16 November 2017

Still my favourite currency site for Travel


After years and years of travel, I still love the Oanda cheater charts for traveling. Check it out here: https://www.oanda.com/currency/converter/ Scroll down the page until you see the title "Traveler's Cheatsheet" and then you can customize and print out the chart. The other feature I really like is that you can select a rate that includes the typical credit card rate or ATM rate.  It gives you wiggle room and reminds you to factor in those extra costs.

I'm sure you are wondering why, when everyone has their own smartphone, one would need this?

Oh let me count the ways:
  • it is printed on paper meaning that I can tuck it anywhere
  • it is easy to read in bright sunlight
  • it never requires a battery recharge
  • I can easily share it with others 
  • it is light-weight and no one is ever going to steal it

Sniff coffee for your senses

The scent of coffee arouses all sorts of feelings. I adore the smell of it - it reaches deep into my soul and awakens my senses. Sometimes I wonder if I even need to drink it - maybe I should just try sniffing the freshly ground stuff - the way some people sniff glue, nail polish or other nasty items that can do serious damaged to your brain - sniff coffee instead.

At one stage Finns used to dominate in terms of coffee consumption. Prior to hitting 20, I often reached for a glass of milk before I reached for coffee. It took a long time for me to develop a liking for coffee - I certainly don't need it. I'm one of those people who wake up 110% - that jolt of coffee just gives me a nice buzz (as long as I don't abuse it as then I just get the jitters).

Finns, with a country less than 6 million people, still sits on top of the coffee ground mound as the country with the highest consumption - almost 10kg of coffee consumed per person.  Italy and Canada are at about the same with 3.4kg of coffee consumed.Yet the coffee culture in those three countries is so amazingly different.


I think I acquired my taste for coffee when I was working and living in Antwerpen, Belgium - it was those darn cute biscuits and chocolate that they gave you. And I must not forget the steamed milk.  Nothing as tacky (or polluting) as a take away cup in the early 90s. I am sure that by now they have adopted our terrible throwaway habits. They may have adopted our wasteful ways. From my last visit to Helsinki, I see that they also are adopting that annoy9inghabit of having a need to carry a cup of coffee or a bottle of water with them.

When I moved to Vancouver in the early 90s, Starbucks was the big news - there was even two Starbucks kitty cornered to each other.  I was a big fan of Starbucks until I started to notice their desire for world dominance - that is when I started to back away. There is one minor incident that I recall: I was in San Francisco in the Castro section of town visiting my Dutch-Canadian friend Johannes. A local independent coffee shop had put up a notice stating that their landlord was kicking them out after being their for a decade or so. Why - well it seems that a up and coming corporate group provided a nice signing on bonus if they would lease the space to them versus the local coffee shop. That was when I started seeking out the alternative to Starbucks.

From a money viewpoint coffee was an expensive habit! I started to back away when I realized how much my one latte per day was costing me - enough for a yearly vacation! 

Even Queen Street West in Toronto seemed to lose their charming coffee spots but it seems to be returning back to the 'hood as I have seen hopeful signs in 2017.  Vancouver has an excellent coffee scene. And I've got a lot pleasure from seeing a long lost cousin open up a coffee roasting house and shop in Portland. 

#coffee #helsinki #starbucks

Building a successful photo blog - tips

Oh I hope this is worth the 45 minutes I'm going to listen to this #hangoutonair with David Hobby, Patrick Smith and Alain-Christina Seraphin. My mind is a bit like a sieve(I wrote this post in 2012 and have just got around to posting it) so I'm going to jot down highlights so that I can come back and review. I just checked the link and I'm glad that I did as it is long dead however I did find David Hobby here.

The first 8 minutes the guys chat about how they got involved. David has been exposing (not in the way you think, please and thank you) himself since 1996. In 2006 he was on flickr which he thinks is a decent community gathering place - now you have twitter, goggle plus, and much more. It becomes a vortex for you and gives you ideas - so keep exploring. 

Posting regularly: Patrick does it on and off; David suggests you don't want to post 5x a day as you aren't going to be able to keep it up. Go for consistency - Go for quality. Take some time to think ahead about what you want to blog - don't do it on the fly. (Coming up to 8 minutes)

For Patrick it is a visual diary - he tries to post once a week. Uses it for searching out his own work. The more I post, the more hits he gets. David has a lot of followers so he is much more regular in his postings.

I'm hoping to find their sites fairly quickly so I can check them out. Here is one site that is still up and running (the video I'm watching was posted July 17, 2012) Strobist It looks like a cool site as it is the entry point to all kinds of educational pieces on photography and lighting. Oh cool, it looks like he has some training videos on www.Lynda.com which I am currently a paying member of. I am no longer a paying member of Lynda and Strobist still offers some great info. 

Meeting people in real life: David has participated in meet ups and Patrick has bumped into people at places like camera stores. Both of them have had gear swaps which sounds kind of cool as you can try out gear with a virtual friend and find out if you like the equipment. (coming up to 13:30)

Oh dear I'm now at the 23:01 as I went off to check out David Hobby's blog site, twitter feed and I'm listening to the tail end of the RSS reader and someone doing scrapping. So I need to come back and listen to that.

And thankfully Patrick listed his blog.  Some great photos - he is a pro. And he continues as the photos are current as of 2017.

Now at 28:00 - they are talking about cameras - I'm still stuck in the world of point and shoot. My fav is my Panasonic Lumix.

Oh good question - how many blogs do you have?? They have anywhere from a 1/2 dozen to a dozen. So I'm not totally out to lunch - but they suggest you put the energy into one or two. That is SO SO true.

Oh but hang on now I'm suppose to own a niche - ie. a cancer blog or a blog with a very specific type of cancer (right now I'm reading a book called Anti Cancer - all I know if that I will continue to believe that I am a healthy, strong person with no diseases).

Advertising revenue: Started with AdSense then processed into Amazon affiliates (2006) and then someone called me and asked me to be their only advertiser - I had to learn fast - so that is where he is now. The bigger problem is writing about something that your friends and others want to read.

These guys are way ahead of me. I'm a casual blogger and this is my first virtual hangout even if I joined in and watched in 2012. It would be cool to do one of David's seminar.

25 May 2017

The warmth of Italy

I'm still in love with Sicily and at this very moment I would love to be there. Mind you Vancouver, BC has just had spring arrive in full force so perhaps I will stay put for a few more weeks. Checkout this bike - it is simple, charming and uncomplicated. The way I think life should be.

22 January 2015

The wonders of nature in the Galapagos Islands.

There is just something magical about exploring Islands. I did a 7 day tour on a small boat with several American families (identified by the fact that each and every one of then had a small patch at the side of their necks - I guess they were all concerned about motion sickness. They talked about the side effects - frankly I won't use them unless I knew that I suffered from motion sickness). The best part was getting onto the various islands and seeing the animals, the reptiles, the birds, the insects and the flora and fauna. https://flic.kr/s/aHsjzKZAwF

Check out more images here: https://flic.kr/s/aHsjzKZAwF

02 December 2014

Item disposed of according to Canada Post Corporation Act

How does this happen? I called Canada Post 1.800.267.1177 and actually, after a few push this button, push that button I got a real person.  He didn't know what happened but managed to get me a new tracking number - new revised date is Dec 8th - I'm a Venture 1 customer and really do I need to do this much work to get a parcel returned (and will it be returned undamaged - I'm beginning to suspect it will have been opened)? And do I get reimbursed for my postage (can't even remember how much it was at this stage). And just where do these items get disposed to?

25 November 2014

Tom Jones in Toronto

While there are construction cranes everywhere and the fast buildings of condo towers - especially down by the Ontario Food Terminal is mind blowing - I love finding spots like the Tom Jones restaurant and PJ OBrien's.  It is like the are bearing up to their inevitable tear down refusing to budge and allowing us to have their visual rough beauty.

24 November 2014

Babies grow fast Canada Post

Hello - it has been over 2 months since I put this package in the care of Canada Post. It was dropped off at Canada Post in BC and has been in your internal system since that date. Please tell me when I can expect to see my package again.

Am I going to receive a package that has been opened with items missing because your machinery malfunctioned? Is there internal stealing going on? Is that why this package is gone missing? If your system of tracking packages off kilter?

Perhaps it would have been better if your crew wasn't so quick to return a package from New Brunswick all the way back to Vancouver without allowing a little extra time for that person to pick it up. I would like to know how long it sat at the NB post office before it was returned to me.  The baby, who this gift is aimed for, will be 3 months older or maybe even 4 months older before they receive it. Do you have any idea of how quickly babies grow and how quickly certain things outgrow them?

You are putting yourself in the package delivery system. Seriously this is what a Canadian can expect?

On 07/11/2014 7:13 AM, SACQBC1@CANADAPOST.CA wrote:

Dear Customer,

We have been assigned to continue the investigation you initiated for the item mentioned below. 

Service Ticket Number: 112312xxx
Tracking Number: 010080400027xxxx
Submitted: 2014/11/03
*Expected Resolution Date: 2014/11/27

We understand that the item is important to you and apologize for the inconvenience this has caused.  In rare cases, a delivery scan is entered into our system before the item is delivered.

As part of the investigation, we will contact the addressee to confirm delivery.  If you become aware that the item is delivered, please let us know by replying to this e-mail.

We will continue to monitor the status of your item and will be contacting you as soon as  further information becomes available.  You may also wish to monitor the status of your item online at www.canadapost.ca.  Should the outcome of our inquiry remain inconclusive by the *Expected Resolution Date, we will contact you again to confirm next steps. 

Canada Post Customer Service Team


02 July 2014

Getting to and from Mayne Island in Vancouver BC

Flash back to July 2014.  Check out the the photos by clicking onto the read more button below. Girlfriends and I had just returned from a four day weekend on Mayne island off the coast of Vancouver.  We were lucky enough to get on a BC ferry where Mayne Island was the first stop. It's been a long time since I have been on one of the BC ferries and sometimes the journey can take a long time.  BC ferries now have terminals where you can insert your credit card and get your one-way ticket.  For some reason they  will not actually sell you a return ticket to the Island which I found interesting. Not sure if that is still the case in 2017. Maybe I'll try to get to one of the island this year and find out what the differences are. 

Renewing my Canadian passport

I have some exotic travel up and coming and remembered, again, that I need to renew my passport.  I do say that everything is much easier when you can have easy access to information. All the info you could want or need is on the Canadian Passport site.  http://www.passport.gc.ca/index.aspx?lang=eng

I've got the photos taken now I just need to actually fill in the paperwork and submit it. As soon as I find it in the mess of my office. Oh dear.

Update: Wow, I stopped in at a local BCAA office and was given a simplified passport application form to fill out.  It took about ten minutes, did not require me to get anyone's signature but I did have to mail in my current passport - and then, voila, less then 10 days later my 10 year Canadian passport arrived. How fabulous! Plus they returned my now expired passport which I will keep. They are small treasure books of past travel.

30 June 2014

What happens when you don't empty to compost

Nothing better than staring our morning off then opening up the back
door and finding your compost has been cheerily spread about.
Even Sophie decided it wasn't worth checking out the compost.

12 June 2014

Sakura Gala Opening

My friend Judy emailed me from Toronto and suggested that we check out this Asian event.  

This was a very fun evening of pink cocktails, boutique beers, tidbits of food.

04 June 2014

Breathing and the Calgary Flood

Isn't this something we take for granted - breathing. Yet is is so essential. I was in Calgary last year after the flooding and I stayed downtown at the Sheraton Hotel. They had this great amazing rate on the hotel room but the $40 parking put me off somewhat. Too much oil expense report money in that town. I didn't realize how close the hotel was to the river that had overflown. So I went out exploring with my camera when I came across this very tempting staircase that screamed "grouse grind" Calgary-style to me.  The staircase wasn't as extreme as our natural version in Vancouver but I rarely Grind these days.

Starting June 28, 2010 hikers will pay $10—instead of the current $5—if they want to take the Skyride down the mountain after hiking up. “By adjusting the single download price (for the first time in 13 years) hopefully we will cause inexperienced hikers to reconsider how they access the mountain,” the Grouse Mountain Web site stated. 

Now if that isn't mumble jumble I don't know what is. I do know that I used to hike it regularly (barely breaking the 1 hour mark if you must know) and then would have food and drink at top. Ever since the up-charge I haven't been back with my lot. Part of it was the doubling of the cost (it is $40 if you want to go both up and down in 2014 prices).  

To see my photos which are hosted on SmugMug please check out this link:

Like the lightbox version instead then try this link:

If the link is broken please let me know - maybe you could stand on a tall building and call my name out or you could just comment and tell me the After the Flood link is dead.

Don't forget: Every minute is just a minute. Once lived it is gone forever. 

Rant: Keep Vancouver beautiful

There are just so many beautiful flowers (if you click on that beautiful flowers you will be taken to a Flickr album that showcases those flowers) in Vancouver. Just a casual walk around a few blocks can give you sensory overload. It is beautiful and I want to keep it that way. So my rant today....

I was working my office and happened to glance out the window when I saw a young guy, maybe in his 30s, casually toss an empty cup from his car to the ground. I watched it slid underneath his vehicle. And for whatever reason I just thought, that is so wrong what are you doing? This is a residential street. And forget if it was residential or commercial or anywhere for that matter. Your garbage is your garbage. Please, what were you thinking tossing it out casually onto the street? Perhaps you thought the next person who walked by pick up your garbage or maybe you just think that the planet is one big garbage pail. To my amazement, I got up my computer, went down tmy staircase through my front door and then went through the gate out onto the sidewalk and very casually I shout out that it seems the cup have rolled underneath his car. And I walked away up, towards my own car which was parked several houses down from where I live. I was pretending I was on a mission. He grumbled a little bit and I didn’t say anything else. He looked like a nice enough guy dressed in some sports gear, more like somebody off to play rugby or football. I came back to my place and didn’t say anything else but went to work on some flowers that were on my staircase. A short while after, I looked across and he was no longer at his vehicle and the cup that had rolled underneath his car was gone. I’m grateful that he decide to pick it up because he could’ve been a total jerk about it but also astonished that he would do it in the first place. But he knows maybe the cup is still there, and he just moved it to another part of the street to be a jerk. I hope not that’s my rant for the day. Please don’t toss your garbage out. Better yet bring your own cup stop buying all the waste. Yes I know it’s convenient, but be kind to yourself and be kind to the planet.

05 May 2014

FUSE Vancouver 2014

Several times a year the Vancouver Art Gallery hosts Fuse - a late night gathering that is a brilliant way to spend a few hours enjoying art, being art, handing out and taking advantage of what this city gives you. The cost is reasonable - around $17 (Free if you are a member) - and better than the cost of a movie with popcorn.
We stopped it at FUSE at the Vancouver Art Gallery.
Sandy became part of the art by sitting in the chair. Watching herself on the video monitor. Moving into another room and lounging. Is this street art in a formal setting or is this live art enjoyed for the moment we are there? 

26 March 2014

Vancouver FleaMarket - spring beckons!

There is something about spring that gets me thinking about yard sales
and flea markets!
Here is one in Vancouver that I've visited just once:

Now the previous post I created a collage and sent it via email to blogger.
This time I'm sending four separate files to blogger to see how they

Spring and fleamarkets

There is something about spring that gets me thinking about yard sales
and flea markets!
Here is one in Vancouver that I've visited just once:

19 March 2014

How much waste?

I'm taking a flight from Seattle to Kelowna, BC and I decided I would have one last morning cup of coffee. (Cut-off time for me is noon - not sure what you do but after that hour I'm pretty useless with caffeine). I'm got a lot of trash happening on my tray - plastic containers using half and half; some foil wrapping on the cinnamon bagel chips and pretzels (which I'm giving back as a quick look at the ingredients showed partially hydrogenated oils, canola oil and corn syrup all being used - I avoid these) and a plastic like cup - "the white cup is now green" - made from fully recycled and recyclable materials. It might be better than styrofoam (which Air Canada serves their coffee in) but hot coffee in plastic (or whatever this material is) is well just not my cup of tea. I'm not sure what elements are being pulled out of this cup into my coffee but I do know heat doesn't play nicely with plastic.

16 March 2014

No wrecking ball soon at 63 year old theatre

I'm trying to do a tidy up in my office and I came across a piece in the
Vancouver Courier dated Friday, March 16, 2012 dated with the title of
this post. I guess sooner came sooner than I thought. We are now one
year since that article was published. The theatre, bowling alley,
restaurants, book, insurance, yoga and hardware businesses are now all
gone and in its place will be 55 two to three bedroom condos and a
22,000 square foot commercial space that they are hoping will be filled
by a grocer. Which I find odd as the various formats from low discount
grocers to high end ones haven't worked in the past - and with a
Safeway, IGA, Choices and Greens all within reasonable distances I'm not
so sure if they can have a successful operation move in there - maybe if
they figured out the flow of traffic - parking was never a problem but
trying to get in and out of that lot with the lights, turning
restrictions, road barriers made it virtually impossible to get to the
business unless you were very adept at remembering the correct way in
and out.

Anyhow I ramble - I wonder what happened to the Ridge Neon sign -
perhaps it was sold or maybe it will show up at the MOV. It is always
with a bit of sadness when I see distinct elements erased from my
neighbourhood. Cressey is redeveloping the area and the article states
they have done hundreds of projects throughout the lower mainland. I
don't know if I have noticed their work before but I do know that there
is a sameness creeping into Vanccouver - kinda like lego land without
the cool little features.

19 February 2014

Hitting the ski slopes at Whistler

Okay have you ever wondered where time has gone. Here we are already
mid-way through Feb 2014 and I'm looking for photos to post. What do I
find? That last year I had already been skiing - and this year - well
maybe this weekend as it seems that there finally is a base. The weather
in Vancouver has been pretty darn great - in the past we've faced days
and days and days of rain. Yes we have had rain this year but not like
in past seasons. And when it is sunny in Vancouver well that just means
that weather isn't being so great in the mountains nearby.

This email is free from viruses and malware because avast! Antivirus protection is active.

18 February 2014

Glow education - unexpected

Just recently I was in Calgary with no firm evening plans when I walked by a kitchen design store which I now know is Poggenpohl Kitchens Calgary.. I could see that there was some sort of class going on and it looks like food. So I struck up my courage and decided to go in and find out what it was all about.

Turns out the workshop was just starting and they were doing edible products like massage lube, air freshener and raw chocolates. The instructors - Lisa Scheffelmaier and Ashley Rodriguez of Glow were delightful. The cost was nominal. And the time was well spent.

Kitty with birds on screen

04 February 2014

My stay at Hotel Ă„ndra Feb 2014

Hotel Ändra - http://www.hotelandra.com/

There is something luxurious about sliding into a tightly made bed where
the sheets just seem to caress your skin. You stretch out and just take
over the square footage of your sleeping spot. The room is simple,
almost stark with the essentials.

And I love the Tivoli radio - it was intuitive and took me minute to
figure it out. Plus better yet, no major digital glow, an analog face
)(I'm sure there are people out there right now who cannot tell time
that way - please prove me wrong) and great sound.

The room is small but it feels roomy for one. Sleek shower heads and a
tub (room 416, lights that gradually turn on and off so very gentle, all
the basics covered off for me including a robe, a firm but soft bed,
plenty of pillows (even though I just sleep with one).

They offered to upgrade me but I'm here for just one night and the
$135.00 rate I got doesn't include all the taxes. For the actual 8 hours
that I will spent in here that rate is just fine. Plus the totally over
the top insane parking fee of $40 (could I just sleep in my car) so no
thanks. As for the parking it seems that it is attack the car driver in
downtown Seattle - even the parking lot wanted $40.00 and street parking
is limited to 2 hours.

I also have to include the exchange rate as our loonie continues to head

They have some nice green touches - full size containers of shampoo,
conditioner and soap with travel size soap at the sink; no plastic bag
in the garbage container, the typical note about keeping the same
bedsheets for the duration of your visit. Ditto on the towels.

The Voss water, at $3.50 a bottle, was at least in a glass container.
Now I just noticed that this bottle of water has a nutritional label on
it - seriously does the USA (or maybe even Canada) require one to put a
nutrition label on water??

It is embossed directly on - but big bonus points for using glass. More
expensive to transport but nothing nasty leaching out of the plastic
into my water which then gets drunk by my body and enters into one of
the millions of cells that I have. Ah what the heck - I'm going to drink
tap water anyway. Seattle seems pretty safe in that regards.

This email is free from viruses and malware because avast! Antivirus protection is active.