Archive for June, 2013

Father’s Day Brunch

Pat arranged for us to meet friends of ours, Pam and George, to go for Father’s Day brunch at the Local’s Restaurant.  Locals is the best restaurant in the valley and has just relocated to what was at one time the best restaurant The Old House.  This is a location right on the Courtenay River just before it flows into the bay.  The combination should be very successful the best chef with the best location although I expect the overhead is much higher

We arrived an hour early so we could park and take the walk along the river around an island and back.  It was a beautiful morning and we walked for about 45 minutes. We then went in to be seated.

Locals restaurant is noted for the owner/chef Renald St Pierre who runs the kitchen and his wife Trish who runs the front end.

When we walked in Trish saw Pam and immediately hugged her and then George.  After the greetings she said “I am sorry I did not notice this but, Pam do you have reservations as we are fully booked?”  Pam said that the reservations were made by Pat and Trish politely asked her last name.  We have been to Locals several times but apparently we are not in the In-Crowd.  Fortunately with the known people, Trish she sat us at a prime table.

It reminded me of a similar occasion back in 1984.  I was working on Mount Pleasant Avenue as a sales manager for Gulf Oil (still considered the best 4 years of my working life)  Mount Pleasant is near downtown Toronto but not near the core.  A great street with restaurants and bars and galleries with this one office building that housed the regional office of Gulf Canada.  I loved that street.  I would work out daily either in the park across the street or run through the gorgeous Mount Pleasant Cemetery which has the finest collection of trees in Ontario.

I also entertained a lot on the street and my favourite restaurant was a bistro called Biff’s .  I would take my reps there to celebrate big gains.

At the time we had great friends back in Markham Dave and Lynn Breckles.  Dave was an VP executive at an insurance company downtown and dined out at restaurants around the world.  I thought it would be nice to impress our friends to take them to a restaurant that I liked way off the beaten path.  So we booked a Friday night at Biff’s and picked them up, drove downtown not telling them the name of the restaurant.

When we walked into Biff’s the Maître De  exclaimed “Ahhh Mister Breckles, how great to see you again but  I do not see your reservation.”  Dave said, while pointing at me, it is in his name.  And the Maître De then politely said “And who are you Sir?”

I had spent a fortune at this restaurant, but it occurred to me mostly at lunch.  Dave apparently took his out of country guests to Biff’s because it was good but off the beaten track. And he made a point to be known by the Maître De.  A small but significant difference between a guy that spends money on dining and a guy that spends money wisely.  A valuable lesson in my future sales life.

Shows to go you.. that you cannot assume you are famous even if you think you are in your own mind.

Daily Sermon

Pat goes to church virtually every day.  She enjoys the company she meets and it is a part of her daily routine.

I often ask what happened today and Pat will talk about someone she sat with or a conversation with one of her many friends at the church.

Never really occurred to me to ask her what was the sermon today, but I did tonight.  I assumed that it would be a variation of yesterday’s sermon.

The priest has to give 9 – 11 public masses each week.  As I understand the rules, the  powers-that-be in Rome lay out 52 weekly themes for the masses.  (Think of this, over 400 years how can there be original themes each week)  Anyway that is the concept.

So if I was a priest I would spend Monday writing out a good solid sermon that I would use every day for the rest of the week.  I mean how many people will listen to more than one?

If you go to an artist performing in Las Vegas multiple days you will find the same thing every day.  At $200 a pop the only people that go to multiple shows are big fans so do not care that it is a repeat.

Pat tells me I am wrong and the Priest has to make an original sermon every mass.  All in the same dictated theme but original regardless if the audience is the high Sunday of  1100 or the Wednesday morning of 40.

Now I produce maybe 3 great blogs a week.  But I get to pick from any subject in the world (this one is an example of a subject completely different from the previous birdhouse blog) but this poor guy has to come up with original oral blogs every day on the same narrow subject.  (love thy neighbour but do not get caught as an example) I am not sure if I could do this.

No wonder why they do not allow these guys to get married.

As Pat says, sometimes the sermon is great, and sometimes not.  Sort of like my blogs.

New Birdhouse

One of my original Cape Cod bird houses was mounted in our yard for the last few years (Picture on the left)  Unfortunately instead of attracting a bird family it attracted wasps and became filled with a wasp nest.  I had to destroy it because there was no getting the nest out once I had killed the wasps.

Decided on a new design.  I call it a Hobbit House since it is roughly based on a Hobbit design (big round door,  round windows and curved roof)  I have added the design feature suggested by Blaine to avoid wasp infestation in the future.

100% Cedar and made with proper outdoor glue.

Cape Cod IHobbit Birdhouse

Broom Busting Final Note

In the past blogs I have talked about my minor effort to assist in the attempt to hold back the invasion of Broom plants in the valley.  (my efforts are minor compared to others in the group)

Broom is not an issue on Vancouver Island alone.  It is all up and down the Northwest .  I was reading an announcement where the State of Oregon has spent $82 million trying to suppress Broom.

Locally you might think that the destruction of Broom is accepted.  For the most part it is. When we are working along a busy road many people honk as they drive by (although notably, nobody stops to help).  Actually the honking becomes a bit of a nuisance as the road is noisy enough.

What gets my goat are the letters to the editors of our local papers from citizens upset that we are killing these plants with pretty yellow flowers along the roadstead.  Fortunately 3/4 of the letters are in support (but again strangely not by people that actually stop by to help).   Most people I know are of the opinion that trying to halt the spread is hopeless and as long as they keep their individual yards clear they will get by.  I also realize that the cause may well be hopeless,  but it is great exercise and often we get a free cookie donated by someone at the end of our shift.

Still… Mother Theresa did not always get appreciation in her early years for her efforts and acclaim was not her goal.   I am a lesser being and would appreciate some acclaim aside from some honkers and my wife saying, when I come home drenched and stiff,  ” Good For You”

On the other hand that mostly suffices.

Broom Busting again

Weeks ago I started to volunteer to try and help in cutting the huge infestation of Scottish Broom that has infested Vancouver Island.  I wrote a blog a couple of weeks ago about how physically exhausting it is to clear these bushes.

I will not go into detail about why I do this, as it is considered hopeless by most people in our community to try to solve this weed that will eventually grow over us all.

My first day cutting broom I came home physically wiped.  You spend your time on your knees using lopers to cut the plants at the base after digging out the scrub around to get to the base.  Good forearm exercise all the time surrounded by vines and weeds.  Then you drag the bush to a central pile and go back and do it again.  I sweated through 3 pairs of gloves and my shirt was a sopping mess.

This is far beyond the exercise program that I pay for at the gym.

Why do I do this… well I made the mistake of introducing myself the first time to the organizer Bev (who happens to know Pat) and she says, “Oh thank you Bruce for coming again”  Now I am trapped in this feeling of being appreciated and yet exhausted at the end of every event.

Fortunately the season for cutting Broom is at an end.  You can only kill these plants by cutting them at the ground when they are in bloom.  Any other time they just grow up from the base as if you pruned them.

Next week they go into pods and in a few weeks they send off thousands of seeds.

I wish plants that we grow in the garden would be as hardy.  Think of cutting off any plant you wanted in the garden at just above the ground. They would die but not Broom, it just splits and grows even faster.

Today was the last day of cutting and, for me the most satisfying.  Our group joined volunteers in Cumberland to clear the No 1 Japanese Townsite.

A bit of background.  In 1893 they opened coal mines in Cumberland (in the area west of Courtenay closer to the mountains)  The mines needed workers and they imported Chinese, Japanese, Negro and White workers.  As was the practice at the time the racial groups developed separate communities near the coal mines.  The Chinese and Japanese communities were in the lower area near the river.

The Japanese were taken away in 1942 to internment camps but their townsite remained in the woods.  The mine closed in the sixties and the townsites were abandoned.  Years ago there came an effort to remember the Chinese and Japanese areas with parks.  Popular areas for people to come and have picnics.  Japanese citizens donated money to plant Japanese Cherry trees through their part of the park to commemorate the workers.

Then along came Broom.  Seeds blowing in from the road.    Within 2 years the parks became uninhabitable.

So today we went in to try and push back the tide.  The first picture was first thing in the morning and the second is by 1 pm.  (taken from a cel phone so not that great)

I felt great about the accomplishment although I am realistic that this plague will come back.

Still if I only think of this as an exercise program it is very effective.  A month ago when I first went to cut Broom, I came back whipped.  Today I was tired but OK physically and very satisfied on the day.

Not sure If I had that many single days in my working life where I was that pleased about a day’s effort.

Japanese Townsite BeforeJapanese Townsite After

Fish Tacos

In November 2011 Janine and Vedran treated us to a holiday in Tofino.  We stayed at a wonderful resort and spent many hours walking the beaches watching the huge waves crash on the shore.

One lunch we drove into Tofino to find the food truck that was rated in the top 10 of North America by Conde Naste.   We found it in a parking lot behind a store on the road leading into Tofino.  The word was that they made great Tacos and were noted (internationally) for the fish taco. To me, Taco was only made with ground beef or chicken but I said, what the hell .

We ordered the fish tacos and when I was served it was the best taco I have ever tasted.  Whooduhthunk?

On one of our trips to Costco I came across a large bag of frozen Sole fillets.  They looked nice in the bag and I thought I might try them breaded and pan fried in our weekly fish fry night.  Turned out that once thawed, the fillets were wafer thin.  As it was Sole, any attempt to bread and they just fall apart.

I have discovered a true purpose for these fillets.

We traditionally have seafood on Friday (remember I am married to a Mackerel Snapper)  The meals are often chowders or bouillabaisse or my fried fish.  In the last few months I have added Fish Tacos to the repertoire.  Season the fillets and then browned quickly in a cast iron pan, served with all the taco accoutrements (salsa, guacamole, cheese, lettuce, olives, tomatoes)  and what a meal.  Not sure if I could beat the Tofino food truck, but pretty close.

Gold River

Sunday we took part in a local Miata run.  12 cars gathered in Campbell River and we took the scenic drive to Gold River and back.  This is a great Miata road.  Smooth highway with lots of tight curves and little traffic.  So we scooted with hair raising tight corners.  Brilliant sunshine and yet mild so perfect conditions.  One of the best drives we have been on.

That evening we stayed at Painter’s Lodge north of Campbell River and had a wonderful group dinner.  Watched the cruise ships go by so close you could see the people waving.

Gold River Run 2013


The Movie Fargo

I loved the movie Fargo.

Over the years as I was travelling in the US or in Japan or Europe and the conversation would come up about where I came from, I would ask ” Have you seen the movie Fargo?”  You would be surprised how familiar this movie (apparently not in China)  So my quality line was “If you have seen the movie, I grew up 400 miles north” .  Always a great line (even though Regina is a lot more west., but who cares the detail)  The reaction was a shudder and I would say “well it built character.”

Apparently they are going to make a TV series based on the movie Fargo.  They are going to film it in Alberta (which, lets face it, can get snow even in August)

The entire TV industry is built around trying to find a series that will grab the audience.  The competition is fierce.  You look at the success of the series Longmire about a modern day sheriff in Wyoming (based on a series of books) and you realize that producers jump on something that people might recognize.

I am looking forward to the Fargo series

Did you not notice that in the movie that most of the locals spoke with the traditional Canadian speech accent although they used Ya while we use eh?

I tried to explain eh to a German one time that the “eh” is the proper pronunciation of the symbol    ?

A Canadian would ask a question  “What do you think of the weather…eh”  The eh is the symbol ?

I am not sure I convinced him.

Anyway, Fargo might be a series on TV to look forward to.  (that is actually poor English to end a sentence with a dangling participle but who cares)