Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Hollinger-Janzens Family Vacation: Niagara Episode

Well, if someone decided to make a show about the Hollinger-Janzen family vacations, this would be one that qualified as short, sweet, and relatively low on the scale of vacation insanity.* That is, compared to other vacations that involved, say, driving through the Sahara Desert in a Land Rover with a leaky radiator or climbing the entirety of the Eiffel Tower (according to my mother, taking the elevator partway is cheating) or spending Christmas on the beach because the country we were headed to - Ivory Coast - was in the midst of a coup and the borders were closed. So this vacation was really quite tame. It required car travel on well-paved roads, nothing crazy like planes or leaky Land Rovers. The whole trip took only four days, even for the people who had to travel the farthest. I won't even get into the horror of the 16-hour flight experience from Atlanta to Joburg. There was no jet lag involved. Our lodgings (the Youngblut family home on Mohawk Point, Lake Erie) required no "roughing it." The closest we came to "roughing it" on this trip was our brief ride on Maid of the Mist.

Well, this experience did get more interesting as it started to pour right after we got off the boat (not bad timing, actually, since we had our nifty Smurf ponchos) and we trudged back up Clifton Hill to where the car was parked. Probably the most difficult part of the weekend for me was sitting in a car for an hour with four other soaking wet people, next to someone who had run out of deodorant that morning and thought it was funny to shove my face into his armpit. Ahh, sibling bonding.

The day before, we had a lovely and informational tour of Fort George. We learned about period instruments, including "the serpent," and I found out that I really like the sound of a jaw harp. We ate molasses cookies baked on a griddle over a fire, theorized about the cat, chamber pot and shattered dishes found in an archaeological dig behind the officer's quarters, met a Scottish woman who was doing her dissertation on experimental archaeology (acting things out to recreate them), crammed ourselves into a guard box, and decided that clothes from 1812 were pretty uncomfortable (but looked damn good). Evidence of the latter two activities are presented in Exhibits A and B.

Exhibit A

Exhibit B

We also did a lot of relaxing, and eating fresh Niagara berries, and kayaking on Lake Erie, and playing Dutch Blitz, and getting to know the Youngbluts, and in general having a lovely time.

Probably my favorite part though was today, when they (the Hollinger-Janzens currently residing in Goshen, Indiana^) made a pit stop back in Waterloo before heading on home. They got to see my future home (Butternut Manor) and my current digs. We had fabulous Ethiopian for lunch from AM Africa.

The vegetarian platter

"Carnivore" style (guest photographer: Femi Hollinger-Janzen)
And perhaps best of all, they got to see the garden that has its own blog, Groovy Roots KW:

I was obviously excited, both by their visit and the arrival of a fellow sun-worshipper.

Femi is not quite as excited by the nasturtium that I'm trying to tell him is edible.

Although the majority of our trip was pretty tame, there might actually be some potential for YouTube stardom. The Hollinger-Janzen siblings would like to present our fresh interpretation of a classic favourite.

*Insanity here is used in both a good and bad sense. As in "This trip is insanely awesome!" and "I can't stand it, I'm going insane!"
^Eg: everyone except me.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The best camping trip ever!

There is really no other title for this post. Quite simply, this was the best camping trip I've ever been on. And it was fabulous. The kind of trip where you get home and you're sad to be back. I don't really have a coherent narrative of the trip, it was just many beautiful moments strung together to make three days. In honour of those beautiful moments, I will just post some of the pictures that got taken and describe those moments.

We were in Killarney from June 20-23. Killarney Provincial Park is up near Sudbury, for those of you who know Ontario. For those of you that don't, it's a 4.5-5 hour drive north of KW. Worth every minute it takes to get up there. I'm actually glad it's so far away. Then it's safe from all of our pollution down here in the civilized world.

When I say "we" in connection with this trip, that means me and these fine folk. Jessie (purple bandanna) is my flatmate (isn't that so British of me? It's faster than saying apartmentmate) for the summer. The handsome gentleman on the log beside her is her fiance Steve. And the creepy guy (oops! I mean fine gentleman, of course, no offense Phil!) with his hand in front of his face is Phil, Steve's little bro. They were fabulous company, full of jokes, songs, camping knowledge and creativity. They played a big part in making the camping trip so wonderful.

Our breakfast the first morning - mushroom omelettes with homemade bread. (Of course we couldn't transport the eggs, that's why we ate them before we set off!) Jess and I were in charge of the food barrel, and we packed some gourmet camping food. Our menu also included: hummus and veggie wraps; baked sweet potatoes, black beans and salsa; baked oatmeal; tabbouleh; curry and rice; smores; pancakes; apple & pb tortillas. Lots and lots of healthy & delicious cookies, trail mix, and almonds. This was what we transported all of this goodness with:

And the result of delicious smores:

I've decided that I look like a chocopire - like a vampire except with 70% cocoa fair-trade dark chocolate instead of blood. The red eyes certainly fit the theme.

We spent a lovely afternoon on our "swimming island" off of our first campsite. We sunbathed, swam, and pretended we were in a yoga video. Yoga was meant to be done on a rock in the middle of a lake.

This is another island that we laid claim to. We saw it from a lookout point across the lake and decided that it begged to be explored.

I took it upon myself to explore the highest point of said island. It was great fun.

We did a lot of this, in between all of our other adventures. In this instance I am trying out my steering skills. I liked to watch the ripples come off my paddle and think about the complexity of the physics that explained how they formed. Just enough to wonder at it and enjoy it. I didn't think too hard. The whole time was refreshing and real in a way that the intellect doesn't really need to get involved in. I hope that this won't be the last time that I get to enjoy Killarney.