Thursday, July 17, 2014

Ontario 2014 -- "I drove all niiiii-eee-iiight..."

If you "missed out" on the first two posts related to this vacation... Here is Our trip out and some early adventures in Waterloo.

There are a few items left on our vacation agenda that I would like to discuss.

Stratford is less than an hour from Waterloo. We made a lovely afternoon trip out to see Alice: Through the Looking Glass. Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass are childhood favourites of mine and I have read them both to Leora and Anwyn.

So, while Gus worked and Darwyn stayed with Joanne (the current au pair), Wendy and the girls and I went with Greta and Max. We arrived with enough time to enjoy some amazing chocolates (for Wendy, Anwyn, Greta and Max) from Rheo Thompson Candies and coffee/cheesecake (for Me and Leora) from Coffee Culture. They were both quite close to the Avon Theatre.
We all enjoyed the show, but Greta and Max thought the story was a bit impenetrable. That sounds about right for Lewis Carroll ;)

I found the visuals quite spellbinding. Those on stage gave a terrific ensemble performance with oodles of complex choreography and really fun set pieces. All in all, it was very fun. I would have cast the role of Alice differently and directed her into a much more child-like mode. She was the sole weakness, from my perspective. Of course, she is a constant presence, so the little things really added up :(

Contrary-wise... Humpty Dumpty was OUTSTANDING!

Stratford appears to be squeamish about allowing re-shares on their photos (also, they flipped out when I brought a coffee into their building). You can check out their photo albums here, if you are interested in the visuals.
The next day, we went to a local heritage museum. There was lots of heritage there. Above, you can see that heritage makes Wendy very happy :) I took pictures. That made me happy. Everyone wins. The below photo is totally "meta" what with the heritage building in the background and the family heritage in the foreground. I would have applied a sepia tone to the photo for extra heritage goodness, but I like the colour of the roses (and the James') too well.
The same day we went for all you can eat sushi. It was very messy with two pre-schoolers. I have found in these situations mothers tend to find photos unwelcome.  I am adding this one of Darwyn eating some sort of "heritage" berry as a place holder. It manages to find the appropriate balance between cute and messy. A rarity, indeed!
Later in the same day, we went to Waterloo's Adventure Room. It is billed as an opportunity to solve puzzles and work with your friends as a team to try and escape a series of rooms. It was fun enough... I don't want to spoil the magic for anyone that wants to try, so I'll keep my comments vague. Some of the puzzles were broken :( and the signal to noise ratio was off. There were far too many "red herrings" to make me feel satisfied with the puzzles we did solve. I don't know that I would do it again, but it did lead us into a really interesting conversation about how we would develop a similar room on our own.

We drove home below the great lakes which saved us 6hrs of driving. We pushed pretty hard--one day was 16hrs on the road. Not much to report other than an excess of junk food and lots of being read to in the van (we alternated between Valley of the Horses and Words of Radiance).

Between all the driving and the ultimate, I'm still really sore. We are all home now, safe and sound. Thanks for coming along for the ride. Here is the complete photo set and the Ultimate Frisbee Pics.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Ontario 2014 -- The "Ultimate" Visit


Greta loves me, so there was pizza on the day of our arrival. One with meat (boo!) and three vegetarian options (yaa!). Like our family, they like to eat outside nearly exclusively in the summer. They have a wonderful, sheltered deck with burgeoning grape vines and a peach tree surrounding it with vibrant leaves.

Max knows how to get attention and is incredibly full of energy. The first thing he wanted to show me was his room. At this point, he was called "Super Bat." He was only too happy to continue throwing himself off his dresser until I got the perfect shot with my camera.


Darwyn was pretty shy of me at first. Her reluctance to smile, despite my strategic sulking, was heartbreaking (if typical). I'm used to this response from my work at the library and managed to persevere in short order.
Success!!! I got to tell them a bedtime story. We made up a lengthy story about Super Bat Max and Fairy Princess Darwyn. We also sang to guitar: Pete the Cat Loves His White Shoes and Pete the Cat and his 4 Groovy Buttons.

Leora and Anwyn have both put endless amounts of energy into Max and Darwyn, who are ridiculously cute and relentless in their pursuit of playmates.

When left to ourselves, we have been pretty relaxed; Enjoying the nature trails and reading a lot has been high on our priority list. Anwyn and I have had a chance to play some basketball and Greta and Gus invited me to play Ultimate with them. I've never had a chance before and was quite excited.
We played both rain AND shine. The reward... a radiant rainbow
Like most sports, Ultimate basics are simple, but there is a high level of skill required to play competitively. Also, I'm pretty sure I was 7-10 years older than the next oldest player and I suspect 2 decades older than some. When you are 20, this is a huge advantage. When you are 42, it is less of an advantage.
Gus had a little thing called intensity
It was a pretty intense game and I had to work hard to be accepted as a functioning member of the team. It is hard to want to take a chance on the "new guy" when you are down 3 points right from the get go. Things got better when I completed my first pass and I fit right in once I helped score my first point.
All I had were legs used to running upstairs for an hour :) 
I woke up VERY SORE :(
Apparently, playing a new and agressive sport (including a spectacular diving catch followed by an "emergency eject" backwards roll) can lead to neck stiffness. Who knew?

The continuing photo set of Ontario 2014 as well as my evening of Ultimate

Monday, July 07, 2014

Ontario 2014 -- The Way Out


We've been planning this trip to visit Greta, Gus, Max and Darwyn for 6-8 months. As departure drew near, our darling 8 month old cat, Lylah, got very sick. We still don't know what exactly is wrong with her. But, a recent remission in symptoms and an offer of help from +James Diakuw meant we were able to leave nearly on schedule.

Of course, there was an immediate detour due to some of the recent flooding in Saskatchewan. The upside is that we were treated to many new lakes spilling their banks and covered with a fine mesh of pelicans. Much less used to human interaction, none of them wanted to pose for a photograph. I won't take it personally. They didn't seem to want to be very close to one another, either. The detour lead us to Wadena, which meant a mandatory stop at the bakery there https://goo.gl/maps/oZIQx. That made me think of Great Granny. We stopped at the same bakery last year as we all drove to lay her remains to rest. She WAS great.

We pressed on and finished the first road day with an arrival at Birds Hill Prov. Park, just outside Winnipeg https://goo.gl/maps/QbmMF
Smoke from a campfire provides a modicum of protection from local wildlife

The mosquitos were fierce, thanks to the ample marsh-land nearby, but the whole experience was lovely. The swimming hole was an unexpectedly fabulous end to the day.

Anwyn Narrowly Misses the Aerobe
The Sun is moving quickly, but the jet trails were unexpected ;)
Day 2 saw us zipping along the Trans-Canada Highway towards Thunder Bay. We have done the Saskatoon to Thunder Bay leg as a single 19-21hr drive, but were opting for a more sustainable pace. Sadly, it meant we wouldn't be able to stop for a visit with Wendy's relatives there. The slower pace still left me with cramped legs and a sore neck. We made sure to stop many times to stretch and splash in the Ontario lakes.

Anwyn is usually obsessed with playing basketball, but has a friend who is really into soccer. Consequently, she has been following the FIFA World Cup. Below you can see her nails painted with country flags. Her fingers are the top 10 teams. Toes are just accents.
FIFA Fingers
We got most of the way to Thunder-Bay. I love water falls, so we stopped at Kakabeka https://goo.gl/maps/aEcLI. The waterfall is pretty spectacular. I love the brown and golds in the water from the heavy load of silt.
They also have a provincial campground there. The site wasn't as nice as Birds Hill, but the mosquitoes were virtually non-existent.

Day 3 saw us skimming along the north shore of Lake Superior. After two nights of rain, we decided to stay at the Super 8 in Sault St. Marie. Not luxurious, but they had the cooking network, so we went to bed content with the familiar sounds of chef combat.

Southern Ontario seems to be one long highway full of cars going way faster than cars have any need to go. I found myself wondering where we were all going and why we couldn't just stay put.  We spent the day with me driving and my family drifting of to sleep to the deceptively soothing sounds of the Zombie Apocalypse.