Monday, February 24, 2014

Kitchen Remodeling

In January 2014, we decided to remodel our old kitchen. We were getting tired of the old appliances and the  small pieces of tiles that were breaking off our counter top. In addition, the cabinets were also very worn and some did not open very well.

Our older kitchen looked like this:

We went through a fairly long process in choosing the appliances, kitchen cabinets, and our contractor.

At  first, we visited our local Home Depot and got some ideas about what is possible and how much things cost. A lady consultant in Home Depot prepared a proposal for us and we thought it was fine,

To double check, we had a professional kitchen installer review Home Depot's proposal. He said that what Home Depot proposed didn't make much sense (and would not work in our kitchen). We lost all confidence in Home Depot and decided to explore other alternatives.

 Here are the details that Home Depot provided. It all looked presentable and reasonable at first.

Our professional contractor immediately pointed out the many deficiencies in Home Depot's plan and we decided to go with another contractor. For our kitchen install, we chose Tony Sargysan, who did a great job of installing kitchen cabinets and appliances.

We chose our appliances carefully and came up with the following new plan:

We chose GE Appliances, in part because GE has very nice Speed Ovens and Induction Cooktops. For the refrigerator, we chose LG because it had a special door feature (door inside a door) that Inna really liked.

We looked at gas stoves but did not like the look (or the cleaning issues) and wanted to stay with the induction cooktop. Inna really wanted to have the latest GE Advantium Speed Oven to cook food faster. The GE Speed Oven has built in micro-wave and convection cooking all in one.

She also liked the look of the silver Range Hood and special ceiling lights that make the kitchen look stand out.

After ordering all of the parts and getting a contractor, we decided to go skiing to Whistler (to avoid dealing with the dirt and all the work). When we returned, our kitchen was almost 100% done.

Our ceiling light order was late in coming, so we hung them up one week later. They make the kitchen look much more modern and elegant.

We like the look of our new kitchen and it makes cooking much more enjoyable.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Skiing at Whistler, British Columbia

Our United Airlines Flight from San Francisco to Seattle was delayed due to maintenance issues. So, instead of flying out at 9:05am as intended, we departed at 11:30am, landing in Seattle around 2:00pm. We rented our 4x4 Jeep Compass at the Avis Rental car in Seattle and drove to Whistler, BC. I thought about getting a cheaper car, but the weather report indicated snow and 4x4 with snow tires required. We decided not to gamble (but the 4x4 turned out to be not necessary).

On the way there, we stopped at Ihop for lunch, where we had out Swedish Crepes with lingonberries. Afterwards we continued our drive to Whistler, BC. The traffic around Seattle was heavy and we did not make good progress. Eventually, as we drove further from Seattle, the traffic lightened and we approached the Canadian border. It took almost an hour of waiting time to get through customs, and we arrived in Whistler at 8:30pm (two hour later than we intended). We had dinner reservations at Quattro at 7:00pm and we were worried about being so late. Fortunately, we were seated right away and had a wonderful dinner on this Valentine's Day.

I ordered potato Gnocchi and Alex had penne pasta with cheese. Inna ordered scallops and liked them.
Afterwards, we checked in to our Pan Pacific Mountainside hotel and I stopped by the grocery store to pick up some breakfast items. Everyone was tired from the delayed flight and the long drive, so we went to bed.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

We got up early, at around 7:00am, had a light breakfast (yogurt and waffles), and then went to the Salomon rental shop located inside Pan Pacific Hotel, where we rented our skiing and snowboarding gear. I rented a Salomon 163 snowboard with Burton boots. Inna rented Salomon skis and poles. Alex rented a Burton board (which eventually delaminated and needed to be replaced).

We picked up all our skiing gear and walked to the Whistler gondola. We took the gondola to the top (Roundhouse Lodge) and then we started our first day skiing. It was a nice beautiful, overcast day. Whistler had received a few inches of fresh snow and it was so nice to snowboard on powder, making fresh tracks on the newly fallen snow.

I shot a few videos using my GoPro Hero3 mounted on my helmet.

We skied down Upper and Lower Whiskey jack with periods of going to the Nintendo and and Enchanted Forest parks. I did a few jumps on the "S" side of the Nintendo park and a few rails.

For lunch, we stopped at the Roundhouse Lodge (at the top of Whistler Ski Resort) where Alex ordered two slices of pizza and Inna and I got Pho with chicken. The food was great but the lodge was so crowded - we waited 20 minutes to find a table.

We stopped at the Chic Pea Hut for hot chocolate. It's usually less crowded than the main Roundhouse Lodge. We were easily able to find a table and relax.

We skied the rest of the day down to the Emerald chairlift and then we went all the way down to the base of Whistler on our last run. Alex's snowboard delaminated and we had to get a replacement. I have never seen this happen to any snowboard before.

All of Whistler was beautifully decorated and we walked around the village, exploring all the beautifully decorated buildings. The snow was coming down in large flakes and everything looked magical.

Since Whistler hosted Olympic Winter Games in 2010, I took some photos of Inna near the Olympic Rings.

For dinner, we ate at Araxi restaurant. Both Inna and I ordered butternut squash soup, then we had a small plate of dungeoness crab rolls, followed by delicious scallops. We had delicious wine from Mosel Valley and for dessert, we ordered a chocolate volcano cake. It was a very delicious meal.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Today, after breakfast (yogurt and waffles), we picked up our gear and walked to the Whistler gondola. It was extremely crowded - I have never seen it so busy! I almost wanted to walk out. It took us one hour to get to the top and we skied down the right side of the mountain (Papoose) to the Red Chairlift. We got separate from Inna and I was worried that we would be separated. Fortunately, Inna skied down and we took the Red Chair back to the lodge.

Since the Roundhouse was so crowded, we decided to have quick lunch at Chic Pea and it was definitely less crowded. I ordered a Turkey Sandwich and it was heated and delicious. Alex had two slices of pizza and hot chocolate.

We did a another run using the Emerald chair and then skied down the mountain. Inna was tired and decided to go into Pan Pacific Hotel to rest, while Alex and I took the Fitzsimmons chairlift to the mid mountain for another last run. It was a nice, easy ski run.

After some rest, we decided to get some food at Crepe Montagne. We walked won there, while have a small snowball fight.

I ordered at seafood crepe, while Inna ordered the Cordon Blue crepe. Both crepes were delicious. Alex had the Nuttella crepe and it was also delicious. Inna had the London Fog tea, while I had the hot Apple cider with Cinnamon.

We returned back to our hotel room to rest. Later on, we decided to get some quick dinner at Earl's Restaurant.

Inna had a delicious martini cocktail, while I had a local beer. Since it was quite busy, we sat at the bar for a while and then moved to a table (when one opened up).

As we were not very hungry, we ordered some fresh bread, tacos, soup, and sandwich. All of the food was delicious and we made it our normal stop - to eat at Earl's.

The walk back to our hotel was through a snow covered lights of Whistler village.

There is a free ice skating rink at Whistler, but we arrived to late (and tired) to do any ice skating.

Monday, February 17, 2014

After a morning breakfast of yogurt and waffles, Alex and I went for another day of snowboarding.

Inna decided to take the day off skiing, and go to the Scandinave Spa to rest and relax. Inna's Salomon boots hurt her big toes and she hoped that a day of rest would help. Eventually, we replaced the Salmon ski boots with a older Rossignol model and she no longer had the pain in her big toe.

This was the most crowded day at Whistler and the line to the Gondola stretched forever. We finally arrived at the top and snowboarded down to Chic Pea for some hot chocolate.

Alex was hungry and ordered some pizza. Chic Pea was showing 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi and everyone was glued to the events on TV.

After lunch, we decided to head to Blackcomb and check out the terrain there.

We took the Peak2Peak gondola to Blackcomb, enjoying the beautiful scenery around.

Blackcomb was far less crowded and we enjoyed a few runs, until fog rolled in.

We returned to Whistler and snowboarded the rest of the day there. We met up with Inna at our hotel and decided to get lunch at Crepe Montagne. On the way there, we had another snowball fight.

After eating our delicious crepes, we returned to our hotel and enjoyed the outdoor Jacuzzi. Afterwards, we walked around the village.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Today, we decided to take a break from skiing and snowboarding and go to the Scandinave Spa. Alex was also a bit tired, so he spent the day playing games and watching the 2014 Winter Olympics on TV.

We arrived at the spa a bit early (before 9:00am opening time), so we decided to go for a short stroll through the snow covered trails.

When we returned fro our stroll, the spa was open and we undressed for the couples massage that Inna scheduled. I felt great after my massage!

The basic principle of Scandinavian spas is to warm up (in a sauna or a steam room for 30 minutes), go for a dip in cold water for 30-45 seconds, followed by ten minutes of rest.

When we came back from the spa (around 2:30pm), Alex was not feeling well (he ate some ham I purchased) and had to throw up a few times.

After he felt a bit better, we got a late lunch at Crepe Montagne and then we decided to try tubing at the Coca-Cola Tube Park on Blackcomb.

We arrived late, a bit after 6:00pm (the park closes at 7:00pm) and did about 45 minutes of tubing. The tube park has multiple lanes setup for 1, 2, 3, or 4 riders at the same time.

Inna and I tubed together (linking arms), while Alex to try tubing by himself first. Different lanes have different speeds, and we  tried a number of combinations. Tubing was a lot of fun and we enjoyed it a lot.

After tubing, we went to Earl's Restaurant for dinner.

Inna ordered a delicious hamburger.

Wednesday, February 18, 2014

After a quick breakfast, we picked up our gear and took the gondola to the top of Whistler, for another glorious day of skiing.

Inna skiied, while Alex and I snowboarded. The day started fairly sunny.

There were times of heavy snowfall and other times of sunshine.

After skiing, we decided to enjoy the outdoor hot tub. Alex still had some energy to do some workout.

It was cold and snowing outside, but we decided to brave the elements and enjoy the outdoor hot tub.

After the hot tub, we went for dinner at Earl's Restaurant. Everyone was a bit tired from the long day of skiing and snowboarding.

We started our dinner with hot Buffalo wings. They were quite good (as most of the food is in Earl's)

After dinner, we decided to stop by at Cow's Ice cream for a few treats. It's amazing that even at 9:00pm on a cold wintry day, Cow's was mobbed by people!

Inside Cow's Ice Cream store, there were many amusing T-shirts.

Inna and Alex both enjoyed their delicious Cow's Ice Cream.

Thursday, February 19, 2014

We had are usual breakfast, followed by another wonderful ski day. The liens to the gondola were much shorter now and the weather was sunny.

For lunch, we decided to stop by at our favorite Chic Pea restaurant (as it is the least crowded one in Whistler).

After lunch, we resumed our skiing and snowboarding.

There was a planned Fire and Ice Show on Thursday, so we decided to relax in the hot tub prior to the show and then I got out my Canon 5D Mark III camera to take some nice shots.

There were many skiiers and snowboarders doing spectacular jumps through the ring of fire with fireworks going off.

For dinner, we decided to try the 21 Steps Restaurant.

Inna ordered the "Seared Scallops". The scallops were small and delicious but we missed the lower prices and atmosphere of Earl's Restaurant.

After dinner, we walked around Whistler village.

Friday, February 20, 2014

Our last day skiing at Whistler. The week went by so fast. No one wanted to leave and Alex was contemplating moving to Canada for good.

Inna decided to rest at the Scandinave Spa (and get a massage), while Alex and I went for our last day of snowboarding. The weather was sunny and gorgeous, but the snow was a bit icy. We had a fantastic time snowboarding and were sad to hear that the Canadian Hockey team beat U.S.

We snowboarded until 3:30pm, after which time, we met up with Inna and headed to Earl's Restaurant for an early dinner. Earl's was not very busy around 4:30pm, so we enjoyed our dinner without the usual wait.

After dinner, we said goodbye to Whistler, loaded our bags into our Jeep and drove to Vancouver.

It took us two hours to Vancouver, BC. In Vancouver, we wanted to try "Fly Over Canada" ride at the Canada Place - which is supposed to be like "Flying Over California" in Disney's California Adventure.

The ride started with a short "Flight of the Dragon" - a presentation about China. While the colorful dragon was nice, the quality of the video recording was underwhelming and a lot of images were quite blurry. The next video - Flying Over Canada was much better. The smells, fogs effects, and video quality were outstanding.

After the ride, we went to enjoy delicious gelato at our favorite Bella Gelateria nearby.

Afterwards, we walked by the waterfront, exploring the beautiful evening in Vancouver.

Saturday, February 21, 2014

For breakfast, we decided to go to our favorite breakfast place in Vancouver - Thierry. Thierry has the best liquid hot chocolate and some of the best tasting croissants in Vancouver.

After our fabulous breakfast, we drove to Seattle. Crossing the border took almost an hour and we arrived near the Space Needle at around 2;30pm. We booked lunch for 2:15pm at the Space Needle.

The lunch at Space Needle was good but quite expensive and Alex especially enjoyed his "Moon Landing" dessert.

After lunch, we took some surrounding photos of Seattle and then went to the nearby Chihuly Garden and Glass.

The  Chihuly Garden and Glass museum was fantastic and we enjoyed all the glass sculptures.