Slugs are Cute and Disturbing

On my trip out west this summer, I saw some amazing things…mountains, the Pacific Ocean, sea lions…and on a walk one quiet evening in Redmond WA, a large slug.

B loves snails and slugs. Snails I could get behind, but slugs? Really? Even the name suggests the need to take a shower.

But this little guy/girl was, I admit, kinda cute and B took some great pictures of him/her.  I say him/her because slugs are hermaphrodites.  Dependant on their mood and the sexiness of their slug date, they can pull out either sex organ.  Cool!

Awwwww! Look at that face!

I mean really! How cute is that! With his/her eyes at different angles…so CUTE!

He/she was also incredibly emotive!

Curious slug is curious!

Bored slug is bored!

So, I gained a new appreciation for slugs.

They have a keep-them-off-me-cuteness to them.

And then….oh….and then I read up on slugs.

Don’t do that.

I learned new words, like “Apophallation“.

There are some words in the English language that one just doesn’t need to know.

Apophallation is one of them.

Proof that Pink is my nemesis! (Otherwise known as “Bouldering in Calgary”)

A shot of the bouldering area in Stronghold, Calgary.

While I was in Calgary, I experienced a lot of firsts! Bouldering was one of them!

One morning, Sarah suggested we get some exercise by going bouldering. Both her and her husband had the shoes and the chalk, and luckily my big feet fit into his shoes 😉 so we decided to try it and headed off to Stronghold.

I admit the name “Bouldering” had me imagining us crawling over huge rocks, as though on a rocky beach…goat-like jumping from one to other…which suited this Capricorn! Until we arrived, I had no idea that bouldering was effectively rock-climbing without the height or the harness.  Not sure I would ever attempt it out-of-doors without a crash mat, but indoors, it was a lot of fun!

Sarah explained the wall layout, which made me go “huh?” So she had to actually climb a bit and show me how to “boulder” it up! 🙂

Sarah on our first wall showing me how it’s done!

And then, it was my turn!

Oh yeah, I’m so excited!

Like this?

Wheee! Getting my groove on!

The ultimate let-down…where do I go from here?

The first wall I conquered was about 12 to 15 feet across.  Took me a number of tries but I finally figured out the steps and my muscles finally stopped being stubborn and started doing what I was telling them to do.

Conquering my first wall!

The first wall was monumental.  Not only was it a strange thing to try to do, climb a wall and keep your body close to it, but you also have to figure out where to put your feet while predicting  your next step or two ahead. It was challenging. Mentally and physically. But I LOVED it!

That’s right! That wall can bite me! I win!

Feeling pretty good about myself, we moved on to the next wall.

FYI….Um, when you add a bit of an outward angle to a climbing wall, it makes the whole thing HARDER!

Angle Shm-angle! I can do this!

Getting harder as the angle gets a little steeper

Fail.

 

Nope…tried a few more times and the angled wall was beyond me!

I was surprised at how much sweating I did in the first half hour of climbing.  It’s a great workout!  Legs, arms and core…the angled walls kicked my ass but I still loved the challenge!

Sarah also attempted the angled wall….

Woot! Getting there!

And as with me…the angle won.  Stupid angle!

But, also like me, Sarah loved the challenge of attempting to conquer it!

Aaaaand, we identified the actual stone causing all the problems!  (Yes, you can blame failure on a stone.  It works…makes you feel much better…trust me. 😉 )

After we each attempted the wall a few times, we realized that as soon as we were in line with the ying-yang stone below, we would fall.  Evil, I say!  And it’s pink too!

The EVIL stone of EVIL

Any time we got close to passing by this stone, it would use its negative pink energy to send up flying!  Okay, so we’d just sort of *floomp* to the floor…but still!

Sarah just before a burst of ying-yang-pink-stone-negative-floomp-energy!

So to all of you who laugh at me due to my pink allergy…pay attention!  Pink.is.evil.  Pink!  You are my nemesis!  And when I return to Calgary, I will clamber past you and laugh the entire way!  Thus, the gauntlet has been thrown down!

Next time I will beat you! Next time!

I was sore the next day, it’s true. But it was a good sore!  My body telling me that climbing was a great workout and that I should consider doing more of it!  I took that time to research climbing gyms near our new apartment in Toronto and found a bouldering-focused gym only two subway stops away: Boulderz Climbing Centre!  Will definitely be checking that out when I return!

Overall? Bouldering….loved it! Recommend it!

Just don’t plan on doing much with your arms the next day! 😉

 

 

Calgary Stampede 100th Anniversary: Horses, Cow Vaginas & Surfing!

I had no idea this entry would get so long!  So fair warning…there are lots of pictures from my Stampede visit! 😉

I spent my first day in Calgary visiting the Calgary Stampede! Not a destination I would’ve chosen for myself but Sarah has much experience attending with her family and told me she’d take me to the fun stuff.  When I continued to balk, she also suggested that I view the Stampede as an anthropological experiment, studying the cowboy culture in all its glory.  I could work with that, so I said “sure!” after I clarified that under no conditions would I be wearing cowboy boots 😉

The Stampede wasn’t remotely what I expected! There was SO much going on, so much to see, it was fun!…in many ways it reminded me of the Toronto Royal Winter Agricultural Fair, only bigger.

Scroll down for pics and commentary on:

Working Cow Horse Classic competition
Interesting People on site
Artistic Endeavours on site
Native Village
Fake Cow Vagina! (Yep, you read that right)
Surfing!
Stampede Food

My day actually started with an interesting wake-up.  At first, around 5:30AM, I woke up to chattering birds.  Turns out they were magpies.  Really cool looking black & white birds that sound sort of like a cross between a quack and a cat being stepped on.

About a dozen of them were having a grand ‘ol time gossiping outside my bedroom window.  I tried for pictures, failed, decided “Screw it! It’s my first vacation morning and 6am can bite me!” and went back to sleep. Turns out,  I DID get a nice picture of my first Calgary sunrise 🙂

So yes, back to sleep I went! For about an hour.

At that point, Miss Maggie decided that my toes were awesome morning prey and I woke up to this:

Com’on toes! Move! I dares ya!

 And like any feline, once Maggie realized I was awake, it was cuddle time!

I’m cute. Pet me! Or I’ll cut you!

So, yeah, I was up pretty early my first day of vacation. But that’s okay because it allowed us to prepare for STAMPEDE!!

My first five minutes in Calgary, I got carded!! Talk about making a girls day!  Both Sarah and I decided to pee in the Cowboys Casino.  Because that’s what you do.
You see a casino, you think “pee!”

(Those of you who were around years ago for the Halifax Casino/Depends news story can just keep that to yourself! Blech!)

And of course, being carded required a picture!

Look at us two young’uns!

After a much-needed pee, we headed to a Stampede event, the only actual horse-riding event we watched, the Working Cow Horse Classic competition.  This involved a horse and rider chasing down a rogue calf and directing it where they wanted it to go.

Although I know little about horsemanship and cutting cattle, I admit I found the event somewhat enthralling.  After the first few competitors, I began to see the differences in approach and skill.  I began to really notice when rider and horse were completely in synch, riding as one, and it was pretty incredible. It was as though they knew exactly what that calf was going to do before he did, and they were able to share those thoughts and move in complete harmony.

Beautiful horse!

Those calves were wily!

A sudden stop!

As I mentioned, there was lots of cool stuff to see around the Stampede beyond the  horse and cattle competitions, including some interesting people….

My camera settings were off…but I couldn’t let this outfit go!

Awesome living statue in the Oasis area of the Stampede!

Another living statue…

There were a few living statues in the Oasis section of the Stampede, a beautiful indoor arts market and wine bar with water fountains and soft lighting surrounding the area: it was the complete opposite of the chaos taking place outside!

The statues were great! A couple of times, they reacted to cameras by glancing at the lens for your shot, but otherwise, they did…well, what statues do. The male statue kept a straight face even though there were about a dozen people, including myself, hovering around him taking pics…not to mention, the two kids who were in his space, checking him out. I couldn’t help but wonder what he was thinking about to keep himself so still.

So, cool people on site and some cool artistic endeavours too….

Love the old coach with the trunk on the back!

Awesome sand castle!

Treasure trunk made of sand

Next up was the Native Village…there were some lovely performances taking place, not to mention some beautiful wares for sale and a village of amazing tepees constructed just for the Stampede!  A couple of them were open to visitors, which was very kind considering each teepee was functioning as a home for a family while they were on site, so they were effectively allowing us into their private space.

tepees, huge and beautiful!

Inside one of the tepees

Nom nom nom

How did that get on my head?

Native jingle dance

Moving on…

The fake cow vagina!

I didn’t necessarily want to stick my arm in there.  It was strange enough walking around a corner to suddenly see the holes of two fake cows, well technically half-cows as they were missing the front end, without a woman who was standing next to them asking if I’d like to stick my arm in there.

Initial reaction? “Stick my arm in a cow vagina? No freakin’ way!”

But she countered my argument with, “One is pregnant and one isn’t AND I have powder for your hand and arm. It’s all rubber.”

Um. Not convincing!

But eventually, Sarah and I agreed to both do it!  We looked at each other said, “When will we ever have the chance to stick our arm up a cow’s vagina again? Never!”

And besides, this is my vacation and I am fearless, damnit! 😛

It’s a fake vagina! Honest!

What the hell is THAT? Someone’s watch?

Wheeee! Sarah enjoyed the vagina too!

 Surfing!

Yep, I do not lie.  Calgary’s Stampede had surfing on site!

There were about a dozen people taking part and the current was strong enough to eject the bodies upwards after a wipeout!

And now I understand why people watch surfing.  Wipeouts are funny when they aren’t happening to you! 😉

And finally, what does one eat at the Calgary Stampede?  

Alberta Beef and Deep Fried Oreos of course!!

So first off, I had to have an authentic Albertan beef sandwich. I let Sarah choose the place and we ordered.

The beef was damn good!! Sadly, too big for me to finish!  (Sorry, B! You missed out on half of an awesome sandwich!)

No, we weren’t hungry. Not at all. 😉

And for dessert?  Deep fried OREOS!!

Sarah said she’d order them so I could try one.  I’ve historically avoided the deep-fried weirdness that you find at such large-scale events.
Best example? The Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto.

Deep-fried cola deep-fried fudge, deep-fried kool-aid, even deep-fried butter! And that doesn’t even cover the weirdness of a Krispy Kreme Burger!

But this was a day of firsts and us being fearless (I put my ARM in a cow’s vagina for gods’ sake!) so deep-fried Oreos were a YES!

Wheee! Battered and oiled up Oreo cookies! 😉

I DID go into the experience with a mild bit of hesitation….

This is my WTF? face.

But with a little bit of encouragement….I bit into…

…savoury goodness!

 I wouldn’t eat these all the time…probably wouldn’t order them myself, but they were pretty darn good…a warm, soft Oreo cookie!  All that was missing was ice cream!

So, that doesn’t actually sum up our Stampede experience…the Department of National Defense was on site and let’s just say that handguns and tanks are FUN!  But that’ll be for another entry. *wink*

Chilling out with Macy 🙂

I find your lack of trees disturbing…

My flight to Calgary was fairly uneventful.  A bit of turbulence here and there and a resulting neck crick from sitting like this for hours:

I was somewhat disappointed because the first half of the flight was over Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota. They were cool to look at 🙂 but I had been hoping to see more of the Prairies on the way in since I have never been out this way before. By the time we moved north over Saskatchewan, it had clouded over somewhat and I wasn’t able to see much until we began to descend into Calgary.

So, no Prairies…BUT….some cool cloud formations!

Looks a bit like a Westjet advertisement…”Flying you through hurricanes….getting you there on time!”

I have to say that I have had only good experiences on Westjet flights. The crew are always friendly and joking around.  One of our flight attendants tried in vain to get the whole plan to yell “Yee Haw!!!” as we landed in Calgary…one guy up front was loud enough for most of us 😉

Satellite television was available and free…so at point while I ate (Turkey and Brie on a whole grain and cranberry baguette!), I turned it on to see what I could find.

First show I see? The Golden Girls!! I admit it…that’s one of my favourite shows and both my good friend Tanya and I own all the seasons.  We have watched them all through a number of times and still find ourselves laughing hysterically at times.

For those who are interested (Admit it, you like the show too!) it was the episode where Sophia becomes a nun. Hilarious!

I also ended up watching a cooking show in French and getting a great idea for a fruit dessert!  (Watch my cooking blog ediblenoir.wordpress.com for that recipe!)

When we flew over Wisconsin, all I saw were trees.  Trees everywhere and few buildings, vehicles, or signs of life.  I know they have cities…but somehow we missed them (or else I was on the wrong side of the plane!).  Either way, that many trees requires a visit one day. One day, I would like to visit Wisconsin!

As I mentioned, it was during the descent into Calgary that I was finally able to take some shots of the landscape…albeit from a plane window so please ignore the crappy quality 😛

Mainly taken for the circular bright green field in the bottom right.

Descending into Calgary…my first look at a way off horizon…and no trees!

It was during the descent that I began to notice the trees, well, or the fact that there are few trees. Sure, I knew that the Prairies by definition wouldn’t be woodlands, but it’s surprising how disconcerting I find the lack of trees.

There’s a tree! ….Maybe….

My friend Sarah, who I am visiting during my initial few days here told me that she has met people here who find forested areas claustrophobic and uncomfortable.  So strange to me. The openness of the plains around the city make me feel a little antsy, as though the city has no protection, surrounded by nothing but air.

I can’t imagine what it must have been like to be part of the first group of people to move out here and start cultivating land.  To look in every direction and see for miles. There’s an awesome freedom in that but a vulnerability as well.

Outer edge of Calgary

 

My first evening in the city was lovely!  Meeting up with an old friend who I hadn’t seen in awhile…not to mention her four-year-old daughter who was barely walking the last time I saw her.

 

And the sunset!

Sun beginning to set

 

 

 

 

 

If that is a sign of things to come, this trip is going to be awesome!

Headed to Calgary: First Stop, TO airport!

I am presently seated in the Toronto airport waiting for my flight to board and trying to talk myself out of the desire to go buy Doritos! Such weird place, the airport. We’re all waiting…all in stasis…preparing for the next step to our voyage.  Some of us sleep, play cards, eat (Doritos!!!) or focus on our electronic connections to the outside world.

The rest of us sit and have a beer!

That wasn’t actually the plan until I saw the sign for the bar across from the gate!

I am headed to the west coast for the first time…for 29 days…and aside from mountains —

< inner voice >Holy shit!!! I’m going to see actual MOUNTAINS!  I’m going to go and climb up a MOUNTAIN!! Not a hill…but a freakin MOUNTAIN!!! </ inner voice>

— I am very much looking forward to hanging on some west coast beaches and enjoying the pacific coast!  I have much experience with the Atlantic Ocean but the Pacific Ocean will be a brand new experience…well, except for the Pacific oysters I tried, which sort of gives me a sense what to expect scent-wise while I’m there. 😉

So the BEACH name drew me in! 🙂

After chilling with a pint and an absolutely awesome bowl of Thai soup, I wandered around the airport a bit.

One cool thing about being here is that there is accessible, and free, wi-fi!  Thus, I am able to write this post! 🙂

NO, I’m not writing this from the bathroom!

<Though come to think of it, that would be kinda awesome!>

Point is, wi-fi is available in every little crevice of this airport. Besides, you can’t expect us to go pee without checking our Facebook or Twitter, can you? That’s just crazy talk!

Since I’m headed to Calgary, I considered getting into character….you know, trying to appear as though I’m simply one of the locals. I’m wandering into Calgary at the tail end of the Stampede…it’s 100th anniversary no less!…so I should do my best to celebrate along with the cowboys, shouldn’t I?

Nah…I don’t think any attempt on my part to be cowboy-ish is going to work.

Meandering to Montreal – Day 1

On Friday, my friend Michael and I hit the road in a lovely rental car.  Our goal? Montreal, Quebec!

Packing the car!

We left Toronto fairly early and planned for a 5-6 hour drive.  Our arrival time wasn’t set in stone so we took the opportunity to meander through some little towns on the way.

Brockville was our first stop.  When we first pulled off the highway, I have to say it didn’t look like much…that is, until we crossed the border into Brockville’s lovely Historic Downtown.  Some of the homes were absolutely gorgeous!

Brockville City Hall was also quite a handsome building…

We wandered around the downtown area for a little bit, debating where to grab some lunch and thankfully, we chose Taits Bakery!

Lunch was simple…a tuna salad sandwich…but my god, it was amazing! As a bakery, they obviously make their own breads and I have to say that although their tuna salad was lovely,  it was the bread that made the sandwich!

Their bread selection was awesome and their name and descriptions…well, they speak for themselves…

Other portions of the downtown area seemed somewhat dated…

Hmmm...did they simply cut off her lower half, pushing the vacuum around? 😉

Or just odd…

Welcome to Brockville's Marina!....And airport?

Overall, Brockville surprised us.  Quaint, with friendly people and a lovely inviting downtown.

We stopped in a couple of other small communities…but Ill let Michael sum up our reactions:

Iroquois, ON - *blink blink* Ooops, we missed it!

Morrisburg, ON…*hiss* Just…no.
Driving into Montreal was exciting…partly because of the various unidentifiable vehicles we saw on the road…such as this one:

The picture doesn’t represent the true size (or lack of size) of this … car?  It was so small and close to the ground that I wondered if the driver was posed Batman-esque, laying on their stomach, facing forward with their head under the dash.  Unfortunately, they veered onto an off-ramp before we could get a closer look…Batman’s neon-orange cousin shall remain forever a mystery!

Kayaking and Camping (Trailer-ing?) on the Ottawa River

Last weekend, I travelled up to northern-ish Ontario with B’s mom.  I say northern-ish because beyond North Bay and Matawa, there is much more Northern Ontario to discover.  In my case though, it was the most north I have ever been.

As we drove north, it was awesome to see the forest shifting from mainly deciduous to mainly evergreen trees.  Outcroppings of stone became more common as we entered the Canadian Shield and at times I wondered how the forests managed to remain so lush when the soil seemed so thin at points.

We were headed to a community near Matawa but on our way, we decided to take a detour and drive into Algonquin Park.  I had never been, and I suppose although I can technically say I have now, I still haven’t experienced the park fully.  I was given a good taste of what’s to come though.

We drove to Barron Canyon and words can’t describe the beauty.  Perhaps a picture can.

Barron Canyon, East side of Algonquin Park

The white speck on the water is actually a canoe carrying two people down the river.  I was glad they were there as I took the picture.  Helped to emphasize the immensity of the canyon…and of course, made me want to plan a kayak trip down that river at some point in the future.

The hike up to the canyon is incredibly short; a circular path that is about 1.5km long, with about one-third of it meandering along the edge of the cliff.  When I say along the edge, I mean that literally.  There were warning signs all over the trails reminding hikers that there were no fences, just an open cliff and a long drop.  Somewhat scary, but spectacular as well.

We also saw many mushrooms along the trail. Many I had seen before but one stood out…

We arrived on site fairly late on the Friday evening so kayaking had to wait until Saturday.

The first morning, I woke up to a camper’s best friend in the whole, wide world!

…which perked me right up! 🙂

KAYAKING

Kayaking on the Ottawa river was absolutely lovely!  On one side, you have the mountainous landscape of Quebec (well, mountainous to those like me who have never actually seen a “mountain” lol) and on the other you have the very similar, yet somehow flatter, landscape of Ontario.

Our first trip out was on an overcast morning.  Mist was rising from the trees but my camera was sadly unable to truly capture the beauty of the moment….ah well…I tried.

Quebecois mist!

In the few days we stayed up north, we took out the kayaks four or five times.  I took a good number of pictures, but also managed to balance that with many tranquil moments of simply experiencing first hand rather than from behind the lens.

Here is a slideshow of some of my shots from our various expeditions:
Vodpod videos no longer available.

Deux-Rivieres , posted with vodpod

We also came across some creepy things that I *must* share.

1) One experience, that was creepy yet absolutely awesome, was that as we kayaked around a bend, we began to notice a smell and we agreed there was definitely something dead nearby.  That wasn’t the awesome part. What was magnificent was that we suddenly came upon three turkey vultures almost at the water’s edge enjoying their lunch which was in all probability what we were smelling.  I didn’t actually see them until I heard a deep *whoosh* as the first one took to the sky.  The two remaining vultures hesitated but also abandoned their food.  The only sound was their wings as they sliced through the humid air.  It was the most incredible, yet creepy sound.  They perched silently among the treetops above us and quietly watched until we had moved off a good distance.  Only then did they return to their meal.

2) The second creepy thing…was this:

It seemed to peek out as we moved past and it wasn’t until we were well beyond it that I turned around to see that it was simply the roots of a fallen tree.

3) Third creepy thing?

No, not me!  The owl!

There was a whole shelf of these owls at a little store in Matawa.  Their gaze is creepy enough but they are also bobble-headed and, once batteries are inserted, they react to motion to keep other birds away.

4) Creepiness at an antique store…greeted us at the door!

5) The creepy finale

This is a women’s washroom in Matawa.  It’s a tiny town so I guess everyone knows each other *really* well????

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I really had a great time and I have to say that although I could barely move my arms after the last paddle due to headwinds and strong currents, my love for kayaking hasn’t dimmed in the slightest!