Monthly Archives

December 2015

Canada

Lovely Friends on Beautiful Vancouver Island

We woke up in the Wal-Mart parking lot in Squamish and had a short forty minute ride to the ferry.

Vancouver_Island_Mel_Had_Tea

This is the silhouette of central Vancouver against the sunrise as we boarded the early morning ferry from Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island.

We were meeting friends in Campbell River on the Island that afternoon, but first we had time to hit up a few beaches.

We hit up Kin Beach outside of Comox and Saratoga Beach. We grabbed some coffees, opened up the van, cleaned it out and took a nap with the sea breeze blowing through.

We eventually made our way up to Campbell River to meet up with our friends Gordo and Danielle who were celebrating their return from South Korea (they just flew back to Canada the day before) at Gordo’s grandfather’s house.

Vancouver_Island_Mel_Had_Tea-11

There was a family barbecue, some great food and some very cute kids to welcome Danielle and Gordo back to Canada.

After dinner, we piled into vehicles to head towards Sayward. Sayward is further north up the coast. Sasquatch territory. Also, where Gordo’s parents live and where we’d be staying for a couple days.

We gassed up the trucks are picked up some last minute groceries at the gas station, then packed in behind the Grizzly. The Grizzly is a massive, behemoth of an old truck with a cobalt blue cab and massive drive shaft you can see in the undercarriage. It leads us into the woods, the twin red eyes of its rear lights guiding us further and further down into the mountains.

_DSF0782

As we went deeper into the island, I thought to myself, ‘Yeah, if I was a sasquatch, this is where I would live.’

Nestled deep and safe between the tall shoulders of the forest.

Vancouver Island has some of the highest sasquatch sightings reported in Canada.

It’s also polygamist county. But that’s another story.

The fuse on our alternator blew on the way to Sayward. The alternator is the thing we’d been using to charge our laptops, camera batteries and cell phones. It also took the radio fuse with it.

Here we went, into sasquatch territory with no radio and no camera batteries. How was I ever going to get a picture of sasquatch?

Day 23 Costs:

  • Tim Horton’s breakfast: $13.75
  • Second breakfast on BC Ferry: $20.84
  • Ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo, Vancouver Island: $88.50
  • Komox Grind Cafe: $18.10
  • Groceries in Campbell River: $45.58
  • McDonald’s Happy Meal: $4.75
  • Gas in Campbell River: $71.68

Total: $263.20

Personal Essays

Looking Back at 2015

Miette_Hot_Springs_Mel_Hattie-30

It’s been a big year. Before I headed into 2016 I wanted to take a second to look back and reflect on everything that happened in 2015.

Blog

MelHattie.com became MelHadTea.com, moved from Squarespace and relaunched with a whole new design on a self-hosted WordPress site, and I started a Facebook page.

Books

img29

I set off in April with the goal to read 41 books during the remaining nine months of the year. I ended up coming in at 20, or about one book every two weeks.

I underestimated was how much reading I was going to have in my Masters degree (which I didn’t count on the list) and how much time I’d have to read during our massive road trip (why read when you can climb a mountain or go on a once-in-a-lifetime outdoors adventure?).

That being said, I’m still proud of everything I managed to read and I’m going into 2016 again with the goal of reading one book every week.

Some of my 2015 favourites:

Tea

exc-54baffc2e4b06fad9b9a7ea2

 

I had the chance to sit down in a Russian tea room, I wrote about how to make great matcha, Halifax got its very own tea festival and I reviewed some great tea from Canadian tea vendors. I fell in love with Taiwanese oolong at the Lan Su Chinese Gardens in Portland and sampled teas throughout San Francisco’s Chinatown. I drank tea at the oldest tea house in Canada during the tea house challenge.

2015_Mel_Had_Tea

I also completed my third tea sommelier course with the Tea Association of Canada. I’m excited to write about tea sommelier training and tea history to come in 2016!

Travel

img62

With my Masters starting in September I stayed put for the second half of 2016, but in March I hit up Boston to go to the Women in Travel Summit where I met lots of amazing travel women. Then I was off to Milwaukee to attend Bloghouse and then did a huge road trip across Canada for the month of August. I travelled to World Domination Summit in Portland, Oregon and then decided on a whim to rent a car and drive down to San Francisco for a week.

Vancouver_Island_Mel_Had_Tea-8

Right now I’m in Goose Bay, Labrador in the Canadian north, where there are skidoos and dogsleds to ride. Dry air that sucks that moisture out of you and the smell of wood fires to put you to sleep after you come in from the cold.

Photography

I ditched my heavy Nikon D800 DSLR kit and bought a Fuji X-T1, shot again for Lawn Summer Nights, a cystic fibrosis fundraiser in Halifax and wrote my first photography how to.

My best moments of the year on Instagram, using BestNine. Our surprise mountain engagement took the top spot! Following close behind are two shots from the day we took the tea house challenge, when I visited the beautiful Milwaukee art museum during Bloghouse, when we stumbled upon a sunflower field in North Dakota, and this ‘Just Start’ wallpaper with the Fairmont Chateau at Lake Louise as seen from the trail behind the lake.

melhadtea_full_instagram_bestnine

Writing

I had the chance to be on the radio a lot this fall thanks to my university. Learning how to put together short stories for the ear, write for the ear and also live hosting and interviewing was a treat. I also got to interview a lot of really interesting people for The Radio Room on CKDU 88.1FM.

Here’s the last piece I put on air before the holidays:

Life

I left my job at a law firm and started a Masters Degree in Journalism at the University of King’s College in Halifax and got engaged. Between leaving jobs, going back to university and doing all that traveling, plus freelance work on the side, it made for a busy year. This year I’m going to work on carving out more space in the day to write. This will likely be accomplished by trying to wake up a half hour earlier at 6am instead of 6:30am.

What’s Next?

I recently went to a 2016 focus workshop with a bunch of female entrepreneurs. We each picked a word to focus on for 2016. I wrote completion. I started spinning a lot of great plates this year and my goal for 2016 is to work on keeping them in the air and bringing them to the finish line.

What’s on your horizon for 2016?

Canada

Chasing Cattle with Dirtbikes in Alexis Creek

Chasing_Cattle_Dirtbikes_Mel_Had_Tea-21.jpg

My Aunt and Uncle are cattle ranchers. They live in a no-cell-reception, off-the-map area near Alexis Creek in northern B.C.

They have a really active lifestyle – they’re always chasing their cattle around on their dirtbikes (easier than horses), or going waterskiing at the nearby lake.

Chasing_Cattle_Dirtbikes_Mel_Had_Tea-19

They took us on a tour of their vast property where 200-some cattle graze and they grow hay to bale and store for winter.

Dirtbikes are the easiest way to get from one place to another. So they put me on one. The fools.

Chasing_Cattle_Dirtbikes_Mel_Had_Tea-12.jpg

I’d never driven anything with a clutch before. This is the kind of thing that would have had me scared and in tears in Jr. High school.

Here’s the mantra I kept chanting in my head: neutral gear, kickstart, idle, clutch, move thing to first, hold clutch, throttle, slowly release clutch.

I’m really awkward at coordinating the clutch. As we were halfway across the property, we stopped so Mike and Corinne could show us some of the huge bales they already stacked.

They looked like giant shredded wheat cereal.

I stopped my bike to take some photos and then as I was preparing to go between the stacks, I jumped off my clutch really quickly and my front wheel flew up as I was propelled right into the side of a giant bale. My neck snapped back and my face banged into the side of a hay bale. I was fine, just sore with straw in my eye.

Not deterred, I got back on (after Mike cleared the engine, which had flooded when I crashed and the bike tipped over). After some prodding from my aunt actually, I ended up riding across the plains in second gear. I did it!!!

The joke is that I was on the littlest dirtbike. Only 100ccs. The ones my family was riding had a lot more power. They’ve been riding forever.

Chasing_Cattle_Dirtbikes_Mel_Had_Tea-7.jpg

Uncle Mike above is great at riding dirtbikes. He’s also broken his collarbone and dealt with numerous other bike injuries. You can tell he loves it.

Chasing_Cattle_Dirtbikes_Mel_Had_Tea-17

They tell me the key to looking pro is learning to release the clutch ‘gently’, and remembering to give it enough gas in the upper gears so it doesn’t stall when you release the clutch.

Around the property we saw the cattle, the huge irrigation systems, the hay and the jumps.

Readers, I did not try the jumps.

There’s one that’s made out of a cow my uncle had to bury after it wandered to a secluded part of the property and got into trouble while trying to give birth. As my uncle put it, “her sacrifice was not in vain, because I made a ramp out of her.”

Chasing_Cattle_Dirtbikes_Mel_Had_Tea.jpg

It’s called the dead cow jump.

We had fresh steak, sandwiches and cold beer in iced mugs when we got back. We had to be on the road to Whistler by 3:30pm.

I wish I could have stayed longer. It was great to see my family. We had to catch the morning ferry to Vancouver Island so we could meet our friends and drive up to Sayward with them.

I was still shaking the hay out of my clothes as we got back into the car.

A little poof of straw dust appeared every time I opened my wallet .

The next time we’re back, we’ll learn how to waterski.

We headed east to Williams Lake and then turned sharply south down one of the most beautiful highways I’ve ever been on.

Also, one of the most dangerous.

Chasing_Cattle_Dirtbikes_Mel_Had_Tea-33

The BC-99 South is a highway best viewed at sunset. It has painted canyons, rivers and stunning gorges lined with emerald farmland. The irrigation machines cover the agricultural plateaus with an avalon mist.

There are tiny towns with twinkling lights in the purple dusk situated on the edge of a sheer cliff face. All this around hairpin turns that make things disappear around corners as quickly as they come, so you’re whipping your head around so fast you wonder if they were ever there.

You pass through a lot of small reserve towns. I see a sign that says, “All natives go to heaven because they have rezervations.” across the street from Lightfoot Market and Gas.

You see a gas station and think, “Wow, that gas is so cheap!” But keep driving kids, because that is reserve gas and unless you have native status it is not for you.

We drive past grazing deer, up and down switchbacks, up and down hills so steep they’re at 13%, 14% and then 15% grade. Howling with excitement each time we came to a steeper hill.

Chasing_Cattle_Dirtbikes_Mel_Had_Tea-37

Be careful here. In winter, this is a death trap. There are no lights on this highway and six bridges that only fit one vehicle at a time.

There are runaway lanes at sharp turns (they’re shorter roads that go about a kilometre off the main road at sharp turns – they’re meant for large trucks that don’t slow down in time. You can take the runaway lane to avoid colliding with another vehicle, or flying off the cliff).

Chasing_Cattle_Dirtbikes_Mel_Had_Tea-38

After the sun sets, the shadow of darkness runs away from your headlights as you scan the roadside ditches for the telltale reflection of deer eyes.

There are rest areas every five kilometres or so. And by rest areas, I mean a larger shoulder of highway where you can pull off if you get driving fatigue.

We stopped a few times for coffee.

After driving for about seven and a half hours from my aunt and uncle’s house, we reach the Wal Mart in Squamish where we set up camp for the night. We weren’t alone. About 30 other camping vehicles were spending the night with us. In the morning, the Horseshoe Bay ferry to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island would only be a 40 minute drive away.

Day 22 Costs:

  • Gas in Clinton: $75.47
  • A&W: $20.34
  • McDonalds coffees: $5.37

Total: $101.18

Canada

Chinese Lessons and Salmon Dipping in Northern B.C.

Somehow in less than twelve hours we went from a cabin in the woods of Quesnel, to a historic gold mining town stuck in 1925, to a cattle ranch outside Alexis Creek, to the Chilcotin River where we watched people in the Alexis Creek First Nation band dip for salmon and I gutted my first fish.

Let’s start at the beginning.

How_to_Chinese_and_Gut_Salmon_Mel_Had_Tea-10.jpg

A Cabin in the Woods

We woke up with my cousin and his wife gone. They were en route with their pups so that one of them could get knee surgery in a neighbouring city.

We had a nice, slow morning of card games, hot breakfasts, hot coffee, playing with the cat and exploring the cabin.

How_to_Chinese_and_Gut_Salmon_Mel_Had_Tea-11

Their cat has an outside escape through the loft window in the cabin – through it she can get to the ground outside using these cat ledges.

How_to_Chinese_and_Gut_Salmon_Mel_Had_Tea-9.jpg

How_to_Chinese_and_Gut_Salmon_Mel_Had_Tea-15

After finally packing up and bidding Rob’s dream cabin goodbye, we headed east from Quesnel, through an area known as Devil’s Canyon in order to get to…

Barkerville Gold Rush Town

 

Barkerville is about an hour east of Quesnel. It’s the historic gold rush town that the brewery we visited yesterday takes their name from.

When we got out of the cary in the parkng lot we could hear dogs barking off in the distance and I found a loonie right outside my car door.

Rob: “Wow. This really is a gold town.”

This place was in its heyday during the 1860s. The whole town burned down once in September of 1868 but was quickly rebuilt.

The most people this town ever held was 5,800. That was in the 1930s and the population declined steadily after World War II. There is still gold mining in the area.

The last person who actually lived in Barkerville died in 1979. Since then, it’s been kept alive by preservation staff and actors.

It’s got saloons, horses, minstrels, and a full schedule. They had some kind of demonstration or re-enactment going on all the time. I’m not a huge fan of re-inactments. I’d rather read about the history. For whatever reasons I’ve got a natural aversion to groups of re-enactment actors. They make me nervous.

I was most excited for their historical Chinatown.

How_to_Chinese_and_Gut_Salmon_Mel_Had_Tea-23

 

Chinese Lessons in 1925

Immigrant Chinese labourers and marchants are a huge part of Barkerville’s legacy. A third of the town is considered Chinatown.

How_to_Chinese_and_Gut_Salmon_Mel_Had_Tea-27

So we found this little Chinese school house.

Okay, let’s do one re-enactment. We went into the smokey, wood-heated schoolhouse with about ten other people. Everyone from a little boy to one of his grandparents.

Our 1pm lesson lasted 45 minutes. We learned some phrases in mandarin like how to say, ‘Hello’, ‘My name is..’, ‘Thank you’, and ‘Goodbye’.

How_to_Chinese_and_Gut_Salmon_Mel_Had_Tea

The teacher also taught us a few kanji, how to count using an abacus and the basic principles of Confucian philosophy. Actually, for a short lesson with a mixed demographic it was quite good.

How_to_Chinese_and_Gut_Salmon_Mel_Had_Tea-25

We learned about the four treasures of study in Chinese philosophy:

  1. Brush
  2. Ink
  3. Paper
  4. Ink Stone

How_to_Chinese_and_Gut_Salmon_Mel_Had_Tea-24.jpg

According to Confucius, these treasures lead to a higher spiritual level of being and greater character.  Confucius was the godfather of Chinese education. It was actually his belief that education was a right that everyone deserved.

In the recreation classroom, our teacher tells us, “He had over 3,000 students in his lifetime, and many of them came from poor families.”

Salmon Dipping at Alexis Creek

Our Chinese practiced (Rob: “You’re such a teacher’s pet.”), we headed four hours southwest, to my Aunt and Uncle’s ranch on the outskirts of Alexis Creek.

How_to_Chinese_and_Gut_Salmon_Mel_Had_Tea-33.jpg

Another place that was rebuilt after it burned down, my Aunt and Uncle lost their whole house in a fire in ’97.

Like Barkerville, they rebuilt.

We arrvied there around dusk. Wasting no time, they told us we should head down to the Chilcotin River to watch the salmon dipping. We all jumped in their Ford truck and headed down the dirt road.

When we got to the river it was packed with trucks full of families there to fish.

How_to_Chinese_and_Gut_Salmon_Mel_Had_Tea-30

During the salmon run in August the first nations people use big nets to go dipping for sockeye salmon.  They go down with their families and make a day out of it. Only aboriginal people in the area are allowed to do this. But even if you can’t dip, it’s fun to watch. The nets are huge and the fish are heavy.

How_to_Chinese_and_Gut_Salmon_Mel_Had_Tea-32.jpg

From the bluffs above the river we watch as the fishermen anchor themselves to rocks on the edge of the river. Being tied in means if they fall in they don’t risk being sucked under with the current. They dip the nets in and weave them around in figure eights until a fish flies into it. You can tell by watching that some fishermen are better at anticipating where the fish will go.

How_to_Chinese_and_Gut_Salmon_Mel_Had_Tea-31

For the past 30 years my aunt has worked as a nurse at the reserve in Anaheim outside of Alexis Creek, so she knew a lot of the people dipping there with their families. One of the women she works with stopped to give us a few salmon as a gift.

How_to_Chinese_and_Gut_Salmon_Mel_Had_Tea-28How_to_Chinese_and_Gut_Salmon_Mel_Had_Tea-29

How To Gut a Fish

My big challenge of the day. I had never gutted a fish before. This was supper!

How_to_Chinese_and_Gut_Salmon_Mel_Had_Tea-35.jpg

It’s best to gut and clean the fish right away. The hardest part? They’re freaking slippery.

My part of the counter looked like a murder scene.

How_to_Chinese_and_Gut_Salmon_Mel_Had_Tea-38

See the roe in the photo above? I had a lady fish.

Uncle Mike showed me how to cut down along the stomach, cut the heads off, pull the guts out and then fillet the meat to go in the parchment paper to stick in the freezer.

We barbecued it with peppers and parsley and it was really, really good. The best way to end a big day. We slept well this night.

How_to_Chinese_and_Gut_Salmon_Mel_Had_Tea-45.jpg

Day 21 Costs:

  • Gas, Jack O’ Clubs in Wells: $20.00
  • Barkerville Entrance for 2: $30.45 (can return a second day for free)
  • Groceries, Williams Lake Safeway: $16.81
  • Shell gas in Quesnel: $71.73

Total: $138.99

Lifestyle

Life Is About Creating Yourself

Quote_Wallpaper_Mockup_George_Bernard_Shaw.png

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”

– George Bernard Shaw

 

In line with the coming new year, here’s some wisdom from an ornery Irish Nobel prize-winning playwright.

Shaw was a socialist who fought for women’s right to vote, universal healthcare and thought we should get rid of heriditary privilege.

He made it known who he was through his writing and political stances. What about you? Do you let people know who you are? Do you know who you are?

You can’t create a million dollars in your bank account just by willing it, but you can create your own values and follow through with them. You can create you.

Here’s to the last few days of 2015!

Download the wallpaper here.

[red_box]p.s. 2016 in the Chinese zodiac will be the year of the red fire monkey.[/red_box]

Lifestyle

#GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso

#GIRLBOSS_Mel_Had_Tea_Review

This badass bitch took the time to write a book. You should probably read it.

Amoruso went from selling stolen books on eBay to running her own incredibly successful business selling vintage clothing through her online company Nasty Gal.

She’s an outlier in the world of internet and tech businesses in that she started as a home-schooled, anti-capitalist teenager who never went to university and now owns a 100-million dollar company with hundreds of employees. Her story is cool and crazy.

This book is part autobiography, part how to be a badass #GIRLBOSS guide.

#GIRLBOSS spelt in caps throughout the book. That’s some great free marketing incentive built right in. And, according to Amoruso, one of the reasons Nasty Gal grew so rapidly those first few years running it from her apartment was because of the  free advertising friend power of Myspace. Girl knows how to spread a word.

Most impressive about Amoruso is not her crazy business success, but her awesome work ethic.

“Life is short. Don’t be lazy.”

She also taught me that the quote, “With great power comes great responsibility” comes from Voltaire and not Spiderman.

[white_box]

Or does it? Amoruso cites Voltaire as the origin of the quote, but when I looked into it, it seems that this is one of those mysterious phrases that seems to have just phased its way into history with no provable source. The mystery continues.

[/white_box]

One invaluable section of the book includes DOs and DON’Ts for cover letters and job interviews. As a high-profile boss for a large company (Nasty Gal now has over 255 employees), Amoruso has seen the lot. There’s a very practical checklist that mirrors and adds to the advice I’ve heard from other hiring professionals.

The chapter on money also shines. Even if you don’t start off as a dumpster-diving freegan like she did, you can appreciate her logical approach to money. As she puts it, “money looks better in your bank account than on your feet.”

Although she is now worth millions, she tells us about her thrifty background (haggling with thrift store employees in her early days and never paying more for anything than she has to):

“There is no dignity quite so impressive, and no one independence quite so important, as living within your means.” – Calvin Coolidge

Amoruso tells future #GIRLBOSSes not to waste time looking up to other idols, but to instead “be your own idol” this might be on-brand with Nasty Gal’s values, but it also ties in with her waste-no-time mentality. If you’re looking up other idols all day, you’re not working on creating yourself.

Cut away anything that is holding you back (whether it’s your extravagant Starbucks purchases, your star worship, or your unwillingness to work a long-ass day).

As expected, behind all the pragmatic business talk is a lady who believes in the magic of a good set of clothes:

“Clothing is the suit of armour in which we battle the world.”

Amoruso’s writing shows she knows herself. She writes that if she had started Nasty Gal intending for it to be a multi-million dollar company, it would have:

  1. Scared the shit out of her and she never would have started; OR
  2. She would have tried and failed to be something she wasn’t (at the time).

She arrived at today by starting up a mountain, keeping her eye on what was right in front of her, and trudging ahead, working day after day, listening to her customers and working, working, working while trusting her gut instincts.

Your self + gut instincts + magical thinking + not spending all your money + hard work = success.

There’s a whole section on intention setting and magical thinking. Whatever you want to call it. Call it focus. She drops magic and practical advice in the same breath. She worked hard to get where she is and she’s not afraid to tell you to do the same for yourself. There might be some repetition in her writing, but the pragmatic advice is solid.

I’m pretty confident this book would not fail as a gift for any entrepreneurial lady in your life or anyone who wants to be their own boss.