Weekends

Camping Is Fun!

camping-is-fun

Last week my roommate asked if I wanted to go camping with a few friends of ours and to be honest I was hesitant to say yes. I hadn’t been camping in over 10 years and could only remember one thing: being cold the entire time. Despite this, I ended up going because I didn’t have anything else planned, and binge watching Netflix is not the way to spend a beautiful summer long weekend.

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Since we had no camping gear, we bought a cheap tent at Walmart, got some other essentials and headed to Spray Lakes just outside of Canmore. I had no sleeping bag and didn’t plan to buy one, so I brought a lot of blankets to build myself a nice cocoon. We had no plans other than to go out and enjoy nature. What a concept….not planning.

It ended up being an amazing 24 hour experience (we could only stay 1 night), out in nature with no technology connecting us to the outside world. Being a self admitted technology addict, you’d think I couldn’t go five seconds without my phone. Technically this is true as my phone is also my camera, and I love to take pictures. However I mananged and must say it was great. No dings or pulsing lights to notify me about things that didn’t really matter.

We chatted, sat in the silence of nature, looked up at the gorgeous stars at night, told ghost stories around the fire, and went canoeing on a glacier fed lake to name a few of our activities. It was everything I needed for the weekend. No noise, no distractions. Just the world in all it’s awesomeness.

This experience reminded me that the best things happen when you get outside your comfort zone. Take the leap, jump, hop or whatever it is to make your life awesome! For the record, I wasn’t even that cold, and now I look forward to my next opportunity to camp again.

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Fan Expo 2012 Overview

Yesterday was my first visit to the incredible FanExpo in Toronto. Something I have been waiting for all summer. What is FanExpo you ask? If you’ve ever heard of Comic Con San Diego, Fan Expo is essentially the Canadian equivalent. “Fan Expo Canada™ humbly began as the Canadian National Comic Book Expo in 1995. Growing from one genre with 1500 fans to a multifaceted show connecting over 80,000 fans, Fan Expo Canada™ is currently the 3rd largest pop culture event in North America!”

Some of the people you will see.

At the event, Fanboys and Fangirls of all ages gather to celebrate all that is awesome in Sci-Fi, Horror, Anime, Comic Books, and Gaming. While I’m into some Sci-Fi and Horror stuff, I am nowhere near the level of fan many of the people were in attendance here. There was an entire room dedicated to people who look as if they have never been out of their parents basement! Ok, I know I’m being harsh. Forgive me.

The highest form of nerd….table games.

It was a great event. We woke up at the crack of dawn to get to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre right downtown Toronto. Once inside, it was a free for all of shiny things in all directions. Total. Sensory. Overload! We managed to do a loop of the place before it got insane, but all of a sudden it seemed like the crowd tripled in size. For those people who don’t like crowds, a fair warning: It’s crazy and hard to move at many points. You must mentally prepare for this before you go so it doesn’t bother you. There are lines for everything….except for the bathroom which I found odd. Who knows, maybe people wear adult diapers so they can partake in every moment.

Epic pop culture awesome!

A few suggestions: Travel light. Wear cargo shorts, shoes and a t-shirt. You will get stepped on and it gets hot. Also, bring a backpack to hold your crap. Generally they do give out free bags, but I find it’s easier to be hands free. One MAJOR thing: Cell reception is awful in the Convention Centre. Do not depend on your phone. Bring walkie talkies if you need to communicate with people, because service is spotty at best. You will most likely lose your group, prepare a gameplan.With that said, it was one of the most fun days I’ve ever had. I expected and prepared for the worst, therefore everything turned out well. Go with the flow, have a good time and enjoy!

Top 5 Moments at Fan Expo 2012

1. Seeing Gillian Anderson in person along with many other awesome celebrities: The X-Files is one of my favourite shows of all time, and I knew she would be there. It was a nice surprise to walk around a corner and see her, sitting at a table to my right signing autographs. I’m ashamed to admit this, but I was shaking a bit and it totally made my day. Forget the $50 you have to pay to wait in line and get her autograph, I got to see her from a few feet away and that was epic.

gillian anderson
Gillian Anderson

2. Stormtroopers Call Me Maybe: No explanation necessary.

3. People Watching: If you go for any reason at all, it’s this one. The costumes, the props, the interesting people and conversations you will experience. I witnessed so many interesting and odd happenings with all the people in attendance. The best one: a girl having a mental breakdown while sitting on the floor attempting to put in her special contact lenses. It was hilarious.

Hulk.

4. Photo Opportunities: In addition to all the amazing costumed people you can get pictures with, tons of companies are there promoting their wares and have unique photo opportunities and experiences. From giant Lego Darth Maul to CTV Big Bang Theory green screen photos, there are a ton of cool things to take pictures of. Some of the companies in attendance included Disney, EB Games, CTV, Space, Lego, Mega Bloks, LG, Sony, DC, Marvel…the list goes on.

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The Delorean

5. Swag: There is so much free stuff to get. Buttons, printouts, posters, bags. Grab everything you can!

Check out all my pictures of this incredible event. If you also attended, let me know what you thought of the event!

 

Adventures in Toronto- One of a Kind Show

Yesterday I ventured into Toronto to visit my family for our annual Christmas get together. Afterwords, I hit up the One of A Kind show with my friend Steph. It’s the first time I have ever gone, and it was a great event. It’s held each year at the Direct Energy Centre at Exhibition Place. It’ a massive show with hundreds of vendors to purchase and sample from. While there were lots of cool products to buy, the food was my favourite part. The sampling being worth the $14 admission price alone. We tried fruitcake, sauces, dips, different flavoured vinegar, chocolate, lobster paste and many other delectable creations. While it was enough to keep us going for the afternoon, we were ready for dinner after a few hours.

Pickled Fiddleheads
Samples...yummy!
Really cool rock lamp

My friend Steph recommended we head to this place on Queen West called Parts & Labour. The main dining area has 8 long tables where  you can sit with strangers and enjoy your dinner. It’s the first time I’ve ever done that, and was pretty cool. As long as you don’t mind strangers staring at your food while you eat. I ordered a Maudite, one of the many varieties of Unibroue that I happen to love from my time working at Le Cellier in EPCOT. The brand was one of the featured Canadian beers we had. I’ve never seen them on tap, so this was a nice surprise. This beer has a great legend, as do all of their varieties.

“Maudite (damned) was the first strong beer to be retailed in Quebec. The word “Maudite” refers here to the Legend of “Chasse-Galerie” a tribute to the early lumberjacks of Nouvelle-France. The legend tells of eight daring woodsmen who, during winter, yearned to be home for the Holidays. They conjured up the Devil and all of them pledged their soul in return for flying them in their canoe to their village. As they sailed across the moonlit sky, one of them managed to free himself from the pledge by invoking the name of God, which caused the flying canoe to come crashing down to earth.”

I chose the 10 oz. strip loin for dinner, accompanied by bone marrow butter, roasted cremini mushrooms, hand cut fries, demi glace. It was the most tender and delicious steak I’ve had in a long time! Perfectly salted, with the delicious demi glace that I am in love with. The atmosphere was really cool at this place, you can even sit at a table in the kitchen if you make a reservation. That way you can see all the action going on. While tempting, I’ve spent enough time in kitchens for this option to be very unappealing. It’s just not magical to sit in the  kitchen when you’ve been a server.

The most epic steak I've ever tasted!
Steph at Parts & Labour

Lastly we headed to the Gladstone Hotel, a place that’s so hip they don’t say it’s hip anymore. The place was packed with the usual mix of Toronto urbanites, plus a group of about 30 people dressed as Santa. I’m assuming a Christmas Party? Getting drinks took a while, no big deal as it was Saturday night. What can one expect? My issue was the attitude the bartender gave me as I handed my VISA over to her to pay. She asked if I wanted to start a tab, and I said no. Thinking that after waiting 20 minutes to get a drink, I didn’t want to stand around until Sunday afternoon to get my card back. She got all huffy and as she passed me the terminal, informed me that there’s a $50 minimum, and that this time she’d do it as a favour. Next time, don’t do me any favours. Lose the attitude and maybe put up a sign so I don’t break any unwritten payment rules. This situation just reaffirmed why I don’t like Toronto, but whatever. No one died right! As it was karaoke night, we were right in the middle of a train wreck of entertainment. As expected, the budding superstars were terrible and that’s okay. I’m not a fan of seeing people who can actually sing do karaoke. The highlight of the night was a tone-deaf woman who sang “Defying Gravity” from Wicked. It was terrible, embarrassing and watching her made me cringe. Now that’s a good karaoke singer!

Steph & Brad at The Gladstone

Niagara Falls Adventures

Over the weekend I got to take a quick trip to Niagara Falls with my friend Steph. She works for ISX, which is an educational tour company that does trips to French Canada, Chicago, New York City and other fun places. I was invited along as a complimentary buddy, and had a blast. Not only did I get to see Steph’s tour guide persona, I checked off a few things from my list of to-do’s in the Niagara Falls area. Our first stop was Konzelmann Estate Winery for a tour and tasting. I’ve never been there, and love wine so it was exciting to try a different place. The highlight was a peach wine they had, very fruit forward and tasty. Also had a 13.5% alcohol volume, tasty!

Next up we went to Niagara on the Lake for lunch then headed to The Falls. I was lucky enough to get a complimentary ticket for Maid of the Mist, something I have never experienced in all my trips to The Falls. Needless to say I got wet, but not nearly as much as I expected. I must mention this attraction is run like a well oiled machine. They have it set up so they can move large groups of people in and out quickly, thereby minimising wait times and maximizing profits. I also made friends as I usually do in random places. A nice couple that go to U of T for their medical degrees. I’m normally fine with doing things alone, but its nice to have people to talk to when your out doing things by yourself. They also had the usual assortment of tacky souvenirs at the end as they usher you through the giftshop. Just like Disney. I love it!

Lastly I had some free time so headed around the tackiness of Clifton Hill and people watched while the rain poured down. I checked out the Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville, which was a hugh disappointment. Refer to the blog below for details.