Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Marshmallows and Vampires

Leo and Anwyn have been spoiling for a good back-yard fire. Between travel and bad weather, there have been precious few opportunities. Since there was only a little rain today I thought I'd take my chances as they lay.

We invited Matt and Molly over for a couple of hours and stuffed ourselves with puffy (sometimes recently flaming) confections. Everyone seems to have their own way of enjoying marshmallows, but there is a certain... inevitability that Anwyn has managed to capture perfectly.

Sometime after our discussion of the dangers of "chubby bunny", Wendy noticed that there was a certain discrepancy between Leora and Matt that shouldn't go undocumented.

Vampires vs Werewolves
Before dropping my niece and nephew off at home, I decided to share my love of sunsets with them at one of my favorite viewing spots. The kids played Matt's latest made up pen & pencil game while I indulged myself in three of my obsessions; photography, sunsets and children -- at the same time!

Pioneering Spirit

As usual, the rest of the photos can be had for your leisurely dilection by clicking below.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Waterloo, part 2 shouldn't be the Fellowship of the Ring, but it is

One of the big events that we had planned for our visit was a trip out to what we like to call the Gutoski land holdings. A number of years back, Gus' father, Tom, managed to get a sweet deal on a hundred acre wood of his very own. Greta just wouldn't shut up about how great it was. Wendy was so excited about it that I couldn't sleep the night before. That last bit is entirely fabricated and only and excuse to segue into my next story.

I called my nephew, David, up and asked him to give me a midnight tour of the University of Waterloo campus. He was nervous that he couldn't live up to my expectations from some of our previous adventures. "Can Bri come, too?" he asked. Naturally I didn't mind if his girlfriend was there. I don't know Bri well, but she puts up with David's weirdness, so she gets a BIG benefit of the doubt. I went over to their apartment to pick them up. Bri gave me a hug. Strange.

After a struggle to find parking near campus, we had a lovely walk in the dark. David pulled something out of his pocket and handed it to me. It was a heavy, golden ring, and yes, it was inscribed with words hauntingly familiar. "It's the ring Bri got me for our engagement."

"Your WHAT?"

"Hmmm. I guess you forgot to tell him, David."

I picked my jaw off the floor and grinned, giving them both a hearty "congratulations." And I thought it was only the Diakuw 'grapevine' that was broken. How is it, James Clan, that I can hear the story of Wendy and the cactus a million times, get invited repeatedly to do tricks on the trapeze, but no one thinks to mention that their (grand)son is getting married? Fortunately, I like surprises.

We spent a couple of hours walking, talking and locating an on campus geo-cache. I'll give David points for the geo-caching fun, but Bri takes home the high score for getting her fiance The One Ring for their engagement.

I was tired after a night of wandering but we were up and away all too early. The washing-up was so dismally real that I was forced to believe the party of the night before had not been part of my bad dreams, as I had rather hoped ;) On we go...

The drive to the Gutoski land holdings is substantial (1 1/2 hrs), but there is a balm for this hurt. It is called Mapleton's Organics -- an organic family farm turned rest stop. There I feasted on a double waffle-cone containing a scoop of espresso and one of dandelion. It was heavenly. An added attraction (and fee) is the living maze of cedar trees which we dared to enter. The reward for cheating (no names shall be mentioned) or success (I'll admit to that) is a small playground pirate ship on which I was certainly the captain of my fate.

We arrived at the hundred acre wood and hiked down to the cabins. There were three tiny buildings (each with a wood stove for the winter) in which we slept, a covered food preparation area, generous deck seating and an outdoor composting toilet. All of these features look out on the only thing that really matters...

The waterfall is what you do there. When you aren't doing it, it's because you are eating, playing cribbage, exploring cavelike sinkholes, reading, or sleeping. The falls are about 80m from the campsite and the soothing roar filled our ears for 3 days.

Sometimes it was too dark to play in the waterfall. Gus' parents had an ancient collection of sparklers which the girls delighted in. Especially once I illuminated their minds with the wonders of 10 second shutter times in the darkness.

I was seriously impressed with Leora's reverse writing so it would read correctly in the photo. I don't think I would have fared so well.

Against our wishes we eventually had to leave. The rain that started in the early morning, reminding us that we were in danger of overstaying our welcome in such a pristine environment. It also meant it was too miserable to stop at Mapleton's again for a second round of cones.

This post is getting ridiculously long.

The day before we departed we managed to get a tour of a local family's home. They call their place Little City Farm. You can read the blog or website if you are curious about details. Essentially they seem to be just a little further along the continuum from where Wen and I find ourselves. That and maybe a bit more comfortable with clutter. They were kind and generous with their time and we all enjoyed dreaming about living "the simple life." You know, what our grandparents called "hard work!"

Little City Farm
What a fabulous vacation. Thanks to Lee, Sandi, Greta, Gus, and Max for sharing your homes and time with us.

For the insane or photo obsessed, you can see a couple hundred of my vacation photo's from Ottawa and Waterloo, and the Children's portion of the Ontario Museum of Civilization.

Waterloo, part 1

We had a mostly fun drive from Ottawa to Waterloo -- we did have to go through Toronto, after all. It was pretty uneventful, but we did stop to have a picnic lunch at a small resort village where we feed some gulls. The place we stopped was quaint and quiet. There was an entire beach made entirely of the best skipping rocks ever. Wendy was sick or I think I would have stayed until my arm was spaghetti.

Don On The Job
The other reason to move on was the facilities. The place we ate was equipped only with a port-a-potty. Let me tell you, I don't think "Don" was on the job -- despite the assurance. I think I might have been nervous if he was there anyway.

We arrived without incident and commenced with the visiting. Anwyn was in the second day of being sick, but recovered with all speed when there was an infant to hold.
Max Gutoski (2 1/2 mos)

I was amazed at how great the girls were with their new cousin, Max. Gus and Greta's first son will soon be 3 month's old and is typically adorable. He was constantly doted upon by parents, grandparents, relatives, and general passers by. Leora and Anwyn seemed never to tire of holding him or (to my surprise) changing him. Wendy had an endless stream of babble and smiles for him and I told some rousing renditions of The Three Little Cousins (pigs).

While their yard is in somewhat of an -- ahem -- natural state, they live close to the edge of Waterloo and there were plenty of beautiful paths to walk us and their dog, Shake-y-bond-speare.

One day we were sitting around, making fools of ourselves to entertain the baby, when Greta casually mentioned Stratford. I hadn't realized that we were only an hour away from the Mecca of theatre in Canada. We quickly pumped some breast milk (that was hard work) and foisted Max into his father's hands. In a trice we were out the door.

Gus has an aunt who works at the costume warehouse for the festival and with her help we secured ourselves some fine seats for this year's production of Kiss Me Kate which, you may recall, I performed in a few years back. It was a fabulous experience. The girls were in musical heaven and I fulfilled a desire I've had since about grade 11. In case you are wondering, no, I was not allowed to take pictures in the theatre, but the camera was "yes" during our tour of the costume warehouse.

Thursday, July 08, 2010


Flight went off without a hitch and Lee and Sandi were ready and waiting for us when we got off the plane. Ottawa has been a steady stream of incredible weather since we got here. The highs have been 34-36 with the humidex pushing us into the 40s. We've spent a LOT of time sitting by the pond and watching the very entertaining frogs and the even more entertaining children.


Crepes Bassin (pond)
Leora had been pining for crepes since her last visit to Ottawa and the following morning, we were all the beneficiaries of her crepe dreams. She and Anwyn  helped Sandi put together an absolutely superb breakfast. I didn't have to lift a finger. The coffee was strong and black and the crepes were beautiful AND tasty.

On Monday we went to the Museum of Civilization. All museums could take a page from their book when it comes to children. I wanted to spend the whole day in that section, but was vetoed by Lee and Wendy.

We took lunch in view of the parliament buildings and shared our dessert with the nearby fauna. Anwyn was beginning to get pretty sick and the girls and I took the afternoon off and rested in the zen garden while the "adults" did some more exhibits.

Tree Pose
Before we left, Lee made sure to enhance their education with a lengthy driving lesson.