Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Westward, ho!

Our summer days off technically started with the comic expo, but our holiday didn't really kick into gear until we left Calgary on the Sunday afternoon. We went as far as Golden that day, and took an overnight break in a motel there. Normally we'd at least go as far as Revelstoke in one day, but we'd also normally be leaving first thing in the morning, not late in the day after a weekend of geeking out. And we were planning to have a long visit with friends in Vernon, but still had to be in Penticton by the check in deadline at our campground.

We were blessed with smooth travel, and arrived in Vernon a couple of hours ahead of schedule. We managed to connect with my aunt and uncle from Revelstoke, who were in Vernon with my cousin, and we had lunch with them at Red Robins. I don't think we have any of those in Alberta - they're a great burger joint with probably every combination of burgers and toppings you can imagine. Oh yah - it was HOT in Vernon, which was glorious after suffering through an uncharacteristically soggy Calgary spring!

We spent the afternoon hanging out with our good friends Chris and Kelsey, and their new baby. We were lucky to catch them, as the left Vernon permanently later that week! They took a break from packing to take us to their favourite lake-side patio for some EXCELLENT calamari.

Boys on the patio, waiting to be fed!

Too quickly we had to hit the road for Penticton, as rush hour highway traffic through Kelowna can be terrible. Again we were blessed with smooth sailing, and we made it to Penticton about an hour before it would have been too late to check in. The campground was practically deserted, as we were just ahead of the main tourist weekend. Our site backed onto a lagoon, home to assorted friendly ducks.

It also had an excellent view of the sunset!

On Tuesday we met up with our good friends Scott and Sam, and their two super-cute little girls for some time at the beach. The weather was hot hot and the sky was as blue as it gets. I tried my hand at kayaking on the lake - it's quite a bit of work! My right arm is much stronger then my left, so of course my strokes weren't even and I spent a lot of time trying to stop veering, and to go in a straight line. :)

It was getting on nap time for little girls, so the family went home, and Trevor and I picked up lunch, and headed to the beach on the other lake, at the north side of Penticton. It was quite windy there, and not nearly as hot. There were lots of ducks and geese to watch, as well as some entertaining tourists.

At the far end of the waterfront promenade, past the beached paddle-wheeler, is a beautiful rose garden. Some of the bushes hadn't even bloomed yet, but most of them were at their peak, and it was lovely. They all had incredible aroma, and I had a lot of fun stopping to smell the roses, and take a million photos, while Trevor humoured me!

We headed over to Scott and Sam's for dinner, and I was entertained to discover that they have the exact same Ikea dining room table as us - great friends think alike :)

Wednesday was quite the adventure. It was the first day I was able to register for my university classes, and being the highly organized person that I am (some say OCD, but that's another story :) I already had a timetable mapped out and I was ready to go first thing. Alas, I discovered that not only was the Spanish class I wanted full already, meaning I had to chose a different language option and fit it it, I couldn't actually register until after 12 noon! And we had to leave Penticton ASAP because we had a booking on the ferry that evening. But I was at least able to put the classes I wanted in a 'shopping cart' to hopefully save a bit of hassle later.

So we packed up camp (and it's a good thing we bought a larger car last winter, because otherwise we wouldn't have had enough room - I don't pack light!) and made tracks for Vancouver. The last time I was on a trip in that direction, I was about 13, so not remembering how to get to the ferry, we relied quite heavily on old-school paper maps, the GPS on Trevor's BlackBerry (I LOVE having my own personal computer geek!) and printed Google maps.

I decided that we should head south out of Penticton and take the Crowsnest route, because I'm a big fan of scenic trips, and I'm pretty sure I've never been that way before. I had an anxious half an hour when we got stuck in construction, but we made good time after that. We stopped in Hope for lunch, but sadly got turned around in the ridiculous labyrinth of highways that surround that area, and ended up going BACK THE WAY WE CAME! I JUST about had a heart attack. Fortunately Trevor isn't nearly as excitable, and we only lost a few minutes before we were able to head in the right direction again. Whew!

We made it to Chilliwack by mid-afternoon, and drove through town until we found a coffee shop with free wi-fi for customers. I got tea and something...I don't even remember go along with the wireless password. I was able to quickly register for my classes, and then we were back on the road again, and this time my goal was to make our ferry sailing.

Thankfully we avoided construction and getting lost in Vancouver, and were perfectly on time to check in and get in line for the ferry. We even had a few minutes to check out the shops and get some supper. I don't know if words can adequately express my relief at being safely registered for school, and not missing our boat.

We were even the first car on to the ferry!

I don't ever remember such a windy crossing before, but I loved every second of it. It's been FAR too long since I pilgrimaged to the island!

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Friday, August 26, 2011

Dashing Dishes - April and May

I'm still just LOVING Dashing Dishes. We went for our August session, and we were a well-trained, efficient team: to the community centre, assembled, and home with everything in the freezer in HALF AN HOUR, people! It doesn't get much faster then that. We have a really good system - we get our bag of meat from the girl, go to the station, and one of us works the ingredients from left to right, and the other from right two left. If it's a two-bag dish, we split up and do a bag each. Then Trevor closes everything up while I get the instruction label, and then he takes it out to the cooler while I go get the meat for our next dish. We are an impressive example of teamwork, if I do say so myself. :)

In April we had two dishes with pesto - cavatappi with mushrooms, and scallops. I must just not be a pesto fan, because I didn't like either of them at all. The cavatappi is fun though - a twisty, spiralled type of pasta that I did like. We had Chinese BBQ Pork, cooked in the crockpot that we weren't a fan of, because the meat was too dry. I'm finding that common theme with most of their crockpot pork dishes, so we're going to try to stay away from those, as well as from the Pineapple Chicken, which was simply uninspiring.

We did enjoy the Greek Shrimp, although we left out the cheese sauce that came with it, and the Pizzaiola Pork. My only complaint about the Pizzaiola Pork is that it didn't re-heat well, although it was quite tasty the night we made it.

The big hits in April were the Hong Kong Chicken Drumsticks and the Smothered Roast Beef - both were excellent, and we'd definitely make them again.

In May we had really good results, except for the Maple Glazed Pork, which wasn't a favourite, although doing it in the oven made it turn out better then some of the other pork ones we've tried.

We really liked the Honey and Garlic Beef Stir Fry, the Parmesan Crusted Pork Chops, the Savory Chicken Drumsticks, the Slow Cooker Beef Roast, and the Thai Chicken with Basil.

However, we loved the Zesty Sauced Ribs. Meaty, saucy ribs stewed in the crockpot all day...they were divine. We could have eaten them every day that week!

We didn't do a session in June, because it fell while we were on holidays, and we actually still have one of the July dishes left, which is right now thawing in the fridge for dinner tomorrow. It needs to be baked in the oven for an hour, which made it not such an idea candidate for a work night dinner. So stay tuned for another Dashing Dishes post in a month or so, when we're done with the August dinners we just made!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Calgary Comic Expo

I picked up a new expression this weekend: "info dump". I've had such a busy summer that my blog updates are way behind, and this is probably going to be a bit of an info dump. :)

Our holiday really got started with our trip to the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo the weekend of June 17, here in Calgary.

Friday was sneak preview day, and I went down early to help my friends from Edge Publishing, Brian and Anita, to set up their vendor booth. Trevor came down after work, and we checked out the vendor booths, and then we went to a comedy show put on by a local geek troupe called the 404s. As with all comedy, it was a bit hit and miss, but we had a lot of fun.

They had a game where the audience could submit a line on a piece of paper, and as the actors played out a scene, they would randomly have to grab a piece of paper and work in the line on it. As the MC was explaining this, he pulled out a slip of paper and started to read. We knew right away it was the one we submitted, as it began: "Soft kitty". One of the girls in the troupe was literally beside herself with excitement, grabbed the slip of paper from him, and began to sing the unofficial theme song of the tv show the Big Bang Theory. And in a moment that made this geek girl's weekend, the whole theater began to sing along. :)

Saturday we got there early enough to check out the vendors again, and then get in line for my photo op with William Shatner. I had a noon appointment time, and I was supposed to be in line about 45 minutes before that. Well, it was a GONG show. They had more people lining up then they had room for, so they ushered us all out to sit in the bleachers in the corral. This was appreciated, because at least we got to sit down and watch the Summer Glau panel, which was interesting, because I haven't yet watched any of the shows she's been in, other than her guest spot on the Big Bang Theory. Then it was Christopher Judge's panel, which was the one panel that day that I had REALLY wanted to see.

For those who don't know, Christopher Judge was on Stargate SG 1, which I really like. Unfortunately, it was only about half way through when they took a batch of people out for their photo op, including me! Woe!

The photo op was quite disappointing - literally only a few seconds long, and I wasn't even allowed to touch William Shatner - I thought I'd at least get a handshake out of it. I'm glad that I did it, but I don't think I'd spend the money for a photo op with a big celebrity like that again. His 'performance' later in the day was really entertaining, and when he was listing all the projects that he's got on the go, I could only hope that I'll be that spry when I'm 80!

On Sunday we went to the Tia Carrere panel, which was interesting. She was in Relic Hunter and Lilo & Stitch, so I'm a bit of a fan. But by that point I was REALLY sick of all of this white hat business and this supposed 'vow' that goes along with it. We didn't actually stay for the whole thing because I wanted to go get good seats for the next event.

Jonathan Frakes is very entertaining. He was quite taken with the couch set up for him to sit on, and decided to take the most advantage of it.

The people-watching is always fun - some of the costumes are amazing.

There was a zombie flash-mob, dancing to Thriller.

My costume was one of the less elaborate.

Overall, I didn't find this Comic Expo as fulfilling as my first, which was last year. There weren't as many panels I was interested in, and I felt like there was too much emphasis on shopping rather then geeking out, and I was quite disappointed with the way the Shatner photo ops were organized. But that said the corral was a better, larger venue, and the crowd control was generally much better then last year. I'm not sure if I'll go again next year or not - maybe I'll see about volunteering instead of paying for admission.

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