Obnoxiously happy

 

happy

Dear World,

My apologies if my happiness has gotten a tad obnoxious of late, but my life is blessed in so many ways that I simply cannot keep the joy inside, nor truthfully do I wish to.

Alongside the wonderful gifts I am given every day, I am routinely presented with insane opportunities to express and explore the passions that light up my soul, whether it is writing or photography or sharing knowledge.

But beyond even that, I sit in complete awe at the wondrous passions of the people around me; people with amazing visions of who they are and how the world can be.

I know painters and actors and writers and musicians; parents and partners and children and pets; athletes and industrialists and service workers and technicians. And every single one of those people bring me insane joy simply by following their own passions, whether within their titles or not, and allowing me to be witness and in some cases, participant.

Even watching perfect strangers experience their worlds, or Nature express itself from day to day, brings a beauty and elegance that I simply did not choose to see in my former life but do now.

So how can my heart not burst forth, my spirit soar and the laughter ring forth?

I am both a newborn child seeing things for the first time and an ageless ancient finally understanding the patterns that have always splayed out before my once dulled eyes.

That is my joy. That is my happiness. That is my love.

And unasked, that is what I share with the world.

My (other) family

Dog Pound

The rowdy rabble that are Duke’s Dog Pound

This is my family.

Not in the genetic sense, you understand, or even in the social sense. We did not grow up in the same house.

But a couple of times a week for the better part of eight months of the year, we gather at our local house of passion—the Ricoh Coliseum—and join in frenzied excitement over our beloved hockey club.

This is my Marlies family.

We are an odd collection of people of all ages, temperaments and backgrounds. We come from all regions around the city (and abroad) and have quite unique life experiences. And yet we are family.

And like all families, we can irritate the hell out of each other. Sometimes the passions can overwhelm those sitting in nearby seats. We do not deal equally well with challenging times, whether for our team or our family. And disagreement over the smallest thing can take fire, forming a wedge however temporary between family members and forcing others to take sides.

But the second there is a threat from outside the family, we quickly band together in support, in concern and in love. And ultimately, we are drawn yet again by our shared love of our boys in blue and white.

I would do almost anything for these people, help them in whatever way they might need. And I know both from my gut and from experience that they would help me if I needed it.

When viewed from outside, we are complete strangers to each other. Except for small pockets, we do not spend time together much beyond the arena. I don’t hear the minutiae of your life, nor you mine.

And yet, when the hockey season ends each Spring, I am saddened, not just because our boys didn’t advance further in the playoffs, but also because it will now be months before I once again see most of these people.

But when those gates open in October, and we wander down the familiar hallways to our familiar seats around the pristine sheet of ice, it is a moment of pure joy.

I am home with my family.

This is my family, and I adore them to pieces.

Leading our own cheers

Pose

Intelligent, articulate women who also danced for the Marlies Dance Crew

This past weekend brought the start to another season of my beloved Toronto Marlies. And as is the case with every new season, we were met by many familiar faces and a lot of new ones, both on and off the ice.

What we were not met with this season, however, is the Marlies Dance Crew, the small group of women who entertain during stoppages in play. And I find myself oddly torn over this.

On the one hand, I have never been comfortable with the Dance Crew as a concept, and cheerleading squads for pro sports teams in general (I see high school and college squads in a different light).

In the absence of male squad members, the Dance Crew simply seemed like a salacious attempt to get a rise out of parts of the crowd…and based on comments I would hear around me, it worked.

Blur

Torn between dance as art and cheerleading as objectifying women

By the same token, over the seasons, I have actually come to know many of the Dance Crew members, finding them charming, articulate women who enjoy the art of dance. They are friends and part of the Marlies family, with whom I try to maintain contact via social media even after they have moved on to other things.

Cheerleaders in hockey is an odd thing, and I appreciate that it would be impossible—given the concrete floors and metal railings—to perform truly acrobatic stunts that you might see at college events. This may be why the whole Dance Crew concept never sat right with me, because in the absence of that artistic/athletic angle, it felt like the women were reduced to eye-candy.

Thus, while I will miss getting to know new family members, I am not terribly heartbroken over the Dance Crew’s absence this season.

And to the members who have moved on, I wish you all every success and hope you visit the Ricoh Coliseum on occasion, so we can say hi.

Family and friends

Family and friends

Sharing a laugh, enjoying great food at The Edmund Burke

The Edmund Burke

Family-owned gastropub that welcomes you as a friend

If you’re looking for an unassuming place to enjoy wonderful food, a decent pint and good company in the City of Toronto, The Edmund Burke is the place.

Conveniently located at the western end of Toronto’s Greektown, within a block of Broadview subway station and its many bus and streetcar routes, The Edmund Burke is a small, family-run gastropub that seems to have one mission: make its customers feel welcomed and satisfied.

In fact, I hesitate to call it a gastropub as that comes across as more pretentious than this place is. Visiting The Edmund Burke is like hanging out with your closest neighbours, because in many ways, you are.

The husband-and-wife team—Ginger & Russ—that owns the place live in the neighbourhood and can be found behind the bar or clearing tables at all hours. Their goal is to enliven and enhance the neighbourhood, and they do this in spades with a quick smile and attention to detail. And to add to the family feel, Ginger’s brother John serves as head chef and culinary mastermind.

The food is simple, both in range and presentation, but that simplicity works to its advantage. Chef John understands his ingredients and lets them do the heavy lifting in his cooking.

With none of his dishes are the taste buds overwhelmed; rather, they are cradled by a few flavours, each having a specific place and purpose.

A good example of this is his recently introduced pulled pork sliders. Where others might take the delicately cooked meat and smother it in a sauce that screams spice, Chef John allows the flavour to come from the meat itself, keeping sauces at arm’s length.

He then tops that with a subtle apricot slaw that offers just a hint of sweetness coupled with a crunch to balance the meat’s tenderness. Given that I generally dislike apricot, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the slaw.

SONY DSC

Owner Ginger Robertson pulls the perfect pint

The chicken schnitzel is lightly crusted with the moisture sealed in, keeping the meat tender. And it sits atop perfectly prepared seasonal vegetables and a generous helping of spaetzle (a soft egg noodle). Although I quite enjoyed the chicken and vegetables, I have to admit to being so-so on the spaetzle, but that may just be me.

The Chicago-style beef burger with fries was completely solid, however, and a wonderful mix of flavours from the aged cheddar and garlic aioli. You may wonder how you make something as simple as a burger pop. Chef John does.

The pub itself is cozy without being claustrophobic, like so many Toronto restaurants, so you can draw together as a group or sit apart for quiet dining. By the same token, it can get a little loud should you be sitting near a particularly boisterous table.

The one aspect of the place that throws me off a bit is the choice of dining tables, which seem better suited to a rural truck stop diner than an urban gastropub, and particularly when set in contrast to the beautifully finished bar and beer taps. That being said, everything about this place is delicious, and you’ll be so focused on your meal that you’ll never see past your plate.

And finally, in keeping with the neighbours-looking-after-neighbours theme, Russ and Ginger have done everything they can to keep Chef John’s food reasonably priced without sacrificing on ingredients or his skills, and prices are more than competitive with the bars and restaurants in the area. Their menu would never be classed as cheap eats, but given the mastery that goes into the food preparation and the portion sizes, I’m ecstatic to pay $16 for the schnitzel or burger.

See also:

dine.to’s The Reveal – The Edmund Burke

Pints galore

Taps to tantalize all tastes

Happy Fathers’ Day, Mom

Not to detract from the well-earned celebrity of men everywhere who receive this single day of praise from their children, but not all of us had a man figure prominently in our childhood. For me, the only men who impacted me growing up were my grandfather (thank you) and a handful of very special teachers (thank you, Mr. Muhlstock and colleagues).

Toronto Island

My mom (purple top) was literally at the centre of all we did.

No, for me and a lot of kids like me, the leading father-figure in our lives was our mom…in my case, Jeannette or Jan.

Although Mom didn’t always meet up to the stereotypes of a father—I can’t remember throwing around a baseball or going fishing with her—she was always there for my brothers and me, ready to help us with any problems we might be facing or ensuring she found us an understanding male to speak with (e.g., Big Brother).

I remember when my youngest brother Shawn played hockey as a young kid. In a rink full of Dads, yelling support for their Lafleur, Howe or Gretzky, there was my Mom, cheering on my brother…almost completely oblivious to any of those NHL superstars.

Connected

Mom is always connected to us (even when we fight her on that).

Mom was the one who made sure we had a roof over our heads. Mom made sure we were fed and had all our school supplies. Mom was the one who made sure we never knew we were as poor as I suspect we were. Mom was the one who made sure our home life was as normal as the next kid’s.

But perhaps Mom’s greatest legacy is that she ensured her boys would grow into gentle, caring men, who respected women, less as people to be protected and more as people to admire and celebrate. And in the case of my brother Scott, also to understand the importance of your children and to be a great parent, which he is.

Mountain top

Queen of all she surveys

So, happy Fathers’ Day, Mom…and to all the other single women raising children. You have my deepest regard.

Party pooper

But never forget she is MOM first, cool Dad second.

See also:

Dads: Not just an oatmeal cookie

Toronto Marlies v WBS Penguins

A handful of the better shots from Friday’s game between the #1 (Toronto Marlies) and #2 (WBS Penguins) teams in the American Hockey League standings.

Toronto came back from a 2-0 deficit after two periods to defeat Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 4-2. (Video highlights)