Monday, August 30, 2010

Daniel, The Lion's Den, and Cereal

Perhaps you are familiar with a few Bible stories. How about the one about Daniel, who gets thrown into a den of lions because he prays to God even after it is is made illegal by royal decree -- do you know that one?

If so, perhaps you already knew that Daniel first gained favour with the king (played at Grandma's house by Alli) because he was able to interpret the strange words insrcribed on a wall by the finger of God.

Grandma asked Hayden (who was playing the part of Daniel) what he thought was written on the wall.


Pretty cheeky, that Daniel. It's no wonder the lad was thrown to the fierce lions (played here by Scott). You know the rest...

Friday, August 27, 2010

Flying Solo in Toronto

I changed jobs at the beginning of August 2010 and had the chance to go to Toronto for 11 days for training & orientation. I don't want to make it sound like I had too much fun because it will probably make R a bit jealous, but I really did enjoy the tourist experience. Perhaps it's because I got to indulge in my own peculiar style of tourism -- I like to just wander around places that I've never been and inspect them. I like to get out the map and try to cover all kinds of territory just to see what's there... and what places there are to eat. Activities are a bonus, but mostly I like to reconnoiter. It was the kind of thing that was great to do on your own, but if someone else had come along, it probably would have driven them crazy.

Day 1 (Tues Aug 17)
I flew to Toronto and was picked up at the airport by E, my good friend from Ottawa who often has business in Toronto. He is the same one who helped me buy the moving truck in 2007 when we moved back to Calgary. I threw my stuff in the car, pulled on my soccer jersey and we headed off to BMO field for a Toronto FC game, sitting in the back of the section with the 'Red Patch Boys.'

This group of hard core fans occupies one corner and they never stop cheering and singing the whole time. It was a perfectly-warm night and the field is in a wonderful spot on the water front with a view of downtown not too far off.

Afterwards, I checked into my hotel at One King West, which is historic bank building that had a tall thin addition put on top of it which was intended to be posh condo residences, but ended up being part condo, part hotel. You can go downstairs to the basement and get onto the underground PATH system by walking through the old vault. Pretty sweet.

Day 2 (Wed Aug 18)
I had to juggle a bunch of phone calls throughout the day because I manage a rental property and somebody crashed into the place the day before my trip. Apparently, the driver was just learning and she mistook the gas for the brake when coming up to a stop sign to turn right. She keep her foot welded to the floor and the wheel cranked until she's done a 180-degree turn right into the side of the house, with the car coming to a stop on its side on the lawn. She managed to demolish the natural gas line so there were several calls I had to make to get things fixed.

This was the first day of our orientation and I have only one picture to show, which was taken just before I went to bed. I believe there were some after-work functions that took up part of the evening and then I met up with E for Moroccan dinner to finish the night. The meal was good, but we didn't fork over the extra cash to see the floor show (belly dancing).

Day 3 (Thurs Aug 19)
I have no pictures from this day, but I know I went to a movie (Salt) near the theatre district. For some reason, going to a movie alone has always seemed a bit weird to me -- like something you do if you have zero friends. However, it really doesn't matter if you go to a movie alone or with a hundred friends, because you aren't supposed to talk during the film anyways. Only annoying people talk to each other during a movie, right? Conversely, I love to talk to R during TV shows at home -- making my guess about plot twists or whatever. Really, you should go to movies alone and you should watch TV with friends.

Day 4 (Fri Aug 20)
I wandered all over the place, including the waterfront and the theatre district, and ate at Smoke's Poutinerie on Adelaide Ave. I had the Triple Pork, which is poutine with pulled pork, bacon and some other kind of pork that I can't remember. I think I managed to eat half of it. It was enormous and it was laden with pork.

I took a break in a desolate park near the theatre playing Rock of Ages to check in with R and Scott by phone. Scott's voice always sounds so much higher when he's talking on the phone.

Day 5 (Sat Aug 21)
Toronto Islands - This was probably my favourite thing in Toronto. I caught a ferry from the Harbour out to the Toronto Islands. The islands are accessible only by boat or by plane (there is an aiport on one end) and there are no cars at all -- only a few service vehicles.

I walked from the west dock to the beach on the north end where I could rent a bike. I did not go to the "clothing optional beach".

Once I finally got my 2-hour rental bike, I rode from one end of the island to the other, exploring as much as I could in the time I had.

I absolutely LOVED riding on the sidewalks in the little residential community on the east end of the island. since there are no roads, the houses sit close together, connected by sidewalks and slightly wider laneways. Apparently, there were a lot more houses out there in the past, but the city started tearing them down. Then the residents were able to convince the city to leave the remaining houses as long as no more were built. The result is this little village almost frozen in time. It's an attraction in itself and arguably more remarkable than the little amusement park that is in the center of the island.

I rounded out the day by attending a wedding reception for one of our good friends from Ottawa, who happened to be getting married that weekend. It was sad that R couldn't be there, since she was very close to the bride.

The chapel is the oldest LDS chapel in Toronto and was worth a photo.

Day 6 (Sun Aug 22) Subway Day
I bought an all-day pass for the subway system and then used it to ride to areas that had been out of range of my pedestrian wanderings. Starting at Ossignton Ave and and Bloor, I went across the downtown core to Greektown for lunch at Messini Authentic Gyros on Danforth Ave. The gyro was fantastic, but I was somewhat overwhelmed by the "greek fries", which were round ridge-cut fries (like really thick ripple chips) topped with a boat-load of feta cheese. Amost more than I could handle -- and I've eaten poutine out of a KFC bucket before.

All that feta meant that I wasn't hungry until much, much later. I felt like something a bit lighter, so I searched the listings for a place that served crepes. I found one near the Wellesley subway station and headed out there. Walking the few blocks from the station to the shop, I noticed some really interesting people. Lots of big hairstyles and flamboyant dress. It was almost 10 pm and it was dark, so I figured I must be near some clubs or other social hotspots. After my crepe (which was delicious) I walked down Church Street to get a better sense of the neighbourhood. I was a bit surprised to see so many billboards for exotic dance clubs. Then I noticed the street sign had a rainbow on it and everything clicked into place -- a quick Google search showed me that I was right in the middle of the Rainbow District. Wow. Now I can cross that one off my bucket list.

Day 7 (Mon Aug 23)
My only real plan after the Monday training session was that I was going to see the Movie "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" (which was set in the set of Toronto). After that, I walked more than 5 km and found another good place for a crepe and hot chocolate. My path was basically a big rectangle of Queen street (outbound) and King Street (homebound), cutting through the Financial District, the Design District and Chinatown.

Yonge St
1.Head north on Yonge St toward Adelaide St W E120 m
2.Turn right at Adelaide St E E290 m
3.Turn right at Church St150 m
4.Turn left at King St E210 m
5.Turn right at Jarvis St120 m
6.Turn right at Front St E220 m
7.Turn right at Church St550 m
8.Turn left at Queen St E1.7 km
9.Turn left at Spadina Ave400 m
10.Turn left at King St W1.4 km

Day 8 (Tues Aug 24)
I met up with a friend from my MBA program for dinner and the Jays/Yankees game. Our tickets were way, way up there, but the stadium was still pretty cool and I really enjoyed it. If memory serves, the Yankees destroyed the Jays and the scoring was really high. However, I found that I was often talking to Alex or looking elsewhere when the big plays would happen. I would hear the cheering and try to figure out what had just happened.

After the game we parted ways at Union Station so that he could head back home. When I climbed up on a wall to get a picture in the capacious main hall, a security guard got a bit excited. As a result, in the picture I am looking away from the camera, giving the guard a pretend-puzzled look until Alex could finish taking the picture.

Day 9 (Wed Aug 25) South Pacific
Toronto is known for its theatre scene and I took the opportunity to see South Pacific. I lined up for discount tickets right after the training session and got a great deal. The show was near City Hall and a few interesting plazas that looked great as the sun was going down.

Day 10 (Thurs Aug 26)
My final evening in Toronto was at Buskerfest, which was just down the road from my hotel. There were a few really good shows, and I got a "Bendy Em" wristband for making a donation after watching the Australian contortionist do her performance. I gave the wristband to Scott when I got home and it has been his piggy bank ever since (it has a little zipper on it so it can hold small items like loose change).

Day 11 (Fri Aug 27)
Home. Goodbye Toronto. It was fun while it lasted.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

First Time Riding A Log

Summer Saturdays are somewhat scarce in Calgary, so you have to make the most of them. For us, Saturday morning means a trip to Calaway Park, the amusement park just outside of the city. For Scott, this place is heaven on earth.

We have season passes to the park and we follow a very simple strategy: arrive early, leave early. We show up at 10:00 am when the place opens and we hit the rides hard for about 90 minutes before we take off. That way, we hardly wait in any lines and we don't have to shell out any cash for high-priced cotton candy sandwiches or whatever else they might have on the menu.

On one particular day this summer, we came through the gates and walked by Calaway's signature ride -- the "Shoot the Chutes" log ride and saw that there was absolutely no one in line yet. Typically, people wait HOURS for their turn to sit in boat shaped like a log and skim their way down a long sluice into a water-filled channel, sending huge sprays of water all over everything and everyone... twice. I asked Scott if he wanted to go on the ride with me and he said yes without really thinking. Before he could reconsider, we were running down the steps and onto the damp seats.

With me seated in the back and Scott nestled in front of me, we immediately began the first upward climb. Sensing his discomfort with the dramatic angle of our ascent, I explained to him that the log was just going up high and that it's not supposed to be scary. I had assumed that at the top of the climb we would slide into a short channel before starting the big drop down.

I was wrong.

At the top of that first climb you IMMEDIATELY and ABRUPTLY pitch forward and drop down a steep slope into a cloud of your own spray. I had been talking Scott through the climb, but I was taken completely off-guard by the drop... and so was he. Once we slowed down and the boat started to turn around towards the next climb, Scott said in a panicked voice, "I want out right now!". Just then I was reading a yellow sign that said, "DO NOT CLIMB OUT OF THE BOATS." R snapped this picture of us coming around th bend when Scott was still pretty freaked out, and I was breaking the news to him that he's have to go through one more drop before the fun could be over. Rather than wave for the camera, he kept his hands firmly clamped on the handrails.

[Click on Picture to View Video]

Once Scott had resigned himself to his fate, he was pretty good. I told him to do lots of screaming and that seemed to help him out. You can hear him screaming in the video. But no matter how much he screamed, he still got a wave of water in the face, which he didn't like very much. However, he still managed a bit of a wave to the camera, perhaps because he knew the experience was almost over.

It's much easier to smile when you know you are back on terra firma.

When asked, he would not agree to go back on the ride anytime soon. He said something about waiting until he was a daddy. Anyways, the rest of the day was easy compared to that first big ride.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Rolling in Clover

I don't know if you've heard, but our back yard is overrun with clover. The stuff is everywhere, and it grows way faster than the grass. When we go out and mow the lawn, we are mowing more clover than grass, it seems. R doesn't like it. I suspect that the substandard grass weighs on her more than she lets on. Personally, I think clover makes fabulous ground cover, and grows much better than our grass, so I'll convince myself that I can live with it.

Since we are figuratively rolling in clover, it seemed only fitting that we should literally roll in clover sometime. One day a few weeks ago, Katie wore the cutest dress to church, so we felt we HAD to get some photos -- so off to the clover patch we went.

Clearly, this was back when she could not sit up by herself. Now she can hold herself up for a respectable interval before falling over in the clover.

This shot is the cutest one of the lot. She's such a doll.

Here she is with her big brother. He was wearing a much cuter outfit went we first came home, but then he elected to change into his favourites.