If you live in Vancouver, the place to go for a quick winter getaway has got to be Whistler, BC. This small town is about a 2-hour drive north of the Lower Mainland and offers some of the best powder in the world. Whistler Mountain and Blackcomb Mountain are so amazing that they were competition sites during the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Karra Barron on top of Whistler Mountain

During the winter season, accommodations in Whistler Village, which is located at the base of Whistler and Blackcomb, can be nearly impossible to get. In fact, we ended up staying in Creekside, which is a 15-minute drive from the village. This great alternative to the village is mainly made up of hotels and lodges, but there is a gondola here that will take you straight up to Whistler mountain.

Mmm… Hot Pot

Due to a car accident on the Sea-to-Sky highway (the only road that takes you from Vancouver to Whistler), we didn’t arrive at our Lake Placid condo until 11pm. The late hour didn’t stop us from having an epic hot pot feast though.

Late night hot pot

Hot pot is the cooking technique of boiling vegetables, thin slices of meat, and noodles in a flavourful broth. Once cooked, you dunk your goodies into a dip of your creation before eating.

Hot pot dipping options

A Day on the Slopes

The next morning, we headed up to Whistler for a day of skiing and snowboarding. The gondola’s in both Creekside and Whistler Village run from 8:30am-3:00pm (during the months of November to mid-January).

Gondola to Blackcomb mountain

While you’re zipping down the mountains, be sure to stop every once in awhile to take in the natural alpine beauty surrounding you.

Whistler Mountain view

If you have only a day to spend in Whistler, I highly recommend dividing your time between the two mountains. You can take the Peak 2 Peak gondola, which gets you from Whistler to Blackcomb (and vice versa) in just 11 minutes! There are even two gondolas with glass bottoms that give you a fantastic view of the snowy land below.

Apres-Ski

After a day on the mountains, I make sure my après-ski time is spent soaking in the hot tub with some bubblies on the side.

Apres-ski champagne and music

Nightlife in Whistler is predominantly contained to the village. Garfinkels is always a great time, but I’ve heard good things about Buffalo Bill’s as well. If nightclubs aren’t your thing, I recommend checking out a bar like Citta. For dinner, you can go fine dining at Araxi or make your own delicious mix at Mongolie Grill.

Village Life

IMG_3052

Whistler village

On our last day in Whistler, half our group went to the Coco-Cola tube park, while the rest of us went strolling through the village. Shopping, lunching, and ice-skating are just some of the fun things you can do here.

Canadian poutine from Zog's

Definitely grab lunch or a snack at Zog’s if you can. Their Canadian poutine is absolutely delicious and very filling. I also love Avalanche Pizza. They use organic ingredients in their dough, which has a subtle yeast flavour that had me reaching for slice after slice.

More Stories By Karra:


Welcome to Week 4 of my 26000 Words project. I decided to finish last week’s short story. I didn’t really know how I was going to end Cold Revelations when I started it, but that’s the thing I love about writing creative fiction. You never really need to map the whole thing out. You just have to have an idea and some great characters, and you’ll somehow know how to take care of the rest. Enjoy and don’t forget to let me know what you think in the comments!

Karra and her friend sitting on Grouse Mountain admiring the view

Photo credit: Jeremy Lim

====

The tips of my fingers were starting to grow numb, making it harder to distinguish the cold from my skin. She’s worth it, I chanted over and over again in my mind. Sarah was like an asteroid that had unexpectedly barreled into my world. She had collided with me and now she was lodged in my Earth, a part of me that I may never quite figure out how to let go.

I regretted running away from her that day. It could have been the last time I would ever see her and I never even knew her name. But fate wasn’t that cruel.

Two agonizing days later, I saw her again. We were both in line for poutine. I didn’t even know she was there. Sarah just kind of snuck up on me.

“Excuse me,” said this voice behind me.

I turned and I’m pretty sure my eyes went wide with surprise. It was her. She was even more gorgeous close up. Snow white skin, eyes that weren’t quite green and not quite hazel, and perfect pink lips. If Cupid existed, this would have been the moment he’d have shot me right through the heart.

“Do you know what’s good here?” she asked.

I willed myself to form a sentence. Even just a word. Something.

“No,” is what came tumbling out of my frozen mouth.

“Oh, okay,” she said, sounding slightly deflated. I was about to turn around, cursing myself for failing so hard, when she added, “Well, what are you getting?”

“Uh, poutine,” I replied before I could stop myself.

She giggled. “Well that explains why you’re in the line for a poutine place.”

I laughed and scratched my head. “Yeah. Yeah I guess it does.”

“So, you don’t know what you’re getting?” she asked, quirking one eyebrow upwards.

“No, not really. I was just going to figure it out when I got up there, I guess.”

“How about we do this instead?” she proposed. “Let’s get them all.”

“What? All? As in all?”

She nodded. “Yep. Try them all. I mean, there’s only like seven different kinds. No big deal.”

“That’s a lot of fries and gravy,” I pointed out. “Do you think you could handle that?”

“I can if you can,” she said, her smile growing wide.

I smiled as well, both excited and bewildered by this strange, beautiful girl. “I can if you can,” I replied, consenting to a meal that would later make us feel sick to our stomachs. But it didn’t matter. We laughed through the whole experience, which ended up making us inseparable for the next four days.

Sarah was on a ski trip with her family as well. They lived in Toronto, which was all the way on the other side of the country. She hated rain, but adored the snow. She had been skiing since she was a little girl and loved the taste of black coffee just as much as I did. She was a Biology nut and was hoping to become a veterinarian someday. I normally found Science to be one of the most boring subjects ever, but Sarah had a way of making it sound so interesting. Everything she said interested me. Everything she did made me smile. The first time I kissed her, it was snowing and her lips warmed me from the inside out.

Inevitably, the day came when one of us had to leave. We tried to put off talking about what would happen after that day, but now it was here.

I was waiting in the cold for her, scared out of my mind of what was about to happen. Sarah was amazing and being with her felt so right, but I was also a seventeen-year-old guy. There were only six months of high school left and then, college was on the horizon. I couldn’t have a future with someone when so much change was coming my way.

Then again, what if we did try this? Tried to do long distance. What if we tried and it was all for nothing? I didn’t want to open myself up to this girl only to have my heart ripped out in the end. My ex-girlfriend and I were together for a year before we finally figured out that we weren’t right for each other. And it sucked. The pain was something that I never wanted to feel again.

At last, I heard Sarah approaching. She padded over the snow like a leopard, her footsteps almost too light and too quiet to be heard, but I knew the sound of her body anywhere. I could picture the careful way she walked, her eyes concentrated on the ground, watching out for patches of black ice. I could see her hands stuck out on either side of her, balancing her body as if she were a tightrope walker raised three hundred feet above the ground.

In the short time that we were together, I grew to know Sarah as well as a favourite book, with its dog-eared corners and worn pages.

She emerged through the darkness, bundled up in the same bright blue jacket she wore the first time I ever saw her. She smiled when she saw me, but I could also see puffiness around her eyes. Sarah had been crying.

Crying about me, no doubt. About whatever we were going to talk about tonight. It felt like a rock had suddenly sunk down into my stomach.

“Hey,” I said, reaching for her hand.

“Hey Adam,” she said, grasping my hand.

I pulled her to me and hugged her tight. She smelled like mangoes, sweet and ripe.

She stepped back and looked up at me. “So, here we are.”

“Yeah,” I said.

“So, what do we do now?” Sarah, the girl with so much confidence, who was always so sure of what she wanted, sounded unsure for the first time since I met her.

I sighed, looking down at the snow. “I don’t know. I wish I knew what to do, but I…I really don’t.”

“I’m really happy I met you,” she said, making my heart squeeze uncomfortably.

“I feel the same way about you,” I admitted.

“So, we should keep in touch, at least?” she offered.

I nodded, drawing my head up to meet her gaze. “Of course. As much as possible, please.” My voice shook as I said the last word.

“Yes. I’d…I’d really like that.” She wiped tears from her face with shaky fingers and sniffed. “Adam.” Sarah paused, taking a deep breath that she let out slowly, momentarily obscuring her beautiful face with the cold smoke that slipped out of her mouth. I wanted to fan away the white clouds, wanted to see the sun in her smile, but I hesitated, unsure what was about to happen next. I didn’t want to stop her from saying what she needed to say, so I waited. My heart thudded like a bass drum against my ribs, nerves and my natural desire to flee were trying to get the best of me, but I didn’t move.

When the smoke cleared, Sarah’s green-hazel eyes were staring right at me, the edges curved ever so slightly, matching the small smile on her lips. “Adam,” she said. “I love you.”

My breath caught in my throat. I knew that Sarah didn’t expect me to say those words back to her. She knew that I wasn’t ready.

She had said them more as her way of saying goodbye, in case this really was it for us. Unlike me, Sarah didn’t let an opportunity to say what she needed to say go by.

I wasn’t sure if I loved Sarah and I didn’t know what I wanted to happen between us, but I knew for certain that I couldn’t just let this girl slip out of my life like cold smoke from my lips. She meant too much to me to let go. It was time for me to stop running away.

I removed my gloves. My fingers found the curve of her cheek and she sank her warm skin into my palm. She closed her eyes and tears fell, a few getting caught in her lashes, making them glitter in the moonlight.

“Sarah,” I said softly, willing her eyes to open and look at me.

She obliged and with a sniff, opened her eyes.

I smiled at this beautiful girl, who I had once seen as an asteroid and now realized was a comet. A wondrous thing that only appeared once in a lifetime. “Sarah. I can if you can,” I declared.

Her bottom lip trembled and tears slid from her eyes again. I was worried for a second that I was only making things worse, but then she smiled and laughed in that happy way of hers.

“I can if you can,” she whispered.

I bent my head down to kiss her, letting her warm me from the inside out.

More Stories By Karra:


Maybe it’s my fear of heights, but I’ve never really been a fan of being high up (with the exception of the time I went skydiving in Switzerland). Seeing the Statue of Liberty was an absolute must for me while in New York City, but I had zero interest in actually going up her lovely green head, no matter how spectacular the views may be.

Statue of Liberty in New York City on a sunny day

As fate would have it, no one was allowed in Ms. Liberty’s head since she was under construction until October 2012. I had the option to check out Ellis Island, but the only view I’d be getting of Lady Liberty would be the one up her skirt, so to speak. Pass.

So, my friends and I did the next best thing and took the Staten Island Ferry. It’s a FREE RIDE that passes near enough to the Statue, so that you not only get to see her in all her glory, but also capture some amazing shots of her, too. A solid zoom on your camera or telephoto lens would be perfect for this.

Statue of Liberty on a sunny day in NYC

After being surrounded by the huge Financial District skyscrapers, Ms. Liberty seemed a tad small. I know I was looking at her from a distance, which may have tempered her majesty, but she’s still one helluva woman any way you look at her.

You also get some fantastic views of Manhattan as you drift further from the mainland, including the new World Trade Center buildings.

Financial District

The ferry leaves from Whitehall Terminal in the Financial District every half an hour (it runs 24 hours a day except for Monday mornings). You could take time to explore Staten Island on the other side, but we had a busy day ahead of us, so after the ride, we quickly made our way through the terminal and got right back on it (everyone was required to disembark first.

Friends seeing the Statue of Liberty

The round trip takes about an hour, and it’s definitely a cool way to see one of the greatest women in the world.

More Stories By Karra:


So, yesterday was all about the Japanese ramen. Today is all about ajitsuke tamago. Sometimes referred to as marinated egg or onsen “hot spring” egg, this is one of my favourite side dishes whenever I go out for ramen.

And, of course, it turned out to be one of the easiest things in the world to make. Steph of Umami and Me broke it down and it literally is all about the marinade.

Homemade Japanese ramen

Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating. It’s not that easy if you’ve got butter fingers like me. First of all, I accidentally dropped three eggs into the pot, instead of gently slotting them in. Cracked them all.

The one egg I did manage to soft boil correctly? Yeah, I tried to gently roll it on the counter to crack the shell a bit before peeling it, but ended up crushing the whole thing. Damn these guns of steel…

Soft boiled eggs

Four eggs and a trip to the grocery to replenish my supply later, I finally got it right. And yes, they were totally worth all that trouble.

I did figure out a nice hack for peeling the eggs though, which I describe below. If you have other ways to crack soft-boiled eggs, share them in the comments – I need all the help I can get!

*Ingredients and measurements follow below*

Bring a small pot of water to boil. Using a slotted spoon, gently – seriously GENTLY!­ – add your eggs to the boiling water, making sure they are submerged completely.

Decrease your heat to medium or until you have a low, rolling simmer. Set your time for 5 minutes and 45 seconds exactly (anymore and you’ll lose the ooey-gooey centre that makes this dish).

Ajitsuke tamago marinade

While the eggs are cooking, grab a bowl and mix together soy sauce, mirin, ginger, green onion, and brown sugar. Mix until sugar is completely dissolved.

When your eggs are cooked, place them in an ice bath to stop the cooking process. Leave them there for 5 minutes.

Grab the now cold eggs and a spoon. Gently tap the sides of the egg with the spoon until the shell starts to crack. You should be able to dent it enough to pick apart the shell and not break your egg.

Ajitsuke tamago in soy-mirin marinade

Place the peeled eggs in the marinade and cover with paper towel. Leave in the fridge to marinate for 4-24 hours (the longer the better). Don’t marinade them any longer than this though or the white part will become rubbery and the yolk will harden.

When you’re done with the marinade you can discard it or use it for something else (I marinated shrimp in it the next day). Serve your delicious, easy-peasy eggs with ramen, of course. They keep for up to three days in the fridge.

Ajituske tamago

Ingredients

4 eggs
½ C soy sauce
½ C mirin
½ C water
3 small slices of ginger
½ tsp green onion, chopped
3 heaping tbsp brown sugar

More Stories By Karra:


I’m definitely a soup kind of girl. Whether it’s clam chowder, Burmese laksa or even just plain ol’ tomato soup, I’ll pretty much devour it in seconds (yes, I’ve burned my tongue countless times as a result of my eagerness). I especially have a soft spot for Japanese ramen, with its super flavourful broth and partners-in-crime: corn, bamboo shoots, and tender chashu or pork.

Whenever I go to a ramen restaurant, I usually get miso or shoyu (soy sauce-based) ramen and always order ajitsuke tamago to go with it. Ajitsuke tamago is a soft-boiled egg that’s been left to swim overnight in a magical mixture of soy and mirin – but more on that later.

Japanese ramen

Surprisingly, homemade ramen isn’t very hard to make. It just takes some time. I can’t say that this is an authentic Japanese recipe though, since a Chinese-Canadian friend hastily dictated it to me while we were shopping in a packed grocery store. I also added the mirin and sesame oil to it as an experiment.

This tasted freaking amazing though, so hopefully that’s enough incentive to make you want to try to make it yourself. Feel free to also put whatever veggies you want – it’s all about preference.

Japanese ramen broth

**Ingredients list follows below**

In a large pot, add miso, chicken stock, dashi, and 4 cups of water to start. Mix every thing together and bring to a boil. Your kitchen may start to smell very Japanese at this point – try not to bust out the karaoke and Asahi’s just yet. Turn the heat to low, cover and let simmer for 3 hours.

Feel free to fire up the karaoke and down those Asahi’s while you wait. You could also use this ample amount of time to cut up your veggies, but where’s the fun in that right?

Broth for japanese ramen

When the timer goes off, add mirin and sesame oil. Give it a taste to see if it needs more flavour. When you’re satisfied, add your pork. Season generously with freshly ground black pepper. Add enough water to cover the pork. Bring to a boil again and then, simmer for 1.5 hours.

After time is up, remove the pork from the broth and let it rest on a plate. Cover it with tin foil to let the juices really soak in. Don’t be surprised if the meat practically falls apart as you transfer it – this is a good thing.

Cooked pork shoulder for Japanese ramen

I would take this time to separate the broth you’ll be using and the broth you want to store for later. It keeps well in the freezer for at least three months (although you’ll probably be using it wayyy before then).

Working with the broth you’ll be consuming very soon, toss in the watercress and mushrooms. Bring that to a boil.

IMG_3007

In another pot, boil your noodles until they are fully cooked. My fresh ones took only 3-4 minutes. If you have leftovers, store the noodles separately from the broth so that they don’t get soggy.

Now here’s the fun part: plating. Start with the noodles. Then, ladle in the broth, watercress and mushrooms. Slice your meat and place that on top. Sprinkle your corn and green onions over top. Slice your ajituske tamago and carefully place that in the bowl – try not to let the yolk ooze out! To finish, slice the seaweed and arrange on the side of your plate as a garnish.

Homemade Japanese ramen

Ingredients:

4 tbsp miso paste
1 can chicken stock
3 tbsp dashi
6 cups of water (you may need more depending on the size of your meat)
500g pork shoulder
3 tbsp mirin
2 tbsp sesame oil
1 pack of noodles
1 bunch of watercress*
1 pack of brown mushrooms* (you can use any kind of mushroom you want)
½ C corn* (I really like corn)
¼ C green onions*
3 slices of seaweed*
1 ajituske tamago*

*Optional. Feel free to add whatever veggies and extras you like

More Stories By Karra:


Here’s Week 3 of the 26000 Words project. Unlike last week’s creative, this one is less weird. More romantic. Or would be if I had managed to finish it. This short story was inspired by my trip to Whistler, BC this past weekend. The narrator is a guy I’ve named Adam (although you don’t see his name anywhere in the story). I’ll most likely be adding on to this, since it clearly doesn’t have a satisfying ending yet. Watch out for it in future 26000 Words posts. 

Whistler mountain view

====

I blew out a long line of air, trying to ease my frustrations and distract myself at the same time. I watched as my breath fogged around me, the subzero temperatures solidifying it into smoky tendrils that danced before my face. It was so mesmerizing that I almost forgot that I was freezing despite wearing my down feather jacket and long johns.

The jet-black sky was clear for the first time in days, revealing a big, white moon, round and full. It was almost midnight and part of me wanted to run. Run back to my cabin and sit beside the fireplace with a hot mug of coffee between my frosty fingers. I craved warmth, but instead stood my ground. I couldn’t leave. Not just yet.

Growing up in Los Angeles, the only time I ever really knew what it felt like to be cold was when the air conditioning was cranked up too high in the mall. I lived for the sun, sandy beaches, and the blue-green ocean. Spending the holidays in Whistler, some mountain town in Canada, was the last thing that I wanted to do. But Aunt Janice married a Canadian last year and, as luck would have it, it was our family’s turn to visit for Christmas. Whoop-tee-do.

I’ll admit that learning to snowboard was pretty cool, but give me a surfboard and the lick of warm waves against my body any day. In fact, the only thing about winter that was even remotely alright was the fact that it gave me a good reason to stay caffeinated. Thank god for hot lattes and espressos.

So, despite all my warm inclinations, why the hell was I waiting out in the cold like an idiot?

There was only one reason good enough to risk frostbite.

A girl.

Sarah Lee-Carvey.

The first time I saw her, she walked right past me while I was exploring the village. She was bundled up in a bright blue snow jacket and white ski pants. A tear marred the spot above her right knee, and a few drops of blood ruined them even further. Despite all that, she had a big, satisfied smile on her face, which was pink from the cold. Her almond-shaped eyes lit up as she talked animatedly to her companion, a girl who looked like her older sister.

I think she was telling the story of what happened to her pants and it was the way that she looked as she spoke that first made me desperate to talk to her. To hear her tell me the same story with that exact same smile on her face.

She laughed as she passed me by and it was one of the happiest sounds I’d ever heard.

I saw her the next day at Starbucks, where I had gone for my requisite 3pm latte. She had a book open on the table before her, but her eyes were trained out the window. Fluffy snowflakes the size of quarters fell steadily outside, slowly covering the pedestrian streets in fresh powder.

Her small, slender hand was tucked under her chin and her brow was furrowed, as if she was concentrating on counting every snowflake and didn’t want to miss a single one. Her long dark hair cascaded around her shoulders like a blanket and a part of me wanted to tangle my fingers in those black threads and feel the warmth of each one.

The barista called my name, waking me up from my daydream, and I left before I could give myself the chance to be brave.

More Stories By Karra: