Saturday, August 13, 2011

Blue Jays, Chinatown and Friends

The day had arrived....August 7th, 2011.  It was the day of the much anticipated road trip down to Calgary for Connor to go to the Honda Toronto Blue Jays Baseball Camp.  The camp was to run for three days starting the next morning bright and early.  After a late start from Fort McMurray we started down the rainy road for Calgary.  It just so happened that lunch time came while we were very close to Boyle so we stopped in Connor's favorite road side eatery - The Boyle Burger Bar.  This little gem serves the best Chinese Food...homemade spring rolls, homemade egg rolls, amazing fried rice and inexpensive combination plates....all with a friendly smile. We have now made it THE stop every time we drive down the highway and I would recommend it to everyone else that drives that same stretch of road.
We arrive in Calgary late Sunday night at our hotel for the next three nights; The Westin Downtown Calgary.  It was a long day and we were looking forward to a nice stay, but alas it was not to be so.  We checked into a  room that had a lopsided bed, dirty sheets, bathroom door that stuck, and a toilet that had more chips in it than a bag of Lays. Because I had pre-paid for the room I could not get a refund however we made the decision that we will not stay there when we travel back to the city next time. Lesson learnt. So downstairs I go to get a new room. Once we moved to a better room it was off to sleep because we had a 5:45 am wake up time.
After a bit of GPS recalculating we arrived at Foothills Stadium for registration for the Baseball Camp.  To our great surprise we find that we are not the only Fort McMurriates to make our way down fact we are soon surrounded by a total of half a dozen kids.  Some are in the same groups, some not, but everyone is proudly wearing Fort McMurray Baseball Gear with our name blazed across their chest.  When Connor was asked about his choice of uniform, the answer is "I am representing. " While we wait for the camp to start Calgary City TV shows up and asks the kids, "Who would like to be interviewed for the breakfast show?"  Our boys need no prompting and are off like a shot.  They are feeling like big league players as they walk out on the Calgary Vipers field for their first TV interview.

The Honda Blue Jays Camp is everything that Connor had hoped for.  We are up each morning at 6 AM to get ready for 5 hours of baseball that include tips, and drills on everything from bunting to pitching.  Not once did his enthusiasm deviate, even when on the second day I asked him how he was holding up...the response " Everything hurts from the neck down." ...quickly followed by let's go play more ball.  He left everything on the field, he listened, he tried the new tips that the Blue Jays players told him and made new friends from across Western Canada.  There was only room for 150 players in this camp, with a total of 136 showing up for the full three days.  He got to talk to Team Canada Coaches and players and hang out with Blue Jays Alumni Players like Homer Bush, Duane Ward and Rance Milliniks.  The three days spent on the Foothills baseball diamond gave him unforgettable moments and we are most grateful to everyone who helped make this happen.

After camp I took him to Chinatown.  We lucked out with a wonderful restaurant and the boy was ravenous after five hours of exercise followed by a swim in the pool and soak in the hot tub to loosen up muscles.  We sit down and he gave me a funny look. "What's with the sticks?" he asks.  It took me a bit, but I realized he meant the chopsticks.  Might  be an interesting meal experience I mentally note.  The waiter realizing we were not local residents quietly supplies forks and knives. I order the usual, chicken fried rice and mixed green vegetables leaving the last dish up to Connor to pick.  To my surprise not only has he given green tea a try, but he has ordered beef with black pepper sauce for the third dish. I suspect that he has been watching too much Man vs. Food lately, but I feel obligated to ask why. To which the response is " I am going to branch out and experience new things.  I feel that it is time that I broaden my horizons."  Now how do you argue with that?

So begins the Calgary food experience being lead by a twelve year old.  After reading the Where magazine he lets me know where we will be eating.... Peter's Drive-In because of their amazing shakes and colossal serving sizes.... and Kelly's Gourmet Doughnut Shop for Maple Bacon Doughnut (which as disgusting as it sounds are actually good - Hey, if he can broaden his horizons I guess I should too)... and of course Tim Horton for breakfast every morning to try their breakfast wraps and breakfast BELTS ( I am just looking for coffee that tastes good at that point in the morning).  Definitely too much food channel, but how can I complain.  He has done a good job finding usual places to eat?!

We also had an opportunity to head out to Okotoks one day after camp to visit some friends that have recently moved away from Fort McMurrayMcMurray.  It was so nice to reconnect.  They have an amazing house that backs onto a lake.  We were delighted when they showed up on the first day of baseball camp.  It was so nice to relax beside the water having a beer with friends watching the kids laugh and splash in the lake.  Thank you so much for taking time for us in the middle of your move.  It was appreciated.  So after a dinner of pizza washed down with Pepsi we were off to pack our bags for the trip home the next day.

As nice as it was to visit Calgary, both Connor and I agree that we love being in Fort McMurray.  This is our home, our community, our heart.

Monday, August 8, 2011

InterPLAY Thespianism

I have lived in Fort McMurray since 1993 and this was the first year that I have actually went to the plays at InterPLAY.  I have gone each year to watch the music on main stage, and looked at the vendors, but not the plays.  Well, actually I take that back I have been to one and it was a Katie's Playhouse Production....the name eludes me, however I did like it.  Now, don't get me wrong I LOVE theatre.  I have been to the Broadway shows in Edmonton over the past year, I get a season's pass to Keyano Theatre each year, and have recently decided to become a Theatre Angel.  How and why I have never been to the various plays that are available before remains a mystery.
This year I went to a total of five plays.  Maybe it was because I had friends performing in the first two plays that I went to see...."Waiting for The Parade" and "The Santaland Diaries".  Both of which were solid performances.  "Waiting for the Parade" had powerful performances that had me at one time looking at the floor instead of the actress to collect my emotions for a moment, while "The Sanataland Diaries" had me laughing and giggling at the hilariously brilliant life of an elf in a department store.  It was from here that I was bit by the InterPLAY bug.  I wanted to see more.  Even though I slept pass my first play on the next day I was determined to make up for it.  I purchased tickets for three more- in retrospect I really should have got a InterPLAY button, but I was certain I would not need it as I wasn't going to be going to alot of plays - that one wrong.  The first play of the afternoon was "Teddy and The Black Dog" - not one that I particularly enjoyed.  It was off to a rough start....maybe things will get better I thought to myself.  Things definitely picked up when I saw "Castle in the Sky" which was exactly what I needed to restore my faith in the arts.  I found it fascinating how they would use minimal changes in wardrobe...a changing of a scarf, a bandanna or hat to mark the differences in characters they were portraying.  My last play of the day was "Rubbish" which was a physically funny play which had two guys portraying shrunken people at a garbage dump who had to interact with many interesting bugs that live there.

I also worked the Kin Canada Beer Garden for three evenings and had an opportunity to listen to some great music.  Would I have stayed and listened to this much music every night without volunteering...probably not, but I am glad that I did.  Thursday night was my favorite band..Johnny Guitar.OK...I may be a bit biases though.  My husband Ken is lead singer and guitarist for the band. 
However I was impressed with the entire Blues evening line-up.  On the second night I showed up for my shift it was country music.  Have to admit I am also quite a country fan as I grew up with country music, horses and rodeo.  It was another great night of music.  The last night I worked the beer garden it was heavy metal night.  I was not looking forward to a night of music that I cannot understand the words, however after FOZZY took the stage I was good to go.  I rocked out in my military green and jeans until the wee hours of the rainy evening.

So from the beginning of doubt to a full fledged convert...InterPLAY has a new supporter.  Next year I may even out do my five plays.  Either way I know I am getting a InterPLAY pass and I will most likely be helping the Kinettes in the beer garden every night.  Wood Buffalo has done it again.  Thank you to all the volunteers and performers who have made this a weekend that I will always remember.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Camping, Baseball and Dogs

After much discussion, we decided to pack up the truck camper for a weekend in Grande Prairie for the Tier 1 Peewee Baseball Provincials.  Part of the thought process behind the camper involved what do you do with three dogs and a hotel? After phoning around to find a kennel in Grande Prairie we finally settled on Skyemist.  Then the challenge of course is what kind of camping do you want to partake in? Do you go the urban concrete no-surprises kind-of camping or do you head to the woods and hope it all works out?  We decided we wanted the no-surprises kind of camping and booked into the Rotary Campsite right in the middle of Grande Prairie.  The pre-check list all done and the duffel bag packed for a weekend beside the ball diamond we deliver Connor to a friend's house so he can ride the bus with his friends and Ken and I take off for the long trip to Grande Prairie with three dogs.  In all honesty it was an uneventful trip...not unlike many other road trips with dogs or small stop often for pee breaks and to stretch your legs - in this case all 16 legs of the occupants.  Upon arriving at our destination we find out that we have actually hit the jackpot.  The Rotary Campsite is not only next to everything we will need in walking distance, but across the street from the Hotel where the baseball team will be staying.  Although we did not know this at the time we booked it does seem that fate has smiled on us.
Knowing the team will be arriving on the bus we decide that we need to scope out the lay of the land.  We wake early and deposit the dogs into the kennel for the duration of our stay in Grande Prairie. We have previously learnt that three dogs at a ball diamond - of which one is scared to death of the sound of the crack of a bat on a ball and the thump of a well-placed baseball into a glove...which I have to say is a bit ironic considering how involved the family is with baseball - is not a stellar idea.  Also the truck camper is not designed for a peaceful stay when all the tiny floor space is squirming with fuzzy critters. Dogs safely deposited in the kennel we quickly are on the hunt for a Starbucks coffee shop.  Caffeine addiction satisfied we move onto the next logical step..where is the ball diamond? After driving down a gravel road on the outskirts of town I have to admit I am not expecting much.As we turn on the instructed second left on the gravel road we arrive at a most impressive ball diamond. I am struck on how amazing it is.  This diamond is surrounded by the forest which provides the backdrop to a promising baseball provincial weekend. 
The first day of Provincials the Peewee Oil Giants take the field at 9 am.  The battle is on and parents, siblings and well-wishers lean forward in anticipation.  Even with some great individual performances the team cannot come back to win it and lose the first game.  The next game takes on greater importance as we know there is a real need to win this one.  Again the team takes the  field at 3 pm in the afternoon.  It was soooo close, but alas the win eludes the team once again.  We are now in a consolation game for the next morning at 9 am. The mood is friendly on the stands with parents cheering on both teams equally and commenting on the good hits, and great plays on both sides. This is a marked difference from the day before when things are on a slightly more competitive edge with everyone involved...spectators and teams included.  It was another close game however it was not in the cards for the Peewee Oil Giants. 
We collect our son and then pick up the dogs from the kennel down the road.  After everyone is safely inside the vehicle we begin the long drive home...having decided not to spend another night in Grande Prairie due the fact that we have no more games left in the weekend.  It is on this drive that Connor is proudly wearing the MVP T-Shirt that he received in the last game from the Lacombe team.  We let him know how proud we are of him and how much we love him.  Due to the fact we are in the vehicle for quite some time it is not a blanket statement.  We let him know which plays we thought he did well on, which ones he could improve on....all done in a positive way knowing that praise is more meaningful when it is done about specific tasks.  The fact of the matter is that we are proud of him and do love him VERY much.  Now if only he would take off that T-Shirt so I can wash it.