I must admit that this dog did it better. (I don’t know the dog – the photo is from the Peabody Facebook page. So that’s two stranger dogs in one post, for those keeping count.)

Check in later this week for part 2 of our Yukon adventures: the one with the epic hikes and epic photos.

A Tribute to O-Town: The Greatest/Most Underrated Boy Band of My Youth

If you were a girl in the late 90s/early 00s (i.e., of my generation), you generally belonged to one of two tribes. You were either a Backstreet Boys fan or an N*SYNC fan.

While I appreciated both boy bands, I belonged to a minority that believed that O-Town was the greatest boy band of all. As with BSB and N*SYNC, O-Town was manufactured by the evil genius (emphasis on evil), Lou Pearlman. They were especially manufactured because they were assembled on an early day reality TV show called Making the Band. (Who remembers Ikaika?)

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I had this iconic image as a poster.

O-Town did not have the longevity of either Backstreet Boys or N*SYNC – they only had two albums, the second (and more superior) of which was highly, highly underrated. Most kids who partook in the 90s pop scene only remember “Liquid Dreams”, which was O-Town’s first – and most awful – hit. If you were a fan, you might remember the marginally better “All for Love” and considerably better “All or Nothing”. But only the most die hard appreciate the killer bops tucked away on the second album – Over Easy, anyone?

I can’t remember consciously choosing to devote my piercing screams to O-Town rather than the more popular alternatives – but I do remember a killer year where I got to see O-Town not once, not twice, but three times in the flesh.

The first was the best. They were performing at the mall – not the local mall (come on, they weren’t that lame), but the big mall the next town over (Square One, for my fellow GTA folk). I attended this show with my friend from school and her two sisters. This show is notable for one major reason: it’s the show I jumped from being an Ashley devotee to a Dan devotee.

Let me explain. Ashley Angel (left) was the heartthrob of the group – and not even Lou Pearlman could concoct a heartthrobier name, am I right? I would estimate that 60% of O-Town fans were Ashley fans, as I initially considered myself. Another 30% were into Jacob Underwood (a.k.a., the bad boy – I never got his appeal), and the remaining 10% leaned towards one of the other three members (Trevor, Dan, and Erik). An aside – I would argue that the hierarchy of members was much less pronounced than it was for BSB and N*SYNC (let’s face it – is anyone really a Howie diehard? Does ANYONE like Chris the most?).

So there I was, standing in a crowd of screaming girls, ready to see Ashley Angel in real life (oh. my. god.) I remember they were very, very late – but that just meant that it was even more awesome when they finally did emerge from the elevator and took the stage.

As girls wept (not an exaggeration) over Ashley, I experienced a moment of clarity: Dan is WAY CUTER than Ashley. And in that moment, I became a bona fide Dan fan. I think Dan also sang way more than Ashley did – in hindsight, I’m not sure why he didn’t get more love because I still think he is (was) cuter than Ashley.

(Actually… neither is that cute anymore.)

There was a strategic element to my Dan obsession. I figured the odds were better of actually dating him, since I was competing against fewer fellow fans. There was another perk, as I discovered at my next O-Town encounter (this one was an actual O-Town concert at the Molson Amphitheater): while Ashley and Jacob merchandise sold out very quickly, I rarely had to worry about them running out of “I ❤ Dan” headbands. (For the record, I did not buy one, but I seriously contemplated it.)

The O-Town concert was amazing, of course, but the best part was that the hosting radio station (KISS 92 – duh) announced at the concert that O-Town was the secret headliner performing at the Wham Bam Thank You Jam at Canada’s Wonderland on July 21. How do I remember this? Because I still have the promo card. As in, I have it right in front of me right now. Somehow, this thing has followed me across the country and through the years. I keep it on my bulletin board – as a reminder of what, I’m not exactly sure.

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Dan is in the baseball tee

Although O-Town’s set at WBTYJ was considerably shorter than it was at their own concert (they had to share the stage with such acts as LFO, Sugar Jones, ID, Ricky J, and Usher [one of these things is not like the other]), it was actually more intimate because the band members spent some time with the KISS 92 DJs before the concert. I got to watch them interact from kind-of-sort-of close, and when they had to leave, I snapped an epic picture of Dan, my man. In the photo, Dan – donning a blue bandana on his head, naturally – is waving (I like to think at me) as he’s turning a corner. It’s very blurry and he’s not actually looking in my general direction – but that didn’t stop me from taping the picture to the inside of my locker for many years. (Probably too many years.)

I would love to read a former O-Town member’s memoir (even if it is as shoddily written as Lance Bass’s autobiography – seriously the most atrociously written book I’ve ever laid my eyes on), because I need an explanation for what the heck happened between albums number one and two. By the time the second album came out, they had completely lost momentum. The only single I remember from this era is the only-okay “We Fit Together” – and it wasn’t even on the original second album; it was added as a “bonus track” later on.

I know this because I bought the second CD the day it came out, and it didn’t have We Fit Together on it. However, I purchased the album for many friends’ birthdays and the new versions I bought did have We Fit Together. I’d like to point at that I gave this album as gifts NOT because my friends loved O-Town – I gave it because I loved O-Town. I’m not sure how that makes sense, but I guess I thought I was spreading the gift of amazing boy band music.

As amazing as O2 is (that’s the name of the second album), it’s also a total mess. It’s basically two distinct sounds: half are a slightly edgier pop style with a wee bit of rock influence (From the Damage, Over Easy) while the other half is very hip hop wannabe (The Joint, Favorite Girl). I know nothing about music production, but I would describe it as having absolutely no direction. Perhaps that is why it was their last album.

So whatever happened to O-Town? Ashley made a go of it – I remember he briefly had an MTV reality show and I know my friend Jessica (fellow O-Town die hard) saw him in Hairspray on Broadway. I imagine they’ve probably attended a few of those NKOTB cruise things, or maybe they opened for a BSB reunion tour.

It must be weird going from full-on celebrity with throngs of screaming girls and international tours to a virtual nobody.

Don’t worry, Dan & the gang – you’ll always be a somebody to me.


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Modern day O-Town

Update: Apparently, O-Town has resurrected, minus Ashley Angel (there goes the majority of your fan base, fellas). If you happen to live in Wisconsin, you can see them on tour next month…

 

Welcome to UBC: Tales from an (Old) Imagine UBC MUG Group Leader

This isn’t a topical story by any means – it’s just a random post, kind of like my one about the chick cupcakes.


I went to university at the University of British Columbia. I can remember landing at the Vancouver airport many moons ago and I can remember taking the shuttle from YVR to UBC (it’s where I made my first friend). I remember meeting my roommates and I remember the campus scavenger hunt put on my by residence.

But I have zero recollection of my own Imagine Day.

Imagine Day is (or at least was, when I was a student) UBC’s first-year orientation day. They market it as “the first day of class in cancelled!” and you get put into a group with other first year students in your faculty (your MUG group – My Undergraduate Group), which is lead by a second-year (or older) student. I think they show you around campus and I vaguely remember eating pizza, and then there is a pep rally which I don’t think I attended, though I’m not sure why I didn’t.

Despite the notable lack of impact my own Imagine Day had on me, I desperately wanted to be a MUG leader. I went through the highly interactive MUG leader interviews (in which we had to enthusiastically act out being a bread machine without using words) (that really happened) and was stoked when I was invited on board.

As a MUG leader, I had one primary goal: to convince all of my first years to join a sorority or fraternity. I didn’t even care if they joined my sorority – any one would do. I believed then (and, frankly, I still believe now) that Greek Life was the best thing about university life and that their experiences would be sorely lacking if they didn’t get to experience going Greek themselves.

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I had to dig deep in the archives for this one

The day of Imagine UBC was a glorious sunny day. I donned my purple Faculty of Arts t-shirt (which was somewhat fraudulent, as I’d transferred into the Sauder School of Business), my silver Kappa Kappa Gamma lavalier, and a new pair of Sperry’s, fresh from Cape Cod. I carried my hand-drawn poster board over to the designated meeting area. My group was called Austen, as in Jane Austen. I happen to love Jane Austen, so I was cool with this.

One by one, my first years began to trickle in. They were quiet. Really, really quiet. They were probably all nervous as heck, but the awkwardness was palpable. Three of the twelve were pretty interactive, but the rest mostly stared blankly and gave me one word answers.

In our training, we had been instructed to start the morning off with everybody’s favourite (not so much) – an ice breaker. I pulled out the stops with my #1 favourite ice breaker: two truths and a lie. I remember one guy’s two truths were that he was a competitive golfer and he had six toes on one foot. I can’t remember the lie, but frankly, this guy was so interesting that he didn’t even need a lie. (He was one of the three talkative ones.)

I rallied the blank-faced troops and lead them towards a lecture hall, where we joined with several other Arts MUG groups. This was an “Ask the Professor” session, where a random prof in the faculty gave tips and answered questions. Ours was a one Professor Zeitlin, who happened to have taught my American Literature elective the previous year. He ended up being one of the best professors I had at UBC. After Professor Zeitlin doled out his advice, the MUG leaders got to go to the front and give their own tips. I, of course, gushed about Greek Life and told everyone they absolutely had to go out to recruitment.

Then it was time for the campus tour. In the shuffle out of the lecture hall, I lost one of my undergraduates (sorry!), but I gained another who had lost her group.

I’m sure the first thing that I asked her was whether or not she’d received her postcard from UBC Sororities.

The campus tour was a challenge. They had advised us to steer clear of places that were likely to be overly busy, like the Student Union Building. Wise words, but it seemed like the popular places were the most important places I should show the students – like, it’s generally more useful to know where the SUB is than where the UBC Farm is, right? So I took my group to the Student Union Building. I lost about three of them there – but at least they now knew where the SUB was…

My break-the-rules tour continued around campus – and the students dropped like flies. One or two said they had work and others had weird excuses. Some ghosted away. By the time we got to the pep rally, there were only two or three students left. It wasn’t the talkative ones, but I was pleased to note they’d started to come out of their shells. Post pep rally, they assured me they’d had a great day. Hey – 2 out of 12 ain’t bad, right? (Just kidding – it’s horrible.)

Despite my Greek Life propaganda – or perhaps directly because of it – only one of my twelve students went Greek. To be perfectly transparent, he was already living in the fraternity house (they were a smaller group and had a few extra rooms to rent), so I don’t even think I played a large role in the matter. But I’ll count it as a victory.

I would LOVE to hear any one of those twelve students’ takes on their Imagine Day experience. Maybe, like me, they remember nothing. I hope they all went on to have a great time at UBC.