Saturday, January 30, 2010

My Trip To The Great White North: Day 3

(Sorry for the delay!  Things got busy at work and I didn't spend much time on the computer when I got home.)

Teri's conference had ended the day before, so this was the first day that we had the whole day to ourselves. Our goal for the day was to find the yarn stores in the area. We knew of a small one right around the corner from our hotel, Yarns Etc., but unfortunately, it looked like it had mostly acrylic and it wasn't what we were looking for. Before coming to Ottawa, I had looked up the yarn stores on KnitMap so we knew we would have to take a trek down Bank Street to find some.

Once again, it was a crystal clear, sunny day - I love how the sky looked so sharply blue. And it was cold... probably the coldest day we had so far. We bundled up, and headed out in the direction of the Parliament Buildings. Teri was making fun of me for snapping pictures of everything and looking like a tourist, but I didn't care. People usually make allowances for you when you are a tourist.

Before we even hit the Parliament area, we came across the Laurier Hotel:


It looks very much like a castle, doesn't it? I think that this sort of sets Canadian cities apart from a lot of American cities I know - Victoria has a grand old hotel in The Empress as well. We continued walking, and came to a lock leading from the Rideau Canal down to the Ottawa River:


If you look about 3 stages down the lock, you can see a boat sitting there. Someone told me that there is always a big rush to get the boats out of the canal and out of the river before it all freezes over (because trust me, it is all frozen!), and if a boat gets stuck in the lock, the owner gets fined quite a bit for it. I can't imagine it is good for the boat, either.

We continued to walk up Wellington Street, and came to the Canadian Parliament Buildings. To be honest, I expected to see protesters. Prime Minister Stephen Harper had just prorogued Parliament - this is the third or fourth time he has prorogued (or canceled/discontinued) Parliament when he hasn't got his way and it has not won him any friends. Turns out they were mostly protesting in his home riding.


We continued down Wellington until we hit Bank Street, knowing that we still had quite a walk ahead of us, because Yarn Forward, the yarn store we most wanted to visit, was way at the other end in the Glebe. We had only walked a few blocks when I stopped to take this picture:


Maybe out of all the pictures I took while in Ottawa, this one embarrassed my sister the most - who takes pictures of bus shelters?!?! But my point is for my American friends, who I don't always think believe me that McDonalds serves stuff in other countries that they don't have in the US. I have never seen a Chicken Parmesan wrap in the US, or McDonalds Pizza (although that goes back a long while). McDonalds served hot dogs for breakfast when I lived in Japan, and they also had a seasonal (autumn) burger with a fried egg on it.

After a long (and cold!!) walk down Bank Street to the Glebe, we found Yarn Forward. Teri wanted to get some yarn to make Dharma a sweater and some roving for a craft project, and I just wanted to get some souvenir yarn. My rules with souvenir yarn is that it cannot be something I can get in my LYS, no matter how pretty it is. And honestly, the US and Canadian dollars were pretty much at par, so it wasn't like I was going to get any fantastic deals, either. This is what I ended up with:


On the left, Fleece Artist Nyori and on the right, King Cole Splash. The Fleece Artist Nyori is a sock yarn with some silk in it, and is quite soft. The King Cole Splash is a self-patterning acrylic - I am always looking for this stuff in pretty colours to make childrens' hats out of - and this skein has some pretty hefty yardage - 320 yards - so I will be able to get quite a few hats out of my $6.

Here's a close up of the Fleece Artist Nyori. It's really yard to classify the colour - I chose it becuase to me it looked like an autumn scene with the gold, brick, aubergine - but you could still see the aqua of the sky. I'm very interested to see how it will knit up.

Fleece Artist Nyori

We stopped for lunch at a Spanish cafe and had beef stew for lunch, then continued on our trek back up Bank Street - and we came to the conclusion that Ottawa has pubs like some other cities have Starbucks. We were almost at the Sparks Street Mall when I saw the word 'Yarn' on a sign on the other side of the street - somehow we had completely missed Knit-Knackers on our way down Bank Street! Knit-Knackers is on the second floor and in a very large space they share with a spa-salon (a great combination I think - buy yarn, then go have a massage). They had a great selection of yarn and even spinning wheels, but there wasn't anything there I wanted that I couldn't get at home, so we continued on our trip up Bank Street.

We decided to go down the Sparks Street Mall and avoid the traffic - it was late in the day - maybe 4pm by then - so some stores had started to close, but we did find a Zellers where I could find Heinz Tomato Soup (so yummy - puts Campbells to shame - and can someone please tell me why if the Heinz company is from Pennsylvania I have to go all the way to Canada to find Heinz Tomato Soup?!), and we found this iconic sign:


Okay, Canadian friends and family members, *please* don't spoil this question. American friends - can any of you tell me what this sign is? I may even throw in a prize if the Canadian contingent (ahem!) doesn't give the answer.

We saw these neat statues along Sparks Street - I think I caught them just at the right time with the sun setting - I love how the light is reflecting off of them:


We exited the Sparks Street Mall and came upon the Canadian World War I Memorial - I had to take a picture because I was amazed by all the different expressions on the men:


And I have to tell you, my hips were absolutely aching by this point - we had been walking and shopping for about 6 hours. How far did we go? 

Yarn Walk

Map courtesy of KnitMap

Well, our hotel was right near the flag at the top near the Byward Market. We walked past Parliament Hill, and continued to turn left onto Bank Street (that is the street the other two red flags - the yarn stores - are on).  We walked down Bank Street nearly to the Rideau Canal (that is down near where it says Brown's Inlet), then all the way back again!  We knew that we were not going out again to a restaurant - we were both beyond exhausted.  We ordered in a pizza, and stayed in the rest of the night.

Oh - and somehow I had forgotten this picture with my Day 2 post...

Rogers Chocolate

Okay, this chocolate is not native to Ottawa at all - but rather somewhere much closer to my part of Canada!  Teri and I were in the National Gallery gift shop and I was paying for my 99 cent poster (that will be in another post) when I noticed these Rogers Chocolates near the cashier. Rogers Chocolates are from Victoria, BC and are very rich and decadent.  I can't believe I managed to get it home intact - I think Teri at hers as soon as we got back to the hotel!  It looks like I will have to eat it soon, though - that expiry date is fast approaching!

Tomorrow: Day 4 with treks across to other provinces, totem poles, and more connections to home.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Minor Interruption

Sorry!  Day 3 will have to wait until tomorrow - I got caught up in cleaning out my basement (I can now see the floor!) and two hours had gone by.  Now I need some Advil and a heating bad for my back...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

My Trip To The Great White North: Day 2

Teri still had one session to attend for her conference on Thursday, so after she left, I went to the hotel's fitness center and worked out. All I had to eat that morning before exercising was a fiber bar and a cup of coffee, so I was ravenous by the time I finished on the elliptical machine. I went down to La Presse, the hotel's cafe, and ordered a latte and a Montreal bagel...

Let's just stop there and savour that memory a little bit.

A Montreal bagel is very different than a New York style bagel - it is flatter, chewier - and in my opinion, much tastier. I find New York bagels to be fluffier - more bread like. They are okay for sandwiches, but I don't get much out of eating them on their own.

By the time I finished and got dressed, Teri and her co-worker, Anne, were back from the conference and ready to go out for lunch. Anne wanted to have Thai food (an aside here - remember Teri and Anne both live in Whitehorse and there aren't many ethnic restaurants there). It was much colder this morning - I believe Teri said it was -8'C / 18'F - and we had to keep a brisk pace to keep the blood flowing to our faces!  We went to the Thai Palace for lunch - it was okay - I think I wanted to like it more than I did.  I had the lunch combo that included hot and sour soup (much too salty and I only ate the shrimp out of it), a spring roll (tasty), and green curry with lemongrass and coconut milk on jasmine rice (very yummy!).

After lunch, Teri and I split up with Anne - Anne wanted to hit some museums and Teri and I wanted to do some shopping first.  Across the street from the restaurant was Ma Cuisine and Mon Cadeau, a kitchen store and gift store, so we had to go in and creat wishlists in our head.  One of these days I am going to have a big enough kitchen to accomodate all the cool gadgets I want to play with. I saw a little salt pig that I wanted, but I wasn't about to pay $30 for it.

We eventually made our way to The National Gallery of Canada on the Ottawa River. I had been to the National Gallery once before, when I was 16 years old.  I didn't know it at the time, but the National Gallery had only opened a few months before I was there.


See that big spider? It is called Maman and it is an installation by by Louise Bourgeois. Believe it or not, I have seen this statue before - but the last time I saw it, it was in Rockefeller Center in Manhattan, back in 2001, about three weeks before 9/11. Apparently the original of this statue belongs to the Tate Gallery in London and there are multiple bronze casts around the world. Teri pointed out something disconcerting I hadn't noticed before - there are silver eggs in her egg sack.

Teri and I spent a few hours at the National Gallery - so much so that Teri tried to take off her (poor choice of) shoes, but the guard made her put them back on!  I can't say I enjoyed the contemporary exhibit  or the Hoffos exhibit (although watching Teri try to avoid the hologram because she thought it was a real person was funny) because for the most part, I just don't get it. Once installation was actually called '254 pieces of felt' and it was a pile of felt on the floor. Teri wanted to know how on earth they could even attempt to replicate that at another museum. The Canadian Art and International Art exhibits were very enjoyable - I could have spent much more time there, but we were getting so tired from walking around (and the the ways the rooms lead one into another can get a bit claustrophobic after a bit - you can't seem to find your way out).

There was one First Nations artist there whose paintings Teri and I both really liked - his name was Alex Janvier. The funny thing is that his art is modern - something that neither of us really turn to, but there was something about it that appealed to both of us. I had hoped to find something in the gift shop - a print or even a postcard - to bring home, but couldn't find anything by him.

We met up with Anne back at the hotel, and we went in search of somewhere to eat. Our original plan was to head up to the Carleton Slots and Racetrack to play some games and eat. The handy-dandy tourist guide in our hotel room assured us it was only a few blocks from our hotel. Not so... after walking and walking, ending up near the Rideau Canal and having to turn off and end out near the the University of Ottawa (where a young Quebecois man explained that we were way far away from either the casino or the racetrack), we marched back toward Byward Market and ended up having dinner at Aulde Dubliner and Pour House. Now, they didn't have their own beer like the Highlander pub (I ended up with a Kilkenny ale this time) - but they had something else the Highlander didn't have - poutine!


That's my Kilkenny ale on the left with the head.

For those of you who don't know, poutine is a simple Quebecois dish of french fries topped with beef gravy and cheese curds. Sounds odd, but it is infinitely delicious. I didn't grow up eating poutine as such, but having gravy with fries is a very common thing on the West Coast. Teri, Anne, and I shared the poutine, and then I had Irish Shepherd's pie for my meal - something hot and filling after that fruitless walk on a frozen night.

Tomorrow: Day 3 with Bank Street, Parliament Buildings, and strange offerings from McDonalds...

Monday, January 25, 2010

My Trip To The Great White North: Day 1

My sister Teri called me a few weeks before Christmas and asked me if I would be able to take some time off in January. "Sure - why?" I asked. Teri lives far away - in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory - and she was coming east to Ottawa to attend a conference and wanted to know if I would come up and spend a few days with her. So, I arranged things so my in-laws would take care of Willow for a few days (thank you, thank you, thank you!), and Andrew had things to keep Willow occupied... and I jetted north to Ottawa.

Inukshuk at

An inukshuk outside the Ottawa International Airport

It was a short flight - only 90 minutes, and going through the baggage claim and Customs was a breeze. I am so used to flying out of Vancouver and Philadelphia, both of which are huge hubs for major airlines and a huge pain in the ass to get around. I landed in Ottawa around 11am, caught the shuttle to our hotel, and checked in. Teri had been there a few days before me and I had a few hours to burn before she got back, so I strapped on my boots, down coat, mittens, and scarf, and headed out into Byward Market to find some lunch. I had forgotten what it was like to have people switch effortlessly between English and French, and made me feel just a tad guilty that I have let so much of my French and Japanese drift away from me. I had some tasty (if a little dry) tandoori chicken and curried chickpeas, checked out some shops, then made my way over to Rideau Centre.

Holy 80's flashback, Batman!

No, I'm not saying that they were stuck in the 80's - it was just amusing to see all these stores that I associate with my Canadian youth that don't exist here in the US (at least not where I live): Le Chateau, Suzy Shier, Benetton, Smart Set - all they needed was a Mariposa and an Esprit store to round out my junior and senior high school fashion dreams! There was even a Club Monaco - and let me tell you - when I was in high school, having a Club Monaco sweatshirt was the height of just about everything! My sister Jaime and I pooled our resources and shared one of these sweatshirts - and let me tell you, we wore the hell out of it!

I walked around some more - it was absolutely sunny and beautiful - and with all that activity you didn't really notice how cold it was (and trust me, it didn't get above freezing any time during my trip).


Me with Quebec in the background across the frozen Ottawa River

After some more shopping (Coffee Crisps, Nanaimo bars and samosas), I headed back to our hotel room to wait for Teri. We walked around some more together, and then decided to go to a local pub, Highlander, for dinner. This place was known for its Ontario beers, so Teri and I both sampled their domestic flight:

Highlander Domestic Flight

There were lots of beers to choose from and I am not much of a beer aficionado, but I told our waitress that I liked India Pale Ales, so she suggested three for me - and for my fourth, I chose it just because it had a kick ass name - Barking Squirrel - and as it turns out, both Teri and I liked that one the best (and I know I have absolutely no chance of getting it here in Delaware!). We even managed to stumble upon a SnB in progress! Teri gave this one woman and her knitting a big smile and the woman came over and said, "Do I know you - you smiled at me!" We had to explain that we, too, were knitters and were surprised to see them meeting at the pub. They invited us to join them, but we were just getting ready to leave then and didn't have our knitting with us.

Full and a little tipsy, we walked back to the hotel and settled in for the night.

Tomorrow - Day 2 with Thai food, creepy exhibits at the National Gallery, and more beer!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Crime of the Century

A crime has been committed against a 7 year old girl...

The Victim:


(Her identity is hidden to protect the innocent!)

The Suspect:


(Don't be misled by that sweet look!)

The Evidence:


We went over to our In-Laws' house this morning to play with Mattie, and Willow was down on the floor rough-housing with her as usual. And as you might remember from previous blog posts, Mattie likes to grab and pull on Willow's braids. Later this afternoon, Willow and I were in Sears and her braid was an utter mess. I told her to stop for a minute so I could re-braid it. I took off the lower elastic, untangled the braid, and about 3 inches of hair came off into my hand! I don't think I could have been more shocked - my mouth is just gaping - opening and closing like a fish. I finger-brushed through her hair and more clumps came out - the dog and bitten chunks out of her hair! Luckily we were in the mall, so I whisked Willow off to the Regis Salon and the very nice stylist there did everything she could to salvage the length of Willow's hair - but even being conservative with it meant about 3 - 3.5 inches were cut off all around.

The Aftermath:


Willow is okay with it right now - the stylist straightened it for her and she thinks that is all fancy. She might think something else altogether when we wash her hair and let it be curly tomorrow because it is going to look an awful lot shorter then.


What? She wags it in my face, it's fair game.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

January's Non-Fiction Book: Curse of the Narrows

I'm keeping to my challenge - I just had to finish the book I had been reading first. Even before officially deciding to challenge myself to read a non-fiction book a month, I had already decided on the book I would read first. This is a book that I had given my father-in-law a few years ago, and then I pinched it back when he was done.

My father-in-law loves to read about history, and Curse of the Narrows by Laura M. MacDonald combines some American and Canadian history that is *not* war related (well, at least not war-related between the countries). I'm only about a chapter into the book, and I am finding the author has a very wry sense of humour - at one point she is was discussing the Soldier's Hospital - and then says, "Or, as it was otherwise known, the Venereal Hospital." I snorted with laughter and the other moms watching the 8am swimming lesson started giving me weird looks and inching away...

Friday, January 08, 2010

Yarn Pron Fridays

It's been a while since I have had new lovelies to show off for Yarn Pron Fridays. Don't get me wrong - I have been buying yarn - but for the most part it has been utilitarian stuff. The following is *not* utilitarian - it was my Christmas present to myself.


Aren't they pretty?!?!

On top is Curious Creek Fibers in 'Spice Market' - here's a close up:


I had coveted this colorway for so long - but I just couldn't pay full price for it, no matter how much I wanted it - so when the note came for WoolGirl's New Year's Day Sale, I made a beeline for it, and there were only two skeins left - and then there was one! I have no clue what kind of socks I am going to make with them yet, but I can definitely tell you they will be for me!

On bottom is Hazel Knits Artisan Sock in 'Federal' - here's a close up:


This one was more of a visual stimulation of an idea - 'Federal' is such a perfect name - the colonial blue, the brick red, the brass - I just love how it all comes together. Again, no pattern in mind, but I think I know for whom I will be using this yarn.

Now I just have to finish the three pairs of socks I have on the needles before I can break open one of these new skeins!

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

The Tree Girls

The Tree Girls

Willow and her friend, Rowan, had a playdate on Saturday afternoon. This is the first playdate we have ever had at our house (don't ask!) and the two of them had a ball. They were eating cheese puffs and playing loud music (the Glee soundtracks, for those of you interested) - and then the parade started. Willow has a whole host of costumes - some ex-Halloween costumes, some hand-me-downs from her cousins, and some just regular clothing Willow likes to fashion into costumes - and I think they tried on every single one...

Friday, January 01, 2010

Perseverance and Challenges


Okay, I forgot to take pictures today - so enjoy this latte art instead. My friends and I meet twice a week at a local coffee house, and the baristas are always trying to out-do each other with their latte art. I had a cool one once that has a leaf like the one above - but it was within a heart... and unfortunately, I couldn't document it because I didn't have my camera with me.

Which brings me to the title of this post - Perseverance and Challenges.

I hate the word 'resolution' - I think it has lost some of its meaning and has become something unrealistic and something people only pay lip service to. I like challenge and perserverance better - both things I feel I have more control over.

In 2010, I persevere
  • To continue working on my health, by eating better, exercising frequently, and having a positive self-image.  In 2009 I managed to lose 40 pounds, and I am very happy with that. 
In 2010, I challenge myself to
  • Take better pictures.  Most of the time when I take pictures, they are rushed affairs, just me trying to take a snapshot so I can get a blog post up.  Some blogs I read have absolutely beautiful photography and I am horribly jealous.
  • Keep on top of my finished objects.  You probably think I don't knit that much (and Andrew and Willow will tell you very differently) by the amount of finished objects I post.  Hell, I finished my cabled vest before I went to Stitches East in October and I still haven't taken pictures of myself in it yet.
  • Read at least one non-fiction book a month.  This one will make my father-in-law happy - I know he just shakes his head at all the sci-fi and romance novels I read. *NOT* that there is anything wrong with those kinds of books - I am a grown up and I can read whatever on earth I please - but I am feeling the need to branch out. 
  • Finish 12 Christmas presents throughout the course of the year.  This may be by knitting or using my nascent sewing skills - or perhaps something else altogether - but I really like the idea of making at least some of my Christmas presents.
Happy New Year!