Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Crooked Crane Game is a winner

Some of you will know this, but most of you won't; I'm a Halloweenie. It's an inherited passion, passed down through the Gilberts. Yes, Grandma, Mom and I all have a love of the gruesome holiday. Since I can remember, we decorated the house, dressed up, and hit the streets.

It's not about the mountain of candy you can amass with a well planned route. It's not even about the costumes. It's about experiencing autumn. When you step outside on October 31st, it isn't just any night. You can smell it in the air; feel it as the wind caresses your cheek. Some people think the veil between our world and the afterlife become thin enough to pass through. Ghost stories are told, resulting in goose bumps and a tingle down your spine. Myself, I'd say it's the most perfect night of the year. Cool, crisp, fresh. Full of promise.

The start of high school was the end of great Halloweens. You're suddenly too old to trick or treat. The women's section in the Halloween store seems more like a hooker's closet. Far away from friends, bars seem to be the only place to go. Surrounded by strangers who are only thinking about getting drunk (and getting laid), it becomes increasingly hard to have a good time. As for DJ's, while taking requests seems like a good idea, on Halloween it backfires. There aren't a whole lot of festive songs that aren't embarrassingly outdated. Thriller is the greatest Halloween song ever. Monster Mash... should have been allowed to rest in peace.

This Halloween seemed a bit last minute. For months I harassed John about costume ideas. After the Venner visit we had less than a week. I gave up on a couple costume when John told me he likes waiting until the day before to make his. I purchased a dress and declared myself a 50's Hollywood Movie Star. The day of, as he drove us to Walmart, I was offering suggestions ranging from ridiculous to decent. Receiving no feedback, I was fed up by the time we walked past the greeter. Turning to my left, I saw a crane machine.

Knowing John's affinity for them I offered my last suggestion, "You could be a crane machine..." That's all it took, and he was off and running. $30 and four hours later, John had his costume.

Katherine had invited us to join them for Halloween which we did. She and Don were dressed up as Napoleon Dynamite and Deb (the portrait photographer girlfriend). At 9 they decided the trick-or-treaters were done, and we went to the Flight Deck. John won the costume contest and $500. Katherine and I were dead on our feet by the time they announced it at 1 AM but John was all smiles.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Venner Family Reunion

One week after my parents left, it was the Venner's turn! Martin and Rhonda got to wake up around 4:30 to catch an early flight, in order to arrive around 10. John and I (emphasis on I) got our wires crossed the night before about where we were meeting, so after a little confusion and a bit of speeding, we were both at the airport to greet our new guests!

We went out for breakfast and then down to High River. They got to do the grand tour on foot since the weather was more cooperative that week. We took them to the Antique store in town so they could do the "attic walk." When the town grew and the stores took over what used to be the center of town, the antique store began to utilize the top stories of the buildings. Walls that separated the buildings were knocked down and doorways were opened. This allows one to walk through three or four different buildings. One of which, used to be the courthouse. They left the holding cells alone, and jammed all of the old leather seats into the tiny room. There is even a creepy naked red light bulb hanging from the ceiling. My favorite room looks like it was part of a hotel. It is a big, open room with an atrium like area in the roof. The place would be an amazing setting for a Halloween dance. Might have to keep that in mind...

While we were out and about, we checked out the local bakery, which was a big hit. Date squares, peanut butter bars and other tasty treats were purchased and devoured.

Taking a trip up to Banff is a necessity it seems. John's parents were treated to the obligatory shopping spree. Martin in particular seemed to really enjoy that aspect, especially when they found a candy shop making fresh caramel corn and HUGE turtles. The turtle was not my friend, I still have chocolate on the seats of my car which I had forgotten to clean up. John bought my belated anniversary present while we were there. It is a knit sweater with a fleece lining, and holy crap is it warm! Best, most useful gift ever! It came in handy when we continued the drive out to Lake Louise. The temperature was much more tolerable that day, but by no means warm. I was glad to have my new sweater. We took pictures and walked along the edge of the Lake, a feat we wouldn't have dared to do the day my parents were there.

Spurred by some crazy urge, we found ourselves doing a 2.6 km hike up to Mirror Lake. No one had come prepared for hiking on icy trails. I was wearing Uggs... not the hiking shoe of choice. They preformed relatively well compared to Rhonda's running shoes, lol. Love you, Rhonda!

After what seemed like forever walking through a snow covered forest, we eventually reached a frozen-over, Mirror Lake. To add injury to insult, it was more like a pond, and was covered in snow. Martin didn't let that stop him from enjoying the moment. While the rest of of sat and recuperated, he wandered down to the ice and made a snow angel. No one will ever say the Venner's are boring. I was snapping pictures with Rhonda's camera the whole time we were out there, but when it started to snow, however lightly, I decided to put it under my sweater. Only after zipping up did I realize it looked like I had a beer belly. It was, of course, while I was declaring this observation, that two hikers found us.

Nothing very interesting came of that. They hadn't run into anyone in a while and asked us to take a picture of them together, which we did. They also gave Martin inspiration to head back down (we figured they had food in their bags, and we could catch them and "borrow" the food if need be). There was a lot of laughing and slipping on the way back down. Some name calling which is better off forgotten.

As for that night, I only have two things to say: Schanks and drunk Venners are happy Venners.

Unlike my family, John's actually has some extended relatives way out west, here. Martin's sister, Elsie and her husband, Derek, are two. I don't know how long it had been since Martin and Elsie had seen each other, but it was a given that we were going to take a trip up to see them.

The painfully long drive to Edmonton started out even worse after we got on the road. Out of nowhere, the snow flurries turned into a white-out. I'm not a bad driver, and I have experienced snow covered roads (Just ask my college room mates), but I was not up for the responsibility of driving John's family through a storm. I made it to Calgary, bailed off the Deerfoot, and swapped out with John. He had the pleasure of making it the rest of the way through Calgary, before the snow let up.

The perk of this trip was the Edmonton Mall. It is the largest in North America and the fifth largest in the world. We visited a little at the house, but in an effort to burn some time, we all went to the mall. After the boys split from the girls, and the Rhonda and I split from Elsie and Derek's mom, we had an interesting time. Of course, Rhonda and I needed a few more hours, but in that time John managed to turn $5 into $70 at the casino (THERE'S A CASINO?!?!?!) and buy a few pairs of much needed jeans. The guys also checked out the shooting range (this is the only mall men would drag their partners to), but found it lacking. Too expensive, and they had shot more impressive guns than the range provided.

Rhonda and I saw the indoor water park/wave pool. We saw the lagoon with the submarine ride, and we even saw the theme park where the roller coasters were. We missed the Casino since we were on the ground floor and I still have no idea where the shooting range was. We did, however, go in a bunch of jewelry shops to look at the shiny things, and she told me the story of Martin proposing. It was a fun time.

That evening we had dinner with the Edmonton Venners, we carved some mini pumpkins, Elsie came up with a new name for my degree (Bachelor of Fuck-All), and Rhonda and I got to take turns driving the 3 or more hours home while Martin sang in the backseat.

Some where during that week we drove up to Calgary and saw the +15 system. One of the days Rhonda and I finally got to sleep in, then went shopping. We needed some time away from the boys and we were supposed to find a DVD shelf/cabinet/holder. Instead we bought wine glasses, place mats and napkins at Crate and Barrel. We had to go out later with John and Martin to Ikea to find the DVD shelves. That experience could have gone a little smoother, but after we returned the first set (wrong color) and got the right set into the car (we had to put down one of the back seats and squish together on the remaining one to get home) we were good. Rhonda and John put it together while I made my honey BBQ chicken, and Martin held part of the shelf at the last second so he could say he helped. I have to admit, he cleaned the kitchen more than once so I have nothing to complain about... really.

John punished us mercilessly the whole week in a way I will not share, but Martin finally got him back one night. He was checking his blood sugar, and some how, that led to John getting tested. Below 10 means you're not in trouble, but being at the high end is not good. 4-5 is I think. Martin got a 6 something, John got a 9 something, Rhonda got a 5 something, and after being a wuss and dodging the tester a few times I got a 4.7. Martin had had some difficulty taking John's test, and when it was so high, we got a little more than concerned. Martin let him sweat it out for around a half hour until he mentioned that the screw-up could have made it higher. I think John was ready to throttle his dad. The second test produced a much smaller number. John doesn't have to worry about Diabetes just yet.

Once again, I got to drive the folks to the airport in the morning while John was at work. Once again it snowed. Much less than on the way to Elsie's, thank goodness. I probably had them there a little early, but I would rather that, than have them miss their flight. That's the second parental visit we can say we have under our belt. Now we are just waiting for John's mom, Judy, to come out and see us! What do you say, Judy?

P.S. Curt and Kandace, I really would love to have you both come out sometime. Emphasis on you, Curt! I know Kandace is already looking forward to it.

Fisher Invasion

John and I are the only ones in our immediate families living out here in Calgary. John had to leave behind a lot, including his friends. No matter where I went I was going to be leaving someone behind. My parents are in Kansas. My brother and my friends are in Jersey, and my sister is way down in New Mexico. So why not follow love, end up in a different country, and see what there is to see?

Since we moved, our families have been talking about coming out to see us. The first ones to make the trek ended up being my parents. They aimed to come up for Canadian Thanksgiving; the idea being, John would be able to have guilt free time off with my folks! Also, it would be my parents first Canadian Thanksgiving! Now I wish I could give you the precise rundown of what we did on which days, but I failed to journal.

I know my memory's limitations, so I record everything in a journal. The problem is, now that I'm living with another person, and sharing the same bedroom, writing in bed is no longer an option. I don't feel comfortable journaling with a witness, and I'm not mean enough to kick him out of the room while I do. So yeah, I could leave the room, but by the time I get back, John is usually asleep, so I miss valuable cuddle time. "So do it during the day!" you are probably telling your computer. Sorry guys, that won't work either. The journal is also part of my falling asleep ritual. I usually have a ton of useless thoughts running through my head before bed, so the journal allows me to get it all out so I can actually sleep. I'm not sure how I will resolve this issue, so let's continue with the story!

My parents arrived October 9th, via Continental (much to John's disappointment). He was hoping they would fly up in Skywalker, the Mooney. If it had still been summer-ish weather, taking the little plane would have been much faster. Unfortunately, we had a cold snap that week, leading to snow in the mornings.

Snow on a grass landing stip = no stopping. Cold air = ice on the wings.
(Personally, I'm glad they left the flying to a commercial aircraft)

-October 9th was our ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY by the way! Congrats to us! Don't worry, we celebrated the day before to avoid any awkwardness. However, this did not stop mom from offering to wear earplugs (the start of many embarassing yet humorous comments).

Now the problem with moving to an unfamiliar location, and then trying to entertain family, is finding stuff to do with them. John and I were not (still aren't) familiar enough with Calgary to properly entertain visitors. We took them to Banff and did a little shopping. Mom and Dad bought us a set of western, wood handled steak knives. Thanks guys! We got to see an Asian tourist wipeout and almost take me with her. John got to learn a few things that no boyfriend deserves to know. He and my parents enjoyed my embarassment as mom began to freely share all sorts of info.

We decided to go check out Lake Louise while we were out that way. It was a first for all of us which made it a little more special. That cold snap made being outside less than pleasurable so the time spent there was short but sweet. We managed to get a couple pictures, and then we ditched.

I had done a little research before they came up, and discovered the +15 Walkway system. The +15 is a covered, elevated walkway system that allows Calgarians to go from building to building without having to go outside during the freezing winter (My parents took pictures which are now on facebook.) We went on the weekend, so we didn't get the full experience. The main path South to North was open, but all of the side walkways were locked.

Since we were there and hadn't done it before, we went to the top of the Calgary Tower. While not as impressive as the CN Tower in Toronto (great memories), the Calgary Tower was still entertaining. They recently put in a glass floor, so we got to look down at the people on the street and the roofs of the shorter buildings surrounding it. Again, the pictures from this are on mom's facebook.

On Thanksgiving, John treated us to a tasty turkey. Mom and I learned a new trick to keep the turkey meat juicy, and we were all impressed with his stuffing. John got a taste of the midwest with the Gilbert Cranberry fluff recipe. He ate a ton of it, so I'm pretty sure he liked it. We took it easy that day. If we did anything besides eat, and do tons of laundry, I don't remember it, haha.

Tuesday morning we woke up to snow. Much to my displeasure, I got to drive my parents to the airport in it. Calgary does not believe in snow plows, apparently, and instead of using salt (it would run into the rivers and kill the fish), they use gravel. This is probably why most Albertans have cracks running across their windshields. We saw cars and SUV's in the ditches along the road and even got to watch one lose control at high speed. Thankfully we arrived at the airport on time and without incident!

Not to anyones great surprise, we survived the first family visit!