Friday, 31 May 2013

Art party in an abondoned hospital? Don't mind if I do.

I was born at Women's College Hospital on a cold wintery day back in 1982.  Then my sister and all my first cousins were born there too.  Whenever any of my girls needed urgent care, we would visit the good folks at WCH.  The urgent care centre has now been closed for almost two years and they are getting ready to take down the old hospital walls and put up brand new ones in the hopes of being able to help the women of the world that much more.  It's pretty exciting stuff, if you ask me.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

It smells like Lisbon

There's a famous Portuguese song by songstress extraordinaire, Amalia Rodigues, that goes: "Cheira bem, cheira a Lisboa" (It smells good, it smells like Lisbon)... hmm maybe it loses some of its poetry in English. But if you were to ask Amalia why Lisbon smells so good, she would tell you that it's because it smells of flowers and the ocean.  Ah, now that's better.  

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Teal floral printed tiles? Was 1984 having a sale?

When you move into a house you get all the things that made you fall in love with it, but you also inherit all of their bizarre style choices. My main bath on the second floor was a perfect example of this. 

Friday, 24 May 2013

Twisting up my fingers for the W



I remember the 90's and twistin' up my fingers for the West Siiiide and turning them up for "Whatever", but I've got a new W now, and it's the W Trek in Torres Del Paine National Park, Chile.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

I've been where the streets are paved in gold


Don't get things twisted, I'm not talking about the gold measured in karats, I'm talking about some of the softest golden sand you've ever had the pleasure of digging your feet into. It's everywhere and it's amazing.


 

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

I don't camp, or at least that's what I tell people

It's true, I confess: I am a Canadian who does not enjoy camping. (GASP!)  And since we're in the mood for confessions, I can't skate either (super double GASP!).  Have I just crushed some of the stereotypes you held so dear? Sorry, but I promise things are about to get better.

I have no desire to go camping ever, yet somehow my adventurous spirit takes me to far away lands and often sends me on an adventure where it's just me and the great outdoors with nothing but a sheet of nylon or burlap between us. And I don't really ever do anything the small way, so my very first camping trip was on Morton Island, Australia, not Algonquin park, like it is for most of my Toronto counterparts. 

It was a pretty great experience from a first time camping perspective.  We went snorkeling, saw dolphins, did some sand boarding and had dinner made on the barby.  And I was still super jet-lagged from jumping a day into the future, so I slept really well despite the warnings of snakes and wild boars.  Seriously, wild boars? Who do I think I am, Dundee?

Flash forward a few years and I'm on an overnight bus from Fez to Rissani, headed for an excursion into the Sahara desert.  Want to ride a camel, forget the zoo, I'm headed to the biggest desert in the world after Antarctica and the Arctic.  Why the heck not? I couldn't get that close to the desert and resist the temptation to explore it.  We spent a few hours at the auberge where the buildings were made like the original Berber structures of straw and mud before saddling up and heading out into the great expanse of the Sahara. 

Before I go any further I would just like to take a moment to clarify what saddling up on a camel is like. I don't know that it would have changed anything for me had I known before I went, but it may have given me an opportunity to mentally prepare myself.  Saddles on camels are not at all like saddles on horses. They consist of a hard donut around the hump, which is then covered by a blanket. There's a metal bar that come up so that you can hold yourself up.  It's a bumpy ride, so you'll be glad to have this over reins. This is not an especially comfortable experience.  In fact, I can tell you that my, ahem, undercarriage was quite sore after an hour and a half ride going up and down sand dunes.  

That being said, the experience was magical.  There I was with a turban
wrapped on my head, sitting upon a camel and heading into the Sahara at sunset.  Hello? Who is really going to complain about that?

Over one last dune and our campsite was revealed.  At first I was a little taken aback by the semi-permanent burlap structures? Like, where are the zip up, repel everything tents? But then as I thought about it, I was glad to keep it "real".  We got off our camels, and walked up one more dune.  I swear I was walking funny and feared that the camel ride had done permanent damage.  Mom, I hope you're not expecting grandkids! We walked to the top of the sand dune - so much easier without shoes! and sat at the top to watch the sun fall beyond the horizon.  We saw the most beautiful display of colours : blue, red, orange pink. And we all watched in silence, totally mesmerised by the power of that moment and of the desert.


Once the sun was out of sight, and while there was still enough light to find our way, we headed back to our campsite and enjoyed a delicious tagine.  The tagine was invented as a way to cook food without having to use a lot of water and in a place like the desert, that is super important.  As steam rises to the top of the tagine, it cools, condensation forms on the sides and water falls back into the stew.  Brilliant!

After dinner we were treated to a drum circle under the stars.  Is this even real life I'm describing right now? The Berbers played music on their drums, sang songs and talk to us about what it's like to live in the desert.  And since we were in a small group, there were only four of us, if felt extra special. As the evening went on and the sky got darker, we started to settle down and lay on the blankets and stared up at the stars.  It was still and there was only the sound of the wind in the sand.  I wish I had the words to describe the majesty of the night sky in the desert, but I just don't think the words exist.  The word for stars in Berber is Etran, and the sky was covered in them. COVERED! Like spilling your silver glitter all over a black table cloth, covered.  And then just when we thought it couldn't get any more spectacular a shooting star soared across the sky and brought light over the desert.  We were breathless at first and then couldn't help but softly squeal in delight.  How could we be THIS lucky?



And since we knew that nothing could top that marvelous display, we retired to our burlap tent.  The next morning, we woke in time to watch a fiery sunrise before heading back into our tent for a quick nap before getting back on the camel.  I was dreading the ride back as I was still sore from the previous day.  I guess it's just something your body gets used to over time, but for a rookie like me it was rough! After another hour and a half bobbing up and down on the camel and shielding our faces from sand being blown in the wind, we had arrived back at the auberge.  Leaving the desert was like waking from a dream, except this time it had actually happened and I had the sand in my ears to prove it. 

I am so thankful for the opportunity to camp out with the Berbers, but if you ask me to go camping the next long weekend, I'm likely to decline.  Camping isn't really my thing. 




Monday, 13 May 2013

This ain't no Kentucky Derby, this is ROLLER DERBY!

By now many of you have seen or at least heard about roller derby.  Whether you were watching it in the 70's, had a brief introduction to it in the film Whip It, or are an avid derby fan, we can all agree that these roller girls are f'n badass.  Seriously, I just saw a girl slam her chin on the concrete floor and get back up.  Are you kidding me? I would have just curled into the fetal position and cried for mommy. 

I've been attending bouts (look at me using the lingo) for about a year now and it's always impressive. It's always a great display of good sportsmanship, agility, strength, perseverance and FUN! One of the joys of roller derby is that the only thing that's taken seriously is the bout.  I mean, with derby names like, "Up Her Cut", "DefeCaitlin", and "Deuce Caboose", it's pretty obvious that derby has it's own particular sense of humour. Or maybe it even gives you the opportunity to feel like your very own super hero.  I mean, I'd feel that way if I was zooming around at the speed of lightning, wearing funky coloured tights and fighting for position.  Isn't that what superheroes do? And when they fall they pick themselves up again - Thanks Mr. Wayne and Alfred, you are so right on this one!

Ok, here's a brief description of how derby works:
Two teams on an oval track. Each team has a jammer.  The jammers are racing against eachother around the track while trying to weave through the blockers.  The blockers are trying to prevent the opposing team's blocker from getting by whilst trying to create a path for their own jammer to get through.  You can see how this can get a "little" physical. Points are awarded to the lead jammer's team based on how many opposing blockers she passes.  The team with the most points wins.

For this season of roller derby, I thought that I'd introduce a friend to the sport. 
Vron repping her
Gore, Gore Rollergirls and
Death Track Dolls
team colours. Congrats
to both teams for
making the playoffs!
I thought that it might be right up her alley, and it was.  Within the first 5 minutes of the game she was the crazed fan in the stands.  And by the end of the first bout, she was hooked.  In fact, she went out the next day and purchased her very own "fresh meat" package.  I can't wait for her to get on those skates and show herself what she's made of.  In the meantime, I'm going to keep jostling her for position on the couch, in line for the bus, or by the bar.  I mean, practice makes perfect, right?


Want to know more, here's some info:
Toronto Roller Derby: http://www.torontorollerderby.com/
Where to buy roller skates: http://www.rollerbug.com/
Where it all happens: Downsview Park, The Hanger. Tickets cost less then $20 bucks, and they serve beer.  What else do you need to know?

They're just going into playoffs now, so if you'd like to check it out, now is the PERFECT time.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Let's get ready to BATL!

I went out for a good friend's birthday last night, but we didn't go out for dinner or dancing. There was no mingling with people I barely new. Actually, there was very little talking at all because we were too busy trying to beat each other in an axe throwing competition. Yes, you read that correctly. We were throwing axes and it was GREAT! 

Our tournament began with a quick lesson and a few practice shots. Learning to throw an axe is pretty easy, perfecting your toss is not quite so simple. You have to consider your aim, your body position, your release and your power. So at first it seems like a piece of cake: hold the axe with two hands, raise it over and behind your head, lunge forward and let that sucker fly! And you do just that, but your axe slams into the bullseye and falls to the floor. Fail! It takes most people a few tries to start getting the hang of it. And once you get the hang of it, it's awesome! 

Check out the ladies throwing 'em axes!
I chatted with Trevor, my instructor for a while and got a little background on this axe throwing business. They've been at their current location for about two years, but had previously been axe throwing in a house! My jaw dropped. Does that sound stupid, crazy dangerous to anyone else? Boy am I glad they found a bigger space. They are even considering opening another location to keep up with the demand. 

video
Not to brag, but I hit the bullseye.  What! What!

League play happens Sunday through Wednesday and anyone is welcome to come by and check it out. You can even get some pointers from the pros. I think my toss could use a few tips of the trade. 


The deets: www.batl.ca
213 Sterling Ave.

Friday, 10 May 2013

YOLO or FOMO?

We've all heard the term, You Only Live Once.  And after the magic wand of short hand texting, presto change-o, we get YOLO! Seeing as how you are currently reading a blog, I will assume that you are at least moderately internet savvy, so I'll spare you from any more YOLOisms.

But in my very own YOLO moment, I found myself alone in Argentina and befriending a lass from Ireland who introduced me to a term that she was applying to herself: FOMO, or Fear Of Missing Out

She had been travelling for several months and had found that she wasn't only taking on adventures because she was excited and eager to try X, but she was doing them because she didn't want to be the only one who hadn't.  Can't you just hear your mom in the background, 'If everybody else jumped off a cliff..."?

And here we were, two grown ass women travelling on our own talking about the fear of missing out on all the fun others might be having.  But I don't know that it's about peer pressure at this stage.  No one is trying to encourage you to do this or that against your better judgement, you just can't resist the temptation.  Someone has a fun idea and you're compelled to go with it.  And isn't that the whole point of travelling? To meet new people and try new things? It is for me.

So maybe it's not FOMO, maybe it's TOJI: the Thrill Of Joining In

Think about it.  I might be on to something here.



Thursday, 9 May 2013

Let's go shopping!

Sounds fun, right? But what if I told you we were shopping for windows? Womp, Womp.  No way does that sound as shopping for a new pair of kicks, freak 'em dress, or hats.  I love shopping for hats.  Why don't we wear more hats? Let's bring back hats! But first, let's get back to talking about windows.
I bought a house that's a hundred years old.  I call him Don Alejandro and I love him, but like any relationship it takes WORK.  And this year, his peepers weren't looking so bright, actually it kind of looked like he was crying.  Condensation had started to collect in between the panes of glass.  That's BAD! So I had to start shopping for some new windows.

I thought that the Home Show would be a great place to start as there would be lots of vendors all in the same place so that it would be easier to compare.  I had also started to do a little Internet reading to try to prepare myself.

But as it turns out, shopping for windows is a lot like shopping for mascara (stay with me guys).  You walk into the store and there's lots of shiny packaging all promising to be the best as thickening, lengthening or straightening, but in the end they are just tubes of black goo that all do more or less the same job. Mascara also tries to sell you bells and whistles, fatter applicators, applicators with more bristles and sticky primers.  But really when it comes down to it, it's how you work it that determines how good it looks.  Do you follow me? No?  Well then let me break it down for you. 

Everybody at the show is trying to sell you their product.  It's business, of course they're going to tell you that their product is the best.  But here's what I discovered:
1-They are all energy star rated
2- They are all use Argon gas between the panes of glass
3- They all have some sort of E coating that helps protect you from all the evil rays of wonderful sunshine.

So forget about comparing all of that.  It doesn't matter. It's all the same black goo.  

But here are the things you should consider: 
I didn't even consider wood window frames because the maintenance is so high and really, who can be bothered with that these days?

These are the key points that I found debated between Fibreglass and Vinyl:
Fibreglass windows offer much less insulation than vinyl windows. PVC windows are designed to trap pockets of air and thus are very efficient in keeping out cold. Fibreglass offers to up to 3 times less insulation than vinyl. So if you are looking for insulation your choice has to be vinyl windows.
Fibreglass is composed of glass fibres and resins which are better able to expand and contract as the weather changes allowing it to maintain its integrity. This makes fibreglass windows ideal for hot climates or climates with extreme temperature fluctuations
Fibreglass windows are relatively durable – they resist rotting, warping, and cracking – but will need routine painting to maintain their colour and appearance..
Vinyl windows are a great option if you are a low-maintenance person.
They are rust resistant, impervious to bugs, and don’t warp or peel. With some minimal bi-annual maintenance, your vinyl windows will be good to go
Fibreglass windows are made from sand and composite replacement windows are made from sand and wood pulp left over after manufacturing of wood windows. That makes them more Eco-friendly than vinyl, a petroleum-based plastic.
Vinyl is recyclable.

OK, so you've picked the material for your frames and you're sold on Argon gas and E-Coating. Great! Now comes what I think is perhaps the most important part.  Installation. This could make it or break it for you.  You could have the Maserati of windows, but if they mess up on installation it's game over. So shop around your neighbourhood and see who's had their windows done and ask your neighbours about their experience.  There are also lots of neighbourhood blogs and the Better Business Bureau will give it to you straight.   

A word to the wise, almost everyone offers a 20 year warranty, but here's the catch.  Some new businesses are really old businesses that shut down and reopened under a new name to run away from their warranty issues.  Sneaky, sneaky! So do your background checks!

The process is exhausting, but hopefully when it's all said and done your place will be warm and cozy in the winter and cool and comfy in the summer all while saving those those all important nickles you're setting aside for your next vacation.
  
 


 


Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Go BIG or go HOME in Las Vegas




Seriously, If you're not up for a total assault on all of your senses DO NOT go to Vegas.  If you're not set to overindulge DO NOT go to Vegas.  If you're not prepared to put mind over matter to keep going without sleep and feet covered in blisters DO NOT go to Vegas. But if you're ready to live it up like you're on "Jersey Shore" or some shit like that, then RUN to Vegas.  Don't walk, RUN, or maybe fly.  Ya, that's probably better, fly. 

Well, we're already here.....


One of these days, those are going to be my famous last words.

I have found myself a great travel companion who just also happens to be one of my bestest friends in the whole while world.  I am LUCKY! Seriously, the right travel buddy can make a trip and the wrong one can break it.  When we travel we usually have some sort of a loose plan and then just go with the flow.

And until now that has paid off, well mostly.  There have only been a few instances where our favourite travel catch phrase, "well, we're already here..." has gotten us into any sort of real or perceived danger.

Ooooo, I feel a story coming on
...
Chefchaouen, Morocco
If you've never been there, I would highly recommend it.  It's beautiful, peaceful and close to nature.  Also, if you're interested in a little herbal refreshment, and I'm not just talking mint tea, this is the area you'd like to be in. 

Chefchaouen is also not very far from the bridge of God - a rock formation that forms a bridge between two peaks - and some very pretty waterfalls.  Our hostel arranged a cab ride for us with three Slovenian tourists who were also looking forward to a little h
iking.


Side bar: don't be fooled when they tell you that the cab seats 5 passengers.  That's a half lie.  It's a sedan.  So while we did all manage to squeeze ourselves in, it was HOT and uncomfortable.  "Hi, nice to meet you, I'm Andrea.  Sorry, is that your lap I'm sitting on?"  Or maybe they just meant 5 small people and not 3 people over six feet tall plus two more average height folk?  We survived, and after all, it's all part of the adventure, isn't it?

The cab driver let us off at the beginning of the trail and agreed to meet us again at X o'clock.  Great! Then we found a guide to take us to the waterfall and the Bridge of God.  Thank goodness for those Spanish lessons!

And we're off! Hiking the Moroccan countryside.  It's beautiful, the weather is perfect and we're enjoying the company of our new Slovenian friends.  About an hour and a have in we arrive at a waterfall.  This is a regular stop for tourists and they have picnic tables set up and a little hut where you can purchase refreshments.  We hop into the water and splash around in the waterfall for a while before Roc, one of our new Slovenian friends, says that the guide just informed him that there's another waterfall that's even BIGGER and BETTER than this one about another hour away.  Who doesn't want to see bigger and better?  So, my trusty travel buddy and I swap glances and say, "well, we're already here".  And with that, off we were on an unexpected adventure. 

Ok, so maybe something got lost in translation somewhere, because our nice leisurely hike was now teetering on the side of mountaineering.  The paths had mostly disappeared and we were now crossing streams with water higher than our knees, jumping over rocks and gripping to the rides of boulders.  It was fun and exciting, of course, but it was also really tough and we didn't make it through without a few bumps and bruises. 

Roughly an hour and a half later, we were there.  We could hear the roar of the
waterfall.  We just had to climb, yes climb, over one last set of giant slippery rocks and we would be there.  And then we could feel the mist from the water that was falling from a hundred meters above.


So we did what any girls would do and got right “ef”  in there!
1- Waterfalls are cold
2- They hurt, like a lot.  How do they make it look so sexy and effortless in Sports Illustrated and on the covers of romance novels? Maybe we should've just picked a smaller waterfall.  Silly city girls. 

We were the only non-locals there. It's always a special treat to be taken away from the touristy spots.  And we were enjoying the sight and sounds of the waterfall and the glimmers of sunlight peeking through the trees. It was perfect.  Well, until our guide started shouting "yalla, yalla" and that meant it was time to head back.  And you guessed it, we had to go back the way we came.  Um, exhausting.

So at this point we've done about 6 hours of some pretty aggressive hiking when our guide points in the direction of the Bridge of God.  That's about another hour STEEP hike up the side of the mountain.  Well, if that's all and we're already here...


It's just up the mountain
and around the corner.
And in a flash off we went, through the river, around the shed and up and up and up the mountain.  I couldn't help but want to ask the dreaded travel question: Are we there yet?
We were tired, thirsty and hot. But just when you're at the part where you don't think you can go no more, you turn the corner and you can see the bridge and it charges you with new found strength and determination.  Just one final surge and you're there and you can barely believe that you've made it.  All the while, your guide looks like he just went for a walk to the corner store to grab some milk.  Way to rub it in there buddy!




But again, we were blessed to have the view all to ourselves.  When does that ever happen twice in the same day? Crazy!

And just as you get a hold of your breath and the throbbing stops in your legs you realize that you still have to get back down (you can insert your own expletives here).  But we were reassured that the way down was easier through the marijuana fields and that's the way we were headed.  Easier, yes but still not easy.  There were still some pretty steep steps down and with tired feet jamming into the front of my hiking shoes and weary knees, the trip down definitely had its own challenges. 

After 8 hours of hiking we had made it to the end of our journey.  We were tired, sweaty, covered in dirt and sore all over, but we had done it and it was great!  

Now, where's our cabby? 

Monday, 6 May 2013

Party like it's 60 million years ago, 200 BCE, or 2013. It's up to you.

Here's a sentence I never thought I'd say: "Dude, I had the craziest time at the museum last night!" But I did and you would too if you'd been to Friday Night Live at the Royal Ontario Museum or #FNLROM for all you fancy twitter folk. 

Ok, so here's the deal: For 6 weeks in the spring and then another six weeks in the fall, the ROM turns into a party place on Friday nights from 7-11 PM.  Why didn't anyone think of this sooner? It's brilliant.  Admission is $12 versus the regular $16 , so we're already ahead of the game.  Most of the gallery spaces are open and some of them have bars set up.  Woah, woah, woah! Am I talking crazy, or did I just buy a beer while standing next to a T-REX? No, I totally just bought a beer next to a T-REX.  This is awesome!

But it's not all about getting crunk next to ancient artifacts, although that does have it's own special appeal.  They also have DJs, live music and food venders (Thanks for that delicious brisket sammy La Rivolta). And don't forget, you get to check out all the cool stuff at the ROM.  You know, dinosaurs, mummies, swords... (erm, that's kinda sounding like my last house party)... roman statues, taxadermied animals (I did not have those at my party).

The bars and vendors don't use cash, they use ROM bucks.  ROM bucks come in denominations of $6 and can be purchased at the entrance or one of the ROM buck tables throughout the museum. 

Last Friday was the first one of this season which goes until June 21, 2013.  And to kick off the season, the ROM celebrated the Junos with a very high energy live performance by Jully Black followed by a DJ who kept the party people dancing.  Oh, and did I mention they had a game of pong projected on the museum wall?  Ya, that happened too.

If you're in Toronto this spring, do yourself a favour and check this party out. 

Ok, here are the links:
The talented Ms. Jully Black: http://www.myspace.com/jullyblack
Tasty treats: http://www.larivolta.ca/ 

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Where do I go and what do I do?



Alright, so you've saved your pennies, wait those don't count any more, nickles, and you've booked off some vacation time.  GREAT! You should be really proud of yourself for doing such a fantastic job.  Now you just have to figure out what you're going to do with all that coin and free time.  I say it's about time for a vacation, don't you?

Now, if you're like me and want to go EVERYWHERE, then picking a location can be tricky.  It can also be hard to decide where to go if you haven't done much travelling.  Where do you start?

Here's how I go about choosing a vacation location and planning my trip.  I start with a list of places or areas I'd like to visit.  This is slightly challenging as I want to see the "whole" world, but I can usually narrow it down by what kind of adventure I'm looking for and how many nickles are jingling in my pocket. 

Then with my list I take to my computer and the interwebs.  Thank goodness for the WWW! My favourite first stop is www.frommers.com . It provides you with a great overview of the weather, times to visit, and suggested itineraries which will give you an idea of how many days you'll need to see a city or country.  If you're planning on moving around a bit, knowing how long you need to see each place is really important. 

By this time you've probably filtered down to the places you'd like to visit on your travels, and you're super excited!  I'm excited just thinking about you planning your trip. 

The next step is to start figuring out which things you'd like to see and do in your location of choice.  This is where the Internet, the bookstore and your social network start to play a role in your trip planning. Then plot them on a map , for example: museums, shops, restaurants, historic sites, etc. I know this sounds like a pain in your backside, but trust me, it's so worth it!  If there's public transit, and you plan on taking it,  (I recommend this experience to all travellers as it connects you with the real heartbeat of the city) then have a look at how it accesses these places.

Now you get to pick your accommodations! Now that you've plotted all your must-sees, you'll have an idea of the area that will be most convenient to stay in.  You don't want to waste your vacation time travelling to the opposite side of the city every day.  You'd rather be eating gelato, sipping on mint tea or munching on an empanada (seriously, why are they so good?).

And there you go, most of the hard work is done! Remember not to over schedule yourself, you'll want to give yourself enough time to appreciate the things you went all the way there to see and allow yourself a little spontaneity.

Here are a few of my favourite websites:
Government of Canada Travel advisories: http://travel.gc.ca/travelling/advisories 
For flights in Europe - www.edreams.com
For city getaways - www.bookit.com
For organized adventure tours - www.gadventures.com

and my new favourite app: TripAdvisor city guides (once downloaded, you don't need an internet connection and it provides you with an interactive map, restaurant, attraction and shopping suggestions)

Have fun and be SAFE!