Tag Archives: Canada

Cruciferous Vegetables, Cheer Competitions, Cakes, and Canada…

Jim and I were happy to survive another busy weekend…back-to-back cheer competitions for Anna and Hope Saturday and Sunday!

Jim dropped Anna off at Simonds High School for her competition for 9 a.m. on Saturday…on the way home, he and Brianna and Hope stopped at Costco for some essentials (and not-so-essentials)…I got my mango juice, and Anna got her fix of Veggie Sticks.  We’re also stocked back up on acetominophen and allergy meds.  While they were gone, I got up and checked my e-mail, and watered my plants.  The cruciferous vegetables are taking off nicely…I have broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and purple Brussels sprouts (will post photos later this week)!  So far, Jake hasn’t made an effort to jump up on the table and destroy them!

We got to the cheer competition fairly early, and Hope and I went in and grabbed seats in the bleachers while Jim parked the car. We brought our pillows again…there were 10 teams competing, and we knew we were in for a long afternoon! Luckily, the gym at Simonds is fairly large…

Anna’s team looked tired during their performance…all those extra hours of practice seemed to take their toll. Anna is covered with bruises from people falling on her (she’s a “back” and catches people). I was surprised when they made callbacks again, along with three other teams!  Five out of ten teams dropped their flyer at least once (no one hit the floor, thank goodness, but there were far too many “close ones” for my liking).  A toddler about Elise’s age who was sitting behind us cried for most of the afternoon…taking little kids to a three-hour event is not a brilliant idea!

The Harbour View High girls nailed their second outing! They were enthusiastic, and tight…I thought surely they’d place in the Top Three this time…I was wrong! Foiled again…their Provincial Championship is two weeks from now. Maybe the third time will be the charm?

Anna also performed with a quad or stunt group at this competition.  She had a different flyer than her usual one during the team events.

Anna (top left) with her quad in their final pose...photo by Jim

We stopped at Dairy Queen on the way home for a snack, and also at Canadian Tire for some rope…Hope had asked Jim to make her a tire swing in the back yard.

When we got home, we discovered that Jake had been having fun with Jim’s lunch bag in our absence…another Rubbermaid lunch container was now history, and a new lunchbag would also need to be purchased.

We were pretty exhausted Saturday night…I didn’t do any laundry, and no swing was installed out back.

Sunday morning, Jim got up early to drive Hope to her Middle School Provincial Cheerleading Championships…the girls had to be there by 8 a.m…luckily, the venue was Devin and Brianna’s high school (and Jim’s alma mater), Kennebecassis Valley High, so it was only a 15 minute drive from our house.  Before they left, Jim took some photos of Hope before her very last cheer competition (she doesn’t want to cheer next year).

Hope before provincials...photo by Jim

There was a huge lineup when we got to the school…we grabbed the first seats we could find!  Jim took his camera and roamed around, looking for the best photo ops.  After a long competition (12 teams – boy, did I regret forgetting the pillows to sit on!), Quispamsis Middle School wasn’t called back, but had improved significantly since their last outing.  It was fun to see some “different” creative stunts that some of the teams performed (and it was another accident-free competition…hooray!).  I appreciated that the DJ at this competition remembered there were some members of the crowd born before 1995, and played some 80’s music instead of the constant current pop drivel that normally dominates these events.  Anna was suitably horrified when I started bobbing my head when they played “Footloose” (my work here is done!).

Since it was Hope’s last competition, Anna decided we should celebrate by eating supper at Vito’s (somehow, I missed the part where she offered to pay for it!).  We had a fairly relaxed meal.  At one point, Hope commented, “Hey Anna…I can sit with my legs apart because I have spankies on!”  We all laughed (we weren’t nearly as amused when Hope started blowing her straw all over the table).  My Creamy Pesto Chicken Club sandwich wasn’t as good as I’d hoped, but the fries were great.  Jim polished off his Chicken Parmigiana in record time, and Anna finished her Gnocchi au Gratin with some difficulty (we also had a lively argument about how to pronouce “gnocchi” – I was right).  Hope had the last half of her pizza packed up to take home…she took it for her lunch today.

When we got home, Hope was happy to see that Grandad was hanging up the tire swing…she helped by holding the ladder steady.  I started four loads of laundry while Jim refilled the bird smorgasbord…he reported seeing another pigeon out there…luckily, we don’t get many of those!  Anna and Hope went out to try out the new swing.

Later, the girls and I watched Cake Challenge on the Food Network: The contestants were asked to make a cake to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of Dora the Explorer.  One young woman’s design included a 4-foot Dora figure with a 2-foot wide head…huge mistake!  As one of her competitors commented after Dora lost her head, “That was cake carnage!” I have to say that I was impressed that the baker and her husband/assistant took the “epic fail” a lot better than most people would have…very classy!

Dora, before she became The Headless Toddler...photo from blog.oakleafcakes.com

We watched Amazing Race before going to bed…let’s just say “whiners can’t be winners”!  I also don’t think I’d want Gary and Mallory or Zev and Justin rescuing me if I were ever buried during an avalanche!

Today is an important day in Canada…we are voting in a new federal government. We have been in “election mode” for about six weeks here, and will finally get the chance to cast our very important ballots. Jim and I will be stopping on the way home from work to exercise our right (and indeed our responsibility as Canadians!) to vote. If you are eligible to vote today, please do so…together we can decide the future of our great country!

Google Canada's election graphic

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Filed under family, food, rants, satire

Rock It Science…Couch Curling for Dummies…

I admit it…I am what’s known as a “couch curler”…I have watched and enjoyed curling every winter for the last 30 years or so (I can’t play because of my bad knees).  It all started when I was about eighteen…I was just coming off my Wayne Gretzky crush, when I stumbled on a Junior Curling event on TV.  It was 1980, and skip John Kawaja from Northern Ontario won it all.  He was gorgeous (Wayne who?)!

John played Third for Ed Werenich's winning 1983 Brier Team...that's John second from the right...photo by Doug Shanks, Canadian Press

Having been made aware of my love for a sport that causes many Americans to scratch their heads and ask “What’s that?”, my friend Todd urged me to do a piece on curling: “Wendy…you really, really, really need to post something about the sport of curling.”  The Brier (the Canadian national men’s tournament – the Super Bowl of curling) was just played this past weekend, and I like my readers to be happy, so…here goes…I present “Couch Curling for Dummies”, a fun guide which will allow you to impress your friends with your vast knowledge of a sport that most people south of the 49th Parallel don’t know exists!

The Game Has Ends and is Called a Draw Even When the Score Isn’t Tied

A traditional curling match or draw has ten ends, which aren’t “endings”, but sections of the game, like innings in baseball or quarters in football (a match can be shorter than ten ends, if one team is getting their butts kicked and forfeits!).  Each team delivers eight stones for each end.  The ends themselves aren’t timed individually, but each team has 73 minutes to throw their stones during the regular game, and the option of taking two 60-second timeouts.  If extra ends are required, they get an extra 10 minutes and one timeout per end to play. 

The Team Has Ends

Each curling team or rink has afront end: the lead and the second.  The lead delivers his two stones, followed by the second, who throws his two.  These folks are the main sweepers for the team, usually the muscles of the outfit.  The team’s back end is where the brains are, the third (or mate, usually only in the platonic sense) and the skip.  The third plays after the second, and offers advice to the skip about team strategy.  The third also sweeps when the lead and the second throw their stones.  The skip is the boss, and is usually the best player on the team (he almost never sweeps, unless a stone needs “extra help” to get where they want it to go!).  He calls the shots…skips need to be both smart and good yellers (see “What the Skip Yells” below).  People who curl nearly always have day jobs…curling doesn’t pay the big bucks like hockey, and players usually travel on their own dime!  Curlers are people you’d run into when you’re getting groceries or picking up your kids at school.  I’ve never heard of a curler using “performance-enhancing” drugs.

The Game is Played on a Sheet With Houses and Hacks at Each End

The sheet is a carefully-prepared patch of ice about 150 feet long by 16.5 feet wide.  Small droplets of water are intentionally sprayed on the ice that cause irregularities on the surface (pebble), allowing the rocks to curl (travel in a curved fashion rather than a straight line).  At each end of the sheet, there are three concentric rings, a red one measuring 4′, surrounded by a white one measuring 8′, inside a blue one measuring 12’…these are the houses, or the targets that the players are shooting for.  In the middle of the house is the button, a one-foot circle which is the bullseye…stones of the same colour closest to the button at the conclusion of an end will score (see “How To Score Points”).  Twelve feet behind each button are the hacks, two rubber-lined holes 3″ from the centre line which give the thrower something to push against with his foot when delivering the throw (he would choose the appropriate hole based on which foot he pushes with).  There are also horizontal lines on the sheet: the near hog line is closest to the hack…the player must let go of his rock before the stone touches the near hog line, and the rock must cross the far hog line (without crossing the back line or touching the sides) to be in play.  The T-line goes through the middle of the house, and is the point where the front end has to stop sweeping once the rock touches it.  Only the skip can sweep the rock after it’s crossed the T-line, and this is also the only point at which the other team can sweep a rock. 

Curling sheet – CL: Centreline • HOL: Hogline • TL: Teeline • BL: Backline • HA: Hackline with Hacks • FGZ: Free Guard Zone (diagram from Wikipedia.org)

Everybody Has A Broom, Rocks, a Slider and a Gripper

Each team member carries a broom, which is really a long-handled brush used to balance when delivering a rock, clean the ice in front of a stone (sweeping lightly), and sweep a rock, which means really digging into the ice in front of a stone while it’s in motion to make it go faster and straighter (this is where the “muscle” comes in for the front end of the team).  The rocks are 38 to 44 lb. polished chunks of granite fitted with coloured handles, usually either red or yellow in tournament play.  A narrow 5″ ring on the bottom of the rock is the only part of the stone that actually touches the ice.  Sliders are slipped over the toe of one shoe of the curlers on their sliding foot so that they can glide easily down the ice when delivering their shots.  The other shoe is their gripper.  Some curlers use curling gloves to grip the rock or the broom more easily.  Players use stopwatches to track rock speed and make decisions about strategy.

Taking A Shot

To deliver a shot, a player crouches and places his gripper shoe in the hack with the stone in one hand (resting on the ice) and his broom in the other.  Aiming toward the skip who is holding his broom where he wants the stone at the other end of the sheet, the player rests his own broom on the ice for balance as he pulls the stone back, then lunges smoothly out from the hack pushing the stone ahead while the slider foot is moved in front of the gripper foot, which trails behind.

The Canadian team taking a shot at the 2006 Olympics (photo by Bjarte Hetland)

Once the rock comes out of the shooter’s hand, it’s up to the sweepers to make sure it gets where it’s supposed to go…the skip tells them what to do.

Types of Shots

Making good shots in curling takes years and years of practice, as well as a steady hand.  Good sweepers help too.

A draw shot is one that is simply sent into play without knocking another stone out.  A freeze is where a stone is shot so that it lands as close as possible to another stone already in play, and makes it nearly impossible to take out.  The draw and the freeze are the precision shots, because they travel much more slowly than the takeout shots, and are harder to control. 

A takeout is one where the shooter is removing another stone in play by hitting it with his own: in a peel, the shooter hits the other stone hard enough that the shooter’s stone will also go out of play (if he wants to blank the end – see “How To Score Points”).  A raise is where the shooter uses the delivered stone to bump another one forward, and a raise takeout is a shot in which the delivered stone bumps a second stone which in turn knocks a third stone out of play (also called a runback).         

What the Skip Yells

1. “Hard” or “Hurry Hard“.  Tells the sweepers to sweep harder and faster.

2. “Offor “Whoa”.  Tells the sweepers to stop sweeping a rock, but not necessarily cleaning it.

3. “Right Off“.  Tells the sweepers not to sweep or clean a rock.

4. “Never“.  This lets the sweepers know that the rock needs to curl and that they should stay off of it.      

Note: These commands rarely work with children or if one is caught in a traffic jam.

How to Score Points – Slide Softly and Carry a Big Hammer

Points are scored after each end depending on how many rocks a team has closest to the button in the house without an opposing stone intermixed (one point for each rock)…with good players, it is rare to score more than 3 points in a given end (common scores are 1 or 2).  The rock closest to the button is called the shot rock, while the next closest one is second shot, and so on.  Only one team can score points in each end.

The team who delivers the last rock of the end is said to have the hammer – this is a huge advantage.  Who has the hammer in the first end is usually determined by a coin toss…after that, whoever didn’t score in the preceding end has the hammer in the next one.  If the end is blanked, the team who has the hammer keeps it for the next end.  If a team manages to score in an end where they don’t have the hammer, it’s called a steal (no one is penalized in this case).

After the Game

Once a draw is finished, the players generally shake hands, gather up their stuff, and get off the ice.  Later, they may stack the brooms, which means socializing with each other or their opponents, usually over a beer or two.  They might also trade curling pins which are often collected by players and spectators alike, and displayed on sweaters, vests and hats.

Pin collectors Roger and Bob compare notes at this year's Brier...photo by Morris Lamont, London Free Press

The next time you’ve got three hours to kill on a winter weekend, flip on a curling game on TSN, and curl up on the couch with some popcorn!  I’m looking forward to watching the PVR of The Brier tonight, even though I already know who won.  I’ll be yelling “Hurry hard!” at Glen Howard’s Ontario team!

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Filed under memories, satire, self-discovery

Très Jolie?…Non…

I will start this post with a disclaimer borrowed from Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory: “I am not insane!  My mother had me tested” (it’s been a while, though). 

Further disclaimer: any resemblance to actual people (except Jim and I and our kids) is completely coincidental…this piece is strictly entertainment (historical details are accurate).  If it makes you want to come and visit Saint John, it’s a bonus!

It’s all my friend, Omawarisan‘s, fault.  A few months ago, I stumbled innocently upon Oma’s blog after he was Freshly Pressed for the umpteenth time…Oma has his own nutty delightfully-skewed perspective on ordinary aspects of everyday life…things most of us never take the time to think about!  When I found out about his hare-brained brilliant plan to send an action figure of Angelina Jolie to bloggers around the world, I signed up right away to be a stop on “The Jolie”‘s Canadian Tour.  That’s how this box arrived in my mailbox last Friday:

Bad things come in small packages...

The Jolie is the “famous visitor” I referred to in this post last week.

I could hear The Jolie yelling as we pulled up to the community mailbox where Jim and I pick up our mail…it had been a couple of days since we’d checked it because of a snowstorm.  I decided to leave her in the box until she calmed down a little…I could see that Oma had spared no expense in sending The Jolie to Canada!

I prepared a pork stir-fry for the family…I had to turn on the exhaust fan to drown out the swearing coming from the box on the counter!  After supper, I released our guest.  I checked the box in vain for luggage…The Jolie didn’t even have a fanny-pack!  What kind of tourist comes to Saint John, New Brunswick without one of those?

Fanny pack...essential equipment for all Saint John tourists...

The Jolie drowned her sorrows in a cup of King Cole tea (made in Sussex, New Brunswick…it recently began using paper for teabags after its supply of gauze dried up…I swear I’m not making this up!) as she regaled us with the story of her trip.  Apparently, she was awakened to the sound of the packing tape on her box being cut by an eager young Canada Customs officer looking for contraband.  “He was no Brad Pitt!” The Jolie snorted.  “He just about ruined my boots with that box cutter!  I would have sued his ass!”  She paused to regain her composure before continuing.  “Then he wanted to look in my backpack!  I’ve got $1000 worth of the finest cosmetics money can buy in there…do you think I wanted his filthy paws rummaging through my personal things?  I told him to pick on someone his own size!”  I assumed that there had been no further incident, since The Jolie had been delivered without “paperwork” or phone calls from the federal government.

I showed The Jolie to her room to rest from her ordeal.  She wasted no time in soliciting sympathy from whoever she could find…this is how I found her a half hour later when I came to make sure she had everything she needed:

The Jolie in a compromising position with some green guy...he looks strangely familiar...

I sternly suggested The Jolie “get some sleep”, because we had a big day of touring ahead of us on Saturday.

The Jolie stumbled downstairs just in time for lunch the next day…I made her my usual Saturday brunch of “Toad in the Hole” (eggs fried in the middle of a bagel cut in half).  She ate all of hers and half of mine (in between mouthfuls, she whined about the trains she heard in the middle of the night, and “that mutt” which was scratching on her bedroom door)!  Jake had been remarkably restrained…he hadn’t tried to eat her even once!

Jim loaded his Nikon D90 into his camera bag, and he and the girls and I got into the Toyota Corolla to go to town.  Attempting to divert attention from her transgression the night before, The Jolie commented that she’d never ridden in an “economy car” before.  She wondered if our “regular driver” was on vacation.  She balked at putting on her seatbelt, but we told her the car wouldn’t move until she had it on.

Our first stop was guaranteed to remind The Jolie of home: the Saint John sign at Fort Howe…everybody refers to Saint John as “Hollywood North” (not really…that’s Vancouver!).

Hollywood North...except for the snow...

The next destination was where every tourist who ever visited Saint John wants to go: the Reversing Falls.  The Jolie posed with The Loyalist Man, who used to be the unofficial Saint John mascot before some marketing genius from Toronto “rebranded” our city:

Loyalist Man and The Jolie...

The Jolie complained bitterly when she saw the actual “Falls”, which are technically just rapids…they’re nothing like “backwards Niagara Falls”!  “That’s it?” she asked.  I hope she’s not planning to stop in Moncton while she’s here: The Tidal Bore will probably live up to its name…

The Reversing Falls with the Reversing Falls Bridge...

Then it was on to Carleton Martello Tower, which was built on the West Side during the War of 1812 to guard the land approaches to the city from the pesky Americans.  Unfortunately, it was closed for the winter…The Jolie was keen to check out the gun turrets!  She had to be content to pose outside, though.

The Jolie pretending to throw a grenade at Carleton Martello Tower...there used to be cannons sticking out those holes...

 We headed uptown to show The Jolie our premiere performing arts facility, the Imperial Theatre:

The Jolie in front of the Imperial Theatre...

The original Imperial began life as a vaudeville theatre back in 1913, became a movie theatre in the late 1920’s, and then a Pentecostal church in the 1950’s.  In 1982, the theatre was purchased by a dedicated group of volunteers who restored it to its former theatrical status over a 12-year period.  It was formally reopened on May 24, 1994.  The 900-seat venue has hosted musicians and theatrical performances from around the world over the past 16 years, and countless performers have declared it their “favourite place to play in Canada.”

*Special thank you to Jim, who lay down on the sidewalk on his stomach to get the last shot, and to the people walking by, who watched what we were doing, but didn’t call “the men in the white coats.”

More highlights of The Jolie’s tour coming up…

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Filed under blogging, satire, travel

Top Ten Reasons To Live in Canada…

This post was inspired by my friend, Renée, over at Life in the Boomer Lane: http://lifeintheboomerlane.wordpress.com/2010/08/25/the-best-country-in-the-world-is/

Newsweek rated Canada #7 in the world as “best country.”  I think it should have been #1!

For those of you who don’t know my background, I was born in Ohio, but my family moved to Ontario when I was 8 years old (1969).  So for those of  you who aren’t math wizards, I’ve spent the last 41 years living in Canada.  I can say in all sincerity that I’m never leaving! 

Here (with tongue planted firmly in cheek) are my Top Ten Reasons To Live in Canada (in random order as I think of them!):

1. It’s probably the only place in the world where you can bump into someone, and they will apologize to you.  Canadians are the politest people ever (unless they’re drunk -don’t bump into someone holding a bottle of Molson!).

2. Geography lessons are shorter – we only have 10 provinces and 3 territories to learn the names of.  Rivers and lakes are often given Indian names, while cities and their streets are usually named after dead guys or places in England.

3. Our paper money comes in pretty colours – it makes it easier to figure out what you’re giving the clerk at the Great Canadian Dollar Store.  Our dollar coin is called a “loonie” for the bird that’s pictured on it (it’s not a reference to our Queen who’s featured on the front, although it may apply to certain members of her family).

4. Our young men are not required to register for military service on their 18th birthdays…however, they must have worked at least two shifts serving coffee at their local Tim Horton’s outlets.  If they do decide to join the military, they are probably going to be sent over as peacekeepers to some country the Americans have invaded.

5. We elect our governments in a single day…no foolish primaries!  Candidates campaign for about a month before the election.  Campaign costs are measured in thousands of dollars rather than millions.  Canadians have been known to elect prime ministers who didn’t look like movie stars.  The worst political scandal is likely to involve a government minister leaving sensitive documents at his girlfriend’s house (no Watergate here).

6. If one is a Canadian actor or musician, it is possible to move about freely without being constantly accosted by fans (or even recognized).  These artists have to make it south of the border before anyone here pays attention to them (sad but true)!  It’s a different story for hockey players or national news anchors…they will be mobbed wherever they go!

7. Getting sick in Canada is not likely to cause you to lose your house.  Our tax dollars ensure that no one is billed for routine medical appointments, emergency room visits, or hospital stays in semi-private rooms or wards (although cosmetic surgery or dental treatment is a whole other ball of wax!).

8. Our highway signs are in metric – a 100km/hour speed limit sounds so much faster than 60 mph doesn’t it?  We also have compulsory seat belt/motorcycle helmet laws, which often prevents injury in the event of a collision (cleanup after the accident is also quicker when you’re not peeling someone’s body parts off the pavement).

9. Since we basically have only two seasons in Canada (winter and summer), one doesn’t need nearly as much clothing.  Tanning companies make a fortune, because our summer is only three months long.  Strangely, many people wear baseball caps year-round (including women).

10. Handguns are illegal in Canada.  If you cut somebody off on the highway, they probably won’t get out and shoot you (although you could be beaten with a hockey stick!).

I invite my Canadian readers to add to this list…

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