Baked Camembert, Garlic Toast & Oysters

I  didn’t feel like having a full dinner, and I was craving oysters. Also, I’ve been wanting to try a baked Brie or Camembert for a long time now. So, I headed to the Granville Island Public Market , got me some oysters and some Camembert (not authentic for your connoisseurs out there!). Delicious! Sadly, pictures of food, that I take, never look as good as we’d see in ads or magazines!

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Grouse Grind – 2012

I’ve heard so many motivating stories about people conquering the Grouse Grind, over the years, that I kept saying to my self that I must give it a try. I’ve tried hiking a few times, and wasn’t a big fan of it. I don’t like hiking and I don’t like jogging. I do acknowledge though that they are probably the best exercises to get oneself into shape! Anyways, a few years ago,  a bunch of us decided to get all active and stuff, so we naturally went for the best hike available locally: The Grouse Grind. We turned around at the 1/4 mark! One guy was too exhausted that when we got to the 1/4 mark said NO WAY! And so we turned. I was tired as well, but the “never quit” in me would’ve continued. However, I’m sure that secretly, we were glad someone else couldn’t keep going.

Now this year, a few people at work have committed to complete some number of Grouse Grinds for charitable organizations. So, I decided to give the Grouse Grind a serious attempt this time. I wasn’t planning in joining their crazy quests for charity, but I was going to start slowly and see how things go. I asked my colleagues, and they said they do it in 40 to 60 minutes. Now, the record is ~24 minutes. I’m not aiming for that. My objective is to get my @$$ out there and go regularly enough over the Summer, to get in shape, and to get some exercise.

So, on my first attempt, I make the first 1/4 in 15 minutes. I was like not bad, I should get all done in 60 minutes. Which was on par with some of my colleagues. Well, it took me 90 minutes to finish the remainder of the course for a total of 1 hour & 45 minutes! I took a lot of breaks. I had decided to give myself all those breaks to make myself less tired, at first. But later on, I needed them! There were others on the course suffering like me!

The following weekend I paced myself. I hiked at a slower pace, and control my breathing. I forced myself to only to take breaks at the quarter marks. It worked, and I got a better time: 1 hour & 24 minutes. At this point I had set a target for myself; to make the course in under an hour, by the end of the Summer.

DateTime (HH::MM)

Unfortunately, I failed, but not by much, and my last grind was done completely with no breaks. Admittedly I didn’t go nearly as many times as I had planned. I had hoped to do about 10 grinds over the Summer, but did only 5. No problem! I now know what it’s like. I did considerable progress compared to my first serious attempt. I’ll be back next year.



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Dark Chocolate Milk

I was at T&T looking for Ramune drinks; that a colleague of mine told me about (It’s a Japanese soda, that has this glass ball inside, and it’s kind of a little fun to open the bottle), and while I was passing by the dairy section in the grocery store, I saw this dark chocolate milk carton. I was intrigued. I picked one up.

Dark Chocolate Milk, by Natrel

See I drink chocolate milk instead of plain milk. It started with Ovaltine when I was a kid, then some years later, I switched to actual chocolate milk. And here I am all grown up and still drink chocolate milk, daily! Anyways! I’m not a big fan of dark chocolate (in all its percentages!) due to that bitter-sweet taste. However, I always like to try new things. This milk is amazing! The dark chocolate milk is sweetened enough that the dark chocolate bitter taste is there, but just barely. Kind of like that it’s not too bitter, but just enough for you to know it’s there. The dark chocolate milk has this deep, heavy & rich chocolatey flavor, that isn’t present in the regular chocolate milk. Which makes this drink a nice treat. I found that it tasted better cold than hot.

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Pike Place Market Ride

Having postponed this ride last week; to go diving instead, today, I did go down to Seattle, WA. I have been craving some oysters (I know oysters are also available locally!), and I haven’t done much day-rides this Summer, I thought that riding down to Pike Place Market, would make for an enjoyable day. Also, as the warm weather is over, and I haven’t purchased any new heated gear (having destroyed most of my previous motorcycle gear in a crash last year), and rainy days are upon us, I figured that this could be the last warm & dry ride of the season. The plan was to ride down to Seattle, WA, through the quick and boring I5, then come back up through the I5 again, but to go trough Chuckanut Drive, for total of ~440Km.

Border wait times at the Peace Arch crossing, going into Washington weren’t that bad, ~15-20 minutes or so. I would say that this would be the limit of enjoyable riding without being too cold. Heated gear, I think would be necessary, going forward in the season.

So, I get to the market place a little bit past noon. I had heard about Pike Market, and I thought I’d give it a visit. However, once there, I realized that I have been to this place before. I was down in Seattle a couple of years ago, to visit some friends who where there for a few months for work. While I was visiting them (on one of the weekends), they took me to Pike Place Market. I just didn’t know of it before, and I have completely forgotten about it. When I had heard about Pike Market, a few months ago, I just didn’t connect the two places being the same.

I walked around the market, went through some shops, there is almost a shop for everything that is typical of a market place. One could spend the whole day in any one of the shops. This place is filled with little treasures.

I have been craving some oysters (that’s how I came upon Pike Market, while searching online). So, naturally I was looking for a seafood place, or an oyster bar or something. I must say I was a little disappointed in the small number of seafood restaurants in the market, while comparing it to the Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco; for example.

Nevertheless, the oysters were delicious. I ought to go to Granville Market or Steveston Fish Market more often! After my lunch, I snapped some photos (including one of the original Starbucks), then I went back inside the market place, as I saw a shop selling lemon (mini) doughnuts. I got me half a dozen. I was expecting better. They weren’t lemony enough! The cream spread needed more of that lemony/sour flavor. Anyways, I call it a day, and head back to my bike, swing by a gas station, and off I go.


Two of my pet peeves (while on the road) is people who DO NOT signal, when turning or changing lanes, and people parking their@$$ on the left lane! The signs clearly state “Slower Traffic Keep Right” or “Keep Right Except To Pass”. I was all mellow and chill, enjoying the ride, until I had reached my first encounter of a left lane being slowed down by an idiot (and several more all over the route) that wouldn’t move to the right lane to let me (or others) pass! Often when I ended up passing them on the right, I would signal to them with my hand to move to the right. In some instances, we’d happen to pass by a sign that states to keep right, so I point at the sign, when I get ahead of them! Why aren’t traffic officers enforcing these laws, instead of always going after speeding? And don’t even give me that “speed kills” argument that the masses have been fed by government agencies to justify the slow speed limits here in Canada! Anyways, at least she agrees with me!

On the way back home, I rode through Chuckanut drive. It’s rather a nice short highway, with a back-roads feel to it, with a couple of twisties, just by the waterfront.


I make it to the Peace Arch crossing, and there’s a massive line-up. Furthermore, I chose a lane (#8) who was slower by a ratio of ~2-3 to 1 vehicles, compared to the other lanes. I think I was there for about an hour. I should look into the other near-by crossing next time. Actually, I remember now that in one of my previous crossings, there was this chick in a sports car (that had passed me by on the highway), whose car overheated (from idling for too long), and smoke was coming out of the engine while the radiator was leaking all over the place. Sucked to be her, as she was going nowhere now, without a tow truck! Try to get a tow truck through that pile of cars, and still on the US side!


I’m back home now, looking at some heated gear online; for the few remaining long rides of the season.

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Shore Dive @ Whytecliff Park

Earlier this week, I was planning on going for a day-long motorcycle ride down to Seattle, WA today. I had wanted to go to Pike Place Market, walk around the market, grab some seafood lunch, and then head back. However, on Tuesday, my friend Marc emailed me for one of the boat dives we usually go on. I had really wanted to go for the ride instead. But, after checking the weather forecast for the weekend, it predicted a hot & sunny weekend. I thought to myself that just might be the last hot Summer weekend (even though, officially it would have been the first day of the Fall). So, I decided to go diving instead. Come Thursday night, and Marc emailed me that the dive(s) were canceled as not enough people showed interest. So, I was not too sad, as I thought great, I could ride down to Seattle. So, as I called the dive shop to cancel the diving gear rentals, one of the guys working @ the dive shop told me, that their shop is organizing a shore dive Saturday morning, and that I’m welcome to join them. I wasn’t too enthused about it (as I really wanted to ride!) but agreed to join them.

Well, come Saturday morning, and it’s no longer hot nor sunny! Fall started literally on its first day. It was cold and very cloudy. Bummer! So here I am doing a shore dive (never done one before, all my dives up to now were boat dives), with a group of friendly but unknown to me people, on a cold & cloudy day, when I had wanted to be riding and eating seafood, rather than swimming with it! Regardless, one reason I had wanted to do this dive is to try shore dives.

We head to Whytecliff Park, and when I get there (never having been there before) I see swarms of divers. It seems that it’s quite the popular (& free. Boat dives usually cost ~$75) amongst local divers. So anyways, I started to suit up, and I’m feeling a little awkward, as my routine of gearing up is slightly disturbed (you know, from being on land instead of being on the boat), and everyone else is waiting for me, and I’m taking my sweet time. That’s right, I don’t rush into things, no matter how much you keep staring at me!

Alright, I’m ready. The group leader (I never got his name. And why do you keep calling me Moe? I won’t let it slide next time :-)), gives a quick briefing considering there were some new faces (me). After that, we walk to the shore, which I guess is ~300ft away. At this point I’m already not a fan of the shore dive, as it requires a more physical work to get into the water (compared to a boat dive). Anyways, we get to the beach (where there was 50+ other divers), and down we go. As usual, my dive lasted shorter than the others. I can’t seem to resolve my over-consumption of Oxygen! Once our first dive was over, we swam back to the shore, then we had to walk back up to the parking lot, to swap our tanks. Again, the walk is quite the workout with all the gear/weights. I’m not sure why didn’t we bring all of our tanks to the beach, in the first place. Or, why didn’t we leave our gear on the beach, and only grabbed our empty tanks to swapped them with full ones (that we left in our cars), between the two dives? I suppose theft may be a concern. But, there are so many divers there, I don’t think anything would happen! Also, I suppose, one’s got to wait out for their surface interval. So, going back to the car, to swap tanks, and perhaps to grab a quick snack will seem to make the time go by faster! And sure, walking around with all that gear is exercise, but, I’m here to dive not to sweat!

During my second dive, my mask kept flooding! Sometimes, if the mask is not fitted properly, one may get a small leak, that could be cleared out every once-in-a-while. It would be annoying, and would make the dive less enjoyable, but at least you can still continue the dive. But in this case, I kept clearing the mask like twice a minute, the mask would get flooded all the way to the bottom of my eyes. Not wanting to disrupt the dive, I kept struggling with this for like 5 minutes. That’s exactly why one also needs to check for the mask seal, when going over the regular checks with one’s buddy. Something that I noticed that the group didn’t do, and regretting not asking for it!

Our second dive unfortunately was cut short, as I got separated from the group. I kind of felt bad for the rest of the group. Here I am, a new guy, who got lost on the way to the park, and then was slow to get ready, and then ran out of air before everyone else on the first dive, and then got separated from the group; cutting the second dive short. After regrouping, we did go down again (mind you it was only 10ft) and swam our way back to the shore.

There were some interesting things to see. But overall, I see shore dives being very limited in what one could see/explore, or how far one could go. I suppose that this would be the main disadvantage of shore dives, compared to boat dives. The main advantage of shore dives, that they are free. However, this also becomes a major disadvantage as well. Free dives, means there would be a lot of people. A lot of divers means lower visibility. The visibility on my first dive was OK, but very poor in the second dive. All those divers out there are bound to stir up bottom sediments.

So, even though shore dives are free, I think I still prefer boat dives. With boat dives, you’re right there in the action. No time wasted getting into the water, nor time wasted swimming to the dive spot, no risk of having 50+ divers within the same area, and you can virtually dive in a new spot every time. Would I do another shore dive? Sure. But, I think I’ll stick to boat dives for now.

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Summer Is Over

Even though there still is a little over than a couple of weeks of Summer left, however, the labor-day long weekend is over, and school started this week. The latter two usually being associated with the end of Summer. Not to mention that it has gotten a little cold rather quickly!

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Squamish Waterfalls

Today, I went for somewhat a short (~280Km) day ride to Squamish, BC, then to Whistler, BC, where I had a late lunch, then back. I had wanted to explore the three waterfalls in the Squamish area: Shannon Falls, Brandywine Falls, and Alexander Falls.



My first stop was Shannon Falls. It’s about 75Km from the city, through the scenic Sea-to-Sky Highway. Considering it being Labor Day long weekend, the parking lot was packed. However, there’s  always a spot somewhere for a motorcycle.


Afterwards,  I headed to Brandywine Falls, which are ~45Km North. I thought there would be cops, with speed traps along the S2S highway. But no, I didn’t see any PoPos! While on the way there, at some point I had heard a loud boom. I immediately started to slow down, while looking down at my bike to see if I was the source of the noise. As I tried to pull over to the side of the highway, so I can inspect my bike, I saw in my side rear-view mirrors, a van also pulling to the shoulder. I could see that the van was not level. I realized that the loud boom, was the sound of the van’s tire blowing up. At the time the van’s tire blew-up, the van was slightly behind me to my right. No one was hurt, except the tire!


And the third stop was at Alexander Falls. Which is another ~14KM North. You’d need to get off the main highway for this one (West of Whistler,BC) , as if you’re heading to the Whistler Olympic Park.


And with that, I’ve seen all three waterfalls that I had planned for the day. The first two involved a very short (5-10 minutes) & flat hike; from the parking lot. Actually, for Alexander Falls, the viewing point is in the parking lot. Also, since Alexander Falls are more remote than the others, it was empty! There wasn’t a single soul out there. It would be a good choice if someone’s going for a day BBQ picnic, and it would seem it would be more vacant than the other two falls/parks. On my way to Whistler; for a very late lunch, I snapped a shot of the Black Tusk.


Squamish Hiatus is a good website that lists all sorts of hiking trails, camping sites, and such, that are not far off the lower mainland. It was a good source of info for me. I’m eyeing the beautiful Garibaldi Lake; for some future trip.


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Nice Summer Dive

I went diving today, beautiful waters, beautiful weather, beautiful Sun, beautiful visibility! We went diving near Bowyer Island, BC. The first dive was about South-East of the island. Visibility was great. For the second dive we went to around North-West of the Island. What’s down there, the regular stuff: Rockfish, Lingcod, Cabezons, Orange Sponges, Chimney Sponges, California Sea Cucumber, Urchins, Ochre Sea Stars, Mottle Stars, Leather Stars & Sunflower Stars, just to name a few!

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Airbag System: How to Repair it

This is a quick how-to that I’m throwing together, after having had to replace & repair the airbag system on a mid 1990’s American car. This guide assumes that the airbags have deployed. This guide also assumes that the person using this guide may have never done something similar before, but nevertheless somewhat handy! Also, use this guide at your own risk; one could get injured if the airbags are accidentally deployed, while working near the airbags!

  1. If the airbags have already been deployed, then there is no safety concern while removing the bags/module. However, if the airbags haven’t been deployed, or when you are trying to install new bags/module/cables then you’d want to remove the negative terminal from the battery, and remove the airbag fuse. This way, you can’t accidentally deploy the airbags while working. Also, the airbags have supposedly another power source that is designed to kick in immediately, in case of a battery failure during an accident. This reserve system, would bleed while the battery is disconnected. Thus it will bleed while you are working on removing the dash-board, the airbags, and the airbag module (under the passenger seat).
  2. Under the steering wheel column, on the left just on the edge inside the plastic cover (Clock spring replacement), there are 2 yellow connectors. One is for the passenger airbag, and the other connector is for the driver airbag. Disconnect both connectors. These are tricky yellow connectors. Do not break them as you try to disconnect them (or any other airbag yellow connector). In all the yellow airbag connectors, most (if not all) have 2 safety features: First, the connectors have some kind of fail-safe mechanism that prevents the connectors from ever being disconnected accidentally. Second, the connectors would have this plastic ledge (they are colored black, blue, grey, red, or orange. Or maybe even some other color in other cars). These plastic ledges are used to “open-circuit” the connectors, once plugged, thus making them functional. If those ledges are not inserted or they are melted/damaged, then the airbag system would detect a short somewhere and thus flag the warning sign in the instrument panel (How to install a clock spring).
  3. Remove the dash-board. I followed the Haynes manual for this: First remove the “arc” looking piece of plastic that is placed between the windshield (inside the car) and the dash-board. It sits just in front of the center vent on the top side of the dash-board. There are no screws. There are some (not visible from the top) latches that would ledge onto some receptors. Just wiggle this “arc” a bit and it will start to come off. As you remove it, be careful not to scratch your dash-board with the metallic ledges that are now free & exposed.
  4. Start removing all the bolts/screws that you see (I think ~10+). You’ll also need to remove the radio/AC plastic cover panel along with a metal frame that covers the latch for the glove compartment.
  5. Now, iirc, the venting ducts may cover some of the bolts/screws that attach the passenger sire airbag. Look for four screws (2 on the top & 2 on the bottom) on the passenger airbags, and remove anything else that blocks your access to these four screws.
  6. Remove the passenger side airbag, it’s big and heavy. If you don’t have your replacement airbags, then you can put back the dash-board and all, if you chose to drive your car AT YOUR OWN RISK while you await your replacement airbags.
  7. By unscrewing the 2 bolts in the back of the steering wheel, the driver airbag would be removed. If the driver airbag is deployed, you can just cut the bag out, thus you can put back the now empty airbag housing. This way you can at least drive your car AT YOUR OWN RISK. Make sure the horn works.
  8. Before putting back the now-empty driver airbag module, we need to check if the clock spring (SIR coil) is damaged or not. Often, if the driver airbag got deployed, the wires in the clock spring could overheat (from the high current needed to deploy the airbags) and the copper wires might break. So, we need to check if the wires in the clock spring are damaged or not. Now, from the steering wheel, follow the airbag yellow cable down to the bottom left side of the steering column, and find the connector (you should have unplugged in step 2) and check for damage. Now, with a digital multi-meter, check the connector (in the steering wheel) for open/short (How to test a clock spring). My clock spring wasn’t damaged, so luckily I didn’t need to replace the clock spring. The Haynes manual shows how to remove & replace the clock spring (SIR coil). You can find used ones on eBay for ~$40.
  9. Go buy yourself some used airbags (driver and/or passenger, which ever got deployed. Usually both). I got a used driver and passenger airbag; both for $25, shipped on eBay. So look around there is no need to pay in the hundreds of dollars!
  10. Once the vehicle gets into a crash that deploys the airbags; the airbag module (located under the front passenger seat; for most cars) would get set/flagged, and the airbag warning light would come on; on the instrument panel (Note, the warning light could also come on for other failures within the airbag system). The job of the airbag module is to record speed data, and would store the last 1 minute of data immediate to before a crash. Once the airbags get deployed, then the airbag module gets set/flagged. So even if you replace the airbags and (if needed) the clock spring (SIR coil), you still have to replace/repair the airbag module. The module could either be replaced or reprogrammed; I’ll get into that later. First you need to remove the front passenger seat. Remove the 4 bolts holding down the seat, and then remove the seat (it might be a good time to pass the vacuum cleaner!). The airbag module is hidden under the carpet. Usually there is a small opening in the carpet that allows you to see the module. However, the opening is not big enough to remove the module. You can either choose to remove the carpet (I don’t know how), or if you don’t care like me, just cut the carpet just enough to remove the airbag module. On a side note, the car would drive fine with the airbags and module removed. You just don’t have any protection in the event of a a collision.
  11. Now that you have removed the airbag module, you can either buy a used replacement for ~$50, or have your own unit reprogrammed, also for ~$50. I chose the latter. I sent my unit to myairbags. They also have an eBay store. On a side note, for newer cars, and for some other car manufacturers, some car specific data is also stored in the airbag module. Thus, having your own airbag module reprogrammed is a better solution than buying a used one, where the embedded codes wouldn’t match your vehicle’s; if the module is obtained from another used vehicle.
  12. Now, if you don’t have the replacement parts ready, keep the airbags and the airbag module out (so you can look up the part number to order. Also they are pretty useless now, being deployed), and put back the dash-board, the empty driver airbag housing in the steering wheel (so you can use the horn), and connect the negative battery terminal. You can leave the airbag fuse out, or plug it back in if you don’t want to lose it. If you keep the airbag fuse out, the seat belt warning light would stay on.
  13. After you get all of your replacement parts and are ready to install, first; again remove the negative battery terminal.
  14. Remove the airbag fuse.
  15. While you’re working on removing the dash-board and the front passenger seat, the reserve power source would bleed (see step 1).
  16. Install the passenger airbag, and plug the connector.
  17. Install the driver airbag, and plug the connector.
  18. Install the airbag module (under the passenger seat), and plug the connector.
  19. Plug both connectors that are under the steering column on the left side (see step 2).
  20. Plug the airbag fuse.
  21. Connect the negative terminal back onto the battery.
  22. Start your car. If all is good, then the airbag warning sign on the instrument panel would flash (7 times I think), then disappear. If the warning sign is still on, then something’s amiss!
  23. Turn off your engine, and put back the dash-board and the passenger seat. Then go celebrate for saving hundreds of dollars, and for a job well done!

Some helpful videos:
How to test a clock spring

Clock spring replacement

How to install a clock spring

I hope I didn’t miss anything!

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An Evening in London

I’m trapped in London, England for the night, which isn’t bad at all. What happened is that my flight from Vancouver, BC got delayed, so I missed my connecting flight in London. Needing to spend the night here, I opted for a hotel at the London Heathrow Airport, considering that my flight is tomorrow; early afternoon. I figured I should avoid spending the night in London, and then having to make my way back to Heathrow, during the day. This way I’d sleep in, check-out, check-in, then go grab some lunch. I looked around, and since my flight departs from Terminal 4, I choose a hotel there. I ended up picking Yotel, which has capsule style rooms. And, that’s the only reason I picked this hotel. I was curious to try it out, considering that I’m only spending one night. Well, actually it’s not quite a capsule type room. It’s much bigger than just a bed. They also have slightly bigger rooms; for two. Nevertheless, it was enough for me, and for what I needed. Coming to think of it, I’m not sure what is the ongoing rate for regular-sized hotel rooms at Heathrow airport, compared to rooms/capsules at Yotel (I was charged $125 for the night), and whether it’s worth it, other than the fun factor.

Anyways, the room has a bunker style bed, with a flat LCD TV, a table, and a full washroom. And by full (though small) I mean a standing shower, sink and a toilet.

It’s funny that my delayed flight has caused me to spend the night in London, as while planning for my trip, I had considered spending the weekend in London, but then decided against it, as I have other commitments, and I didn’t want to waste time upfront. But, here am I, in London, malgré moi! So, I dropped my luggage in my Yotel room, hopped on the Tube, and headed towards London. This would be my second time in London. The first time was during the Summer of 2007, where I had spent the weekend there with a couple of friends. Anyways, I couldn’t remember were the cool stuff was, as I wasn’t planning to spend an evening in London. So, I decided to get off at what seemed to be a “city center” station and were it seemed that the station was busy: King’s Cross. I walked around, got me some dinner. I thought about getting into some comedy club; for a show, but didn’t have enough motivation to do so.

Anyways, on my way back to an underground station, I passed by Pret A Manger. This is a pre-made sandwiches & deserts “fast food” chain from the UK. I’m guessing their name is a word play from prêt-à-porter. Note that fast food doesn’t necessarily mean hamburgers & fries! Anyways, I know this chain as I often fly through London Heathrow (to connect to the rest of the world), and they happen to have a store in terminal 5. I love their lemon cheesecake desert. Every time I  fly through Heathrow, I make the effort to fill my belly with their lemon cheesecake pot! So, I walk into their store in London, I buy myself a couple sandwiches and a few of their lemon cheesecake pots, then back to the hotel I head.

Back in my room, I savor the delicious lemon cheesecake desert! It’s really too bad that Pret A Manger’s only branches in the US, are on the East Coast. If they had one in Seattle, WA, I’d be making frequent trips to their store. Or, perhaps I should find a local store that has equally good lemon cheesecakes. Maybe I just don’t eat enough lemon cheesecake, so I got easily swept away by a fast food’s good but perhaps bland to others lemon cheesecake. Note to self: Find good lemon cheesecake in Vancouver.

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