Saturday, December 28, 2013

Post-Christmas catch up

I will fully acknowledge that I fell off the edge of the blogging universe for more than a month.  I worked a crazy amount (including a sanity-challenging 18-day stint) and then got caught up in the holiday whirlwind.  But I'm back, and hopefully 2014 will be more balanced.

Did you get anything exciting for Christmas? My husband got me a whippet.

Photo credit:
No, wait.  Capitalization is important.  My husband got me a Whippet.  

Photo credit:
In case you can't tell from the photo, a Whippet is a combination ice axe ski pole.  I'm not sure what kinds of objectives my husband has in store for this winter.  Maybe I should be worried.

We got out today for a bit of a tour just past Banff.  The snow was nothing to write home about, but the views weren't bad.

Slogging through the facets.  And yes, that's a giant rock.  There were many rocks.
How were your holidays? 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Stop 5: One Night in Milan

Milan was our last stop.

The rumours are true.  Driving in Milan was completely lawless (and I say this having lived and ridden a motorbike in Cambodia.)  We caught the tail end of rush hour and carefully made our way to our apartment, conveniently located just 3 blocks from the Duomo.

Prada and Louis Vuitton at the Galleria Vittoria Emanuele. Sadly, the shops were closed.
Jeff had one final adventure on the way home.  I upgraded his ticket to first class using points, and among other things, he got picked up on the runway by a private driver in a Mercedes, and he got to hang out in a special lounge with bellota ham and a Jacuzzi.    

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Stop 4: Zurich

I visited Zurich 15 years ago.  At the time, I was working in France and one of my best friends was working in Switzerland.  We went to one of the universities, crashed a reception and made off with free food and drinks.

Years later, my friend is now doing a masters' at that same university, so I took the train from Ticino to visit him.  (Also, apparently the receptions are a weekly thing and free to all comers, so we weren't quite as dastardly as we thought we were being at the time.)

Apart from visiting the university and wandering around the Altstadt (German for "old town"), mostly we just ate.  For dinner the first evening, we went to the Zeughauskeller.  Zeughaus means "arsenal house", so the walls were decorated with crossbows, machine guns and other weapons.  
The quintessential Swiss German meal: beer, sausage, potatoes and sauerkraut
Unfortunately, the rain and gloomy weather followed me to Ticino, so the next day we took refuge in Babu's Bakery and Coffeehouse.    
Berry tart. I'm getting better at taking photos before devouring.
And we made a trip to the first Sprungli store, opened in 1859.  North Americans are probably more familiar with Lindt, which actually used to be part of Sprungli and then split off in 1892.  I bought a little box of marzipan fruits, and we also picked out some luxemburgerli to share.  They are like macarons, except smaller and cuter.  I liked the caramel fleur de sel ones.  I also just discovered that you can order them online, which might be dangerous.  
Well. I'm kind of getting better at taking photos before devouring.  There were four luxemburgerli in here.
Proof that we actually walked around a bit and didn't just eat luxemburgerli all day.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Stop 3: Ticino, Switzerland

A few years ago, Jeff and I met a Swiss couple while climbing in Kalymnos.  They were from Ticino, and we heard so many good things from them that we had to check it out. The photos from the last post were taken in Bellinzona, the capital city of Ticino. It is famous for its three castles which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

We rented an apartment in Ascona, on Lake Maggiore.  It was the perfect base for exploring.

Lovely views from our apartment
Pretty cobblestoned streets
Really, we were there for the climbing.  Unfortunately, the weather had different plans for us.
There are supposedly some boulders right behind us.  Yeah, we couldn't see them either.
Photo credit: Dave Sobocan
Hoping for sun
Eventually, our patience paid off and we did manage two days of roped climbing.      
Finally enjoying the sun at El Cat
Photo credit: Dave Sobocan  
And then we had another four days of bouldering in Chironico, Cresciano and Ascona.  Most of the boulders are tucked away in the forest, surrounded by chestnut trees.  Bouldering has never really been my favourite style of climbing, mainly because of the potential for falling and hitting the ground.  But I found that I really loved the bouldering in Ticino, particularly in Chironico.

The famous (to climbers) Dreamtime boulder in Cresciano
Photo credit: Dave Sobocan

Crazy Dave taking advantage of a calf hook in Cresciano

Another great day in Chironico
Photo credit: Dave Sobocan

When we weren't climbing, we were eating.
Pumpkin soup at Ristorante Cittadella in Locarno
Poached pear and gelato at Ristorante Cittadella
Tasty pizza at Restaurant Da Gina in Ascona

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Stop 3: can you guess?

Just for a change, here's are some outfit photos from Stop 3.  Anyone been here before or want to guess where these photos were taken?

Outfit details:
Shirt: Propaganda
Tank: Propaganda
Jeans: American Eagle
Boots: Steve Madden
Scarf: from Nepal

Friday, November 1, 2013

Stop 2: New York City

From Portland, I headed over to New York City.  This was my second trip to the Big Apple, and although I think there is something to be said for seeing the sights, I also think it's fun to just hang out and pretend you're independently wealthy.

My friend Lester flew over from Australia to meet me, and we rented a beautiful apartment on the Upper West Side complete with grand piano.  We rapidly fell into a lazy routine of getting up late, maybe doing something touristy like going to the High Line or the Natural History Museum, and then having a nice lunch.  Followed by some more wandering around, napping at the apartment and then heading out for dinner and debauchery.  (By debauchery, I mean a classical music concert at the Lincoln Center).

View from the High Line. Sorry, this is the only photo worth posting from this part of the trip. 
I liked every meal that I ate in NYC, but the highlight was probably the grilled fish and cracked rice at Le Baobab, a Senegalese restaurant in Harlem. Lester's aunt also made some crazy delicious bindi and aloo gobi.

By far the most unexpected thing that happened was that I started playing piano again. Piano was a huge part of my life from about age 3 until age 21. And then, over the last 10 years, I've barely touched  the piano despite having an upright taking up space in my house. Maybe it was the grand piano in the apartment, but I realized I've missed playing.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Stop 1: Portland

So why are you going to Portland?

To see the Pet Shop Boys!!!!

(yes, I used that many exclamation points)

What do giant bull heads have to do with this song? Nothing, but trust me, it worked.
And they did not disappoint.  They played most of their big hits, as well as some songs from their new album, Electric.  The backup dancers were awesome, the costumes were fun, the lights and smoke were fantastic, and the show finished with an explosion of confetti.  The only thing that could have been better was the venue; the rows of seats were not exactly conducive to dancing and anyone who ventured into the aisles was sent back to their seats by security.

The next day, we went to the farmers' market at Portland State University, which I would definitely recommend.  The highlight of the market for us was the Olympic Provisions stall.  The salamis are delicious, and our favourite was the Finocchiona which is flavoured with fennel.  We saw an exhibit on samurais at the Portland Art Museum and then spent the rest of the day walking around downtown and the Pearl District.

We have many photos of this sign taken from slightly different angles as we progressed through the 40-minute long queue outside the shop.

The Portland marathon was on, and we watched the athletes exerting themselves while snacking on maple bacon doughnuts from Voodoo Doughnuts.  We also made an interesting discovery about this animal:

Photo credit Wikipedia
After an informal poll of Portlanders (the ones who didn't walk briskly away from us avoiding eye contact), we concluded that they call these birds "geese".  One person admitted to having heard the moniker "Canadian goose" at some point.  Public service announcement: they're Canada geese, folks.

The next day, we went for a drive along the coast.

Not too far from Cannon Beach
And then we finished off the trip with dinner at Ava Gene's, ranked #5 on Bon Appetit's "Best new restaurants" list.  By the time our 8 PM reservation rolled around, we were pretty ravenous so unfortunately, I was too busy eating to take photos.  To start, we had bread with white beans, rosemary and garlic.  Then, I had orechiette with pork sausage and then salmon with polenta.  Delicious.

I made my husband put this back on the plate so I could take a photo. 
All in all, a perfect weekend trip.

Effortless Anthropologie giveaway

It's Effortless Anthropologie's 5 year blogiversary, and you could win a $1,000 shopping spree from Anthropologie.  Head over there for more details!
Photo by

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Frock and Hound goes travelling...

...minus the hound this time, unfortunately.  Don't worry, Oscar is having fun with his friend Trevi, a long-haired Weimaraner who lives with our friends Joe and Kat.

First stop on our trip: Portland.  I have more photos to share later, but for now, just a quick one from outside the Portland Art Gallery.

He's not Oscar, but he'll have to do.
Outfit details:
Shirt: Cloth and Stone, Anthropologie
Skirt: Maeve, Anthropologie
Scarf: from Nepal
Shoes: Tom's

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Charlie trousers

I have this love affair with cropped pants, so I was delighted when I found these Charlie trousers on sale at Anthropologie.  (I see what you did there, Anthro.  "Trousers" sounds way cooler than "pants.") 

I think the print will be easy to wear through the winter.  Although I often like to mix prints, today I decided on the easy (lazy?) option of pairing these pants with a simple white t-shirt and a black cardigan.  

Giant tree? Yes, please.
Outfit details:
Pants (or should I say "Trousers"): Anthropologie, Brocade Charlie trousers (still on sale!)
Shirt: Banana Republic
Cardigan: Banana Republic (also on sale)
Shoes: Aerosoles
Necklace: possibly from Claire's, very old

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Embracing the blurriness

I am in awe of all the bloggers who post outfits on a daily basis.  Taking nice photos is a lot of work! If I'm working, by the time I get home, it's often too dark to take good photos.  I've yet to find a good space indoors for taking photos, although I suppose with winter coming on I'll have to figure something out.

Here's what I wore on Saturday evening to a work function.  I bought this dress in Spring 2012, and love the pattern.  I tried to make it more fall-appropriate by pairing it with opaque tights and a cardigan.

For other fall transitional looks, check out Toronto Shopaholic's #thewaywewear linkup.  I found out about it via A 5'3" Perspective, another blog that I've been really enjoying lately.

Low light plus Weimaraner = many blurry photos
Twenty minutes later... success!
Outfit details:
Dress: Jacob
Sweater: Banana Republic
Tights: Target
Shoes: Aerosoles

Thursday, September 26, 2013

REVIEW: La Sportiva Solutions

Do these come in pink?
Yesterday, I popped into Mountain Equipment Co-op in search of new climbing shoes.  I've been wearing the 5.10 Anasazis for years, so usually I go in, ask for my size and give them a perfunctory try-on.  Alas, this time, my size was out of stock.  

So I decided to try something new.  Normally, I have a hard time finding climbing shoes because most shoes hit too high on my lateral malleolus.  I've only ever had success with three shoes in the past: 5.10 Anasazis, 5.10 Spires, and Evolv Rockstars.

The Solutions hit a bit high on my lateral malleolus, but they're tolerable.  And that tiny amount of discomfort is well worth feeling like I couldn't fall off a foothold if I tried.  It took some time to get used to the toe, as initially it didn't seem like I had as much sensitivity as with the Anasazis but that passed quickly.  I've always felt like my heel shifted around in the Anasazis when heel hooking, but this shoe holds my foot securely.  Also, I like the rubber patch on the toe for toe hooking.

Only downsides: the price, which at $150 is quite steep.  I've read that the Solutions are not great for slab or crack climbing.  Also, the shoe is not comfortable enough to wear all day, although I did manage to last 2 hours in the gym without taking them off.  Lastly, the single tab closure was kind of finnicky... I'd prefer two separate straps.

Bottom line: if you want a shoe that makes bouldering feel suddenly magically easier, this might be it.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Winter is coming

The next season of Game of Thrones, however, won't start until early 2014.

We just finished a week of hot weather.  I know many people are eager to start wearing fall fashions, but I`m going to cling to summer for as long as I possibly can.

Ten photos later, and this is the only photo I was able to get of Oscar facing the camera. Kind of.
I originally bought this dress because I loved the racerback.

Then, I discovered that this dress has pockets! I love pockets.

Outfit details:
Dress: Banana Republic, old
Shoes: Puma

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Life in the mountains

This past weekend, I was making dinner when I heard a bear banger go off in the woods behind the house. I didn't think much of it until later that night when I had to let the dog out.

Our yard is not fenced in, so I have to take Oscar out on a leash. The second we stepped out the door, Oscar started growling. The fur along his back stood up in a ridge and he was obviously staring at something in the yard.

My heart started pounding. I was a bit scared that there was a coyote, a bear or a cougar in the yard. It was dark at first, and it took some time for my eyes to adjust.

Oscar was growling at a lawn chair that I'd left out earlier in the day.

Living in a mountain town has its disadvantages sometimes. I can't plant berries or have a bird feeder in the yard, for example. We can't leave our garbage outside, and this spring, two dogs who were off leash were attacked by a cougar.

Small trade off for a day like this:

Winter is coming...

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

First Tour of Alberta

This past Sunday marked the end of the first Tour of Alberta, a 6-day cycling race that started in Edmonton and ended in Calgary.
I am not a road biker (and would barely consider myself a mountain biker), but the racers passed within 2 blocks of my house and I couldn't pass up the chance to see Ryder Hesjedal and other famous cyclists in real life.
Actually, I still can't really say that I saw Ryder Hesjedal in real life.  I had plopped myself down on the median with a few other bystanders and was taking some test photos when I heard cheering.  I looked up from my screen to see the first cyclists zooming down the road.  I  barely had time to snap a quick photo.  Then I just held the trigger down on burst and hoped that I got some good shots as the peloton sped by.   

Awesome to see so many cyclists on what's normally a busy road.  Reminds me of
the critical mass events in Vancouver... except no naked people, and no road rage.

More cyclists.

The same road, photo taken just over two months ago at roughly the same location.
Photo credit: Calgary Herald
If you're confused about the last photo, at the end of June 2013, Calgary and other parts of southern Alberta suffered one of the worst floods in over a hundred years.  We made the front page on CNN (actual headline: 3 dead in Canada flooding.  They do know that Canada is a really big place, right...).  After suffering a lot of heartache over the past few months, it was nice to have a reason to celebrate.  My heart goes out to those who are still cleaning up and facing uncertainty.   

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Summer white

This week, my husband and I had a mid-week date at Osteria de Medici.  It's an Italian restaurant within walking distance of our house but it has a reputation for high prices and snobby service, fueled in part by a news story which broke 3 years ago when the Edmonton Oilers wined and dined there on New Year's Eve and refused to pay their $17,000 bill.

Fortunately, we were pleasantly surprised by our experience.  I had a tomato bocconcini salad, angel hair pasta in cream sauce, and salmon with potatoes and vegetables.  The food was tasty and we spent a very enjoyable evening sitting on the patio and chatting.      
Last chance for summer dresses?

Oscar is all smiles.  Little did he know that he'd be spending
the evening alone in his crate.
Outfit details:
Dress: Ya Los Angeles
Belt: Banana Republic
Sandals: Nine West

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Labour Day weekend

I didn't have to work this past weekend, so the only labour that I did was a lot of hiking and climbing.

We started out at Acephale, 20 minutes east of Canmore.
This climb is challenging if you don't have opposable thumbs.
So how do you get the rope up there?
I haven't climbed much at Acephale in the past, mainly because there aren't a lot of moderate climbs there.  It's highly recommended if you climb 5.12 or harder.

On Sunday, we went to Cathedral Boulders.  Yes, you read that right.  We live in one of the best climbing areas in Canada, and we drove to the next province in order to climb on some boulders.  It's been a few years since we've been to Cathedral, and in the interim, it seems like there has not been a lot of traffic.  Many of the boulders and paths are overgrown and to be honest, the berry-picking was better than the bouldering.  Apart from the wild raspberries, the highlight of the day was seeing the train passing through the Spiral Tunnels.  These were built so that trains headed down to Field wouldn't derail (prior to the Spiral Tunnels, trains had a 1/3 chance of crashing.  I can't find anything online to back this statistic up, but I heard it at a Parks' Canada presentation so it must be true). 

Behold, the marvels of modern engineering.  Props to S.O. for the photo.
On Monday, we went back to Acephale so I could finish off one of my projects from Saturday, an awkward climb called "Neoconstructionist".  Luckily, I got it on my first try that day.
Because you can't see my face in this photo, I can pretend that I was completely in control and not terrified.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Summer holiday

Summers are so short in this part of the world that we almost never go away in July or August.  This year was an exception.  We had a wedding to attend in Squamish, and we decided to spend an additional 10 days in Squamish, Whistler and Vancouver.

On the way back home, we stopped in New Westminster for a walk on the quay with some friends. If you visit Vancouver, it's worthwhile taking a few days to explore some of the outlying communities like Richmond, White Rock, North Vancouver or New Westminster. I love New West's River Market.  It was recently renovated and now has a great gelateria, a lovely tea shop, a Mexican bakery and lots of other good shops and cafes.  

Hanging out in front of the Tre Galli Gelato Cafe.
Checking out the steamboats.
My favourite handbag! I bought it ten years ago just before I moved back to Calgary from Vancouver  at a little boutique on 10th St. The shop is not there anymore and sadly, internet searches suggest that the designer is gone, too.

Outfit details:
Dress: Burgeoning Hypericum Dress, Anthropologie 
Jacket: 1969, Gap
Shoes: Tom's
Bag: Slipstitch Designs