Friday, August 31, 2007

Time to Eat

Shockingly, I spent most of Home Leave eating. And since I don’t believe in discriminating, I ate everything in sight! No burger, piece of sushi, or salad was safe from my Real World cravings. I also didn’t believe in eating on a budget so we hit everywhere from Harvey’s and Qdoba to Mario Batali’s new restaurant and even the Olive Garden!

Whilst in Toronto, we celebrated my parents’ 40th wedding anniversary and my brother BBS’s zillionth birthday. Sadly, he wasn’t there to celebrate with us but we still drank in his honour because, as you know, we need excuses like that to drink in my family. The location of the festivities was a Yorkville restaurant called Pangaea.

The venue’s name was amusing if only because just days before we made the reservations, I had been explaining my favourite “continental drift puzzle game” to my family over dinner. Yes, I’m a geek but that doesn’t make the game any less fun!

Although our next big meal didn’t include caribou (which Hubby greatly enjoyed), we still had a great meal at Mario Batali’s Las Vegas restaurant B&B. By this point, we had heard to expect little to nothing of any celebrity chef restaurant in Vegas. But since this dining experience was part of the reason we were staying at the Venetian, I wasn’t going to let bad press dim my enthusiasm.

The first big plus was that unlike many celebrity ventures, B&B was relatively small. This, naturally, meant that the tables were a wee bit too close together for my liking but that was only a half-star deduction. Unlike other similarly priced Vegas restaurants (*cough* Picasso *cough*), we were permitted to dine at our own pace and the courses were very nicely spaced out.

Our meals, while taken from Mario’s various cookbooks, were great if not highly memorable. The knowledgeable wait staff was able to advise us on wine pairings and even which dishes they felt were “winners.” Wine-wise; however, we did extremely well – from the champagne cocktails we started with to the gloriously lovely Muscat we ended the meal with. The Muscat was so nice that even I had a glass of the slightly sweet dessert wine!

These fine and pricey restaurants were lovely but our truly great “dining” choice of the trip was our dinner at Casa Bonita. Those of you who are fans of South Park” will recognize the name from the season seven episode “Casa Bonita.” You may not have realized this was a real place but it is – complete with cliff divers, Bad Bart and the relatively bland “Mexican" food.

I wish we had nicer things to say about Casa Bonita, but the two hour wait to order, pick up our food cafeteria style, and then finally find a seat, only to eat bland food was less than thrilling. Don’t get me wrong, I’m ecstatic that we experienced Cartman’s dream – but we’re not heading back any time soon.

Our final “destination” meal was in San Diego. The Corvette Diner is one of my favourite restaurants for several reasons not the least of which is that I enjoy having sassy waitresses throw straws in my face and tell me to hurry up because they have better things to do. Obviously, the diner is an acquired taste and popular with families, but the food is good and the milk shakes are great.

The downside to this fun venue is all the families who think that sassy waitresses are a good way to occupy their otherwise un-parented brats. We witnessed several children being downright belligerent to one waitress while the parents watched on and said nothing. Wait-chick finally stood-up for herself and told the children and parents off after the kids had thrown one too many napkins and straws (purloined from various other tables) at her. We applauded her and added extra money to our tip as a monetary high-five.

In between these adventures in eating, we ate lots of great home cooking with my parents, fast food in Illinois, tapas in Portland, and cider and beer everywhere else. It’s weird but as much as I love dining out in restaurants, and we all know I do, I was happy to get back to Nairobi and yummy, healthy home cooking Typ0 and Hubby style. That said, we’re going out to dinner tonight – and that’s good too!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Friends and Beers

The Toronto portion of our home leave trip was especially remarkable for all of the reunions we managed to squeeze into our time there. From mini high school reunions to mini pub-crawls and even miniature people that made me want to have my own mini me. Of course, due to “Wandering the World” rules, I can’t actually post many of the amazing photos of these events. So, if you were there, you’ll know what’s missing. And if you weren’t there – well, you’re just going to have to use your imagination.

I should start by giving props to that wonderful invention: Facebook. I realize that I blogged at length about how it was ruining my life with addiction and insecurities but in this case it actually begat something really cool. Several of the girls from my high school are all on Facebook and we even have a group for our graduation year. As luck would have it, someone came up with the brilliant idea of having a “mini reunion” which just happened to be scheduled so that I could attend.

All the former Ladies met at a local bar where we proceeded to catch up on old times, find about new times, and even gossip about the times of people who couldn’t make it. It was amazing how much we all still looked like our 18 year old selves – not a day had passed. Most of the Ladies seemed to be teachers and/or mothers, which left me as the odd chick out on several levels. Of course we also had artists, lawyers, nurse practitioners, and, of course, me who blogs.

It was sincerely amazing to see all these people again and I wish that even more of my classmates had been able to attend. KC showed up and told us the happy news that she was expecting soon. Hubby (who arrived to pick me up) thought that A was hot. (I can always count on him to drool over someone when it is least appropriate.) After being the odd girl out in North York all through high school everyone seemed to have moved to the neighborhood in the intervening years. Several Ladies promised they’d come visit Casa del Typ0 in Kenya (and I really hope they do!!). I know I’m leaving out a lot of people and I apologize. It was awesome seeing each of you, even if I don’t mention you by name here. **hugs**

Next up on the reunion front was seeing She of the Gratuitous H (or SGH for short). SGH and I went to Dalhousie together back in the day and she was responsible for my showing up for several of classes when I would have otherwise slept in, chatted online, or just ignored class all together. More importantly, SGH was there when I met Hubby. She was there when I accidentally proclaimed my love to him via email to the wrong person (her). She was there when Hubby and I first met in person.

It is this topic I should address first. You see, She of the Gratuitous H claims that she didn’t want Hubby as he was on her “B-List.” Hubby has always claimed that he visited Toronto to see me because he loved me even then. (Cue: awwwwwwwwwww) Yet they were both there! If you had seen these two during our pub crawl you would have seen them making goo goo eyes at each other, casting longing glances when they thought I wasn’t looking, and just generally wishing I wasn’t there so they could get it on.

Hubby would probably like to point out at this point that I’m a paranoid conspiracy theorist who sees things that aren’t there like ghosts and people hitting on him. SGH would point out that she doesn’t like Hubby that way and it’s always my body she’s wanted and not his. (That’s my version of what she would say, anyways.) And then finally they’d both lock lips and laugh at me for believing either of them.

Needless to say, we had an amazing time during Pub Crawl ’07 and as you’ll see in a blog this weekend, much beer, cider, sake, and martinis were consumed. Now if only we could get SGH and her bf Chip to visit us in Nairobi the circle would be complete. (‘Cause unless I lose a bet, I’m not going to North Bay. Love you!)

The final reunion was with Carebear, her husband, and her ADORABLE son Cub. (The picture here isn’t Cub, obviously, but one of his toys that I desperately wanted to steal and Hubby thought was a hat.) The Care reunion was two fold as she and I partied it up on our own for lunch and shopping one day and then we let the boys in on the festivities at her place for Chinese.

I really can’t understate how much seeing her son made me want to have a baby. I bugged Hubby about it for days. The only reason we are not parents right now is that he pointed out that babies don’t come potty trained. Dang it! Of course meeting her Hubby (then bf) named Ubby made me go out and find my own version: same age and name, just less buff and taller.

Of course, there were also family reunions but I’ll tell you about those another time. I need to go and drown my happy memories in cider and drunk-post on Facebook.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

And They’re Off!

Later this week I’ll tell you guys about the wonderful people I was able to hook up with in Toronto. I may even tell you about all the shopping I did – both the window (literally) and clothing varieties. But first, I wanted to tell you about the awesome day I spent winning money.

My parents are avid horse racing fans – some of you may remember that my father goes every May to watch the Kentucky Derby live and in person. As luck would have it, a race known as the Queen’s Plate was being run in Toronto around week two of my trip. Some of you may be worrying at this point since it isn’t exactly a secret that I have an addictive personality (Martini, anyone?) and probably shouldn’t be gambling without close Hubby-supervision. Well, stop worrying and reread the first paragraph – I made money, baby!

But I’m getting ahead of myself…

The ‘Rents and I made our way to Woodbine racetrack and parked as far as humanly possible from the front door. Before we could bet on any races, my mother had to explain how to read the racing form/booklet I had been given at the door. I evaluated her advice and weighed it with my own careful research before betting on horses whose names sounded the best. I headed over to the betting window and bet $5.00 each on various horses to win (first), place (first or second), or show (first, second, or third).

The seats we had gave us a wonderful (and wonderfully shaded) view of the finish line. My first ever, live race ended with me winning - absolutely nothing. Over the course of the next few several races I managed to bet a total of sixty or seventy dollars while winning only about ten or twenty. I was obviously in the zone… the losing one, that is.

Immediately after race number eight, the three of us placed our bets on the Big race – the Queen’s Plate. The horse I wanted to bet on had been scratched (withdrawn) so I quickly chose another one at random. From the betting windows we head out to watch the parade.

The parade is a pre-race opportunity to see the horses and their jockeys up-close. The real competition at the parade appeared to be among the owners who strutted and peacocked around as if they were the ones who were about to run rather the pricey investments behind them. That’s when I saw horse number nine and it’s pretty aqua horse blanket. I wish I could tell you that I looked into that horse’s eyes and saw something but the truth of the matter is that the horse was pretty and I liked the colour of its silks.

Team Typ0 rushed back to our seats so that we wouldn’t miss a moment of the race. While the ‘Rents got comfy I stopped off at the betting window to place $5 on #9 to win and, as a hedge, another $5 to show. Shortly after I got settled into my seat, the race began and everyone was cheering on for their horse to go faster, stay in the race, and win them some money. That’s when I noticed #9 edging up to the front of the pack. I joined the screaming masses encouraging my horse to be a leader and pull ahead.

It was a clear win!! Horse #9 (whose name I really wish I could remember) and his jockey won one for the history books - the jockey was the first woman to ever ride to first in Plate history. As for me, it was a double win since I had believed in my horse enough to bet on it twice! My final haul was almost $100. Quite the return on my $10 investment, eh? Not including my entrance ticket (which my parent’s had paid for) I ended my day $30 up.

My time at the Queen’s Plate was a winning trend that would continue throughout my gambling-themed vacation. I may not have had a complicated system, or even basic knowledge about what I was doing, but I had proven that a little naivety could go a long way. Including the bar where, that night, drinks were on me!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Forgive Me

It has come to my attention that I may have been rather lax in the blog updating department for the last few months. To everyone who has commented in person, by phone, email, or commented directly on the blog: Thank you for reminding me that my first obligation is to you guys and this blog, not to writer’s block and being pouty. I have abandoned my Devoted Readers for too long and promise to get back on the blogging horse and stay there!

When last we read the blog, I was about to leave for Toronto to see my family. Let me start by pointing out that while we all know that while I love Emirates, 14 hours on any one plane without a break is simply too long unless your husband loves you and lets you upgrade to business. Needless to say I flew economy.

My first adventure started before I’d even made it home. The flight from JFK to Toronto was delayed so long that I ordered a venti, triple shot macchiato and didn’t even think that it tasted too much of espresso. I was that tired. I should point out here that I had awoken on Wednesday around 8 a.m. Nairobi time and by the time they finally announced my flight was going to leave JFK, I had been awake for 48 hours. (In my next life, I want to come back as someone who can sleep in economy. Or better yet, someone who only flies business or first class.)

When I arrived at Pearson, I went to the taxi desk and gave them my name. My mother, who was in Ireland at that moment, had pre-booked a taxi for me. The taxi desk had no idea what I was talking about. Smiling in a polite Canadian way, I went off to find a pay phone so I could call the company to confirm that they really did have my reservation. Of course, since it was almost 2 a.m. and I was four hours late, they weren’t entirely thrilled to hear from me – but they were expecting me.

Happy once again, I dragged my two cases, carryon and purse the kilometer or so to the correct desk where I gave my name. The gentleman at this desk hadn’t heard of me either despite the fact that I had just hung up from speaking with a dispatcher. This was approximately the moment when I lost it.

“I am not an orphan! My mummy ordered a taxi for me! I’ve been awake for 48 hours and I want to go home! I’m not an orphan and I just want to go home!” I wasn’t just hysterical, I was crying and sobbing with huge tears falling down my pathetic face.

At this point, I think the guy at the desk was going to offer to drive me home himself if only to get me out of his airport. Luckily for him, my taxi showed up at just that moment. I would like to point out that I did apologize for having a nervous breakdown and the kind gentleman told me that he understood. Of course, he also looked VERY relieved to know that I was about to leave and he would never have to deal with me again.

By the time I arrived home and had found a key to the front door, I was so overly tired that I couldn’t sleep – so I called Hubby and told him my pathetic story. He laughed at me, as I’m quite certain that you are too. But at that moment it didn’t matter; I went upstairs and tucked myself into a bed in the room with the same baby wallpaper that had been on the walls since before I was born. The world map on the wall was new but as I fell asleep I drew a line from Nairobi to Toronto and smiled - I was home and all the heartaches, tears, and bad airplane food that got me there was worth it.