Top 4 Quasi-B Movies That I Love

After taking a bit of a break for Easter and then getting sidetracked by other work, I’ve come back with a film list I haven’t done before.

I started thinking about some of the films that I love, films that maybe many people don’t talk about anymore or even remember.  Films that may not have the best acting, cinematography or even the best story and yet I love because they are memorable and in some cases, really make me laugh.

Sometimes, you just really need a film that makes you laugh hard enough for it to stick in your mind. These top 4 films aren’t all quite “B Movies” but I think they mostly qualify.

1)Joe’s Apartment

This film is FAR from being Jerry O’Connell’s most memorable piece of work in his filmography. Heck, I’d bet $10 that most people don’t remember this movie even existed and if they did, they’d remark on how Jerry isn’t exactly leading man material. Well, I’d always had a soft spot for Jerry since his Slider days and this film was AWESOME!

What’s not to love about a film that doesn’t take itself seriously and features singing, dancing cockroaches? I just about keel over every time the cockroaches come on screen, every time I watch this movie. Yes, they’re disgusting, yes they trash everything and no one in their right mind would want them as roommates and yet-it’s hilarious.

It not only prepared me for the worms of the Men In Black franchise, I also found out much later that the lead cockroach is the one & only Billy West! Yes, fellow Futurama fans, Fry was a cockroach (I think Professor Farnsworth would agree with that)!

Hilarity Factor: 7/10

2)Amanda and The Alien

Years before I became a fan of Roswell and an ardent fan of the amazingly talented Shiri Appleby, Colin Hanks, Brendan Fehr, Jason Behr & the highly underrated Nick Wechsler, the premise of Roswell or maybe it was more like ET, showed up in a TV movie I’ve only managed to find a few times.

Similar to the premise of Jeff Bridges’ Starman, it starred Nicole Eggert as a lonely Bohemian artist who comes across an attractive alien who must change host bodies every few days. On the run from the government, Amanda agrees to help him hide and they fall in love.

Yes, it had the clinched love story of aliens falling in love with humans and clinched story in general of the aliens living among us.  Yes it was also cheesy as all hell and no, it’s not a movie that ages well to stand the test of time. But somehow, even after all these years, I have a soft spot for it. Maybe it’s because it was the first movie of that type that 8-year old me had ever seen. But regardless, it holds a nostalgic soft spot for me.

Nostalgic Factor: 6/10

3) Embrace of the Vampire

Anyone who knows me knows that I’ve been a HUGE fan of vampires and different facets of vampire lore ever since childhood, so long before the God awful Twilight craze started.

I’ve always loved Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles and the related Mayfair Witches, read a ton of other standalone vampire lore books (such as Thirst by Michael Cecilione, with BDSM elements) and been a fan of TV series such as Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel and Blood Ties (which suffered from being on the WRONG network!) The 1994 film Interview With The Vampire & 1992’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula remain my ULTIMATE two favorite film adaptations of vampire books and the documentary Blood Sucking Cinema is on my top documentaries of all-time list.

Embrace of the Vampire, on the other hand, holds none of this legendary status and yet, still remains memorable to me. It was the first project I’d ever seen Alyssa Milano in for one, as part of her pre-Charmed days. But mostly, I think it was memorable because it was the first film that had a TON of vampire sex. Other films had sexual scenes such as From Dusk to Dawn & Bram Stoker’s Dracula (and later, the much-maligned Queen of the Damned, which I still love) and Interview With The Vampire contained subtle homosexual overtones, but Embrace had full-on heterosexual vampire sex.

This film was anything BUT subtle in that aspect and I think it played into early fantasies I’d had involving immortality, becoming a vampire and yes, even being seduced by one. Of course, the older I got, the more the downside of living such a life (or un-life) as it were, became more apparent through Stuart Townsend’s portrayal of Lestat de Lioncourt in the aforementioned Queen of the Damned and how Angel turned back into Angelus in the Buffy universe, but it’s still a fantasy I entertain from time to time.

Sexy Factor: 7/10

4) Kangaroo Jack

OK, so this film isn’t a B-movie by any stretch, more of a bigger budget Australian buddy cop comedy, but that’s why I said quasi at the beginning of this list. Even though it’s not a B-movie per se, it IS the second entry on this list that has Jerry O’Connell, this time alongside Anthony Anderson.

For those who don’t know, this movie takes some of its cues from this news story, where a couple of guys accidentally hit a kangaroo in Australia, decide for some reason, to dress the kangaroo in their clothes and take a photo. Once the photo was taken, the kangaroo regained consciousness and basically bounced away with all their possessions.

That’s basically the premise of the movie in a nutshell, except Jerry & Anthony are best buddies who have to deliver a bag full of money to a contact on behalf of Jerry’s mobster stepfather, played perfectly by Christopher Walken. And as it so happens, the money is inside the sweatshirt Anthony puts on Jack, the kangaroo who runs away. Oh and did I mention that Jack talks?

It’s a crack film to end all crack films and there’s just something about talking animals that always makes me keel over with laughter. No, it’s a not a great movie and yes, you have to suspend disbelief and stop yourself from yelling at the screen at how boneheaded the characters are, but somehow, a talking, rapping kangaroo in a hoodie makes up for that.

Hilarity Factor: 8/10

For more on the films that I find awesome, check out my post on the amazing Storyhive library and the top 10 most badass publicity campaigns in film & TV!

16 Companies in “Boring” Industries Delivering Awesome Content

Whether you realize it or not, there’s definitely industry sectors out there that are easier to create great marketing content for. You probably don’t have to wrack your brain to write a great brochure about promoting a resort in the Bahamas or develop an online contest to market your restaurant’s grand opening or sell your new line of clothing.

Let’s face it, the tourism/travel, food/beverage, film/entertainment and fashion/beauty industries are generally pretty easy to generate buzz for, get fans excited about and create some awesome content for. Just photos of great events & locations can be enough to get fans buzzing about the latest developments.

But unfortunately, not every industry has that luxury. Have you ever had to create a marketing campaign for accounting software? How about for soap or maybe even a pharmaceutical company? Ever felt stuck doing that and wanting to pull your hair out?

Well, I’ve got some examples that might be able to pull you out of that marketing funk. From soap to file storage and customer service, here’s 16 companies in so called “boring” industries, doing marketing right.

1) Soap

Take soap, for example. It’s pretty plebeian, right? You use it to keep clean on a daily basis and more often than not, I’m sure you purchased a certain one based on price rather than any other attribute. With over 40 different brands, it’s a product that’s more about daily utility, rather than actual consumer interest. But, there ARE a few brands that make marketing for soap/body wash exciting.

Take Dove’s Real Beauty campaign, for example. From deodorant to body wash and everything in between, the brand has done an amazing job of emphasizing that every woman, no matter the ethnicity, age or body type is truly beautiful. The campaign has expanded from TV ads to billboards and online videos, with 2013’s ‘Real Beauty Sketches’-where women describe their appearances to a forensic sketch artist-one of the most watched ads of all time.

Why does it work? Maybe it’s because instead of focusing on positioning themselves against the competition and coming up with a USP, Dove instead chooses to focus on how they can empower their consumers through subverting what advertising traditionally tells us is beautiful and focus on accepting ourselves just as we are.

2) CRM Tools

Sprout_Social_Blog

CRM tools to make life easier for online businesses? Yawn. It’s an absolute necessity to help businesses better manage contact lists, gauge campaigns stats and manage their presence on social media. But is it as fun and exciting as reading about the latest movie premieres @ TIFF? Probably not, but there are a few companies that are working hard to make CRM topics more interesting.

Take Sprout Social, for example. One of the most comprehensive CRM when it comes to helping you leverage content on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, their blog does a great job of explaining all of their new features in layman’s terms and gives great advice on how to better use other platforms such as Google+.

3) File Storage

Dropbox_enewsletter

Cloud file storage and sharing products to make organizing and sending documents at work easier. Sounds like a sleeping pill, right? Even so, it’s a process for people to wait for your files to sync, upload and finish storing. There’s still a lot of people out there who may not understand the newer concept of cloud storage instead of using a USB drive or a CD. So cloud storage companies have their work cut out for them in trying to make their products sound user-friendly and fun at the same time. But there IS one company that’s doing a good job.

Dropbox’s email campaigns keep their messages short and snappy, they use great photos and they use language that has personality, which makes you want to interact with them.

4) Meeting Platform

GoToMeeting

Who doesn’t love attending meetings at work? Even when you’re away travelling for work, you don’t ever have to miss a meeting in the office with convenient online meeting tools…..Doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, does it? Meetings aren’t exactly peoples’ favorite thing to do, but there’s one company that does a pretty good job of making the most out of it.

Check out GoToMeeting’s Twitter feed. They do a great job of taking a friendly professional approach to their content. They post everything from popular Internet memes to retweets and articles about the modern workplace. They make things interesting instead of focusing on their products all the time. They also share customer success stories which goes a long way to endearing clients to them.

5) Household Cleaning Supplies

Hoover

Vacuum cleaners and other cleaning supplies can be pretty boring huh? Almost every ad you see on TV shows the amazing cleaning powers of the vacuum or broom in question. From Dyson to Swiffer WetJet, all they seem to focus on is how it gets dirt off your floor. It’s definitely useful to know, but not very exciting.

Take this heart-warming campaign from Hoover. When they heard about a young man named Marcus who was autistic and had a special love for vacuums as he was always drawing them, they took his pictures and started displaying them around the office. Even better, they took his drawings and put it online for people to download, creating a mini-campaign in which Marcus’s love for vacuums could be spread to homes all over the world.

6) Real Estate

Finding a new place to live, whether you’re renting or buying can be a huge headache. There’s a ton of listings to go through and open houses to attend AND a lot of questions that should be asked in order to determine if it’s the right place for you. After all, it IS the biggest investment you’ll ever make.

The best companies try and make the experience more enjoyable. Memphis Invest did an entertaining video showing a typical property that a real estate investor would be looking at in the region. It has a Cribs-esque feel, complete with pop-up prices. It make touring through the property both informative and fun at the same time.

7) Consulting

Accenture_blog

Consulting is booming amongst baby boomers who retire from full-time work but aren’t quite ready to stop working. As of 2011, there were some 400,000 consultants in the US alone. Not all of them were sole proprietors either, some companies employ several consultants on their roster.

Either way, that’s a lot of companies and a lot of people. With that many people out there with the title of consultant, how can companies differentiate? One great way to do so is through authoritative content, which one company uses to their advantage.

Accenture does a great job of creating authoritative content in a number of different forms, from blog posts to podcasts and they’re also not afraid to bring pop-culture references into their content to make things more interesting and helps to turn industry content into something COOs and CMOs can use to help generate interest among their audiences.

8) Health

Vega_Sport

Having written academic papers myself on direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical advertising, I can see how it can be extremely boring to the average consumer. Everyone knows for example that probiotics are good for you, but how many people are actually interested in hearing an explanation on how they work? Many health topics are convoluted and hard for the general public to understand and the biggest content opportunity for that industry is to break it down into layman’s terms that everyone can understand and absorb.

Vega, a plant-based nutritional supplement and health company does a great job of disseminating quality content that promotes healthy living through their social media channels and on their blog. They focus on inspirational stories on what inspires their consumers to get-and stay-active. Check out this great post on what inspired a consumer to start running.

9) Marketing Automation

State-of-Content-Marketing-2014_Infographic-FV

In a nutshell, marketing automation platforms allow you to streamline your marketing campaigns, scheduling tweets, managing workflows and automating follow-up emails. Are you falling asleep or switching to another website?! I get it, compared to other awesome aspects of marketing, marketing automation isn’t really considered to be ‘hot’, but it IS integral to improving everyone’s ability to create better marketing campaigns. Still, it sounds fairly bland and robotic compared to talking about the latest ad from Chrysler 300.

There IS one company that’s spicing up the more boring aspects though. Eloqua has been creating an awesome content-rich blog for years, but where they particularly excel is at infographics. Their infographics are awesome because they make a point of adding value rather than just color and they do a good job of laying out statistics in such a way that everyone understands them.

10) Insurance

Everybody knows what a necessity insurance is in the modern age. The demand for information can be pretty high, whether it’s about health insurance or car insurance, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t boring. It’s an important part of personal and professional security, but that doesn’t mean we have to enjoy it. Luckily for us, there’s two insurance companies that are creating popular buzz-worthy content that definitely isn’t boring.

Geico’s marketing campaigns with their mascots, the gecko and two offbeat guitar/ukulele players have been causing audiences to be in stitches for years. All-State has also been generating their fair share of laughs with the character of Mayhem, doing everything from streaking in a football field to running into the road like a deer in headlights.

11) Customer Service

Most people cringe about calling customer service. They worry about having long wait times or dealing with customer service representatives that aren’t helpful. However, there are quite a few companies that don’t deal with customers this way that don’t get enough credit. That’s why awesome content can help the customer service rep and the customer, making their lives easier. Here’s one company that has recognized how exceptional content can help.

ZenDesk offers customer service and support ticket software, but they do a good job of infusing the human element of customer service into their marketing. In one video, they sit two people next to each other, one ‘the business’, one ‘the customer’ that allows them to speak personally with one another, showcasing how ZenDesk can add real-world value into improving their relationship.

12) Crutches

Goodbye_Crutches

Crutches can become a necessary evil when you have an injury that affects your mobility. Until you actually need them, it can be tough to figure out which ones you should buy or which ones work for you. A great company can provide content to help you decide if crutches are right for you.

Goodbye Crutches provides free ground delivery for all of their alternatives to crutches. To make the process of choosing an alternative, they have a great quiz on their website that will help you find which crutch is the best for you, eliminating guesswork and making things easier for you!

13) Toilet Paper

Charmin_Twitter

It’s a necessity that you use every day, but you don’t spend a lot of time thinking about which one to buy unless it’s about price. But when you do buy it, there’s a ton of options to choose from.

You don’t generally think about toilet paper as having great marketing, but Charmin’s been doing an amazing job keeping their products top of mind with their TV spots and their Twitter feed. They’ve converted their Twitter account into a hilarious hub for humor, with #tweetfromtheseat, their most popular hashtag generating hilarious responses. They’re not afraid to even keep the conversation going and respond to even some of the more NSFW comments.

14) Radiology

RSNA_Facebook

Ah, radiology. The ability to take X-rays when you have an injury. Not exactly making you feel warm and fuzzy, is it? Especially since you only go there when you’re already dealing with an injury.

Radiology, like the rest of the health industry, isn’t crystal clear, but there’s an organization out there that’s staying top of mind and making it a little easier to understand. The Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) successfully uses their Facebook page to connect with their audience in a light and funny way. They even hold contests for the public to submit and then vote on their favorite X-ray images.

15) Everything

GE_inspired_me_pinterest_board

You know what’s interesting? A multi-national conglomerate company that has their hands in every industry from consumer to industrial, finance to energy and technological infrastructure. Basically, your company does everything and yet how do you take everything and make it interesting?

Check out GE’s Pinterest Page, it’s proof they don’t take themselves too seriously, with boards named #Badass Machines next to boards like #Brilliance in Motion. They even go so far as to incorporate the Ryan Gosling “Hey Girl” meme into a Pinterest board, but making it about Thomas Edison instead and hold a contest special board #GEInspiredMe to entice the public to post photos of how GE inspires them.

16) Software

People don’t typically turn to software companies for entertainment or educational content. But with the right mentality and the organization to keep great content always in the pipeline, software companies can gain recognition and spread the word by producing the right content for the right people at the right time.

Marketo does a great job of creating top 5 and top 10 lists of marketing ideas and other aspects that are easy to read and follow. They also do a great job of creating videos that opens the dialogue between them and the customers, almost as if you really were having coffee with them and asking them questions, known as “Coffee with Marketo”.

I hope that no matter what industry you’re in, these companies have inspired you to create awesome content and to not let the label of “boring” stop you. Keep checking back here for more awesome blog post on how to make the most of your marketing campaigns, including this post on how you can improve your calls-to-action (CTAs)!

Third & Final Stop on the Dine Around & Stay in Town Victoria Tour: Vista 18

I saved the best for last to close out our Dine Around & Stay in Town Victoria Tour. We chose Vista 18 partially for the beautiful views of the city and the waterfront but also to try out some amazing food.

After perusing the menu, we decided to try the $30 selection. Our server, the ever easy going and good natured Russell, commented that many people were averse to trying the steak dish in the entrée after being told what sweetbreads were, but having developed a taste for pate, sweetbreads didn’t scare me.

My partner and I both decided to try the chicken terrine as an appetizer. It has less of a spreadable texture than I thought it would, but it was still tasty paired with the rosemary crackers that had come in our bread basket.

For a main course, I did choose the steak with the sweetbreads and onion Yorkshire pudding. My partner went with the pan seared sablefish with spicy tomato and octopus ragout. The steak I had was even better than the one I had at Spinnakers a few days previous, but Russell was right, the crowning achievement of the dish was definitely the crispy breaded sweetbreads.

They were so good, I’m still craving them now, in fact. My partner did enjoy his fish, but the ragout was a little too spicy for him.

To round out the evening, he had the flourless chocolate torte with peanut butter ice cream for dessert, while I chose the cardamom panna cotta with a cardamom shortbread cookie. My partner was addicted to the peanut butter ice cream while the panna cotta and cookie were so good, sometimes I feel like I can still taste them.

Overall, I’d say Vista 18 was definitively the winner out of the three restaurants for me and I can’t wait to have dinner there again.

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-Lilian

PS. Missed my post on Chez Michel or Spinnakers Gastro Brew Pub?

PPS. Sorry for the blurry photos, forgot the camera and had to make due with my partner’s phone.

Second Stop on the Dine Around, Stay in Town Tour: Spinnakers Gastro Brew Pub

For our second stop on Victoria’s Dine Around & Stay in Town event we decided to go more casual and fun than upscale.

We chose Spinnakers because of its strong $30 menu and we were definitely not disappointed. My partner ordered the meatballs as an appetizer while I went with the seafood chowder and both dishes surpassed our initial opinions.

The chowder was creamy and it definitely wasn’t short on seafood either. I tried a bite of my partner’s meatball appetizer and they were delicious, smoky and spicy with a hint of cumin and paprika.

For a main course, we both decided on the steak frites dish, given that the jambalaya was too spicy and neither one of use felt like having a vegetarian meal. The steak was tender and the fries were crispy, but the real highlight of the meal was being able to dip slices of steak into a condiment that tastes like ranch dressing mixed with chipotle. Though I’m not sure what it was, it was tasty all the same.

For dessert, my partner opted for the apple sorbet with handmade truffles and biscotti, whereas I wanted to try the blackberry tart with goat cheese ice cream. The bite of truffle I had was creamy and decadently rich, but the highlight of my own dessert was definitely the goat cheese ice cream. It’s something that I recommend everyone try, it’s not only creamy, but the taste of it is more mild than you’d think and just as addictive as regular ice cream.

Overall, I’d say this dining experience went better than the first one at Chez Michel. Here’s hoping for good experiences to continue at our third and last stop. I’d give Spinnakers a rating of 4 out of 5.

Missed my last review on Chez Michel? You can find it here.

-Lilian

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PS. Sorry if the photos come across a little blurry, I forgot my camera and we had to rely on my partner’s phone.

First Stop on the Dine Out Victoria Tour: Chez Michel

On our 4th annual trip into the Dine Around & Stay in Town event, my partner and I decided to try an entirely new trio of restaurants. As a rule, we don’t re-visit a restaurant that we’d already eaten dinner at.

For our first stop, we chose Chez Michel as we enjoy French cuisine and it was a restaurant that I’d heard good reviews from people that I knew, in the past.

For our first course, my partner and I both chose the lobster bisque.  It was deliciously creamy and rich with great lobster flavour and the crouton provided the right amount of contrasting texture.

Our main courses weren’t quite up to the same standard, unfortunately. My duck a l’orange was delicious, the orange sauce a perfect companion for the duck, but the vegetables left something to be desired.

My partner’s filet mignon was tender and he enjoyed the béarnaise sauce, but underneath the flavour of the sauce, he felt that the steak itself was under seasoned. A steak, he said, no matter how tender, should not be left with no seasoning at all.

As for dessert, we both decided to go with the old-fashioned crème de menthe sundae as mint is one of our favourite flavours. Though the dessert tasted good, it wasn’t what we were expecting for something labeled a sundae. It was too simple and plebeian for the price we were expected to pay.

Overall, while our experience at Chez Michel wasn’t the worst I’d ever had at a restaurant, it wasn’t the best either. Instead, it fell somewhere in the middle.  Thought it wasn’t bad, I expected more for my money and I would currently rather save the return trips for other restaurants.

2 and a half stars out of 5.

 

-Lilian

Top 5 Dishes & Drinks I’ve Tasted in Victoria-NOT in a Restaurant

Over the years I’ve lived in Victoria, I’ve compiled a list of my favourite restaurants. From Sauce and Il Terrazzo to King Sejong and everything in between, Victoria has surprised me with some great restaurants that serve my favourite cuisines.

Along with new restaurants, I also made other surprising culinary discoveries in the city. Even in a smaller city, you can find some amazing drinks, liqueurs and culinary dishes in places that you never expected.

Here’s my list of top 5 dishes and spirits I’ve tasted in Victoria-NOT in a restaurant:

1)      Giffard Menthe Pastille

Giffard Menthe Pastille

Giffard Menthe Pastille

As mint is one of my favourite flavours, I couldn’t wait to try it.  If you’ve never tried Giffard’s Menthe Pastille, I highly recommend it. As a mint liqueur, it was silky and refreshing and it definitely exceeded my expectations. It’s smooth and the mint flavour isn’t too over powering. It’s great on its own and to spice up coffee or hot chocolate.

2)      Smoked Duck Sliders with Heirloom Tomatoes and Arugula

Smoked Duck Sliders with Heirloom Tomatoes

Smoked Duck Sliders with Heirloom Tomatoes

I’ve tried many burgers and sliders in my time; made with all different kinds of meat, including wild game as well as vegetarian and tofu burgers. But this was the first time I’d had duck, smoked duck at that, in a slider. The smokiness and saltiness of the duck paired with the sweetness of the tomato was a perfect match. It was so delicious I went back for seconds. It’s definitely a flavour of slider that you should grab and try ASAP!

3)      Vice Vodka Ice Wine Martini

Vice Vodka Ice Wine Martini

Vice Vodka Ice Wine Martini

I’ve been a fan of ice wine ever since I tried my first sip. I love to pair the sweet taste and tart finish with my favourite desserts, but I’ve never tried to make cocktail with it before. Vice Vodka Ice Wine Martini was the first time I’d ever heard of a spirit being mixed with wine into a cocktail and the end result was fantastic. The vodka balanced out the sweetness in the wine perfectly.  It’s definitely one of my go-to drinks for appetizers, dinner and dessert.

4)      Pallini Limoncello

Pallini Limoncello

Pallini Limoncello

I’ve always loved the fragrance and flavour of lemons in my baking, cooking and my cocktails as well. I wanted to try a lemon based liqueur and this one from Italy was exactly what I was looking for.  Tart and smooth, the citrus flavour was strong but not overwhelming. I’d recommend trying a sip and experiencing the lemon flavour for yourself.

5)      Carrot Cake with White Chocolate and Mascarpone Mousse and Grand Marnier soaked Sultanas.

Carrot Cake w/ White Chocolate & Mascarpone Mousse

Carrot Cake w/ White Chocolate & Mascarpone Mousse

I’ve baked and eaten many carrot cakes in the past, but for a bite-size dessert, this particular carrot cake was one of the best ones I’ve had yet. It could’ve been the soft texture paired with the white chocolate mascarpone mousse. Or, it could’ve been the extra hint of orange liqueur coming through in the Grand Marnier soaked sultana raisins. All I know is it definitely worked.

Now I know I said that these were the top 5 dishes and liqueurs that I’ve tasted in Victoria, NOT in a restaurant. Truthfully, no restaurant I’ve been to has given me the opportunity to try so many different dishes, liqueurs and drinks. You can find similar dishes at certain restaurants, but nothing exactly like what I was able to taste.

So where can you find rare and different liqueurs, cocktails and dishes in Victoria? At the annual Art of the Cocktail fundraiser for the Victoria Film Festival, of course, which is the one event I always make sure to attend every year.

Pick up your glass and buy a ticket for Art of the Cocktail 2013 to be held this October. After all, you might be missing out on a rare cocktail, liqueur or dish that could become your new favourite.

 

-Lilian

PS.  If you missed my last post, don’t worry. Find the Top 5 Marketing Resolutions Every Business Should Make for 2013 here.

Sheepdogs, Throwing Hammers and Kilts: 2012 Victoria Highland Games & Celtic Festival

Matt Doherty Weight for Distance Throw

After experiencing the 2011 Victoria Highland Games, my expectations for 2012 were raised, partly because I now have a great camera to take amazing photos. Still, with the warm sunny weather and not a cloud in the sky I was excited to see what the 2012 Victoria Highland Games & Celtic Festival had to offer.

After walking through the front entrance to Topaz Park, I snapped a few quick photos of the pipe band practicing in one of the lower fields and joined the large crowd waiting to see the sheepdog trials. Being a city girl all my life, I’d never seen a sheep being sheared up close, but the quick and effective way that the woman handled the sheep and sheared all the wool off with no pain at all, seemingly, to the sheep was impressive.

Next, I watched the tug-of-war competition between two different teams and cheered along with the crowd when the team on the right won. From there, I snapped a few photos in quick succession of the different vendors and clans that attended the Highland Games this year. Standing in front of Clans Cameron and MacLaren, I could see some of the vendors such as Freedom Kilts and Labyrinth Leathercraft, the name which invokes for me images of the Greek myth of Minotaur.

Standing with the crowd and being able to see the distance weight toss up close and personal through the amazing zoom of the camera lens was awesome. It was the first time that I’d ever been able to capture live action shots so clearly, making the experience of watching the Heavy Events that much more memorable.

I was even able to catch an Irish step dancing performance as well as a pipe band performance on the main stage over the heads of the crowd. Both performances as well as that of a music performance on the Bard & Banker stage were made that much more special because of the ability to see every aspect of each performance up close and personal through the camera lens.

Lastly, I was able to capture some great shots of the sheepdog herding trials; snapping photos of the dog in motion as he herded the sheep around makeshift fences in a circle.

What are my expectations for next year’s Highland Games & Celtic Festival? Well, it would be fantastic to finally see the caber toss, which I’ve never gotten a chance to see, as well as the braemar stone competition. Who knows, maybe I’ll even have the guts to try some haggis! If you’ve never been to the Victoria Highland Games & Celtic Festival, I definitely recommend it!

-Lilian

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Luxury, Comfort and Fantasy: My Take on the 2012 Vancouver International Auto Show

Lexus LFA Concept Car Front-Side View

Before I start diving into my experiences at the 2012 Vancouver International Auto Show, I have a confession to make. I am not, nor have I ever been a gearhead or a huge car enthusiast. In fact, save for a few times my cousin and I pawed through her older brother’s Road & Track magazines as kids and daydreamed about our fantasy cars, I hadn’t paid much attention to the latest car trends for years.

However, with the 2012 International Auto Show in town while I was home for Easter, I felt like it was the perfect opportunity to re-educate myself on what was going on in the world of automobiles. And maybe I would even be one of the first people I knew to see some exclusive limited edition cars!

Walking in through the front entrance and into the outer concourse at the renovated BC Place Stadium, I couldn’t believe the amount of people coming into the auto show. The show had already been going strong for at least five days by that time, but there were still a ton of people just like us wanting to see all the cars!
Without further ado, here’s some of the highlights for me at the 2012 Vancouver International Auto Show.

Fuel Efficient Cars

The very first display of cars was the new fuel efficient cars from several well-known and dependable car brands as well as a few luxury car brands as well. I was definitely surprised to see some luxury brands come out with fuel efficient cars. Among the fuel efficient cars that caught my eye was the electric sports car driven by the owner of Sun Country Farms, the 2012 Fisker Karma and the most surprising one of all, the Ferrari 458 Italia.

Seeing luxury cars break into the fuel efficient market definitely speaks to how important fuel efficiency has become, even in the luxury car market. Here’s hoping there will more to come in the fuel efficient segment of the automobile market!

Luxury Cars

2013 Lotus Evora

(Note: I may not have the 100% accurate make and model of each luxury car, I had check on many of them via the dealership websites and chose the ones that looked the most like the ones I snapped photos of. So if you notice any mistakes on the makes and models, don’t hesitate to let me know)

Though I’m still waiting for the upcoming Acura NSX to be displayed, it won’t be ready until 2015, thanks to custom retrofitting that Acura needs to do for their factory, I wasn’t disappointed by the other luxury cars that I saw.

My two top favourites would definitely be the limited edition 2013 Jaguar XKR-S Coupe, done in a stunning blue shade and the Lexus LFA Concept Car. Both cars were listed at more than $165,000. I suppose I can keep dreaming….

Next in line for me were two vehicles by Audi; the R8 V10 and the 2013 S5 Coupe, both listed at nearly $60,000. While these are definitely more in my price range, I think I’d still rather save up more money than break the bank. I also definitely appreciated the presence of the Camaro and the Corvette, with the Corvette Stingray Concept car being the most futuristic looking out of the entire group.

Cars I’d heard of for the First Time at the Auto Show

Intermeccanica Roadster

Top of this list would definitely be the custom Intermeccanica Roadster followed closely by the Subaru BRZ. I hadn’t heard of either one of those cars before the auto show, though I’m very familiar with Subaru as a brand. Fisker is another car brand that I’d add to this list as I have never seen a car off of that brand on the streets of Vancouver or Victoria.

Final Thoughts

I won’t spoil the show anymore for you than I already have and leave my photos of the vehicles to speak for themselves. However, there were a few other surprises based on the cars I tried sitting in. The Scion iQ surprisingly has more room than I thought it would, while the floor model of the Nissan Versa hatchback that I tried out actually had a more old-school looking console for the radio and climate control. And, for those of you interested in a Mini Cooper, the convertible model definitely is more roomy than I ever thought it would be.

-Lilian

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Culinary Expeditions Part One: Food Truck Hunting & Restaurant Dining in Vancouver

Bada-Bing's Menu

Though I’d seen many food trucks around the downtown core in Vancouver the previous few summers, I’d never had a chance to try any of them, owing to a lack of time and other commitments.

Finally, on Easter weekend, I made it my mission to hunt down at least one food truck and see for myself the quality of the food and why the craze was so popular. However, there were a few issues that I had miscalculated.

Having only seen food trucks in abundance in and around downtown in the summer, I made the mistake of thinking that every food truck would not only be open 7 days a week, year round, but stationed somewhere downtown; all I had to do was look for them. Unfortunately, I was wrong and the end result was a mad hunt around Vancouver’s downtown core on an empty stomach.

I found out later that each food truck only operates on certain days and they’re all stationed in different areas at different times; and the best way to keep track of them was to use a combination of Vancouver Street Eats for a list of food truck names and locations as well as each food truck’s Twitter page.

Finally, after a 20 minute search, we found the Bada Bing Food Truck right in front of the Burrard Skytrain station.  Serving up halal meat and a bit of Middle Eastern twist on things like Philly Cheesesteak sandwiches and poutine, I couldn’t wait to try it.

My partner and I both ordered the Chicken Rice Box, complete with seasoned veggies and rice along with Strawberry Crush to drink, which I saw for the first time ever that day. It was absolutely delicious, with the right hint of spice and flavour. The teriyaki sauce that we both drizzled over the rice and chicken gave the entire meal the extra bit of sweetness.

Although we started the food truck hunt without a specific truck or destination in mind, the amazing first expression by Bada Bing definitely has me looking forward to summer in Vancouver and discovering more food trucks!

Even though our second attempt at finding a food truck that weekend was unsuccessful, we did have a wonderful lunch at Rogue Kitchen & Wetbar by Waterfront Skytrain Station.  I’d been there twice before, but always for the more Westernized meals of pasta and sandwiches. This time, I decided to try something different and ordered their Big Chicken Wonton Soup. The sweetness of the soup and the wonton filling wasn’t what I’d been used eating to growing up, but it was still very tasty.

Overall, I’d consider the ‘culinary expedition’ in Vancouver to be a success, having been able to try out at least one food truck and I’m definitely looking forward to adding more ‘culinary expeditions’ to the list soon!

-Lilian

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3 Course Meal with 5 Stars Part 2: Dining at Fire & Water Fish and Chophouse

Roasted Tomato & Bell Pepper Terrine

Having gone into Fire & Water Fish and Chophouse at the Marriott Inner Harbour hotel on New Year’s Eve this past year to enjoy a few drinks; which turned out to be a positive experience; I wanted to return to try out the food.

We picked a random weeknight, thinking that it wouldn’t be too busy. Sure enough, there were enough tables open on a Wednesday night and we had been seated and given our drinks without any waiting.

For an appetizer, I decided to try the roasted tomato and bell pepper terrine for something different. It was a bit of a shock as I didn’t expect the terrine to be cold, but the tomatoes and bell peppers were roasted to perfection and very sweet and soft, so the taste and texture more than made up for the temperature.

My partner, being a meat and potatoes fan, ordered the braised short rib as an appetizer and he loved how tender and juicy the meat was. According to him, it was definitely one of the pieces of beef short rib that he’d ever eaten.

For my main course, I decided to try the honey and soy glazed salmon, which came with barley ‘risotto’ and baby spinach. The miso emulsion made it seem as though I had soup accompanying my main course, which only added to the depth of flavour.

My partner stuck with his craving for beef for the evening by ordering the Moroccan spiced centre cut striploin. He was happy to discover that not only was the steak tender and correctly seasoned, but that the mashed potatoes didn’t disappoint either, unlike some other restaurants we had eaten at recently.

For dessert, I decided to try the pairing of white and dark chocolate mousse which was smooth and creamy as well as filling. Due to his love for nearly everything apple, my partner ordered the crispy apple cheesecake, which he said was absolutely delicious.

If you’re looking for a more romantic restaurant with a quiet atmosphere, why not give Fire & Water Fish and Chophouse a try? Don’t let the fact that it’s a hotel restaurant deter you, the food  will not disappoint.

-Lilian

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