Category Archives: Travel

How I Met the Thorny Devil (and Escaped Unscathed)

That’s right. I encountered something called a Thorny Devil. It was large, and leggy. I interrupted it when it was trying to boff its unwilling mate, and I lived to tell the tale. All of which is to say that I went to the Newfoundland Insectarium with my mother and kids, and it was amazing. Care to join us for a tour? Good.

Confession: I wasn’t planning a blog post while we were there, I was just having fun. So if the photos are somewhat lacking, you know why. If you’d like to see more and better photos with less of me in them, click here for the official photo gallery.

The insectarium is in Deer Lake, NL, otherwise known as Too Dang Far From My House. This was only my second chance to visit, but I’m hoping for another trip next summer.

Because did I mention AMAZING?

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You walk in, and there are a couple of displays in glass cubes– one of beautiful beetles (beetiful beautles?) and one of butterflies. Then it’s OMGHOLYCRAPGIFTSHOP! But that’s not why we’re here. No, get your face off of the glass, you’re leaving nose-prints. You can stop on the way out.

Some of you (heck, most of you) might not like many bugs, but you probably don’t mind butterflies so much, so here’s hoping they’re what shows up in your WordPress Reader previews. The butterfly house is our first stop. It’s warm, it’s so humid that your camera lens fogs up, and it’s downright magical.

This little guy was totally flirting with me.

This little guy was totally flirting with me.

Photo courtesy of Wendy Lowden, because this guy wouldn't sit still for me.

Photo courtesy of Wendy Lowden, because this little beauty wouldn’t sit still for me.

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There were TONS of butterflies, because they’d got a late (accidental) shipment. Yay!

So then, up the stairs. Alllll the way up to the second level, where we find the main display level. Most of the insects up there are dead and mounted, but there’s a fascinating glassed-in bee colony, where you can watch the little buzzers doing their dances.

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The mounted displays are incredible… I wish I’d thought to get more pictures. Next time! There are butterflies and moths, beetles with massive “horns” and jaws, stick bugs and jewellery made from insects…

(Sorry- my computer refuses to turn this picture the right way around and save it. Curse you, Picasa!)

(Sorry- my computer refuses to turn this picture the right way around and save it. Curse you, Picasa!)

Oh, and some live insects, too.

We were fortunate to be the only people visiting, so we had a chance to speak to a few of the people who work there, and one of them offered to let us hold the stick bugs.

There, you can see some of the butterfly displays behind me.

There, you can see some of the mounted displays behind me.

That little guy was so light, I could hardly feel him on my hand, and he just kind of laid there like… well, like a stick. Good job, little bug!

The next ones he (the guy, not the stick bug) took out were called “Thorny Devils,” which apparently are also known as Marijuana bugs for the scent they produce when they’re agitated. They’re a lot scarier-looking than the skinny little stick insects, but the guy got one out, so I asked if I could hold it.

BIG bug. Heavy bug. Kinda creepy, very interesting. I’m not going to lie and say I was completely comfortable with this girl’s scratchy little claws digging into my skin and her boyfriend waving his feelers at me (yes, I held both) but I’m glad I did it.

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That’s right, I can hold one of those, but a little house centipede makes me freeze and squeal like an injured puppy. THAT, apparently, is where I draw the line.

Side note: this one (the big female) was missing a leg, which led to a discussion of how insect matings aren’t generally gentle or consensual. I said, “Like ducks?” This was the first time I ever surprised and impressed someone with that bit of knowledge (he was just going to say, “like ducks.”) I don’t expect this to ever happen again, but hey, it was special. IT WAS A MOMENT, YOU GUYS.

This level also houses the leaf-cutter ant colony, which I find fascinating. See those green dots on the log in the middle? Those are ants carrying cut-up leaves back to their colony, where they feed it to the fungus they then harvest and eat.

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Guys, THE ANTS ARE FARMERS.

Wow.

You know, I kind of don’t want to post pictures of the tarantulas, since we’re having so much fun here, and I know some of you don’t like spiders. Hmm… I’ll tell you what: no hard feelings if you want to leave now and go back down to that lovely gift shop to wait for the rest of us. I’m heading upstairs to see the Very Large and Hairy Arachnids, which are kept on the third floor for the benefit of those who don’t want to see them. For those of you leaving us now, thanks for coming along!

Stop by the comments (um… just scroll down REALLYREALLYFAST) and tell me about the scariest thing you did this week, whether it actually frightened you, or just stretched you outside of your comfort zone. Heck, even if it’s just looking at the pictures down there, tell me about it!

For those of you brave enough to take a peek, scroll down…

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“Hellooooooo, ladies!”

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They have eight live tarantulas in all… if you’re into that.

Thanks for coming along! Hope you had fun. If you’re ever in Western Newfoundland, I highly recommend a live visit. For more information, including seasonal closures and hours, click here!

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Where Did THAT Week Go?

Seriously, how is it almost Wednesday again? Seems like only a few days ago I was listening to the garbage truck go by and thinking, “Huh. Should have put that garbage out.”

And now I’ll be doing it again tomorrow.

Well, I can tell you one place that week went: Corner Brook, NL. The kids and I drove out there last Thursday to see my mom while she was in town. In town for a JOB INTERVIEW. Yep, if everything goes as I’ve instructed my evil minions planned, I’ll be living within 5 hours of my parental units for the first time in eight years. I can’t party too hard over it, because moving out this way would mean big sacrifices for them and the rest of my family. But really… yeah, I’m excited. It was a good surprise.

So anyway, Corner Brook! I’d been told that I had to see it in the fall, and I’m so glad I did. Newfoundland is lovely in autumn, but not every town has as many deciduous trees as we’d like. *glares at black spruces* Corner brook is old mountains covered in trees. In October, when the leaves are changing colour, it’s like a glorious 70’s shag carpet all over the place.

Er… perhaps not the best simile, there. Damn, I’m getting rusty. I need to get back to work.

But first: A few photos for you, because I know there’s nothing you want to be doing right now more than looking at some weirdo’s stranger’s scenic photos. Enjoy!

This is the pond next to the hotel where I found those creepy ghost kids. The pond is hardly creepy at all!

This is the pond next to the hotel where I found those creepy ghost kids. The pond is hardly creepy at all! Well, in this picture it kind of is. Um…

Glorious. Shag. Carpet.

There we go. Glorious. Shag. Carpet.

"My rock. Not yours. MINE." -Tree

“My rock. Not yours. MINE.” -Tree

Yeah, my kid coordinates with the landscape. Totally not a coincidence... *cough*

Yeah, my kid coordinates with the landscape. Totally not a coincidence… *cough*

Holy carp, these uploads are taking forever.

It's a shame that the beauty of maple trees' bark is overshadowed by their spectacular foliage. Loved these guys.

It’s a shame that the beauty of maple trees’ bark is overshadowed by their spectacular foliage. Loved these guys.

Brightest red leaf I've ever seen.

Brightest red leaf I’ve ever seen.

If you spend enough time in Newfoundland, you start to go, "Oh.  Another picturesque fishing village/river/forest/view. Le sigh." Still, this one earned a photo.

If you spend enough time in Newfoundland, you start to go, “Oh. Another picturesque fishing village/river/forest/view. Le sigh.”
Still, this one earned a photo.

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These vines covere the lower 1/3 of the inn. So lovely!

So… no, I didn’t get any pictures of the inn itself, but you can see it here, if you’re interested. I wish we’d had rooms in the old section so I could see the rooms there, but the new section was very nice, and probably less haunted, so kind of a trade-off.

I’ll see you all back here tomorrow (if I haven’t bored you to death, that is) for a ROW80 update which promises to be less than inspiring, and a WIPpet Wednesday contribution that may or may not actually be present.

Are you as excite as I am? Woooooo… hoo.

O.o


I Don’t Want to Say This Old Hotel is Creepy, But…

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(No blood in the elevators yet, though, so hooray for that!)


To The Barkery!

Otherwise entitled: THIS is how you make a great idea work.

I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to get to this post. I really wanted my pictures, but they refuse to leave the camera. Never fear, I’ve stolen some from my husband and asked for help from other people, so we should get through this just fine.

To answer your first question: Yes, it’s a BARKery, not a bakery. In fact, it’s Hamilton, Ontario’s first dog/pet-friendly restaurant!

To answer your second question (which I assume is, “come again?”), yes, pets are welcome. If you’re out for a walk with your dog and you’re in need of a coffee, or if your furry friend looks like he needs some frozen treats made just for dogs, you can both mosey on in.

Pet of the Month photo, yoinked with permission from Munchies' Facebook page. :)

Pet of the Month photo, yoinked with permission from Munchies’ Facebook page. 🙂

Do you have visions of cat hair in your coffee? I know that was my first thought when I heard about this concept, but it’s not an issue. The owners had to jump through hoops of fire to please the health inspectors, but they worked everything out, and food safety is a big deal here. The food is prepared and served in a glassed-in, pet-free area (see photo above- the dog’s in the sitting area). The cook/server puts the tray on the counter for the customer to pick up rather than handing it over, because apparently this makes it safer. The ceilings are made of non-porous materials.

Like I said, ALL of the hoops.

The eating area is cozy and comfortable, with arm chairs for sitting and chatting, or cafe tables for anyone interested in a proper meal. There’s a stage in the corner where the performers come for music nights, and an entire wall is filled with high-quality tricks and treats for cats and dogs (as well as a fridge full of raw food for dogs).

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Some crazy kids enjoying lunch on the stage

The ordering/cooking/serving area, on the other side of the glass wall and door, is filled with tempting treats and the smell of a variety of amazing (fair trade, organic) coffees. The menu covers the top of one wall: all-day breakfast and lunch options plus pastries, salads, and fresh home-made lemonade, lattes and turkish coffee. The counter is a delicious sea of baklava, “magic bars,” butter tarts, muffins and brownies and danishes and… well, it’s probably a good thing I don’t live in the neighborhood. Plenty of vegan options, too.

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AJ’s lunch. He just barely managed to stop eating long enough to take a picture for me!

Photo courtesy of Munchies

Photo courtesy of Munchies

Can any animals come in? As far as I know, yes, though I don’t think anyone has tried to bring in an ostrich or a buffalo yet. We met a lovely old Siamese cat named Angus on one of our visits, a pair of massive Leonbergers, and a dog named Doomageddon, which may be the greatest name ever given to a dog. Apparently we missed a corn snake one day, and they usually have a rabbit living there, on loan from a pet rescue organization and available for adoption.

Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? And yet it works. Part of the reason things run so smoothly is the rules. All pets must be leashed, and anyone who’s being intrusive, unfriendly, or messy will be asked to leave. If a dog is acting up, they’ll recommend going for a nice, relaxing (or exhausting) walk before you come in.

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Actually, I think a lot of bars could use these rules.

The other reason this whole thing works is the owners. Rosie and Gary are kind, warm, wonderful people. Everyone is welcome and made to feel at home at Munchies. Have questions about the facilities or the menu? Ask away. Want to hang around for a while with your friends? Go ahead, you’ll find some games in the sitting area, and there’s a nice, puffy bed for your dog to lie on. Dog has nasty fish breath? Rosie can probably recommend a natural product to help with that, and if they don’t have it in, she’ll see about ordering it. Need a birthday cake to share with your dog? Just give ’em enough notice, they’ll make sure everyone’s tail is wagging on the big day.

Most of you probably won’t get a chance to visit Munchies, unless you’re already living in Hamilton. If you’re ever in the neighborhood, though, it’s worth stopping by 1000 Upper Gage Avenue (aka the Goodness Me plaza). I highly recommend Munchies’ baklava. And the light roast coffee. And the magic bars. And the BLT. And our dog loves the elk antler we brought home for him. And…

This is Lilly. Lilly ikes Munchies. Lilly would also like some of your sandwich, thank you.

This is Lilly. Lilly likes Munchies. Lilly would also like some of your sandwich, thank you.

Want more info?

Urbanspoon reviews

Blog post from Hungry Hammer Girl

Munchies Facebook page

Did I mention the Baklava?

Did I mention the Baklava?


St. John’s Days

We spent a few days in St. John’s at the beginning and end of our vacation this summer. It’s a good thing, too; trying to go from our tiny town to Hamilton and back without some kind of smaller-city buffer would be like trying to go to the depths of the ocean and back to the surface without any pause for pressure adjustment.

What I’m saying is, we’d have been crushed or exploded.

We didn’t do much tourist-type stuff this time. Maybe it was the knowledge that we were going to be doing beaucoup de shit in Ontario (pardon my french), or the threat to our budget, but we laid pretty low. AJ got his tattoo re-inked before our flight out, so that took up a whole day. Seriously. The guy had set a 4-5 hour block of time aside; it took more than eight. LONG day with the kids!

That’s not what we’re here to talk about. There are a few semi-random things I want to show you, though, and they are threefold.*

First, the weather in St. John’s.

This is a picture I took from the car the evening we came back into the city:

It's a pretty town. Have I mentioned that?

It’s a pretty town. Have I mentioned that?

…and the weather when we woke up the next morning:

Really?!

Really?!

Really. Welcome to Newfoundland. 🙂

The second thing is a few photos from a pet store, and a couple of interesting creatures we met there.

The caiman, who is NOT FOR SALE and DISPLAY ONLY:

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“Boo.”

…and the albino axolotl, which I had seen pictures of before but never encountered in real life. Friends, it’s super creepy, and almost cute. Sort of. Creepicute.

"Ohai."

“Ohai.”

Weird, right? Tiny little alien monster thing. Totally for sale, though. $90 and he’s yours!

No takers?

Moving right along, then…

We thought we’d try to grab a couple of Long Dick’s while we were in town. Don’t leave! This isn’t going where you think it is. We just wanted some meat to stuff in our faces, and we’d heard fantastic things about this sausage truck across from Mile One stadium. Long Dick’s Sausage Emporium.

See?

See?

Sadly, we did not get any of that hot, juicy sausage. That weekend was the annual George Street Festival, and the guy who owns this was keeping late hours. I never would have thought it would be impossible to get some street meat in downtown St John’s on a Saturday afternoon, but there you go. We tried, and we will try again. My husband is totally on board with this mission now. WE WILL HAVE OUR LONG DICK’S!

And here’s the Long Dick’s story, for anyone who’s interested:

Yeeeeah, history!

Yeeeeah, history!

Hmm… looks like the picture got cut off. Well, just know that it’s about rum running and three boys called Little Dick, Long Dick, and Goat Dick, and that’s pretty much all you need to know about Newfoundland’s history.

I kid. The history here is actually fascinating. But really, Goat Dick.

*Cough*

So let’s end on a less awkward note. A picture of me kissing a giant puffin, perhaps? Well, not kissing him… that thing is filthy. But I liked it, anyway.

Between the puffin, the Tim Horton's cup, the Avalon mall and the Labraorite necklace, this may be the newfiest I'll ever get.

Between the puffin, the Tim Horton’s cup, the Avalon mall and the Labraorite necklace, this may be the newfiest picture I’ll ever get of me.

Thanks for visiting the city with me. I’ll be back soon with that party game I promised (which I think made my dad laugh so hard he almost threw up), and pictures of that barkery. No, I can’t get them off of my camera, but I’ll send family members to get more for me if I have to!

“He had his reasons.”
“They were threefold.”

Anyone?


Fun at Bayfront

I was going to do a nice post for you today about that Barkery I mentioned before. Then I plugged my camera into the computer and remembered why I don’t use the camera anymore: it says that the files are “read only” and can’t be copied onto the computer.

Oops.

So until I figure that out, why not take a trip to Bayfront Park instead?

Many of our days in Hamilton were a series of short events. In one way, it was great; we got to see and do lots of things. On the other hand, it’s really hard to get your kids to leave a fun place when saying “we’ll come back another day!” is simply not an option. This was one of those days. We had plans for the evening of AJ’s birthday that involved a whole crapload of extended-family time, and we were pretty excited about that, but what to do with the earlier bits of the day?

How about a fantastic playground?

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That, my friends, is a good playground.

Not convinced?

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SO MUCH PLAYGROUND. And that’s not even the best side; the other (Port?) side has more climbing equipment, including a bouncy bridge thing that’s way too much fun to be allowed at a modern playground, and another gangplank leading on to the ship.

The boat is two levels of… well, there’s nothing ON the boat, but come on. PLAY BOAT.

Bayfront has more than just a playground (and a tiny beach, did I mention the tiny beach?). They also have walking trails, which we didn’t have time to explore, and lots of real boats to watch. We had lunch at William’s, and it was delicious.

Also, geese.

Also, geese.

Bonus Story: At lunch, I became THAT GUY.

You know the one. The one who eats most of his meal at a restaurant and then complains… yeah, I became him. It wasn’t my fault! I ate half of my turkey and swiss sandwich before I realized it was distinctly lacking in swiss. Not that it wasn’t a good sandwich, mind you, but it’s right there in the name… anyway, I wasn’t going to say anything, but AJ offered to go and ask for my cheese.

He came back with a whole new sandwich.

I felt like a jerk.

William’s, I was not scamming you. I just wanted my cheese.

It was delicious.


Speaking of Self-Promotion…

…here’s a video I just happened to see while we were away last week (and the store is in Hamilton, so this is my Big Vacation Post for today). The campaign is over, but I thought the video was worth sharing.

Jay is a close friend of my brother’s (me brudder’s in the video) and is married to my sister-in-law’s sister, which makes him my… um… well, no relation, really.

(click here to see the full campaign with write-up, perks, and comments)

Fun, right? And I think they did a lot of things right. They had an entertaining video, a solid plan, rewards that their contributors appreciated and wanted anyway, regular updates, and a willingness to listen to suggestions for further improvement. They were clear about how this was going to benefit the people who use the space, and didn’t make it all about themselves. I wasn’t surprised to hear that they were more than fully funded. Like, way more, when the indiegogo funds were added to in-store contributions [see updates]. Good job, guys. 🙂

Indiegogo, Kickstarter and the like are becoming a big thing for writers, too. I’ve seen childrens’ books get funded (those printing fees are killer), and I’ve heard of authors using these platforms to raise funds for book covers, editing, promotion… I don’t know what else.

Have you used one of these fundraising platforms, or have you ever contributed to a campaign? What makes you more or less likely to contribute to a campaign? Video? A compelling pitch? Amazing rewards? If you were planning a campaign, what would it be for, and where would the money go?


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