Trapshoot!

My Dad, Ken, worked for decades selling hardware at ‘Simpson’ Sears in Hillside. Many, many people bought tools from him and Sears was a like an extended family to all of us.  Later, he sold real estate and had many loyal clients over the years. It seemed we could not go anywhere without someone stopping to say hi.

I have memories of being in the Ingy pub – and others, including the Red Lion – from when I was a child. My Dad worked very hard to support the family in the late 70’s and early 80’s and onward, holding a variety of part time jobs in addition to his full time job! He owned a janitorial firm for a while, cleaning offices in the evening to make ends meet, and for years he owned a vending company that leased things like pool tables, cigarette machines, pinball tables, etc, and one of the things this company provided were large, wall mounted electronic games, like baseball, golf or trapshoot. Of course, this was before most anyone had heard of a computer.

The way these games worked was very, very basic. The player would stand at a podium about 10 feet away from the game, and press the single button on the podium at the right time to, say, hit the ball, shoot the gun, swing the club, etc and you would see an object sail across the large screen – there might have been sound effects like a cheering fan, or the crack of the bat. Really rudimentary stuff. The box on the wall was maybe 10 feet by 7 feet and would hang from the ceiling. There were light bulbs (just regular old bulbs) behind a thick black sheet of plastic. The sheet had patterns and even art that would relate to the game (bases, etc) and the bulbs would turn on and off according to what was happening in the game. Some of these memories are early, pre-school age, and maybe in to kindergarten, so I would hang out with my Dad and go to these pubs while he maintained the machines, took out the coins, etc.

Of course, we always seemed to have one or two of these games in ‘storage’ at the house in the family room or garage and our friends always liked coming over to play. Quite a novelty!! They stuck around the house for a few years, into elementary school. Perhaps they went out of style and were removed from the pubs, or perhaps I just stopped going to these places with my old man, but I do well remember the strange feeling of being someplace where I knew I wasn’t normally allowed, and often there was nobody else there, or maybe a manager sitting down counting money or cleaning… and the sticky floors. I really remember the sticky floors. 

 

Good Pic! (front row, far right)

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Event Planner

I’ve written before about putting myself out into the world, professionally speaking, some in the last couple of years.  The list of attempts continues to grow.  Some have been successful, others decidedly not.  There have even been a couple of bona fide disasters which I have narrowly escaped with my career still intact.  I don’t dwell on those too much, preferring to simply learn from my misses as well as my hits.

This year has been particularly full of events, which usually add to the already sometimes heavy workload that my job entails.  If you’ve got a 60 hour week coming up and there’s an event to plan for and attend, it’s simply piled on.  It’s a bit of a double edged sword, as most of these extra-curricular activities are genuinely fun and at the end of the day putting our best foot forward is good for the company, which in turn is good for me, but they take a toll on family life and overall sanity – the latter is over rated anyways.

I’ve decided not to take on any more events for the month of November to allow me time to refocus on some work related things that have been escaping my attention.  Last weekend, after a particularly big and high profile wine dinner, we participated in the grand tasting at Art of the Cocktail, the second annual festival of all things cocktail related.  It’s a pretty big event, spanning three days and multiple venues.  And clearly, given the subject matter, you know it’s going to be a pretty good time.

Since this was going to be the last thing till the madness of the Christmas season descends upon us, I wanted to make sure I made it easy on myself, had the chance to have some fun, and most importantly not interfere with the reason people came to an event like this – the cocktail!  Brooke had prepared the ‘Japanese Cowboy’, a cocktail consisting of Bulleit bourbon, sake, sweet vermouth and bitters.  Pretty tasty all around, and something different to separate himself from the pack.  Offering to bring a bit of food for the crowd helped secure us a table, and given the event is a fundraiser for the Victoria Film Festival, I gave it some thought and decided popcorn would fit the bill.  Easy, fun, thematic and loved by just about everyone.  Saturday of the event I popped 8kg of corn, which yielded about 140 litres of popped corn.  Half of it was turned into caramel corn via my wife’s recipe (with the addition of lots and lots of Bulleit bourbon) and the other half was tossed with butter and a seaweed/sea salt mix, to be misted with sake at the event.  The ingredients in the cocktail were well complemented, and people were delighted to have food, any food at the event.  It got kind of messy by the end of the evening, but you probably had to be there to see it…

Over One Billion Served

6 X 18" X 26" Sheet Pans Full

David Saw Me Toasting the Nori, Then Went Downstairs for the 'Good Stuff'

Popcorn Anyone?

Cocktail (with popcorn) Anyone? Japanese Cowboy (Hokkaido)

 

Something Similar Happened Last Time We Were Invited

 

Kevin Brauch - Popcorn Monster

 

Day Tripping

As a kid I’d always loved making trips to the mainland to see family, with uncles, aunts and cousins over there we seemed to head over at least a few times a year.  Always a treat, and getting to the ferry terminal at Swartz Bay  is still exciting as I know there’s no turning back.  As a young adult I’d often make day trips to the mainland just to explore, sometimes Science World or Granville Island, sometimes downtown, sometimes utterly lost.  Most of the time we didn’t care, as long as we made that last ferry home.  I almost followed a girl to Vancouver once – it’s for the best that it never happened, as things seem to have had a way of turning out okay…

The industry on the Fraser is really fascinating to me and something I find really beautiful about Vancouver.  Victoria is a harbour city too, so we have some light and heavy industry on our waterways and it’s something that’s really important to keeping our local economy healthy.  Most of these jobs are well paying, and I worry sometimes about the residential development that is happening around our waterways.

Obviously, the restaurant scene in Vancouver is pretty big and the industry as a whole is something I like learning about.  The last few years I’ve been putting myself out there a little more, food festivals, blogs and the like, meeting new people and building some networks in the industry.  I love to talk shop, and pretty much every where you go you’re bound to run into a cook.

This week I went over with some of the people from work for the GFS fall food show, which is always great.  Not just for the displays or samples (!) but to meet with other people like me who do what I do, to reacquaint with old friends and colleagues and make some new ones.  We had coffee at Thomas Haas and took in a killer burger and poutine at refuel.  Our server probably noticed the bags under my eyes and suggested a ginger ale with cherry bitters.  It hit the spot and I enjoyed spending time with my co-worker and chatting with the boys in the kitchen before heading back home.

 

Grape Escape

Thanksgiving

It’s been another time of adjustment at work the last couple of months, with one sous chef leaving and another coming on board.  I haven’t been doing this very long, but I gave myself lots of time to make the right decision.  At the end of it all, it didn’t matter much as I went with my gut instinct, which I could have done on day one – and saved myself another 35 day stretch.    It kind of came down to two people, both qualified in different ways, both with some baggage, and both wanting the job.  I am confident that I made the right decision, and as the days a weeks go by, the new guy is proving his worth more and more.  We have two more big events this month, and then I think that’s it until the Christmas and New Years mayhem starts.  I would like to take much of November off, work a lot of half days to recuperate and get ready for the onslaught, but you know how it is.  I’m sure something will come up and it’ll be time to re-evaluate again.  It’s been project after project for about 4 months, without any downtime and some of the basics are being neglected.  A few weeks to get caught up and refocussed is necessary.

The OBMG is a really good company to work for, and on top of the perks like freedom to do what I want, regular paycheques that clear every time, and the resources that a decent sized company has, are the accommodation benefits at sister resorts like Painter’s Lodge in Campbell River.  This year I booked out a big room and a cabin for myself and some friends to spend Thanksgiving weekend, and we did it up right.  This is the third year that we have headed up so my wife can ‘swim with the salmon’ down Campbell River and I can enjoy some down time and spend time with my kids.  This time, however, we managed to pull off a full Thanksgiving dinner for 14 on two small electric burners, one bar fridge, a Coleman cooler and an electric table-top turkey roaster.  I was dubious, but sure enough this thing produced some nice bird.  Stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, two kinds of veg – even I was kind of impressed.  Since it was potluck style, other people brought dessert, a cheeseboard, some really great pumpkin spread for cookies (!) and fresh fruit.

Things I am thankful for this year?  Clearly, the best thing I have going for me is my family.  Since losing my parents, it’s the one thing I cherish most knowing that our time together is finite.  A good paying job, doing exactly what I love most – what a luxury in this world – and knowing that all this hard work is paying off.  Being a pretty simple person, I take time to be thankful every day for the simple things in life.  My little garden, a love for music, a roof over our heads, and a quiet house.

 

Thanks

Rather Be Sleeping

I have not had a proper vacation for about 10 years, and I kind of accept that it’s part of the “deal” for a career cook and full time parent.  Note to all you aspiring rock star chefs out there: forget it, they lied to you.  The money is almost always terrible and you will always work when others are playing, and you will work opposite schedules to the people you love.  That is, if you are good at what you do.  You should not ask for two weeks off in the summer, if you do, be prepared to work 20 days straight before you go and 20 more when you get back.  Consider it penance for taking a summer vacation.

Mostly, cooks are happy with the occasional three day weekend, which allows you time to get really loaded and recover and still one day to hang out and enjoy your day off before heading back to work, where you will have to make up for it.  Four day weekend?  You best get the hell out of town, because these are rare, especially in the peak season(s).  Me?  I have had a couple three and four day weekends this summer, and have just returned to work after a five day weekend (no booze consumed) to find things more or less how I left them.  Every week I tend to learn a couple new things, and sure enough this week away from work was no exception!  No harm was done, the coolers were all well organized, and I had an easy day back.  I think that was the first five day break in five years.  It’s pretty much a blur, so who can tell for sure.  I just started a 19 day stretch, so I’ll be saying my Hail Mary’s.

I took the opportunity to camp for one night at the Sooke Potholes with family and friends, which was really great.  Somehow I volunteered to help cook for a camp of up to 25 – dinner, breakfast and then lunch.  We had three camp stoves and our Weber Q220 so there was lots of fire power, and lots of food.  I would suggest we ate very well, and people seemed to agree.  Hot dogs, spring salmon, Dungeness crab (garlic butter!), potato salad for dinner.  Popcorn and s’mores for dessert.  French toast, scrambled eggs, hashbrowns, good coffee and oj to wake up to, and a bag lunch for the hike – cookie, sandwich, apple, juice and water.  What else do you need?  We were barely there for 24 hours, I’d say we did well.  I’d do it again.  The rest of the days were spent chilling in the pool with the kids, hanging out in bed and relaxing, enjoying some stargazing and otherwise doing generally nothing.  A couple frantic phone calls from work, but why not?   At least nothing exploded and/or caught on fire this time.

Last month I took an extra day to head over to Vancouver with Sorensen to see TOOL, which blew my mind.  A couple of weeks ago my wife and I took advantage of a kid-free weekend and headed up to Pacific Shores at  Nanoose Bay to relax. Two nights, just nothing to do but relax.  Somewhere in there we spent a few nights in Ukee at the Canadian Princess, courtesy of the OBMG.  Not a bad summer all in all you say?  It took me 15 plus years to get a long weekend in the summer time, so all you rock stars look out.  You’ve got some time to put in.

Our View Across Craig bay From Pacific Shores - Raining? Who Cares...

... When You Have Two Fireplaces, Including One In the Tub

Thirsty Tree

Aquarium @ Landing Pacific Grill - AMAZING.

These Two Kids Joined Us For Lunch...

.. And This Guy. Just Kept Watching Us Eat.

Centre of the Universe

What a great night to visit the Dominion observatory.  I know I’ve been there before, but really don’t remember when it was I was last on top of Little Saanich Mountain.  You can see the main observatory dome from many places in Victoria, and it’s always just kind of been something that’s “there”.  Tonight, the last night of my summer vacation (5 days, woo!) we took the trip up the hill.

I’d always been into astronomy when I was a kid, and I think most kids go through a phase in their life when they want to be either an astronaut or an astronomer.  I went with astronomer, it just seemed so much more attainable for some reason.  Humans have been looking up at the stars and planets for thousands and thousands of years, clearly astronomy is ingrained in all of us.

Bryn was playing with his little telescope last night before bed, but we really couldn’t see much with all the city lights and the buildings in the way, plus it’s just a toy.  We got to fiddle with a couple nice backyard telescopes tonight, and if Bryn asks me for a better telescope, I’d probably be happy to oblige!

It was really great to get out of the city for a few hours into the summer evening, and this place is really money well spent.  $35 for a family after 6:30 pm, and you get to play with some telescopes, enjoy a really trippy planetarium experience, enjoy the excellent guides they have up there and sit in the big dome while they point that massive 1.8m Plaskett telescope to some really deep space objects.

It was built so well and so precisely that all of the major components are original.  The balance is so tight that the 90 tonne monster is moved with only a single horsepower electric motor, and it tracked the stars using a frigging CLOCK until 1991 because it worked so well.  Upon it’s completion, it was the biggest telescope in the world, and is booked by scientists from all over the world every clear night.  When everything built today is so disposable, it’s really great to see something almost 100 years old still so vibrant and relevant.

Here are some photos – you can check out my Facebook page for a couple grainy videos, too.

Kewl - 92 Years Young!

Up, Up and Away!

The Telescope Is About 43 Tonnes, With a 40 Tonne Counterweight

Getting the Gears

You Can Say That Again!

Good Thing They Have Stairs

The Thing Runs On Linux - No Surprise!

Rack Mount Science

Too Bad There's No Plaskett Comet!

Planet-arium!

I Took This By Shoving My Camera Into the Eye Piece!

Music Box

Music has been a big part of my life since I was very little.  Sometimes I wonder about people who don’t listen to music, who don’t have any special connections to music from periods of time in their lives.  It just seems so empty.  I guess they have John Hughes movies instead.

I remember the first album I called mine, actually the first two.  Do you remember yours?  Billy Joel, ‘Glass Houses’ was the first, and then I saved up enough UPC’s from Vachon products (mmm, remember those?) to order Survivor ‘Eye of the Tiger’ through the mail.  That was 1980 and 1982, respectively.  I would have been four and six.  Seems awfully young, but Rocky III must have made some big impression on me!  Oh, Mr. T.  I also really liked playing the soundtrack to Eddie and the Cruisers, scored by the great John Cafferty.   Before then there was surely some Goofy Greats, Alvin and the Chipmunks, and of course the Disney Read-A-Long albums, all of which I still have.  This vinyl would have all been played on a massive wooden Sears console system, complete with two microphones for early 80’s karaoke and a working 8-track for that Hot Tuna or Abba cartridge that was floating around from god knows when.  As far as I know, my parents were never into this stuff.  Gross.  Really, Hot Tuna, really??

Lately I’ve been listening to some bands that are a little lighter than usual, both in style and substance, really enjoying the different sound they have to offer.  Bon Iver, Band of Horses, Broken Bells, Grizzly Bear – all way more hip and relevant than I am or ever was.  All of these bands capture the singer/songwriter vibe that I love really well.  Lots of interesting harmonies, great melody, catchy pop hooks, a little electronica, but not too much and most of all great musicianship.  I can trace what I like about these current acts to bands and musicians that I really loved in the past – Sloan, Elliott Smith, The Charlatans.

But nothing like the full frontal musical assault I’m going to witness this week.  For you see, friends, someone else’s loss is my gain.  Fate, which I’m not usually a big fan of, has seen fit to intervene and bless me with two tickets to one of my favourite bands of all time, Tool.  A particularly enjoyable experience with mushrooms, noise cancelling headphones and Tool’s album ‘Ænema’ really got me hooked.  Er, yeah.  Prior to this I was a big fan, but that old adage set and setting really left an imprint on my brain.  A few weeks ago we had the winemaker for Maynard James Keenan’s winery(s) come to visit us and offer a tasting of his wares.  I liked the wine but sadly he did not bring any concert tickets!

I won’t be doing any hallucinogens this time around, but I expect another memorable experience.  Looking forward to it!  Thanks Hector!

I Am Tripping Out


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