Posted in Freedom Friday, Photo Opportunities

Getaway

A few weeks ago, my wife and I left the northern climes of our small town and travelled to Mississauga, Ontario for our annual getaway. No kids. No family. And no responsibility. Just the two of us. We settled on a small inn off the highway where close by we had access to a huge commercial center featuring a movie theater, restaurants and a mini golf place. We were in our element. For Freedom Friday, let me tell you how it went.

The Inn
The Inn

For those of you who may not know, we’ve had our share of travelling and this time around, we wanted to stick around our own province. Nothing quite compares to exploring the surrounding region and having fun doing so.

Arriving at the inn, we unpacked quickly and that evening, we headed to an all-you-can-eat sushi bar. My wife’s never been to one and it was an experience for her. I knew exactly what we were in for, so I walked her through it. This particular sushi bar provided customers with iPads at the table to order their food. The uninitiated would find the food choices overwhelming. Folks, the point of a sushi bar is not to order everything in one shot, but to experience a relaxed atmosphere while eating at a leisurely pace. Customers tend to make the common mistake when they enter an all-you-can-eat restaurant to load their plates and then they have a table full of food they can’t finish. Guess what? The restaurant charges for leftovers. Surprise.

Night at the movies
Night at the movies

I’m happy to say, I taught my wife to pace herself. We ordered light at first, going for small avocado salads, headed for medium dishes such as maki and sushi, then we hit the big dishes like Salmon Teriyaki and chicken fried rice. By the time we were done, three hours had passed and we were ready for a movie. We took a long walk talking about our life together, the kids, our family, then went to see the new X-Men: Days of Future Past on opening night in 3D. Wow. Wow is all I can say. Great movie.

For all you romantics out there, yes, we held hands and yes, we snuggled.

Sushi
Sushi
Spicy salmon
Spicy salmon
Salmon, avocado and cucumber dishes
Salmon, avocado and cucumber dishes
Mushroom dish
Mushroom dish

The next morning, the inn provided a free continental breakfast where we had a chance to relax without the stress of being somewhere, having to do something or needing to finish quickly. We—wait for—took it easy. I’ll tell you something, whenever I hit vacation mode, something happens in me that always makes me want to sleep. A switch in me says, “Jack’s in vaca mode, time to shut down the factory.” I’m quite all right with it, too, since my wife’s the same way. It feels as if all the stress washes away like a blanket pulled from a bed.

Later that morning I hopped into the pool and had a nice one-hour swim, and followed it up with a long stay in the Jacuzzi. When I got back to our room, we hit a local Greek restaurant and talked for a long time about our future. I don’t know about other couples, but for us, we’re always thinking about what’s next in our lives. We purposely have long conversations mapping our destiny with little interference from anyone’s influence. If this is what freedom is, then I’m all for it.

After the restaurant, we went to see the new Godzilla movie in 3D. You can tell we’re avid moviegoers. Boy, were we surprise. Incredible movie in 3D is all I can say. By the way, the theater that afternoon was, how should I say, ice cold, it felt like I had walked into a meat packing plant. Do theaters really have to be that cold? But maybe it was me. After all, I had a T-shirt and shorts on, but I’m not complaining.

Yes, more snuggle time with my baby.

That evening we stayed in and had fun playing video games together on my tablet while sitting on the bed watching TV. Nothing beats that alone time I spend with my wife away from the stresses of the world.

The next morning, we woke up late, had breakfast, packed our things and left the inn refreshed and feeling great about the coming months. From there, we ended up at the glow in the dark mini golf place. My wife cleaned up the game. Eighteen holes of pure defeat for me as she pounded par or strokes under par to blow me away. She had her game face on and totally trashed my game. Gosh, I’m proud of her.

Glow in the dark golf ball in my hand
Glow in the dark golf ball in my hand

From there, we popped over to the same sushi bar from a couple of nights ago and feasted for hours until we left to pick up the kids that afternoon. By the time we got home, we had all we could do to keep from going to bed early. That’s when I knew we had an incredible time.

Writing this today, I can’t wait until our next getaway. I’m not sure where we’re going, but we’re certainly again going to have the time of our lives.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale October 21.

Do you take getaways with your significant other? Where’s the last place you’ve gone?

Posted in Freedom Friday, Photo Opportunities

Weekend Getaway

I’ve sat here for the past fifteen minutes trying to come up with a witty and funny intro to last weekend’s getaway I spent with my wife in Barrie, Ontario. But the more I tried, the less I accomplished. I suppose trying too hard, if that is possible, makes for an unproductive experience. In some ways, I can see why.

Barrie, Ontario, Shore
Barrie, Ontario, Shore

Welcome to my Freedom Friday post where I talk about whatever comes to mind. And what’s on my mind at this moment is last weekend. What did we do that was so special? My wife and I loaded the car, dropped the kids at friends, and spent three days away from it all. We enjoyed a mini-vacation, if you will, without the cares and worries of life’s little inconveniences. You know the ones. Laundry, cooking, cleaning, dusting, shopping, mowing the lawn, washing the windows, picking up and dropping off the kids to their activities, and a myriad of life’s other chores we do, but have only so many hours in the day to accomplish.

Barrie, Ontario, Rocks
Barrie, Ontario, Rocks
Barrie, Ontario, Fountain
Barrie, Ontario, Fountain

When we arrived at our hotel last Friday night, I unloaded the car while my wife took care of our room. The first thing that’d happened, which set the tone for the rest of our stay, was my wife’s chitchat with the desk clerk led to a free upgrade to the room. There was a lacrosse tournament happening that same weekend, and rather than have us stuck on a floor with partying teenagers, the desk clerk booked us in the honeymoon suite complete with a king-size bed and Jacuzzi. When I say Jacuzzi, I mean hot-tub-in-the-center-of-the-room Jacuzzi. It gets better.

Our hotel was close to the highway, making it easy for us to travel from one activity to another. Most of our time, however, we spent in the throes of relaxation. The word downtime comes to mind. It doesn’t even come close to describing what we experienced. Believe me, a weekend without the kids does not inspire a time of planned recreation.

Inside the hotel room, we dropped our bags on the spot and left for dinner. We have a special restaurant we visit whenever we’re in town called Ling’s Cuisine. I can describe their food as delicious, yet somehow the phrase needs some work. Beyond delectable? How’s that for a description? Their atmosphere is quiet, and their service is perfect. Their servers know their menus, having the ability to recommend plates and understanding their ingredients. For instance, I didn’t know what tobiko was until our server said they were flying fish eggs. The eggs don’t fly, it’s the fish that breed the eggs that fly. Good to know, anyway. I ordered a couple of plates of salmon maki while my wife chose a Miso (vegetable) soup and Salmon Teriyaki. As we enjoyed our dinner, my wife nodded regarding the couple behind me. They, too, were enjoying time alone. They had a full bottle of white wine with their meal. By the end of the evening, it was all gone. She smiled at me knowing where they were going.

Ling's Cuisine
Ling’s Cuisine
Philadelphia Maki
Philadelphia Maki
Salmon Teriyaki
Salmon Teriyaki

Our Saturday consisted of waking up late and heading to the pool. The water was cold yet manageable. I spent most of my time in the hot tub gazing out the ceiling windows into the clouds. One cloud in particular caught my attention. It was the puffy white kind set on a crystal blue background. It shifted. First, it turned into a genie, then it became a cowboy. As the minutes passed, it became apparent it was disappearing before my eyes. It sparked a thought. Our lives are like the clouds, passing so fast that one day we’ll also disappear into nothingness. One day we’re here and the next—poof—we’re gone. Well, that was the morbid portion of my post. I also do song and dance on demand and recite funny limericks.

That afternoon we headed to Boston Pizza, a Canadian gourmet pizza franchise that also specializes in serving gluten-free pizza. My wife was happy, and as I said once beforehappy wife, happy life. This time our conversation centered on how nice it was not to have any responsibilities for the weekend. Both of us had dopey eyes for most of the meal. Boy, we thought, we should do this more often. Amazing what alone time will do. You young parents will know what I mean when you’re away from the kids for some time. It’s like a natural sedative.

Boston Pizza (Exterior)
Boston Pizza (Exterior)
Boston Pizza (Interior)
Boston Pizza (Interior)

For our Saturday night entertainment, we enjoyed that wonderful Jacuzzi and went back to Ling’s. Good things go a long way. You know, it’s funny. We were driving to the restaurant and I notice a biker in all his glory on this amazing-looking bike. I mentioned this to my wife, telling her how much I admired it. She said, “Yeah, Jack, but it isn’t a Harley.” I thought, who is this woman who I’ve known for almost half my life. Is there something she hasn’t told me about her past? How does she know what a Harley looks like?

On Sunday, we wanted to head over to see the new Star Trek movie Into the Darkness, but we had the complimentary breakfast in the guest lounge downstairs, and went back upstairs in the serenity of silence instead. Without a doubt, we got our money’s worth from our room. The explanation I have for you there is when you get free time away with the person you love most in this world, you don’t want to spend it watching a movie. So we sat next to each other on the bed reading.

Salmon Lover Roll
Salmon Lover Roll

And, as the cliché goes, all good things must come to an end. We got back home late that evening after having treated the kids to the Sushi Garden. I guess you can say we all enjoyed a sushi-filled weekend.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale October 22.

Have you ever gone on a getaway weekend with your love? What did you end up doing?

Posted in Food Favorites, Freedom Friday

My Sushi Recipe

I’m back with another Freedom Friday post. If you’re joining me for the first time, I tend to use Fridays as the day I can let loose, chat about nothing really and still try to make sense of the whole thing. Get it? Yeah, me neither. You can read all my Freedom Friday posts simply by clicking on the link on the Features panel.

My salmon & avocado dish at The Sushi Garden
My salmon & avocado dish at The Sushi Garden

Okay, I feel like food. Well, I feel like talking about food. Strange, coming from a guy whose main preoccupation is zombies, aliens, and female superheroes. The caveat to writing all my blog posts is I get hungry occasionally and need to eat. What does a mind focused on the undead eat? Ah, good question. I thought I’d share a recipe with you.

No, it’s not man brains served on a platter. What am I, Hannibal Lecter? Besides, that’s kind of gross.

My Salmon's Lover's Sushi dish at The Sushi Garden
My Salmon’s Lover’s Sushi dish at The Sushi Garden

For anyone who knows me, I have an affinity for sushi. If you haven’t tried sushi, get into a sushi bar pronto and live a little! It’s an experience you will soon never forget. And just because it’s called a sushi bar doesn’t mean they serve alcohol. It means, it’s an all-you-can-eat restaurant of sorts, with plenty of time for chitchat. Whenever I go there with the family, it’s no less than three hours of absolute delight. Lots of food, and lots of chatter.

Anyway, getting back to my sushi recipe. I’ll first give you the ingredients then I’ll provide the directions—hows and whys, and all that stuff.

Ingredients:

  • Nori (raw seaweed)
  • Sticky rice (uh-hu, it’s really called sticky rice)
  • 1-2 Avocado (this will serve four)
  • 1 Lemon
  • Smoked salmon (sliced, preferably in sealed package)

Directions:

  • Cook the rice as directed on the package. The typical cooking time is twenty minutes with a standing time of five minutes. Cook as much as you need. If you’re cooking for four then one avocado will do. I tend to cook for eight because…well, my family likes sushi.
  • As the rice cooks, take the time for prep. You’ll need a Bamboo sushi mat. So make sure it’s clean. I wrap my mat with plastic wrap (hey, that rhymes). You’re going to need the sushi mat to roll your maki. Maki is the name for a particular type of sushi. You can learn the various other kinds of sushi names by reading the menu from a sushi bar first. This is how I learned how to make my sushi. Silly, I know. But it worked for me.
  • Once you’ve cooked your rice, you can start the rolling process. First, take a sheet of nori, lay it on the sushi mat, and spread the rice evenly on the sheet. What you want is a nice bed for the filling.
  • Next, lay the smoked salmon slices on the rice. This is so good. No cheating. Don’t eat any of the slices while you’re making it—it’ll spoil your supper.
  • When you’re done, scoop some avocado and spread it on the salmon. Make sure it’s even. What you don’t want is to get a piece without the filling. Believe me, a piece with only nori and rice is good, but a piece with the filling included is better.
  • After you filled the entire sheet, you roll the sheet into a roll (there’s a tongue twister).
  • The last part is cutting the roll into pieces, laying them on the presentation plate. Spray a little lemon, so as the avocado doesn’t get brown, and serve.

And there it is. My salmon sushi I make from scratch, right at home. Food fit for a zombie slayer!

The final product: My Maki Sushi
The final product: My Maki Sushi

To see how it’s done, check out this video on YouTube.

By the way, with every sushi meal you need some wasabi, Japanese pickled ginger and soy sauce. I should have mentioned that earlier. This is how it’s done: Take a small plate, pour some soy sauce, add some wasabi, stir and dip the sushi in the mixture. While enjoying the bite, slip in some ginger.

Heaven.

Have you ever made sushi? What do you like about it? Do you like eating it at a sushi bar or at a dedicated restaurant? If so, why? I’d love to hear your comments!