March 30, 2013

Omega Park

I’ve been a little quite lately as my job shifts around and I (ahem) quit when my contract finished. I’m taking a long break from teaching to see if I still love it and want to return, or find a new passion. In the meantime I’m hunting for something else – new and different – and totally unrelated to teaching or being in a school.

We’ve been doing stuff for us and trying to enjoy ourselves. Work has taken a lot out of us this past year and what better way to enjoy a day than at Omega Park. Located just over an hour from Ottawa in Montebello, Quebec, it has the best of both worlds – encountering wildlife and having them in an environment where they can roam (no small enclosures here). Although there are fences in the carnivorous areas, they are there more to keep you in your area than the wildlife away from you.

We had gone a few years ago on a lovely summer’s day, but going in winter is entirely different. With there being less crowds and better temperatures, the wildlife is up and about and interested in you. A coyote was more than content to listen to us talk to him for 20 mins. With fewer visitors we could take our time and drive as slow as we wanted, stop as often as we wanted, and hang out to our hearts content.

We saw elk at various stages with their antlers (some recently were lost while others were in their full glory), very young boars who were probably only a few weeks old, and two bears playing around with each other. The young elk had quickly learnt what to do for a carrot – stand in front of your car until they saw something orange. We were very fortunate to see two males duking it out, probably playing around as it didn’t look very stressful and they were friendly with each other afterwards. The moose is also very fond of his caretaker, following her around as she laid branches in his enclosure, much like a puppy. Luckily for him, he has a goat to keep him company.

Before you venture too far, you must stop at the Park House to stock up on some carrots (Don’t worry, they are reasonably priced). I recommend 4-6 bags. We got 4 bags and near the end we were rationing them. Another tip: break the carrots in half or thirds. This will make your carrots last longer and the elk don’t seem to notice. And one last piece of advice: charge your camera battery. I thought I was good and it ran out of juice before venturing to see the bears.

As we drove around we had the Omega Park station playing on the radio listening to information on the park and the animals in its care. When you finally leave, and you will have to leave at some point, unfortunately, you’ll find you’ll be hard pressed to pick a favourite moment. Is it the beautiful orange of the fox’s coat? Or the elk stuck who his head right in the window? Or rounding a bend and seeing a majestic elk standing in the middle of the path? Or checking your rearview mirror and seeing one watching you drive away? Or seeing two mock-fighting? The coyote hanging out with us? The bears having fun on the frozen ice? Seeing the striations on the large rack of antlers? Seeing the mother boar nursing her young off to the side? Can we come back again?

March 26, 2013

Choices, Choices, Choices

Back in January I participated in a group lunch consisting of celiacs. I know, seems daunting, but on the celiac chapter FB group, Casey’s had positive reviews and it was the only Casey’s restaurant in the chain to have a gluten-free menu. With January being a bit slow in the restaurant industry, it seemed a perfect time for a big group lunch.

Upon looking at the gf menu we were all so pleased at the variety of gf options. Many items were also on the regular menu and a change of sauce, pasta, etc easily made the item gf. Here the problem of what to eat wasn’t due to the limitations, but to the variety of delicious choices. In the end what did we get? What didn’t we get!! Between everyone we had that menu covered.

Diane Hutchison, one of the managers, introduced herself and gave us some backstory behind their gf menu. When she began dating her husband, a Celiac, she came to realize how difficult it was to eat out. With the help of a knowledgeable celiac chef at Casey’s, the gluten-free menu was born. Contamination issues are taken seriously and the dedicated gf fryer is located away from any sources of contamination. Diane and our server were more than willing to answer questions and were helpful in helping some members decide. Seriously, who ever thought a Celiac would have too many options to choose from?!?

While we sipped on our drinks (gf beer included!) and chatted we were treated to a large basket of sweet potato fries and a plate of loaded nachos. Although we were a group of Celiacs, it doesn’t mean we only talk about Celiac disease and issues. Conversations included restaurants, family, work, recent events, and of course the +5° balmy weather. Once our meals arrived we began eyeing each other’s plates; for next time.

People were pleased with their jambalaya, pad thai, pasta, mahi mahi, and salmon. Many of us were too full for dessert, but a good number couldn’t resist the mini peanut butter brownie sundae. It appeared that we all left, not just full, but very satisfied.

March 13, 2013

Craving Karma

My last post was about our little woodpecker (possibly a Downie) who set up house in our backyard tree. We are all living in harmony and hopefully instilling good karma around us. Well, there’s another way you can instill some good karma and that’s by purchasing something from Karma Cravings.

I came across these guys at a craft show and fell in love with their products. They have sauces and herb blends and everything is gluten free. Sometimes it’s hard to find a sauce that’s gluten-free because the big companies may change the recipe and you need to start a search over again, and good luck finding a spice/herb blend that’s gluten-free because most are not. To show how much they really get the gluten thing, they had gf pretzels on hand for sampling the sauces. How sweet is that?!

Another thing they get is that sometimes animals need help. They have partnered up with the Western Quebec SPCA and 50% of their net profits are donated to this great organization. Karma just isn’t in their name, they live by it. The artwork is another thing worth noting. They are caricatures of animals near and dear to the crew at Karma Cravings and to show how much they mean to them, a little write up of the pet is on the side label.

I picked up the Crazy Tail Spice Rub and sprinkled it over a salmon fillet. Now, I eat quite a bit of fish and I have to say it is one of the best things I’ve tasted. Now I want to pick up bottles of the BBQ and Pomegranate sauces.

March 7, 2013

Good Karma

We have a squatter at our place. We saw him hanging around a bit in the summer, then a bit more in the fall, but once the cold weather was here to stay so was he.

It really isn’t that bad; he’s kinda cute, actually.

In the summer I would hear some chirping going on in the backyard. I never thought anything of it as we often have a family or two of cardinals using our peaceful child-free yard. I love seeing them in the trees; their brilliant red. Even the duller females are stunning. I thought the chirping was from our friendly cardinals. Then one day later in the summer, I heard it while out in the backyard enjoying a glass of wine and a magazine.

It wasn’t my cardinal in the tree above me and he wasn’t happy I was starring.

Seriously, he started hopping around from branch to branch and his tone had changed. He was not happy with me at all. I wasn’t sure if I was disappointed he wasn’t one of the cardinals or in awe that a woodpecker chose one of my trees in the city.

The Honey and I didn’t know what too do. It was a little late to dissuade the little guy. It seemed that he had spent most of the summer working on his hole and it was probably too late for him to find somewhere new. We decided to let him be as his new home was in a dead part of the tree. It was a short stump so there wasn’t any danger of the branch falling in a strong wind.

We’ve been living in harmony and I love seeing him poke his head out of his hole in the morning, usually after we’ve woken him taking out the compost or recycling. 

Ironically, this guy is not an early bird. Sometimes in the evening he’ll keep an eye on us, poking his head out as we survey our backyard looking at our snow/water/monstrous icicle situation.

He’s happy so we’re happy. Good Karma all around.