Happy Birthday to Me, Me, Me!

Happy Birthday to Mother, by riacaleToday’s my birthday!  Yay!

Although birthdays are kinda quiet around here they’re still very special and today was a great day.   Up early to watch Ben play soccer, then off for a light lunch with Cindy (hot dogs at the Peavey Mart and Milky Way ice cream, then watch the Euro 2008 final before joining up with the kids and Cindy’s family for a movie (Wall-E) and finally homemade bbq burgers.  And I got some community association work done, some wood chopped for tomorrow’s pizza party and some dough mixed.  Not bad for a Sunday!

My birthday gift this year was the best ever.  Cindy signed the two of us up to the MS-Bike Tour this September in Waskiseu.  66km of hilly parkland and possibly bears.  Awesome!  The only problem is that neither of us has done much riding so far this year, so the training regimine starts, erm, tomorrow. But early tomorrow.   And I’ll eat pizza standing up or something.  Tuesday for sure.

Photo credit:  riacale, on flickr

3 Game-changing ways to make this the Best Mothers Day Ever!

I’ve been cajoled into doing some fundraising for my son’s Japanese exchange program. So this email went out to some work colleagues at noon today.

I went for the cheesy Make Money Online website look. Close?

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Hi and Happy Monday!

I’m sending this email to a small and select group of colleagues — people who share a passion for good times, friendships, good health and great food. People who I’ve really grown to love and respect over the years. But you are also friends who struggle at this time of year, and I can help.

You “get it” — you’re willing to go the extra mile for that special flavour.

You “get it” — you’ll take the time to grow your own fruits and vegetables, or plant a tree for the shade, or plant some flowers for the simple beauty of the bloom

And fellas, if you’re married, you “get it” too — you know that on Mother’s Day the last thing she wants is to get corralled into the buffet line for an over priced “Thank You Mom” lunch buffet, with the full complement of screaming babies, whining toddlers and the mother-in-law. Noooo…thank you honey!

I know you get it because, in this way, I’m just like you. I love food. Hell, I don’t carry a purple daypack with “lunch” every day for 15 years by being indifferent to the stuff. And I don’t take Cindy to brunch for Mothers Day either (anymore.) I’ve found the secret to getting through the Hallmark Holiday season. I figured it out, and now I want to share my knowledge with you.

I’ve got three ways to make next weekend a Weekend to Remember!

#1: On Saturday May 10, on the eve of Mother’s Day, there is an excellent steak night being held at Bonzzini’s Brew Pub. For a mere $15 per ticket, you can enjoy a steak, potato, salad and a beer. Yes, you heard me right. A BEER! Steak and Beer for $15!! I didn’t think it was possible anymore but the rising Canadian dollar has its advantages.

Fellas — she wants to go. Your wife wants to go to this more than you know. She’s complaining about the brunch thing to her girlfriends. She’s moaning about your darling mother right now. She wants meat, potatoes and a beer. Really she does. She’ll eat your salad, so don’t worry about that part.

Ladies — Guys are dim. He’s not hearing your little hints. He’s not comprehending ‘the look.’ You need to buy the tickets, put them in his pocket and say “I want this for Mother’s Day.” Make it really simple for him and get what you want!

Single Folk — why are you still reading this? It’s Steak and Beer. It’s Saturday. ’nuff said!

But Mark! She’s a vegetarian with a barley allergy!

No problem. I’m here for you. Besides, while the Steak Night will guarantee you a weekend to remember, it’s a quick hit. Maybe your looking for something that lasts longer. A lot longer! I’ve got special access to gift certificates from some of the best greenhouses, florists and garden centres in the Greater Regina Area to get you some slow-release love and affection.

#2 is from WP Gardens on Grant Road (by Tumblers) They’ve got a wide selection of bedding plants and vegetables that will keep your yard and garden colourful and flavourful all summer long. The word on the street is WP has a cult following in SW Regina that is quite protective of their plants. The existing customers don’t want to dilute the plant pool, but too bad! With these gift certificates you’ve got the inside track to healthy eating, but for a short time (they have to be used by the end of June 2008) The gift certificates come in multiples of $20, and you get full face value of the certificate.

#3 is from Unique Garden Centre / Unique Florists. The best selection of herbs, vegetables and bedding plants in the city. The best selection of trees and shrubs. Garden ornaments. Seeds. If you have Black Thumb instead of Green Thumb, you can get cut flowers from Unique Florists instead. And the GC’s last till October. They’ve got all your bases covered. Again, multiples of $20 and you get full face value!

Face it — cash is a lousy way to say “I Love You, Mom!” It’s kinda cheesy, really. Now a gift certificate from a garden centre, maybe with an offer to, oh, drive her to the garden centre and now you’re talking!

But Mark! Is there a catch?

No! No Catch!

Well, maybe. Yes. You see, Mothers Day is fast approaching. The time to act is now! Tickets are limited. The steak won’t keep. The beer will evenutally get warm. It’s time to start planting.

So here’s the catch. You need to commit to purchase by Monday, May 5. It gives me time to get the right number of tickets / certificates and gives you the time to design the perfect moment to give the gift. So call me or email me [heck, or comment on this blog] but take action!

OK, Mark. I’m ready to Take Action. But why are you helping me like this?

It’s easy really. I care. I really do. I want you to give the best darn Mothers Day gift ever. I want you to enjoy lovely flowers all summer long. I want you to eat the best fruits and vegetables. I want to be your friend for a very long time.

But there’s something in it for me too. Proceeds for the steak and garden centre GC’s go to the Regina Fujioka Student Exchange, which is hosting 25 Japanese students (age 11-12) this summer. My son Ben will be going to Japan in 2009 to complete the exchange.

I hope you enjoyed this email. If so, it’s a win.

But I hope you buy some tickets too. You get good food, Ben goes to Japan and I am still able to put food on my table. If so, it’s a win-win-win.

Your friend,

Mark

PS. Well, I hope I’ve done my job. I’ve given you the three ways to make this the Best Mothers Day ever. You can change the game in your relationship with your mother, spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend. you can take it to a Whole. Other. Level. But are you willing to stop there? I know you all have other friends that are facing the same issues. The same challenges. The same stress over the Hallmark Holidays.

If you are as caring and giving as I know you are, then forward this note with my blessing. Share the joy. Build on the passion. Peace.

Super Bowl in Stockton

Mark and MelodieWho’s that old bugger wearing my shirt?

One of my big regrets whenever I come to San Francisco for work is that I don’t get the chance to see my cousin Melodie in Stockton. So Sunday was my chance to make amends. I rented a car, printed out my Google map, sufficiently notified next of kin and, after a quick breakfast, took to the open road.

In fairness, open road is a bit of a misnomer in California, even at 9:00AM on a Sunday morning. The road to Stockton is nothing but US Interstate — four lanes in both directions with bumper to bumper traffic at 70 miles per hour. My first highway, #101, is actually a three lane highway which has been given the odd treatment of expanding to four lanes without having added any pavement. They just tarred over the old lines and put new lines in, so that the outside lanes are right tight against the concrete curb. It was uncomfortably tight.

One particular stretch of highway had me wondering if I was really cut out for this trip at all. It starts with a left turn from the far right lane, the off ramp swooping majestically up and over all eight lanes of Highway 101, before setting car and driver down facing due east. After a half mile or so, I could see the road rising up in front of me, 30 feet or more into the air. Oh, yes, I got to drive OVER the San Francisco Bay! The San Mateo Bridge seems to cover 5 miles with over half the bridge high in the air so ships can go underneath, and half the bridge low along the water. It was quite exhilarating but I suspect Cindy wouldn’t have liked it one bit.

I eventually made it to Stockton and found Melodie’s house without incident. Melodie, her boyfriend Jeff and I had a wonderful lunch at a place down the highway called BJ’s brewhouse (my leftovers will keep me in suppers for most of the week) and then beat a hasty retreat to her house to watch the Super Bowl. What a game! What commercials they have in the USA!! What a way for me to win the Kuhn Bowl with a last minute touchdown!! Oh yeah, the Giants won too.

I was especially blessed to get a chance to visit with Mel’s folks (and my Aunt and Uncle) who as luck would have it were visiting from Michigan. My family is quite small and spread out so we don’t get to see each other very often. I was very sad to leave for the long drive back to my hotel.

Heading home

Writing this post from the waiting area in the Victoria airport. Anothe sunny calm morning – I’m going to miss these excellent mornings…

This was a great trip. Great sites, super adventures and really, really relaxing. Vancouver Island has a lot to offer, and the laid back attitude is a very important part of life here. We’re going to do everything we can to bring this attitude back to Regina. We’ve been blessed with very livable cities here – cities that remain about people rather than cars. I’m ready to recommit to moving Regina further in this direction – whether that’s local markets, bike lanes, or better public transportation. I don’t want to move, but I don’t want to have to drive everywhere either.

Let’s see how this new mood holds up when I go to work tomorrow…

The Best Game You Can Name

We’ve been out of ‘net coverage for a while now – camping at French Beach and checking out the beaches and marine life at Botany Bay, Botanical Beach and China Beach. But today we’re back in Victoria and that can only mean one thing…

SOCCER!!

Only 4 hours till kickoff of today’s U20 world cup matches. I’m extremely excited.

We’ve heard lots of horror stories about secutiry – long lines, no food or drink allowed in , no re-entry (and we’ll be there for 5-6 hours). But, we’re bringing lots of cash and sun hats. It was good to have the notice though- there was nothing in the tickets that mentioned this. Oh well.

Full report to follow!

Hanging at the Hostel

When we get tired of life in the tent we’ve fallen into the habit of staying in hostels. It’s a good way to meet new people, save money on food (they all have kitchens) and save some money while sleeping in a warm bed. Right now we’re hanging out at the Painted Turtle hostel in Nanaimo and it’s the best.

We’re full up tonight due to the holiday weekend and there are some really great folks here. James from Australia is showing his DVD of his own personal version of Stupid Human Tricks. That James is a crazy guy. Seems to enjoy jumping off stuff with a bucket on his head. Over supper a few folks started a really wild singalong too accompany the cooks. Sweet. Cindy and Robyn bought me a birthday cake big enough to share which doesn’t hurt either 🙂

If you need a fun place to stay in Nanaimo, this is it. Come check it out.

Swinging through the trees with…ease?

So today’s my birthday and the kids decided that we must head off to the bungy zone park. No, I wasn’t going bungy jumping, but we were going to try out the new rage, “TreeGo.” Basically, you get all harnessed up and run around the forest going through an obstacle course. Oh yeah, and you’re in the air the whole time. Way up. Like 60 feet up. Crikey…

It was actually quite a bit of fun, even though I’m extremely scared of heights. There were some awesome zip lines that went way over 100 feet, some rock walls up in the trees, and all sorts of swinging bridges, board walks, ladders, etc. I didn’t like the swinging logs much at all, but the rest was pretty decent. Although I need to confess that Cindy and the kids went significantly further than I did. That’s OK, we all had fun and now I know who to get to roof the house later.

Thanks to John and the folks at Wild Play in Nanaimo for a really fun afternoon!

Return to Nanaimo: It’s better already

We took two ferries to get from Seshelt to Nanaimo — up at 4:30AM to make it happen too. The early morning was due in part to the fear of long holiday lineups at the Horsehoe Bay ferry terminal. So we beat the traffic by getting there at 7AM.

A couple weeks back I wrote a post about my first impressions of Nanaimo and frankly, they weren’t very good. I had a couple folks comment that I missed all the good bits and made some suggestions on how to improve things. This time round I did a couple things differently:

– on the ferry ride over, I reviewed the comments from Mindi, Tratz and Jeff.
– First place we went was the visitor centre for a better map of the city. Nanaimo has a large number of streets that change names for no apparent reason, so it can be a little confusing to get around at first.
– Second thing we did was drive to the harbour and PARK.

I can honestly say that the harbour area of Nanaimo looks a lot better on foot. Earlier I bemoaned the lack of decent restaurants — we really enjoyed the floating Mexican restaurant right on the harbour that I’m sure we drove past the first time without spotting. We also found 3-4 other places we’ll be checking out this weekend. It looks like a really friendly downtown to travel on foot.

We took a spin out to the Nanaimo Aquatic Centre for a great swim and soak — it’s an excellent facility and we’ll be going back.

Our hosts for the weekend are the excellent folks at the Painted Turtle Guesthouse and Hostel. it’s a neat little place — clean rooms, well lit common area (if a little small) and really friendly people. Looks like we’re in for a great Canada Day weekend!

Markie-by-the-sea

We went on a three hour sea kayaking tour yesterday along Porpoise Bay. What a great time! Although I admit I felt a little like that wooden model canoe from the children’s cartoon at the start. A wee bit tippy and tough to steer. After a couple minutes though it was smooth going.

We saw a lot of wildlife – bald eagles mostly, but the highlight was a pair of seals who kept bobbing up right beside the kayaks, checking us out then diving down for a while. Quite a treat!

We went over to a marine park where we could camp overnight if we wanted. Lots of tide pools and starfish there.

Kayaking is a pile of fun. I can see myself buying a “lake” kayak when I get home. Very peaceful and fun way to travel.