Petite Bourgogne

Petite Bourgogne

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Montreal Adventures - A Look Back At 2013

With the year winding down, it's a good time to reflect on adventures I wanted to have in Montreal in 2013. Most of the year was consumed with finishing and shipping Batman: Arkham Origins, but I still managed to get out and enjoy myself from time-to-time.

Embrace winter (if it ever comes)
Go skating, tobogganing, maybe even snowshoeing - at least once a week.  Find and enjoy more tea or hot chocolate.

We had a short, fairly mild winter again, so I only managed to go skating three times in January/February, but two of them were during winter festivals: Fête des Neiges and Winterlude. I hope we get the same ice skating path in Parc Jean-Drapeau this year! As for new tea places, we enjoyed tea at Maison du Macaron and at Birk's Cafe. Highly recommend both places!

Embrace summer (when it comes)
Find and enjoy new terrasses.  Eat outside on my own. Finally attend a show at the Just For Laughs festival.  Spend time at the Jazz Festival.  Have a picnic in a park.  Watch the fireworks from Jacques Cartier bridge.  Find and enjoy more shop-made ice cream.

Street entertainers on stilts

D and I finally went to two Just For Laughs shows - one gala and one of the smaller shows at Club Soda. I also happened to be walking around Place des Arts at the time and enjoyed a bit of the street festival. A friend got some tickets to the Fantasia Film festival and invited me to a film from Taiwan made in the style of a 1950's American musical (but sung in Mandarin). In September, I spent four crazy days exploring Montreal with tourists from the USA and Europe during the MEETin Invasion. That was about it for this goal. Fortunately, many of the other goals are summer-related :)

Walk or ride my bike just for the fun of it. 

This was by far my most successful goal of the year. In the Spring, a friend at work got me to join him on his daily walks at lunch. We usually walk 30 to 45 minutes through either the Village or Old Montreal. Those walks have really helped maintain my sanity. In August, a friend and I started doing major cycling, with our longest ride being about 60km, taking us to and around Iles-de-Boucherville. 

More solo street photography (outside of my monthly MEETin photo walks)
Old Montreal Courthouse

I didn't do any solo photo walks outside of a brief wander around Queen's University campus after the ice storm this week. However, my lunchtime walking buddy found the Wiki Loves Monuments photo contest, so we spent September seeking out and photographing the monuments around work. It was a lot of fun and we discovered some places we didn't know were monuments.

Go to Jean Talon or Atwater market every week.

It wasn't every week, but I did go to the market regularly. As a result, I cooked and brought my lunch to work more regularly.

Go to the Botanical Gardens (my favorite) or some other park once a month.

With Mosaïcultures at the Botanical Gardens this year, the outdoor gardens did not have free admission for Access Montreal card holders from July through September. However, I did get to see the Mosaïcultures exhibit twice this year and it was spectacular! The bike rides usually went to a park, so there were still plenty of nature moments.

Visit museums.  
Glass art by Chihuly

I took advantage of a web deal and became a member of the Musée des Beaux-Arts this year. So far, I have seen three of the temporary exhibits, my favourite of which was the glass art by Chihuly. I also thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the new planetarium and the Canadian Centre for Architecture. Both are worth visiting.

Explore more restaurants, especially in my own neighbourhood and around work.
Sadly, I didn't do much in this area. Most of the new restaurant experiences came from travelling, rather than around Montreal. However, I did finally get to try Les Filles du Roy during MTL à Table. The food is delicious and the historic setting is worth experiencing.

Wear fashionable clothes.  
My wardrobe continues to evolve. I have been investing in some items from Katrin Leblond, a local designer who has a boutique in my neighbourhood. I love shopping there and always leave feeling fabulous!

Do more travelling.
Beautiful, colorful wrought iron balconies in the French Quarter of NOLA

Almost all of my travel was work related, none of which I would have predicted at the beginning of the year. I went to Frankfurt in May, Los Angeles (with a day trip to San Diego) in June, and New Orleans for the annual PMI Leadership Institute Meeting in October. The only vacation travel was spending a week at the same cottage where we spent our honeymoon and a Thanksgiving weekend roadtrip to Bois-Franc and Arbraska tree-top adventures in Rigaud.

Update this blog once a month.
This will be the 15th post on this blog this year. It wasn't exactly a monthly schedule, but I'm still happy with the amount of content I posted. I also wanted to make this blog more interesting. I didn't do anything special for that, so I don't think I made much progress on that goal. My weekend at Blissdom got me thinking about what I could potentially do with this blog. I'll do some more thinking this week and include any new goals with my 2014 goals.

As for my 2014 goals... I will be publishing them in the first days of January. If you have any suggestions on adventures in Montreal I should try, please let me know in the comments! I would also love to hear about any of your most memorable adventures this past year.

I hope everyone had a great 2013 and hope you enjoy the rest of the holiday season!
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Saturday, November 16, 2013

Daily Blogging: The NaBloPoMo Challenge

I have known about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) since I lived in California and I still plan to participate one November. On November 1, I stumbled upon National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo) on I had a blog post ready to go on my business blog, so I hit "publish" and spent the next 24 hours debating whether I had it in me to publish a blog every... single... day for a month. It wasn't an easy debate. For all of 2013, I have been struggling to write a post once a month. How would I find the time for daily posting?

The prospect of participating with a community of active bloggers is what finally convinced me to make the commitment. Two weeks in and I'm glad I did! I have been writing content every day since I haven't been able to write ahead enough to schedule posts days in advance. It certainly hasn't been easy, but I'm happy with what I have written so far. I am getting more inspired and, most importantly, I am getting more engaged with my blog and blogging in general. I also seem to be attracting a wider audience, but that will be clearer after the month is over.

Hopefully, after a month of daily blogging, I'll settle back into blogging weekly in December and in 2014.
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Sunday, October 20, 2013

Different Is Bliss! Blissdom Canada 2013

"I'll be out of the office Thursday and Friday this week. I'm going to a blogging conference that will be mostly women. So, if I come back wearing something pink... you'll know what happened."
That's pretty much what I told my team at work at few days before taking the train to Mississauga for Blissdom Canada 2013. Some context here: I work in video game development, so "normal" to me is a ratio of about 15 women for every 100 men (and that includes HR and Finance!).  When I bought my ticket, I knew that this conference would be something completely different and I'm not talking about learning/networking/partying with around 300 women (and a few men) for three days. Something completely different is exactly what I was looking for!

My bliss started weeks before the event. I won my hotel room in a draw for participating in a pre-conference Twitter party. Amazing! Thanks so much to the Blissdom Canada Team and Delta Meadowvale! Check out the great room:
The comfy bed at the Delta Meadowvale
This was followed by a lovely welcome box I received in the mail. I've attended a lot of professional conferences and this was definitely a first.
Sponsor samples from Sunlight and Philosophy
On the subject of sponsors... All conferences have sponsors, but this is the first conference I've been at where the sponsors sincerely try to woo us. I came back from the last conference with a collection of stress toys (what does that say about project managers?):
Stress toys collected at the PMI Global Congress 2012
Arriving at Blissdom, my ride from the GO Train station was courtesy of the wonderful concierge service from Chevrolet Canada and I was greeted at the hotel with this adorable bear, who also supports pancreatic cancer research:
Tempur-Pedic Bear from Sleep Country Canada
Even our conference welcome bags were stuffed with Sponsor goodies:
Conference welcome back Sponsor swag and the Sleep Country Tempur-Pedic travel pillow 
I quickly realized that these Sponsors got it. Here's a conference with 300+ socially connected writers. This was the perfect opportunity to directly connect with consumers and influencers and, for some, it was a two-way connection. If you are looking for feedback on your brand, this would probably be one of the best groups from which to receive it. The Tim Horton's #timspirations suite became a favorite hangout:
One way to connect with your audience...
But I didn't go to Blissdom for the Sponsors. My goal was to learn more about blogging and to learn from the community. Within 30 minutes of arrival, I knew I was in the right place! I think "bloggers" does not adequately describe the Blissdom participants. This was the most diverse group of entrepreneurs I have ever met. I met a fascinating photographerjewelry maker and kraftswoman in the conference's Handmade Marketplace. At the opening cocktail, I met an inspiring woman with an organic seed business and a food blogger in search of yummy-ness, just to name a few. Throughout the weekend, I also connected with a Social Media Fairy Godmother, an Animated Woman and a Canadian Mom, who are all in my own backyard of Montreal. This really is only a few of the fabulous people I met. I could go on and on.

As for the sessions, some of my favorites were:

The highlight presentation was Drew Dudley's closing keynote. I wrote a summary of his inspiring talk on my business blog.

So, did I come home wearing something pink? You betcha! My nails were polished bright, sparkly pink at the pyjama party the last night of the conference.
Photo courtesy of Anna Epp Photography
To read more about Blissdom Canada 2013, check out the blogs linked up on their wrap-up post.
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Thursday, October 3, 2013

MEETin Invasion!

Monty, our MEETin Montreal mascot, at Jean Talon Market
Each year, one of the MEETin cities hosts an annual global celebration with the help of a bunch of enthusiastic volunteers. In 2010, D and I had a fabulous time at the MEETin Amsterdam celebration where we explored the city with locals and made new friends from Amsterdam, Dusseldorf, London and all over the USA. We must have also done a great job talking about how fun Montreal is because this year the MEETin Celebration regulars decided to gather in Montreal. To help us out with the organizing, the Celebration became an Invasion, where event planners from the other MEETin cities would plan and host events in Montreal.

Sept 18 to 22, we welcomed about 40 people from Amsterdam, LA, Portland, San Francisco, San Antonio, Austin, Denver, New York, Boston, Providence, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, DC, Virginia Beach and Sacramento.  Over 4 crazy days and nights, D and I joined them at events ranging from poutine lunch, to museum visits, to dancing at an 80s night club. D even finally became a MEETin member and hosted an event of his own at Dieu du Ciel, his favourite microbrewery.

One of the best parts about having visitors in town is that we took the opportunity sample the poutine we had been meaning to try for years, reacquaint ourselves with favourites in our neighbourhood, like St. Viateur Bagel CaféSchwartz's, and Chez Chose, or discover something new like the cafe near where I work that asked D what country of origin he preferred for his coffee.

Below are just a few pictures from the weekend. A big thanks to all the fabulous Meeps who came to Montreal and made it such a fun four days! We'll keep in touch and will see you again at another Celebration.

Poutine lunch on the terrasse at La Banquise
Caught the Chihuly exhibit at the MBAM
Roses from Snooky The Rose Man at House of Jazz
My very first beer... ever! 15th Anniversary Porter at Dieu du Ciel
Mothershuckers at Jean Talon Market

Sunday, August 11, 2013

In Search Of Montreal's Best Lemonade

When you are thirsty on a hot summer day, ice cold, slightly sweetened lemonade is a great way to refresh yourself. Inspired by a article on the Top 5 Best Lemonades in Montreal, I set up a MEETin event "In Search of the Best Lemonade" to sample three of the five lemonades featured in the article and decide for ourselves. 

First on our list was the classic lemonade at La Petite Cuillère on St Denis, across from Square St. Louis. A quiet, eclectic cafe, they offered three different kinds of lemonade, along with tempting cakes and snacks. Deciding that there was only one fair way to compare, we all ordered the classic lemonade and grabbed a spot on the terrasse. Served in frosty mason jars, our drinks were tart, lemony and topped with frothy slush. While everyone appreciated the distinct lemon flavor, most of the group started looking around for sugar after their first sips. 

Next was D'Liche, winner of last year's "In Search of the Best Cupcakes" event. This also turned out to be a snack stop for most of us, since we had to try their version of the cronut and some had to verify that D'Liche still had the best cupcakes. We almost forgot that we were there to try the lemonade! The lemonade was slightly less lemony than the first one, but everyone appreciated that it was just the right sweetness. It was a nice balance to the rich cronut and paired nicely with a lime mini cupcake.

Stuffed with our delicious treats and two glasses of lemonade, we were happy to walk over to St. Laurent for the final place on our list. Laïka is part cafe, part bar, part hangout. When we sat down, we were surprised that lemonade was not on their menu. We showed the server a printout of the article. She verified that it was all true... and recommended we try the house iced tea as well. Half the group ordered lemonade and half ordered iced tea. While the lemonade was fresh, it was the least lemony of the three. Since we could barely taste the lemon, sweetness was not an issue. The iced tea was the better pick. Made with properly steeped tea, we could taste a hint of lemon and mint and it was sweetened just enough. 

In the end, we decided D'Liche had the best classic lemonade of the three places we tried. If you like your lemonade really tart or want to customize the sweetness, I would also recommend La Petite Cuillère. Order the iced tea at Laïka

There may be another contender in the near future. While walking along Duluth, one member of our group stopped in at Blüming Gateaux and discovered that they also have interesting house-made lemonades. We may have to repeat the event before the summer is over.

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Sunday, July 21, 2013

Homage to a Great Pair of Hiking Boots

Destroyed hiking boots
My faithful hiking boots - destroyed!
My faithful hiking boots of nearly 13 years were destroyed by the Cup and Saucer Trail on Manitoulin Island. For our 10th anniversary, D and I spent a week at the same cottage where we spent our honeymoon. We decided to hike the Adventure Trail along the Cup and Saucer Trail, since it was so much fun 10 years ago. Well, 10 years is a long time and we were not 100% sure where the Adventure Trail started, so when we saw the sign for the alternate loop under the cliffs, we thought that might be it.
Alternate Loop Trail Under Cliffs sign
Alternate "trail" not on the maps... That sounded like a great idea!
It wasn't the Adventure Trail, but it certainly was an adventure.  It was a very rough, loose rock path along the limestone cliffs. I was happy to have my boots since the ground was unstable and covered with poison oak.  We eventually got back to the main trail and called it a day, returning two days later to finally do the Adventure Trail. Unfortunately, time had eroded big sections of that trail, so it wasn't as much fun. Still, the views along the Cup and Saucer trail are as rewarding as ever.

View of limestone cliffs and trees
On the way back after the Adventure Trail - June 2013
Woman climbing ladder in rock crevice
Adventure Trail - Manitoulin Island - July 2003

It was only after the second hike that I saw how destroyed my boots were. The soles of both were completely ripped. All that was left to do was take a couple of photos, deposit them in the garbage and reflect on their 13 years of amazing service.

When I moved to California in 1999, I started to do a lot of hiking. It was during the dot com boom, so friends from Canada were in the area regularly.  We would find an interesting park and go explore. By the summer of 2000, it was clear I needed to invest in some proper hiking boots, so bought them while attending a friend's wedding in Prince George, BC. Back then, digital cameras were just coming out, but I remained faithful to my Pentax ESPIO 928 35mm.  As a result, I don't have many digitized photos from 1999 to 2002 when I started getting CDs made with my film development.

The most impressive hikes I have done were in Yosemite National Park, attempting Half Dome twice and completing the Glacier Point/Panoramic Trails twice. Yosemite is still my favourite place on earth so it was a natural place to take my first photo vacation with my Nikon D60 DSLR in 2008.
woman leaning on tree
Nevada Falls on the way up to Half Dome - Yosemite National Park - Sept 2001
bear walking along hiking trail
The friendly stalker bear on the Panoramic Trail - Yosemite - Fall 2002
squirrel with half dome in background
Photogenic squirrel - Yosemite - Sept 2008
Living in California also gave me many opportunities to hike along spectacular seashores, giant redwoods and to get to know wonderful people along the way.

Garrapata State Park seashore at sunset
Garrapata State Park, CA - Fall 2002
couple at point lobos national seashore
D and I at Point Lobos - Spring 2003
hikers in Tennessee Valley California
Last hike before moving away from California - Tennessee Valley - April 2004
After moving to Vancouver, I did a lot of business travel for the first 18 months. Still, I found time to hike in the area, visiting Buntzen Lake and Lynn Canyon the most.  I finally converted to a Kodak compact digital camera in 2006, but all the photos from my time in Vancouver were backed up on a hard drive that is now failing, so I can't post any right now. At least the best of them have been printed!

After moving to Montreal, my wanderings became more urban, but vacations still take us to more rugged areas. My faithful boots took me through Zakros Gorge in Crete, through some parks in rural Quebec, and even back to California.
trail under tree at Zakros Gorge Crete
Zakros Gorge - Crete - May 2009

shoreline at Saquenay National Park
Saguenay National Park - July 2010
giant trees and creek at Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve
Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve - May 2012
I will invest in another pair of good hiking boots and I can't wait to see where they will take me!

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Saturday, July 20, 2013

Summer Mini-Bloggiesta

Bloggiesta mascot boy with sombrero on computer

Rainy summer weekends are perfect for reading and writing, so it's the ideal time to participate in a mini-Bloggiesta. What is a mini-Bloggiesta? Well, it's the same as the regular event, just shorter and with fewer mini-challenges.

Here's what's on my to-do list this weekend:
  1. Write two planned posts for this blog.
    • One done. Postponing the other until #2 is done.
  2. Write at least one new post for my business blog.
    • Done Monday night. Whew! 
    • While I was there, I updated my featured posts on the front page.
  3. Send the Knowledge Event themes to the volunteers for the for the PMI Community of Practice blog I edit. 
    • Done!
  4. Find a blog post to republish on the above blog. 
    • Done! Just waiting for permission...
  5. Participate in the Twitter chat at 10pm today.
    • Done!
  6. Promote my Sockets and Lightbulbs Facebook page (including this link doesn't count).
  7. Do the following Bloggiesta mini-challenges:
  8. Break apart an old post into three separate posts so I can share them separately.
  9. Write custom Blog Follow Email and Comment Follow Email texts.
  10. Start an article for an online magazine that had approached me for a contribution.
  11. Reconnect with another blogger for a potential guest post.
If I think of anything else to add over the weekend, I'll just update this list.  At the end of the weekend, I'll also update this post with what I accomplished.

Time to get some tea and start writing!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Making The Best Of Business Travel

I didn't blog much in May and June because I was away a fair amount - twice on business.  Like everyone early in their career, I thought business travel would be so sexy.  Then I got a job where I had to travel every month.  That's when I learned that it can take a lot of energy, so I learned a few things about how to make the best of business travel.

Downtown Frankfurt after a day of rain

In May, I spent a week in Frankfurt for work.  Fortunately, D and I spent about 24 hours in Frankfurt about 20 months earlier.  We saw more then than I did in my week in May - I was working that much.  How can you make the best of a situation like that?

  1. Bring your camera
    • I was lucky to get a room with a great view and was able to go for a short walk around the hotel.  By having my travel camera with me, I was able to get a great shot of downtown Frankfurt on a moody night (above) and feel a little like a tourist during my walk.  During my last visit, D and I saw a life-sized Batman statue on a street I knew wasn't far from the hotel.  So, I was on a mission to get a picture.  Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find it again - but the quest was fun!
  2. Practice your German
    • I got to practice - just a little bit. Still, it was fun to practice the language... and help a colleague buy his dinner.
  3. Eat like a local
    • In Germany, the main meal is traditionally at lunch with sandwiches and cold cuts in the evening.  The company I was working with always made sure we had a decent lunch, often with food Germans typically eat. For dinner, I raided a grocery store near the hotel, buying bread, cheese, wine, chocolate and an antipasti plate.  Yeah, antipasti is Italian, but cultures are crossing borders in Europe, just like in North America.  
Zombies at E3

In June, I was honoured to be sent to E3 - the biggest trade show in the video game industry.  It was a working trip.  I spent a good part of the three days working in the booth, providing support to press VIPs as they played a demo of our game.  I also spent a good part of my time in the hotel room, answering emails and providing support to the team back at the office.  Still, I managed to walk around the exhibition floor and have some fun outside of the show. Best tips from this trip are:
  1. Bring your spouse
    • This was the first time D came along with me on a business trip.  I am SO glad he came.  We got him a free affiliate pass (he is affiliated with the video game industry), so he got to take in the show floor and do some networking on his own. Still, checking out the show floor and trying out some games with him was fun.  When a show event didn't work out one evening, we decided to try a delicious urban farm restaurant. I love my colleagues, but I have been seeing them a lot lately, so it was needed change to spend some time with my husband in a work context.
  2. Finally meet some people... in person
    •  In our uber-connected world, we often do business over email, telephone and web meetings. While it can work well for the day-to-day, it still makes a big difference to meet the people you are working with face-to-face. Since my time was limited, I only met with the people I currently work with and past partners I particularly enjoyed working with.  That is a lot more useful and enjoyable way to spend precious time.
  3. Take care of some (long overdue) personal business
    • Nothing feels better than being able to take care of some long overdue personal business - no matter where you are! It only took an hour and it's DONE.
  4. Bad flight schedule? No problem! Visit a favorite place.
    • I was booked on the red-eye flight back to Montreal and I couldn't get D on the same flight. Ugh. Well, LA is only about two hours away from San Diego, so I decided to rent a car and spend the afternoon at the San Diego Zoo.  Last time I visited was 2001, so I was looking forward to taking my DSLR and adding to a collection of photos originally shot in film.  In addition, due to an accident on the highway, it took me twice as long as expected to drive to San Diego, but I was treated to a drive through Cleveland National Forest, west of Temecula.  So, the next time you are booked on a less-than-ideal flight, take the opportunity to visit a favorite place or a new place. 

Turtle photo bomber!

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