Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Fine Art of the Settling Things Right (or Getting Your Money's Worth)

We all have our pet peeves (and no this isn't a blog about pet peeves, per se). My biggest is not getting your money's worth.  Even at a young age, I remember writing letters to the editor and companies when I felt their products were not substantial.  In the same storage box (see entries below) was a copy of my "letter to the editor clip."  My friend and I went to our local park (Washington Park/Casper, WY) to practice only to find the court in terrible shape.  Feeling outraged, as only an 8th grader can, we decided to write a letter to the editor together.  And not just letters.  I learned how to take my dissatisfaction and turn it into a resolution.  No one responds well to angry, grouchy customers (just watch when you see people trying to re-book a flight after a delay, bad weather, or cancellations....).  Not that I, mind you, think one should be a push over.  Rather, expression dissatisfaction, but making it about how we can work together (e.g. myself and the person "behind the counter") to find a better solution.  This skill has come in handy in many situations and in most cases, I was very pleased with the outcome.  My key:  deliver it with a smile.  A meaningful smile.  Let them know the situation isn't acceptable, but that you hope you can work together to find a way to resolve the situation.  

Cases in Point
  • When returning some duplicate bridal gifts to store X, I was treated jeered by some of the seasonal Christmas help and called a liar and that I wasn't told the information I claimed I was told.   Note:  I'd called ahead and checked the return policy given I had to drive several hundred miles to get to this store...I documented the person whom I spoke with, the time of the call, and the exact information/items I needed to help facilitate the return.  THe clerk helping us (I was with my mom) was rude and frankly quite nasty.  I left the store, having not spend serious dollars buying several items remaining on our registry.  I called and spoke to the store manager.  I relayed the events of the visit and she apologized profusely and asked what action I'd like taken.  Rather than say "fire her!," I figured what good what that do for me, so I asked that she be told her behavior was unacceptable when dealing with a customer.  In response, the manager offered to ship all the items off my registry I was going to buy 'on the house,' where they'd absorb the cost of the shipping.  I love the bed, lamps, and bench we ended up buying.
  • ES and I bought a airfare+hotel deal on one of the discount travel sites.   It was a great deal at a nice hotel in Montreal for 4 nights.  On our first night, we kept hearing the ballroom below us until well after 4 am.  I called downstairs during the night inquiring when it would stop.  15 min. was the common refrain.  The next morning I let them know it was unacceptable and if the situation could be remedied. I think they felt sorry for the circles under my eyes, as they gave us a huge room service credit and moved us to a much higher floor with a view of Mount Royal Park. Lesson learned:  I find that consolidator services for hotel rooms aren't always the best solutions, despite the appearance of money saved on teh site.  Bottom line - you get what you pay for.    Hotels don't have much incentive to give you a great room off the bat, as you've paid the consolidator for the room.  The hotel itself sold it to the consolidator in a large block and I'm sure they didn't get nearly the price as Joe Q Public who pays rack rate through the hotel.  So I try to find the good price on a discount site and call the hotel directly to see if they'll match the price.  I've never been turned down by a hotel.  It's a win-win.  They get my business and a better price than if they sold it to a 3rd party consolidator and I get the hotel to take more of an investment in me as a guest.  We've never gotten a crummy room booking in this manner.  Another tip:  read reviews.  If the hotel you really want to stay in has some suspect reviews, email the hotel manager (if you can find the information) and ask if the issue in the review (construction, pool out of order, etc) is still an issue and what remedies (if any) have been made.   I've found this results in a bit better service from the hotel as well.
  • Last Memorial Day weekend, ES and I were on vacation in a National Park.  We'd stayed a few days in our location and we ready to move on to our second spot, where we'd see a little more remote part of the park.  The hotel's valet was getting our car.  We waiting and waited and it dawned on me things weren't right when we saw him with an ashen complexion.  He'd gotten into an accident with our car.  The car was drivable (rear-end damage) but understandably not happy.  Rather than get angry, yell, ect, we made sure no one was hurt then got down to getting the accident report and information from the hotel about how we needed to go about getting our car fixed.  They were very professional and there was never any doubt they'd pay for our car.  I requested and received several free nights for a follow up visit.  I booked just this week for next May (a good time to visit the park) and extended our stay beyond the visits they'd comp'd us.  I got a pretty good rate (as compared to the rack rate on the website) by going through the hotel manager's admin (as his letter to us offering the free nights suggested).  We're excited to head back for our days.
  • Free dinners.  When in DC, at a restaurant that is part of one of our favorite groupings/restaurant holdings, we had some less than par service.  We stood up to leave and expressed our displease and surprise the manager of our poor experience and what had happened.  We were on our way out and she asked us to stay and said she'd make sure we were "taken care of."  She did.  The food was excellent and the bill was taken care of.  The same thing happened tonight at a local restaurant (which prompted me to get this post finished).  ES expressed his surprise at 1)  picking up our take out order and 1/2 of it was missing, and 2) when he went back to the restaurant, it took 1+ hours to get the right food (his dinner was at home now stone cold) and the order still wasn't ready.  After asking the manager to please cancel the order (and explaining to him what happened), the manager gave him a small gift card and said to come back another night and all would be taken care of.  True to his word, he remembered Eric and dinner was excellent tonight.  I understand that things can sometimes go awry, but good customer service can go along way to making things right.
  • Free oil change.  We noticed about 1 week after we got our oil change that we could smell a burning odor from the engine.  Shortly thereafter I noticed a bit of oil on the front bummer.  Fearing the worst, ES opened the hood.  Worst fears realized - the oil cap wasn't replaced during the oil change (despite what we later learned was 2 checked that are supposed to happen during the process).  Thankfully, the oil light never came on and there was still enough in the engine.  A quick call to the service center and oil was being driven over to our house.  We took the car right away into the service center, they detailed the car, and rinsed out the residual oil.  And after many apologies, said the next change was on them.  Now normally I'd just take my business elsewhere at this point, but given their response to our problem (and complete acceptance of making it right right away), we're going back.  
Bottom line - the situation usually won't change.  I've found the only thing I can do is change my reaction to situation, whether it be a wrecked car, a surly employee, or loud hotel room.    One of my friends noted - "wow how does this happen to you guys (and something a lot)."  Another followed up with "in fairness, they get the short end of the stick a lot."  In reality, I think we all run into issues, but it's how you go about letting a service provider/business know (and make them want to keep you as a customer) that makes the difference. If I was a business owner, I don't think I'd response very favorably to someone who was screaming and demanding lots of irrational things.  On the other hand,  I slap on a smile and try to see how we can all make it right - or at least moving in a positive direction.  If that means free stuff, well, I'll good with that.

Friday, October 22, 2010


In drafting up a post the other night, I noticed this little tab "Stats."  Stats brings to mind shuttering looks and murmurs of "oh no, not stats 601/602."  The dreaded graduate level stats class.  You'd think, given my job, that I'd like stats (or at least math).  I something didn't get the "stats gene."  Nope.  Stats ranks up there with geometry.   Although in fairness to geometry, if I'd had a different teacher I probably would have liked it a lot better.  Now calculus, that was my favorite.  My calc teacher (Mr. Smith) was great.  He really cared about his students.  He took the "Stand and Deliver" method of teaching.  Even had us watch it during class.  I think he was the reason I did well enough on my AP exam to actually get out of taking more than 1 semester in math as an undergrad.  By the time I got to grad school, my advisor was uninterested in me actually taking any classes ("gets in the way of your lab work"), and since my curriculum was up to my committee (and he was the chair of said committee), I didn't take but a few semesters of coursework.  Stats 601/602 was omitted for the more friendly biostats for clinicians.  Open book, too.  I went so far as to buy the Cartoon Guide to Statistics.  Oddly enough, I was actually looking for it the other day when I had a stats question after reading a paper.  Believe it or not, it did the trick.  Although I'm pretty sure my question wasn't all that complicated.

As to the "Stats" tab....upon clicking it, I discovered people in the Philippines, Latvia (yes, Latvia), and even Poland were looking at my blog.  I'm thinking it was because they clicked on the random "next blog" link on  Wonder where it's going to report next?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A final touch

ES and I re-did our downstairs bathroom this past year, including new fixtures, a faucet, and paint.  What we didn't do was find new lighting.  There's some things I don't like to do.  This includes wiring new fixtures in the house.  We'd put off a new light for quite awhile, but finally took the plunge, watched some e"how" videos, and decided it looked easy enough (famous last words??)....

Stay tuned.  Fixture installation this weekend along with a final garden bed clean out.  Been putting it off, but as the weather is cooling this is the best time to try and tackle it.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Backyard Reno(vation)

After a couple of summers of looking at the one corner of the yard and saying how we need to do something with it, we finally decided it was time for a change.  What we thought would be an easy job, turned out to be a 1-plant removal a weekend job - usually a 3+ hour process complete with rock and root removal.  The original owner planted things that while appropriate for xeroscaping, were grouped in with those that were not.  The sprinklers didn't discriminate between them and our yucca was pretty much rotten by the time we removed it.

As you can see, ES loves the old corner....Note most of the old plants (including the corner yucca) had gotten a major haircut.  This still didn't make the area any more palatable (and the yucca any healthier) so out they came....

We decided on replacing the  area with roses.  They grow well here and I love having fresh flowers in the house.  The final one went in this afternoon.  Now we just have to put in the other two rebar poles for the other glass bird baths and we're done.

Our next DIY outside....the rest of the fence.  Still trying to decide between cedar and PVC.  Pros and cons to both.  Cost may ultimately win.....

Monday, September 13, 2010

Just a gigolo...

My uncle and cousin recently came stayed with us as part of a "broad" (rhymes with road) trip between my cousin's college graduation and a potential new job. We lingered over dinner, with lots of stories of family and politics.  One of my favorite stories was about my uncle and my great aunt - MH.   She never married (others would referred to her as a "maiden aunt"), but had 20+ nieces and nephews to dote on when she was younger.  She owned a jewelry company and often went on buying trips.  I recall my mom saying she'd taken her and my aunt to NYC on a buying trip.  They skated at Rockefeller Center and did all the usual touristy things.

During dinner the other evening, my uncle told another travel story.  My great-aunt was on a buying trip to England.  My uncle, having been in Europe traveling a bit after he graduated from college, came to London to meet up with her for a few days.  She was staying at The Dorchester, still a pretty tony hotel to this day.  She took my uncle for dinner at the hotel, and got a rather odd response.  He was wearing his Gonzaga University Letterman sweater (with a capital "G") and had long hair.  Long, thick, dark, wavy hair.  As a side note, when I young, I thought he looked like Jesus.

They ate dinner and my great aunt excused herself for a moment.  The waiter came over and said, "hey, nice job.  You're doing pretty well for yourself" while motioning towards my great aunt's seat.  It took my uncle a second to realize that the waiter that thought he was a gigolo.  The waiter then asked, "hey, what's the G stand for."  My uncle, in complete deadpan, "God."

We laughed until we cried at the table that night as my uncle told us the story.  My great aunt, upon hearing my uncle tell her the story that night after their dinner, responded likewise.

Friday, September 10, 2010

A DIs or Miss?

I made several friends from orientation the first week I arrived at Cornell.  Many of these friends were from departments in their graduate programs that were part of the endowed part of CU.  Translation = better events and MUCH better free food.  In contrast, I was in the state school.  Translation = cheese and crackers for special guests 2-3x a semester.

I often tagged along with my friends to poetry and fiction readings, including Maya Angelou and Tim O'Brien.  After the events, we ate like kings.  As a graduate student, free food was never to be taken lightly.  And free good food was even better.  Well, that was worth the long trek down campus by foot or a 15 min search for a parking place by car.

At one such event, I went along with some friends to a function the English Department was throwing at a professor's house.  It was an annual event I was told.    Several friends and I were down on the edge of the lake (the "beach") standing around chatting.  Another woman joined in the conversation.  The only thing I remember about her was her hair.  It was long.  Crystal Gayle long.  She waved it back and forth a bit like Cher, but without all that annoying lip smacking.

After a few minutes of conversation, she says (and I remember this clearly even though it was well over 10 years ago), "I'm going to stand by the fire."  She took one step backwards and turned around.  Yep.  She just turned her back on us.

Really.  Did she mean it?  Or just happen to have a fire close by and she was cold.  I like to think the latter.  Still makes me laugh and shake my head with a wry smile every time I think about.  Her words forever become the ultimate inside joke.  Instead of "excuse me" it became "I'm going to go stand by the fire."

A timeless classic.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Playing Tourist in the Nation's Capital

There's nothing like playing tourist in your old stomping grounds.  It's an odd sensation.  You've been here, you've lived here, but now you're a tourist - a visitor.  I think it really hit us when we got on the Metro from the airport and got onto the escalator.  Here's where you could tell who was and who wasn't a tourist.  Those that ambled, standing here and there along the stairs and not paying attention to which side you should be on.  

Those were the tourists, as those of us who lived there day in and out knew stand right/walk left.  ES and I chuckled as we shared the memory.  We rode the Metro a lot.  Almost every weekend, in fact.  We were always up in the city, seeing the latest exhibition at one of the many Smithsonian museums or finding a new gastronomic treat at one of the many eateries in the city.

The trip was originally planned for me for work, but ES tagged along and we flew out a few days before my meetings to see the sights, friends and family, and celebrate his birthday.  I found a last minute great deal and we stayed at the Fairmont, ideally situated between Georgetown, Dupont Circle, and Foggy Bottom.

We made it to DC at the height of rush hour on Thursday evening.  In the pouring rain.  Correction - the sky decided to open up on us as we were walking the 8 blocks with our suitcases from the Metro to the hotel.  Next time: taxi.  Given the rain and the gridlock, we opted for a restaurant in walking distance.  We'd held a sentimental spot for Marcels, a French place ES took me to when we were dating and still celebrating our "dating" anniversary.  We'd gone there on our first anniversary followed by a show at the Kennedy Center.  We were not disappointed on our return visit.  We oped for the 3-course dinner.  Mine: beet salad, poached lobster in heavy cream, and filet mignon.  ES:  tomato salad, scallops, and the filet as well.  

We headed to the Mall Friday morning to see our old favorites - the Natural History Museum (NHM) and the National Gallery (NG).  The rotunda of the NHM still has the mastodon, which I remember from childhood.  Still here, although they took out those cool phone handsets you could pick up to hear "the story" of the mastodon.

They'd opened a new hall since we'd last visited.  The hall of Human Origins.   ES was getting some fire from his new friend.  The Hall of Mammals and the Hope Diamond were still there.  We trekked down to the gift shop (one of my favorite of the museum gift shops) to do a little browsing.  We passed the museum cafe where we used to go on Friday night's for Jazz night, our date-night tradition.  

We headed to an old favorite for lunch - Jaleo - for an early celebration of ES' birthday.  It was also really nice to have a respite from the heat and humidity.  We feasted on chorizo, manchego, a bean, beat and apple salad, chicken croquettes, and the perennial favorite patatos bravas.  As good as we remembered.  
We stumbled upon a gelato place after lunch.   We tried a few of the flavors, including cardamon and yam, but settled on hazelnut and espresso.  A welcome cool to the heat and humidity of the afternoon.  We'd forgotten just how much it can zap the energy out of you.

After lunch, we headed to the NG.  One of the special exhibits at the was a Mark Rothko showing.  It was his black series.  While it was hard to capture it in the pictures, there are subtle changes (and when I say subtle, I mean really subtle) changes in tone on the canvases.  The Calder mobile was a familiar site.  We also took in the special exhibits in the mail building, including a photo exhibit by Beat poet Alan Ginsburgh.  While I can appreciate photography, his was a little too avant garde for my taste.  We talked by the many of the permanent galleries we'd spent hours browsing in in year's past.  Renoir's "Girl with a watering can" remains a sentimental favorite.

We celebrated ES' birthday at Eventide with my family.  It was a nice treat to see my cousin, his wife and their daughter along with my aunt.  We all toasted to ES' birthday (30 - celebrated for the 13th year in a row!) and ate an amazing dinner.  

Mine:  mixed greens with beets, followed by lobster gnocchi (containing large chunks of lobster), and a raspberry custard.  ES:  tomato salad, roasted chicken, and a chocolate ganache with homemade almond toffee.  

My aunt called her peach soup "divine."  

Little RJ was so cute, blowing kisses to the wait staff followed by ES blowing out his birthday celebration candle.  ES declared it one of the best birthday's in recent memory.  

We spent Saturday morning at the American History Museum (AHM) seeing some new exhibits (restored Star Spangled Banner) as well as some old favorites (Julia Child's kitchen).  

We headed to Dupont Circle to catch up with an old friend of mine.  Kat and I have known each other since we were 4 or 5.  Brownies, kindergarden, and many years of our families taking vacations together.  It was nice to catch up.  It had been ~10 years since we'd seen each other last. 

After lunch, we headed over to the National Portrait Gallery.  I was very excited to see this museum, as it was closed the entire time ES and I lived in DC.  They'd done an amazing job in the renovation, having incorporated some of the deco aspects of the original building along with the more federalist style of the newer building.

After wandering for many hours through the galleries, we decided to find a place for dinner.  We decided to try a Mexican style "tapas" (really more like Mexican food with the small plate style of a Spanish style tapas restaurant).  While service was a bit rocky at first, the management ended up comping our meal and taking care of us, which made for two happy customers in the end.  The food was good.  I especially liked the meat balls and the tacos.  The plantains with mole were an interesting treat - a lot spicier than anticipated!  

After dinner we stumbled upon a cupcake place and of course had to try the signature cupcake. ES opted for the mocha fudge.  Both were excellent.

Sunday morning brought lots of storms and rather than head to the zoo, we went out for brunch with my cousin and his family at a yummy little tavern in Georgetown.  Excellent burger with shoe string fries.

It was so fun playing with RJ.  She's such a cutie.

We managed to squeeze in a few more museums Sunday afternoon before closing.  We went to both the Freer and the Sackler - very under appreciated Smithsonian museums.

We ended our long weekend with a Tapas dinner with my aunt at one of our old favorite places for Tapas in Clarendon - La Tosca.  

An excellent way to end our visit to DC.

Friday, July 23, 2010

How My Choice of Unique Fashion Started at An Early Age

Even at a young age I liked to make a statement.  It started with the Dorothy Hamill bowl cut.  I begged my mom for weeks to cut off my hair, which was naturally curly and went all down my back.  Looking back not a good choice, but given I was 5, well I obviously got my way and off came by hair.  This must have cause great dismay to my mother, as I came across a bag of hair (long, dark brown and wavy) while going through the storage box.  Suggestions for the hair include sending it to the Gulf for the oil clean up.  I think perhaps, it will soon be on it's way to the local landfill.  I think a lock of hair is a precious memory, but a sack may be just a wee bit much for me.

The real renegadism is in the shoes.  I don't think I took those slippers off.  Snow, rain, etc they stayed on.  I think I must have just been a real pill at that age.  Between pestering my mom to cut my hair like my favorite skater, I didn't want to take off my dog slippers.  If memory serves (mostly from my mom's stories), they rather just feel off in the natural progression of time.

Holding my hand (well me really more holding his than anything...) is SKJ (my first "boyfriend") and my big brother SB. Yes, SKJ went by three names even as kindergarteners.  Last I heard from his mom he graduated from Duke Law, but to me he'll always be the kid who stuck everything (yes, everything) up his nose - from micro toy cars to raisons and Cherrios.

I recall this was a "storm of the century" when I was a kid.  We were off for a whole week after multiple feet of snow.  And even in the face of this, I steadfastly hold to my dog slippers.  Kind of like my Keenes now.  Although I draw the line at wearing socks with them....

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Fine Art of Letter Writing

Rather ironic I'm "writing" about letter writing on my blog, but I recently came across some old letters while cleaning out a storage bin in my garage.  I stumbled across letters I'd written to friends as a child.

My first move occurred when I was 3.  We moved from Olympia, WA to Springfield, VA.  We stayed there until I was 8.  I had friends - those on my soccer team, school, and brownies.  When I was 8, we moved to Casper, Wyoming - the polar opposite of VA.  After leaving, I stayed in touch with one friend, writing letters well into high school.  It probably helped that our families were good friends and we took vacations together long after we moved apart.  KA and I adopted personas.  She was "Queen K the 1st" and I was "Duchess R."  We even went as far as signing our letters with terrible flourishing signatures and talked of silly girly things like how awful our school pictures were.

I stayed in Casper until I was in high school, leaving behind another group of friends I was sorry to see go as my family moved to Ohio. I made a homemade address book complete with multiple pages held together with butterfly grommets.  I remember collecting people's addresses before I left so that we could stay in touch.  I have stacks of letters from those first couple of years I was gone.  Lots of puffy glitter pen writing on the envelopes.  Letters now more reflected boys and who was now going out with whom, who was flunking out, and who was taking whom to winter formal.

By the time I left Ohio after college, email was just in its infancy and it was so exciting to use this new medium that the letter got fewer and fewer.  I did, however, found a couple of "1st" letters (likely the only ones we exchanged with the exception of a couple of people).   Until recently.  My pal Scout (who is a writer) will write me letters on this great old Remington type writer. Very cool and nostalgic.

I think this is why I get my Christmas cards done early.  I love to send and receive cards/letters, even if it's just a few words.  I think it's because it reminds me of all the wonderful letter memories I have.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Walla Walla Sweet

ES and I headed to Walla Walla this weekend with friends to see the Walla Walla Sweet Onion Festival. We stopped along the way to Geochache at a location along the road to Walla Walla.  For those of you who don't know what Geochaching is, check out:

J&C geocaching near Walla Walla. They left a travel bug behind.

The festival included lots of Walla Walla Sweets in a variety of forms - rings, blooming onion, and on various grilled meats.  We didn't see any onion ice cream, thankfully.

Notice the sign - "Hot Pop" (name of local record shop) and the Hair Hut. This is the stage that later featured the man trying to get the Guinness book of World Records for peeling and eating an onion in under 1 min...It was being filmed by the Food Network Canada.

We took the Historic Homes of Walla Walla walking tour and saw some amazing houses.  We also found some sprinklers, and found that running through them helped keep us cool on our walk.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A Little Island Time

ES and I recently headed up to British Columbia, namely the Gulf Islands for some much needed R&R.

We boarded the ferry at Tswwassan, BC on a warm sunny afternoon.  The 2+ hr ferry ride was quite scenic, going across the Georgia and up through the Haro Straights to Salt Spring Island.

Once we got to the island, we headed for Ganges (main town) and their weekly Farmer's Market.  Many vendors.  Mostly crafts, but some actual farmers.  ES and I found a painter that we really liked and bought a few of her prints.

The Ganges, Salt Spring Island Farmers Market

We toured the rest of the island, going to the highest peak (Mount Maxwell) and walked about Ganges Harbor.

Ganges Harbor

Mount Maxwell

The next day we found a local farm was having a Lavender Festival, complete with demos, foods, and tarot card readings.  The day started out a little gray and never really did improve, making it the only day on our trip where the weather was rather blah.  We spent several hours wandering among the flowers, learning how to propogate our lavender (we're going to try and make cuttings from ours in the garden) and about the 3 basic varieties in the states - English, French, and Spanish.  French is my favorite, but I like the "butterfly" like flowers on the Spanish variety.

Lavender Festival on Salt Spring Island

One our final night on Salt Spring, we decided to try a local favorite (and written up in Fodors, Wine Spectator, ect to name a few).  It was called House Piccolo.  It was amazing.   The first course (salad) had an amazing vinagrette (house speciality) that I'd love the recipe for, but they declined to share.  We next had crab cakes...amazing.  If I could have picked up the plate and licked the sauce (and wouldn't think ES would die from shame), I would have.  So good.  I had a seafood risotto and ES had salmon.  Both were amazing.  Dessert was a chocolate terrine for ES and a crepe with lingonberry sauce.   One of the best meals I've had for a really long time.  Made up for the crummy food (withholding names to protect the guilty....) we'd had to date on the island.  We were bemused by the $590 bottle of wine on the menu.  Our waiter called it "the lottery winner bottle."  We agreed.  

Dinner at House Piccolo

The next day we hopped about the ferry again and headed to Pender Island.  We took what we called a "peanut ferry."  It was very, very small.

Ferry to Pender Island

Pender Island was actually 2 islands, cut back in the 1920's by a barge to make a canal down the narrowest portion of the island.  The two smaller are joined by a 1 lane bridge.  South Pender was much more uninhabited.  We visited the farthest point south of the island (Gowlland Point) and headed to a local park to hike through the woods (Enchanted Forest Park).  We also visited the Mortimer Spit, close to the 1 lane bridge separating the islands before we headed back across the bridge and explored North Pender.

Gowlland Point

Enchanted Forest Park

Mortimer Spit and the 1-Lane Bridge

The sun came out after lunch and we took the opportunity to head to the 1 National Park on the island - at Roe Inlet and Roe Lake.

Roe Inlet

Roe Lake

We headed to our B&B for the night.  We found one online that purported amazing views and we weren't disappoint.  The views were amazing and 180 degrees of the Haro Straight.  

We decided on spur of the moment to head over to Vancouver Island the next day.  We'd been there before, but it was during the early months of spring when it wasn't quite time for flowers.  Therefore we'd missed Buchart Gardens last time.  We decided to head over for the day to see the blooms.  We weren't disappointed.  The flowers, smell, and overall gardens were amazing. We hopped on yet another ferry and headed over to Swartz Bay.

We headed back to Pender Island and had dinner at the Hope Bay Cafe (ended up eating there both nights).  Had some really yummy Fruit de Mer (night one) and Fish and Chips (night two).  ES had chicken and salmon, respectively.  Finished off with homemade mocha cake with chocolate ganache.  Yum. The view at the restaurant (literally hanging over the bay) was amazing.  

Hope Bay Cafe

We watched the sunset from our room and enjoyed the colors of the sky as they turned from blue to yellow to pink to black.  The stars came out in full force later in the evening.  Haven't seen such a view in a very long time. 

We headed home the day, and between getting to the ferry 1 hour early, a 2.5 hour ride, a 1+ hour wait at the border, it took a little over 11 hours to come 350 miles.  But worth every minute of it.  What a great trip.