Monday, February 28, 2011

Thwarted Again...and Day 1: 30 Day Challenge

Oh GRRR.  Did I mention that I'm sick of this snow?  It had mostly melted yesterday so I thought oh great, I'll head to bootcamp Monday morning since I'm back on the bandwagon.  I was so tired...but woke up at 5am, dragged my butt out of bed, got dressed and headed out the door...only to look outside and see that we've got another two or three inches.  Argh, the snow has thwarted another workout!!  I live on top of a fairly steep hill so wasn't sure what it was like out and decided to stay at home and do a quick work out on the stationary bike since I was already up.  So choked I tell ya.  I guess at least I got some exercise in!

So...I've found another challenge to know me...put the word "challenge" in front of me and it's go time!

This is kinda like the ten day "getting to know you" thingie that I did last Fall...but a little more in depth and a heckuva lot longer!  I saw this over at Janetha's blog over at meals and moves...and find it really interesting to find out about other people, their thoughts and their experiences.  Must be the voyeur in me or something! 
So...without further one:  talk about my current relationship.

Holy...I just realized, Hubs and I have been together for almost 20 years.  I actually had to count it a few times to make sure that I counted correctly!  We met way way back in day in 1990 - I would have been the tender age of 21, Hubs himself just a baby at 22.  Victoria was having its first Miss Chinatown contest, and my best friend at that time L and I went go watch this momentous occasion - we knew quite a few people who were in the pageant, so we wanted to check this gig out.  We ended up running into a friend of hers from UBC who was there with her cousin...who guessed it...Hubs.  It was funny, because all I remember from that first night was this guy just staring at me but I thought whatever, who is this dude...and didn't really think much of it. 

Fast forward to the next day at work...and what arrives other than a huge bouquet of flowers, a stuffed animal and a little note.  I was a little shocked to say the least...and at the time, completely not interested.  Hubs ended up befriending L (aaah, yes...he is wily and resourceful), and somehow we ended up being thrown together constantly in social situations.  We ended up becoming friends, and we'd do marathon phone calls - but I still wasn't that interested.  So totally meh...but not ever un-interested enough to fully 100% cut him loose. 

For two years, we carried on like this...and I don't know what it was but a part of me must have realized after spending a lot of time with Hubs, that I did, in fact, like him...and in 1992 we started dating.  It was weird, because we'd spent so much time as friends...but I think that's a big part of the reason why things have lasted as we got to know each other so well before becoming an "official" couple.  We dated for a long, long time before actually getting married in 2003...a lot of people pressured us, but being a stubborn ass Taurus, I wasn't going to listen to anyone else.  I was adamant that I wanted to finish school first, because I wanted to fully enjoy the wedding process, and not be a stressed out bride trying to juggle school, life, a career and wedding plans.  And I have to say, my wedding day was one of the best days of my life!  No regrets.

So here we are, in our 20th year together and working on our 9th year of marriage.  I'm glad that he was persistent because he's a good, good fella who is so supportive of all my choices (puts up with all my crazy running!) and makes me laugh every day.  Plus he loves to eat and shop as much as I do - what could be better than that, right?

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Half Marathon Week 2 - 15K...Sorta

Did I mention that I hate snow?  Well, OK I don't mind it if I'm at home, all cozy and snug as a bug in a rug with a hot toddy...and I love it if it snows so much that Hubs and I can't get into work so we get a snow day...but as a general rule...not a fan.  Why?  Cuz it stops me from running!  Yes...yes...I can pretty much hear all the people out east snorting derisively...if I was a diehard, I'd be out there no matter what.  We had 15K scheduled this weekend, and we weren't sure what our usual running route would be like - it's bike/walking trail so it's not like anyone would go out there and shovel it.  The temps have been really low since it snowed as well, so we were worried that the path would be a sheet of ice so we decided to do the 15K on the treadmill.  Yep...90 minutes of running on the "dreadmill"...and I gotta tell ya, soooo boring!  We got up at 6am and we took turns running - thank god we have a television down there to help the time pass, and we kept each other company through our ordeal.  So...while it wasn't ideal - I was really wanting to see how I handled a 15K distance on the road  - we still got 'er done.

On another note - I'm gonna put this out there because I need the accountability.  My food has been going a bit south and I'm snacking way too much, especially at night.  While the stuff I'm eating isn't too bad, I really need to clean it up and stop the apres 7pm snacking.  So this week, my goal is to clean up my eating and cut back on the snacks.  Go!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The ABCs of Cindy

I'm procrastinating.  Can you tell?  We're running tomorrow as we have 15K on the schedule, and can't fit that length of run in before Hubs heads to work.  So...that means I'm doing all my Sunday chores today like laundry, cooking, errands, etc...and to be truthful, all I wanna do is laze about the house.  Victoria was walloped with snow earlier this week and it's really cold right now, and I love snuggling up on the couch with a good book when the weather is nasty outside.  Of course, just before I was going to start my chores for the day, I had to check out what's going on in bloggieland, and saw a new thing going around that I just had to do.  It's critically important and I can't move on with my day without doing this first, right?

Age: 41 (OMG, how the heck did that happen?!)
Bed Size: Queen
Chore You Hate:  A tie between washing dishes and matching socks
Dogs: None right now, but want to adopt a greyhound one day
Essential Start to Your Day:  Shower
Fave Colour:  Chartreuse green
Gold or Silver:  Silver or white gold
Height: 5'2''
Instruments:  None, but plan on taking piano lessons
Job Title: Manager, Financial Services
Kids: Hell no!
Live:  Victoria, BC
Mom's Name: Anne
Nicknames:  C, Cin, Cind, CDub
Overnight Hospital Stays:  When I was a kid
Pet Peeve:  Food commenters - "why are you eating that?" "you're so skinny, you should eat more!"  "that's weird!" "are you on a crazy diet or something?"  "what's wrong with you?"  "what DO you eat?" grrrrrr....I'm getting mad just thinking about it...
Quote from a Movie:  "Them sirens did this to Pete...they loved him up and turned him into a horny toad!!" - from O Brother Where Art Thou (I love this movie!)
Right or Left Handed:  Right handed
Siblings:  Brother - three years older
Time You Wake Up:  anytime between 5am and 6:30am
Underwear: yes
Veg You Dislike:  I like them all but the one I like least is probably carrots
What Makes You Run Late:  Hubs
X-Rays You've Had Done:  Neck/shoulder, teeth
Yummy Food You Make:  I make a mighty fine roast chicken
Zoo:  I like the pandas

Wheeee!  That was fun.  Sigh.  OK, time to get rolling on my chores.  Here I go *dragging heels*

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Hearty Ten Vegetable Stew

Whoa...just realized it's been a long time since I've posted up any recipes!  I haven't really been terribly experimental lately, even with all the cookbooks I've purchased in the six months.  Time to change that little travesty! 

As I've posted previously, one of my 2011 goals is to incorporate Meatless Mondays into our lifestyles - and I gotta say, me and Hubs are doing stellar on this one.  Ten out of ten on this goal so far!  I might even expand it into two meatless days per week for 2012 - it'll give me some time to incorporate some good vegetarian recipes into my repertoire so we don't end up making the same thing over and over again. 

So - one of the recipes that I just tried that Hubs loves is this ten veggie stew that I got from the 2011 America's Test Kitchen Light & Healthy.  This magazine is chock a block full of great recipes...I've tried this veggie stew and a yummy potato leek soup that we really liked as well.  We actually just had it again for dinner and Hubs kept saying how good it was...aaaah, yes....success!

Hearty Ten Vegetable Stew - from America's Test Kitchen Light & Healthy

1 pound mushrooms, sliced thin
2 tbsp canola oil
8 ounces swiss chard, stems and leaves separated, chopped fine into 1/2 inch pieces
2 onions
1 celery rib, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 carrot, peeled and cut 1 inch thick
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp minced fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp dried
2 tbsp all purpose flour
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/3 cup dry white wine
3 cups vegetable broth
2 1/2 cups water
8 ounches red potatoes (about 2 medium), cut into 1 inch pieces
2 parsnips, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
2 bay leaves
1 zucchini, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Combine the mushrooms, 1 tablespoon of the oil and 1/4 teaspoon of salt in a large Duch oven.  Cover and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until softened, 8 to 10 minutes.  Uncover, increase the heat to medium-high and continue to cook until well browned, 8 to 12 minutes longer. 

Stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, chard stems, onions, celery, carrot, bell pepper, and 1/8 teaspoon salt and cook until the vegetables are well browned, 7 to 10 minutes.

Stir in the garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Stir in the flour and tomato poaste and cook until  lightly browned, about 1 minute.  Stir in the wine, scraping up any browned bits, and simmer until nearly evaporated, about 2 minutes.  Stir in the broth, water, potatoes, parsnips, celery root and bay leaves and bring to a simmer. 

Reduce the heat to medium-low, partially cover and cook until the stew is thickened and the vegetables are tender, about 1 hour.  Stir in the chard leaves and zucchini and continue to simmer until tender, 5 to 10 minutes longer.

Remove and discard bay leaves.  Stir in the parsley and lemon juice, season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Per 1.5 cup servicng:  Cal: 160  Fat: 4g  Sat fat: 0g  Chol: 0mg  Protein: 4g  Fibre: 5g Sodium: 450mg

My changes:  I used kale instead of chard as I love kale.  Next time I might amp up the garlic and thyme a bit as well (I used fresh thyme, and maybe didn't quite put enough in).  The other thing I wanted to note is to not skimp on the first step of browning the mushrooms well - it really adds flavour by creating a flavourful fond in the pot, and stops the stew from being too sweet from the root veggies. it when recipes are good for you AND taste great.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Hong Kong Part Three - The Shopping

Sigh.  I've spent the last two days sick as a dog and feeling like ass, so I apologize for not getting on this and posting up my trip recaps faster!  I know...what the heck, right? 

So.  Alls I gots to say is...ooooh...the shopping.  The shopping.  The shopping.  Le sigh.  There is nothing - and I mean nothing - like the shopping in Hong Kong.  A close second after food, shopping is our other favourite past time and Hong Kong definitely satisfied that itch completely.  Hubs and I were killing some time last Friday before meeting some friends for dinner, so were moseying through the Bay Centre in downtown Victoria.  We kind of wandered around aimlessly for awhile...and finally after meandering around for what seemed like ages, we looked at each other and commented that Hong Kong has pretty much spoiled us for shopping in Victoria.  Sleepy little Victoria just doesn't stack up against go-go-go Hong Kong!

Not surprisingly, Hong Kong is a very status and style conscious city - people dress up and it was cool to people watch and see what's cool or trendy.  The travel books we read warned us to not dress down too much, as you'll feel out of place and it was kinda true.  I wore runners and lululemon the whole time - there was no way I was dressing up esp. since I was hoofing it all over the city and hopping on and off subways - I needed to be comfortable!  But I will admit I felt underdressed a few times, especially if we were going to a nicer restaurant but didn't have time to head back home to get changed.  Honestly though...I could have cared less.  Ha!  Yep, I'm bull headed like that (must be the Taurean in me).

So - what was so great about the shopping in Hong Kong, you ask?  The variety - anything your little heart desires, you can find.  If you're looking for cheap knockoffs, they are everywhere.  We didn't buy any though, because customs is cracking down on that kind of thing so if we were caught bringing anything back into Canada, we could have faced fines for doing so.  Totally not worth it...and I'm not into fakes, no matter how good they look.   However, if you're braver than we were and want your fake Prada bag, Ladies Street in Kowloon is a good place to find some fakes.  Ladies Street is an outdoor market that's just off Nathan Road, one of the main streets in Kowloon.  There were lots of knickknacks here, and we found a few cute souvenirs.  It was really crowded and the stallkeepers were on you like white on rice...but all I did was just smile a lot and say thank you and "tay ha" (which means "just looking") and they were pretty good at leaving you alone.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Hong Kong has all the high end brand names - Chanel, Burberry, Gucci, Tom Ford (oh Tom Ford....THE best dressed man I've ever seen...the fit of his suits on him is impeccable!), Armani, Rolex, YSL....the mind boggles.  Any brand name you can think of, you can find it here.  And not just a shop in a mall...but street front, multi-level flagship stores:

Yves St. Laurent, in Central:

Le sigh....Armani:

And a massive Coach store:

Another reason why the shopping was so awesome...the Canadian dollar was exchanging at 7.8 Hong Kong took a bit to get used to seeing a t-shirt selling for $150 and not thinking that was in Canadian currency!  And a hint to everyone...if you're going to Hong Kong...bring a tiny pocket calculator with you...I think Hubs and I burnt out a lot of brain cells trying to divide all the prices by 7.8!  The other great thing is that the stores are open late, until at least 10 - 11pm. They open a bit later at around 10am...but we loved being able to get up, work out, get out by 10am and start our day. We were out and about in Central around 11pm one night and it was still heaving with people who were out for some late night shopping or eating.

One caveat on the shopping - sizes in Hong Kong run really, really tiny, especially the local brands and designers.  I generally buy small/extra small and size 4 or 6 here at home (I'm a gargantuan 5'2'')...but I was a large/extra large or size 10 there!  In some stores, they didn't make the clothes in my size...I was at this Japanese store Uniglo, looking for jeans...and they didn't make them in my size...they stopped one size short.  I walked into one of the really funky local brands called Bauhaus, and everything I picked up looked like it was for kids!  Yes...this gave me a bit of a complex.  Ha!  The girls there are so incredibly tiny, I felt like a huge sasquatch or something!  The good thing though is if you are on the petite side, the stuff that I did find fit great...I have to pay a fortune at home for tailoring because nothing ever fits, so I was actually amazed to find a jacket that I could buy off the rack with no alterations.  The sleeves are shorter and cut narrower, armholes are smaller, and the shoulders and the fit are cut closer to the body.  For the most part, I ended up buying stuff I can get at home, but at better prices...a lot of the clothes were either too young for me (furry boots were big in this lifetime) or had too much flair (sequins and cutesy poo details are not my thing) but there were still a lot of things that I did like.

Now if you can't find something in Hong Kong that fits, you can always go to the amazing tailors here.  Hubs has a fairly big neck at around 16.5 or 17, but is slim everywhere else so his shirts always looked too big for him.  And now that I've finally got him out of pants with pleats (hallelujah!), he is finally buying into the slim cut look.  We went to two tailors, and they were both pretty awesome - cost for a tailor made shirt was about $40 Canadian!!  You come in, they measure you up, you come back once for a fitting and wham bam, you have your shirts the next day.  One of the places didn't require a fitting, but I'd recommend asking for one just to be sure.  The tailors keep your measurements on hand as well, so if you ever want to re-order, you send them an email and you're all hooked up.  I brought a pair of pants that fit me perfectly and had them copy it, and make it in a different material.  Cool, eh? 

There are a ton of malls in Hong Kong, and IFC Mall is probably the most high end.  The top floor was all the chi-chi high end stores, so we just walked past....we knew we couldn't afford that stuff so we went to the mid and lower floors, where the people of meagre means like us can afford to shop.  Ha ha!

IFC Mall:

Times Square Mall, which was one of my favourites as it had more stores in my price range and my taste - six floors of luscious, luscious shopping: I adore thee, Furla...

And the mall to end all malls in Kowloon....Harbour City Mall.  This place has 700 stores....can you believe it?  When you walk in, they give you a map to get around and trust need it.  Hubs and I got lost multiple times and kept going around in circles:

The entrance to the mall:

Toy store with a separate entrance for kids:

My jaw dropped when we saw these stores...there was a whole wing for kids, and they had Dior, Burberry and Armani for children!!!  I couldn't believe it!!  There's a lot of wealth in Hong Kong and especially China with the booming economy, so there's some serious people with some serious cashola there. 

As we left Harbour City Mall, we walked past this huge line up at the Louis Vuitton store...I've never seen this before...probably mostly because I don't see the appeal of LV (I'm not a fan of stuff that is covered in logos - yes, that includes you, Coach) but that's just my own opinion...heh. the end of the day, Hubs and I went a little crazy.  We each had to buy a suitcase to fit our purchases...and had a few panicky moments the day before we were flying out as we weren't sure about our weight restrictions (whew!  we were fine).  And we each went way over the amount we were allowed to bring into Canada, but we figured it was worth it because we couldn't find a lot of this stuff at home, or we saved a ton on the price.  Ahhh...the shopping was truly something else - dammit, I want to go back NOW.

And...finally....the last installment of our Hong Kong foibles coming up next...the FOOD...saved the best for last!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Half Marathon Week 1 - 10K

Quick post today...not feeling terribly well all of a sudden - throat is feeling funny, really tired, getting chills and a headache is coming on...not good, not good....

Oy vey, another early early morning run was on the books...Hubs had to work Saturday again, so we were up at 5:30am and out the door by 5:45am.  Run was really good - considering we haven't run that kind of distance since December, I'm actually not to sore DOMS, yay!  The only thing that has me a tinge worried is that I can feel my foot hurting again...I really tried to concentrate on form as a few times when I started to fatigue, I could feel my right leg getting sloppy and turning inwards.  Must get crackin' on those exercises!

Oh - quick note to anyone who is training for the half, the latest issue of Canadian Running is really good - I was never really sure what my pace should be when doing tempo runs or any other kind of speedwork - most training programs are really vague.  However, this issue listed that if my race goal is 2:00:00, then I would need a 5:41/km race pace, 5:29/km tempo run pace, and 5:24/km 10K pace.  Cool!  Now I know.

Off to lie down on the couch with my new cookbook purchase "Mastering the Art of Chinese Cooking" by Eileen Yin-Fei Lo, who is apparently kinda like the Julia Child of chinese cuisine...going to Hong Kong has reinspired me to cook more Chinese food!

Friday, February 18, 2011


Woohooo!  I'm feeling super energized and zing-zing-zingy today - I'm back at bootcamp and we had a fantastic workout this morning...our trainer had to leave by 6:30am, so crammed everything into one hour of intense hill intervals combined with a circuit.  It felt so great to get out there - I kinda didn't realize how much I'd missed the really super intense workouts...and even though I have to get up at an ungodly hour, I love starting the day off with exercise as it gives me so much more energy to get through the day, and I tend to eat much healthier when I know I've worked out.  Even though this didn't exactly work on Monday...I went to class in the morning, but Fabulous Boss bought us these yumm-ay vegan cupcakes for V-Day, so of course I had to have one.  It would have been completely rude to not have a cupcake when offered, right?  And then at night, Hubs and I treated ourselves to strawberry angel food cake.  After polishing off the cake, I proceeded to have not one or two of those Purdy's foil-wrapped chocolate hearts...but FIFTEEN of them.  Yes, you read that right.  Fifteen.  I couldn't stop myself!  After my chocolate binge, I looked around me and I was surrounded by little scrunched up bits of red foil...clear evidence of my debauchery.  It must have triggered something because now I've been craving sweets all week...blah!

Anyways, the bootcamp workouts have recharged me for the half marathon training.  I was kinda feeling blah about it - you know how it is, when you get out of the habit of doing something,  it's always so hard to start back up again but the spark has returned! I go...going to post my training schedule because you folks know about me and the whole accountability thing:

Week 1:  10K
Week 2:  15K
Week 3   10K
Week 4:  16K
Week 5:  13K
Week 6:  13K
Week 7:  18K
Week 8:  15K
Week 9:  15K
Week 10:  20K
Week 11:  13K
Week 12:  10K
Week 13:  RACE!! 

My goal is to keep at least a 6:00 min/km pace for all runs - I need 5:41 min/km to get a sub 2 hour half marathon, so I'm targetting a 5:30 min/km for the actual race.  My weekly workouts are going to hopefully look something like this:

Sun:    X training - 30 mins stationary bike and 30 mins weights
Mon:   Bootcamp a.m./core & ass exercises p.m.  (prescribed by physio)
Tues:   Rest/yoga
Wed:   Bootcamp a.m./core & ass exercises p.m.
Thurs:  Rest
Fri:      Bootcamp a.m./core & ass exercises p.m.
Sat:     Long run

We do a lot of hills in bootcamp, so I'm going to push myself so I can get in speed/hill work.  The conundrum I have is when to get in my tempo runs - I want to make sure I get these in so I know that I can sustain a slightly quicker pace for longer distances...but I want to also make sure I get in two full rest or "active" rest days.  Ack - I think I need another day in the week!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

New Rules for Boston the talk amongst runners today is the qualifying changes for the Boston Marathon:

In 2012, the BAA will institute rolling admission for qualifiers with the fastest runners being allowed to enter first. The field will be filled with the fastest of all qualifiers. Then, in 2013, the BAA will make it more difficult to qualify by lowering time standards by five minutes across all age groups and both genders. The rolling admission process also will remain in place for 2013 and future marathons, continuing to allow the fastest runners to enter first.

I was perusing a few running blogs today and there's a few upset people out there....qualifying for Boston is a dream of many runners, me included...and with these changes, it will mean that I'll likely never BQ.  Of course, that would involve actually running and completing a marathon, but that's besides the point! 

So I was do I feel about this?  Boston is seen as THE elite race...and honestly...I feel that the fastest runners should get first dibs.  Maybe it's natural running talent, maybe it's the fact that they've trained their asses off - but whatever the reasoning, if you're the best, you deserve to get in before someone who just squeaks in under the qualifying time.  And...with the race selling out so quickly, they needed to do something to narrow the field.   Anyways, maybe I'm more blase about the changes because I know I'd probably never qualify (3:45 for my age group) - but a girl can always dream, right?  Never say never.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Hong Kong Part Two - The Sights

I think I've finally recovered from jetlag so I'm able to stay awake for more than two hours at a time - so what's the first thing that I have on my to do list?  Blog, of course!  This blog is as much a journal as it is anything else, so I'm sure twenty years from now when I'm a world famous blogger with kajillions of followers, I can look back on my posts and think "oh, remember when we went to Hong Kong?"  Ha!  Anyways, as I wrote in my first Hong Kong post, my second post is going to describe all the sights that we saw of the city.

So where to start?  For this portion of the program, I'll go day by day as it's easier for to remember all the stuff we saw and did on our trip.

Day One - Off to The Races

One of the biggest attractions that Hong Kong has is the Happy Valley Horse Races - millions of dollars run through this place every Wednesday, when the races are scheduled every week.  The people of Hong Kong love betting on horses, and it was definitely on our list of must-dos.  However, this must-do was the first thing scheduled on the day we arrived.  Have I mentioned that I'm insanely jetlagged?  We flew out from Vancouver on the 2am flight on a 13 hour flight, and with the time difference (16 hours ahead of Victoria), we landed at 7am in the morning.  The flight was horrific as Cathay Pacific has changed their seats so they don't we barely slept a wink and were insanely tired when we landed.  So anyways, the reason why I'm telling you this is that the races were at 8pm on the first day that we were there, so we had to stay awake for a full day after not having slept.  SO not fun, and we were desperately tired but we managed to stay awake and somewhat coherent so we could watch the races.

Here's a picture of the track from the stands:

The rabid horseracing fans in the stands:

The horses being shown before the start of the race (there were seven races that night):

And they're off!

The winner:

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Day Two - Checking Out the Market

After sleeping like zombies on our first night in the city, we headed off to Stanley Market the next day.  This market is in Stanley (surprise!), which is located towards the southern end of Hong Kong Island and required us to take a 45 minute bus ride.  The market wasn't really my first choice as I'd heard it wasn't quite what it used to be, but in the end it was worth the trip because of the journey to and from the market.

I've mentioned before that the taxi drivers are insane there...well, the bus drivers are even worse.  I sort of recall this from my first time there, and vaguely remembered not liking sitting up on the top level of the buses, as they're all double deckers.  On the way to the market, I thought was probably because I was younger and I'm waaay more brave now.  Not!  The ride is definitely not for those who are faint of heart - the driver drove on narrow windy roads at top speed - you could hear the plants and tree branches hitting the side of the bus, and a few times when the ride was bumpy, we actually went airborne and came up off the seats...there were a few of us sitting up top and I remember us all giggling hysterically...that kind of nervous laughter that happens that with false bravado, because you really are afraid, but don't want show really just how afraid you are.   A few times we thought the top deck of the bus would hit the side of the rock was THAT close.  Here's a photo taken out the front of the bus:

And a cemetary that we saw along the way - amazing (sorry for the crappy pic).

The narrow road wasn't the worst thing though.  To get to Stanley, the road is on the side of multiple hills or cliffs where it's a stomach churning drop to the bottom...unfortunately, I was sitting on the window side, so could see exactly how far up we were and juuuuust how painful it would be if we were to plummet to our deaths below.  I actually thought in my head...I wonder if I hang on tight to this pole, will I live if the buses does multiple rollovers?  Note there are no photos of how we were teetering on the edge of the cliff because I spent most of that part of the ride with my face buried in Hubs' shoulder.

Finally we arrived at the market, and I have to say...meh.  It was touristy, and the stuff in the market wasn't the greatest but you could find some trinkets or neat little things. 

Stanley itself was kinda cool though - it was on the water, and much quieter than Causeway Bay (where we stayed):

Here's the main strip of Stanley, where the restaurants are decidedly Westernized - Stanley is a common place for ex-pats to go to.  I'm once again being a goof and doing "hearts"...another common Asian photo thing. 

And a view to the water.  It was kind of overcast, but still a pleasant, warm day. 

So I've said the ride there was pretty scary.  However, the ride back was even scarier.  Why, you ask?  Because we were subjected to who Hubs and I have now dubbed "Crazy Bus Lady".  I'm pretty sure she should have been on some heavy duty meds, but wasn' people got on the bus, she'd roundly curse you out in Chinese.  Now I'm not the best at Cantonese, but I know what those words mean and they weren't good.  There was a lady who kept talking on the bus, and Crazy Bus Lady must have decided that she had enough.  She got up, and started screaming at Talking Lady, cursing her out in Chinese and English, threatened to report her to the police and told Talking Lady's young daughter who was sitting next to her that her mom was a bad, bad lady.  Whew.  So OK, that blows over....but Crazy Bus Lady decides that Cell Phone Lady who was sitting across from her was pissing her off too.  She stands up, curses her out but then throws in cursing out her parents, her children, her future children and all her ancestors.  Nice touch.  We actually got off the bus early, careful to avoid any eye contact so as to not raise her ire...look away, don't draw attention to yourselves!  Hubs, being the cheeky monkey he is, thought about taking her picture as we got off the bus and as the doors closed.  He was mostly brave because we decided to get off in front of a police station.  Ha ha!

Day 3 - Riding the Ferry

In my first post, I described how Victoria Harbour is the body of water between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island.  There's a bridge you can take to get from one side of the other, and you can get there in minutes on the MTR...but the coolest way to get to Kowloon and vice versa is to take the Star Ferry.  It's this little ferry boat that takes you on a short 10 minute or so ride, and it's pretty neat.

The Star Ferry pier:

One of the ferries:

Crossing the harbour:

Poor Hubs...he was too busy looking around and excited about the ride, he didn't notice his seasickness sneaking up on him.  By the end of the ride, he was a little green around the gills!  He felt better fairly shortly, but the feeling of being out on the water actually stuck with him for a few days.  Poor little bugger.

Day Five - Victoria Peak

By Day Five, we'd both become smitten with the city.  We'd tasted what Hong Kong had to offer for shopping (sigh) and we'd definitely tasted the food (double sigh), so we were ready to see one of the sights that Hong Kong is famous for, the Victoria Peak.  The only way to get up to the Peak is by the Peak Tram, which is a cable car built way back in the day.  It's pretty old, but apparently has a spotless record for safety.  Good to know, especially as we would be pulled up a hill at impossible angles!  Day Five was the first clear day that we were there, and it turned out to be the best day out of the trip to go, as the smog had cleared and it was a fairly sunny day.

The Peak Tram:

On the way up:

Ahhhhh...we're here!  Gorgeous, no?  You can see the Bank of China building with all the triangles. 

Day Six - The Big Buddha

Day Six...holy, the trip is more than half over!  Yikes.  Time was going by way too fast.  We were blessed by another gorgeous day, so we decided to head to Lantau Island (on the map from the first post, it's the island in the lower left corner) to see the Tian Tan Buddha.  This is the largest seated statue of Buddha in the world - 85 feet tall and beautiful.  I actually got a little verklempt seeing the statue, as the surroundings and the statue itself were so beautiful.

My first sight of the Buddha on the hill:

The gates to enter the complex:

One of the seven statues that lined the walkway when you walked in:

At the bottom of the steps to walk up to the Buddha - there were 260 steps!  We were a little out of breath after getting to the top:

At the top!  Cool.  Serene.

The bodhivistas that surround the Buddha (there were six statues) - aren't they amazing?

I have to say, this was probably the most memorable part of the trip.  I mean, I loved the food and the shopping, but seeing the Tian Tan Buddha was really something else.  Sigh.

Day Eight - Hong Kong Museum of History

Waaaah!  Only two more days left.  We'd read through our guidebooks, and while the Hong Kong Heritage Museum was more highly rated, it was going to mean transferring on three or four different subways to get there.  Ummmm, no...that was going to take far too much time away from eating and shopping.  We decided to go to the Hong Kong Museum of History, which was totally awesome.  There were different exhibitions, which started off with how Hong Kong was formed geographically, the culture of the people, how people lived, the British occupation, and most interesting (to me) was life in Hong Kong during the Japanese occupation during World War II.  I would highly recommend this museum to anyone who visits Hong Kong.

Dinosaur eggs, found in Hong Kong:

Early peoples:

A fishing boat:

Replica of a typical Chinese home in a village:

Wedding caravan:

Traditional wedding dresses:

Huge Chinese statues:

Traditional Chinese opera singers:

Replica of the bun mountains - these things are 10 metres tall and covered with 6,000 buns.  On Cheung Chau Island, they have a Bun Festival every year.  On the last day of the festival, people would be set loose to scramble up the bun mountain and grab a bun as they're considered good luck...however, one year one of the mountains collapsed and people were injured so they discontinued the practice.  They've restarted the practice fairly recently though with a tower made of metal and simulated buns.

Day Ten - Chinese New Year's

When we were planning our trip, we were sooooo excited that we'd be there during Chinese New Years.  CNY is like Christmas here at home (maybe even more so), and is a crazy big deal in Hong Kong.  There were decorations everywhere, and...this is going to sound made me really proud to be Chinese.  It's not that I'm not proud of my heritage, but I honestly don't think of myself as Chinese first and foremost - I think of myself as Canadian.  Does that make sense?  I was born in Canada and live a very Westernized living in Victoria where there isn't a really large Chinese community means that there really isn't a huge focus on all things Chinese.  But being in Hong Kong - I really appreciated having a cultural identity and the things that come along with it - the language, the food, and the customs.  Awesome.

A few day's before CNY, big flower markets open up as a Chinese tradition is to buy fresh flowers for the holiday season.  One of the biggest ones was in Victoria Park, which was almost right across the street from our hotel in Causeway Bay.  It opened up about four days before the first day of CNY, and every night it was absolutely heaving...on the night before CNY day, it actually stayed open all night and the MTR stayed open until the wee hours of the morning as well to accomodate the hordes of people coming from all over Hong Kong to buy fresh flowers.  It's also seen as good luck to walk through the wanting to win the lottery sometime in the very near future, we trucked our little butts over to the market for a little look-see.

View from our hotel room at night - the bright blaze of lights is the flower market...and you can just make out how totally crowded it is with all the people:

The flower stalls:

Look at all the orange trees (very auspicious for the Chinese):

Lucky bamboo:

Cherry blossom branches - unfortunately these didn't open in time for CNY, so they were being offered at huge discounts the night before CNY:

The throngs of people:

It was so crowded at one point, that you didn't walk as an individual...the crowd kind of carried you along and it was like you were moving as one body! what do the Chinese do amazingly well?  Probably better than any other culture? math...and definitely not so great at driving (ha ha!  actually I think I'm a pretty darn good driver), but what else other than FIREWORKS!!  On the second lunar day of the new year and the day before we flew out, there's a huge fireworks show in Victoria Harbour, and we'd have an unobstructed view from our hotel.  We decided to do the special CNY dinner at our hotel, which allowed us to go up to the pool at the top of the hotel and watch the fireworks.  This was amazing...the fireworks really were something else.  Set to music, you could make out 8s, bunnies, happy faces, and XOs...the show went on for at least 25 minutes, and was absolutely the best fireworks display I've ever seen.  They looked huge from where we were and we were 32 stories up!  What a way to end an incredible trip.  Here's a short 3 minute video of the fireworks from Youtube...Hubs had videorecorded it, but it's long and our camera went out of focus a few times so I thought I'd spare you all. The video just doesn't do it justice though. I was awestruck.

The next post - the shopping...oh...the shopping...