Sunday, February 26, 2006

guld! tre kronor är olympiska mästare

Earlier today, Sweden claimed Olympic ice hockey gold by defeating its Nordic neighbour, Finland, 3-2 in a hard-fought game at Palasport Olimpico in Torino, Italy. From Stockholm to Göteborg and everywhere in between, you can be sure they're celebrating tonight.

A replica of the Royal Crown, heraldic symbol of Sweden, on the railing of Skeppsholmsbron with Gamla Stan (Old Town) in the background, Stockholm, Sweden (2005). The building at the far right edge of the picture is Kungliga Slottet, the official Royal Palace. I took this photo with my Olympus SP-310 digital camera on my final day in Sweden last November.

Four years ago, a reporter asked Steve Yzerman - great Canadian hockey player, longtime captain of the Detroit Red Wings, and all-around class act - if he would be happy with winning silver or bronze at the upcoming Salt Lake City Olympics. Yzerman replied saying by all of the right things about it being great to have an Olympic medal of any colour but then also added something to the effect of:

"But while there can be a lot of winners, there's only going to be one champion."

In other words, in his case - and Canada's - only gold would do. And as any Canadian knows, Canada did go on to win gold in 2002, much to the delight of the entire nation.

Fast forward to today. If you happened to catch the end of the game you would've seen the crestfallen look on the faces of the Finnish players - winners who, on this particular day, didn't get to be champions. You had to feel for them. Not just because, for all intents and purposes, Finland was probably the best team in this year's Olympic tournament (before today's gold medal game, Finland was dominating, winning seven games and losing none - you should've seen them massacre Canada last week) but also because of who they lost to.

I would imagine that few North Americans fully appreciate the Finnish-Swedish rivalry. But it's really not that difficult to understand because there's actually a pretty good available analogy - from a Finnish perspective, Sweden is to Finland as the United States is to Canada. You see, up in that part of the world, Sweden is the bigger, more prominent country that gets all of the press while Finland is the quiet, unassuming neighbour. One of the (few?) places where Finland gets to establish its supremacy is on the ice ... and when things don't go as planned, I suspect it's a national tragedy of sorts. So now you know why Team Finland looked so disappointed after today's loss.

Early action in the Olympic gold medal final between Sweden and Finland in Torino, Italy. Sweden would end up victorious in a close 3-2 game.

Dejection and disappointment for Team Finland as they await their silver medals ...

... while Team Sweden celebrates with gold.

Here at felix's daily starfish and waffles, we naturally like to root for the little guy ... so that would suggest that I would've been cheering for Finland in today's game. However, those of you who've been reading this blog for a little while know how much I love Sweden, so to be truthful, I was a little torn. In the end, I guess I'm happy that Sweden did win because, for them, this was redemption for the way they were so unceremoniously bounced from the Olympics in 2002 by lightly-regarded Belarus. I know we Canadians like to think we have a monopoly on ice hockey but it just happens to be Sweden's national sport, too ... so this is a nice win for them. Gratulerar, Sverige!

Before I sign off tonight, a couple of thoughts. First, I really feel like playing some hockey right now. (Actually, one of my deepest, darkest secrets is that I can't skate - yeah, that's right, I'm Canadian and I can't skate - but I was one helluva street hockey goalie once upon a time, I swear!) Second, I have the sudden urge to jump on the next plane to Stockholm ... or Helsinki.

Better yet, I can kill two birds with one stone by flying to Stockholm with my hockey stick so I can play a little shinny across the pond. Anybody else want to come with?

Olympic mural in Stadion Tunnelbana Station, Stockholm (2005). 96 years ago, Stockholm hosted the Summer Games. I previously posted this picture on felix's daily starfish and waffles along with other photos from my trip to Sweden.

Sculpture outside of Stadion, Stockholm (2005). Stadion was built as the main stadium for the 1912 Olympics and today is the oldest Olympic stadium still in use. Unfortunately, the day I went, the stadium was closed. Which is too bad, because I kinda wanted to run on the track. Apparently, it's pretty fast: more world records (83, in total) have been set at Stadion than at any other track in the world.

View of Globen from Globen Tunnelbana Station, Stockholm (2005). See the big golfball-shaped dome in the background? That's Globen, the huge multi-purpose arena that hosts all of the big concerts, conventions, hockey games, and other athletic events in Stockholm. Globen also has the distinction of being the largest spherical building in the world.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

my simulated reality tv life: episode ten

Break out the cake and goofy party hats! Because tonight we're celebrating our tenth episode of My Simulated Reality TV Life, just in time for the last week of February sweeps. (Is our timing impeccable or what?) Did you miss the last episode? Click here for a rerun. New to the series? Click here to start at the very beginning. Now put the kids to bed, dim the lights and turn on the tele, because tonight's episode starts ... now!

A flashback scene from last episode: Bridgette blindsides simulated Felix with some earth-shattering news.

Episode Ten
The good ol' blindside. Nothing quite like it. The last episode ended with the simulated me's jaw dropping in utter disbelief as wife Bridgette delivered some shocking news. Exactly what did she say? Well, it went something like this:

"Simulated Felix, great news, I'm pregnant again ... this time with twins! Isn't this wonderful? And more good news ... my mom is going to move in with us to help around the house! I'm so happy!"

Twins? God damn, simulated Felix, use a simulated condom!

Immediately, the colour drains from my face and I turn a textbook shade of pale. Twins? Mother-in-law? How could this have happened? What did I do to deserve this? Just as I start to feel light-headed and think I'm going to pass out again, I hear an impish little snicker ... a snicker which soon escalates turns into a loud, roaring laugh. Hey, Bridgette's laughing at me!

"HAHAHA!! You should've seen the look on your face!"

That was a cruel, cruel joke from a cruel, cruel wife. To get even and even fast, the simulated me wastes no time in tickling Bridgette into oblivion. Take that, Bridgette!

Bridgette has a good laugh at simulated Felix's expense.

The ability to tickle - and tickle well - can be a great equalizer in any situation. Take that, Bridgette!

After Bridgette is all tickled out, I decide to get out of the house for a bit to get some air. Sure, Bridgette was only joking, but what happened tonight had the effect of making the simulated me wonder if living the life as a good husband and father in suburbia is really as happy and blissful as I thought it was just last episode. I mean, is this all (simulated) life is going to be?

Back here in real life, sometimes we go to our oldest and best friends when we need a little perspective and the simulated me is no different. I cross the street and ring my old buddy Malik's doorbell. After a few seconds, Malik answers the door with his trademark 'fro and green shades.

"Hey Brotha, whassup?? How's the old lady and the baby?"

Just like old times, the simulated me and Malik hang out and shoot the breeze on his front stoop. Yeah, it's good just chattin' and hearing all of my buddy's wild stories about women, partying, and living up the single life.

But, ultimately, is Malik providing the simulated me with the perspective I need or is he simply being a bad influence? Make sure to tune in to the next episode of My Simulated Reality TV Life for the continuing saga!

Malik and simulated Felix talk about all of the important issues: women, money, work, partying, livin' life and ... green smiley faces. "The way I see it bro', two green smiley faces are better than one. Because two's more ... more than one. Proper!"

Bridgette has her single friends, too. Here she's listening intently to her best friend, Erin. Erin's finger-wagging suggests she's about to make an important point. Erin's brown, striped toque suggests the point is about pot. Erin is cool.

Words of wisdom from baby Felicia's teddy bear: "Bridgette, with today's gasoline prices, we can't afford NOT to buy a pony."

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

but the monster ate my post!

There I was, just seconds from publishing the next episode of My Simulated Reality TV Life when suddenly my computer turned into Godzilla and devoured the entire post! While I figure out if anything can be salvaged, here's a picture for you to munch on.

Godzilla Statue, Tokyo, Japan (2002). I took this grainy, over-exposed photo with my Kodak F300 APS camera while wandering around jet-lagged and lost without a map somewhere in the sprawling megapolis that is Tokyo. Would you believe that the statue is only like four feet tall? I had to take this picture with my back on the ground to give it some proper perspective.

Friday, February 17, 2006

the olympics should give out medals for watching the olympics

Because, for sure, I'd contend for the gold. I'll admit it ... I've been an Olympic-watching junkie ever since I first caught glimpse of the '84 Los Angeles Games on TV as a bright-eyed six-year old. I tell ya, between work, watching the Olympics and living life, there just aren't enough hours in a day. It's late here and I really should be getting to bed, but right now the CBC is replaying the Canada-Germany hockey game from earlier today ...

Does anybody else think that the medals they're handing out at the Torino Games look like CDs? Canadian cross-country skiiers Beckie Scott and Sara Renner celebrate their silver medals after the Women's Team Sprint competition. Interesting story: it looked like the Canadians were doomed to finish off the medal podium when Renner broke a ski pole halfway into the race. But in a nice display of sportsmanship, a Norwegian coach came to rescue and handed Renner a replacement pole. The Canadians recovered and finished second. The irony? The Norwegian team ended up in fourth, just outside of the medals.

This is actually a photo from the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. German superstar Anni Friesinger and an unidentified Dutch skater (Tonny de Jong?) duel in the Women's 5000m.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

gobble, gobble (with orange sauce)

It's February and I'm doing a post on turkey? Yeah, I'm as surprised as you are. But maybe this just goes to prove my point: outside of the holiday season, the poor turkey simply doesn't get its due and pretty much waddles in the shadow of more prominent fowl, such as the chicken or the duck. Is this fair? I don't think so. And since we here at felix's daily starfish and waffles are all about rooting for the underdog (underbird?) and evening the playing field for the unappreciated, this morning we're going to talk a little turkey. Gobble, gobble.

Wednesday Night Salt 'n' Pepper Turkey Fillets with Reduction Orange Glaze make a nice cornerstone entrée for a romantic dinner at home. Garnish with slices of starfruit and orange and serve with a side of whole-wheat spaghetti and grilled sweet bell peppers and baby portabella mushrooms to really impress your significant other.

NOTE: Yes, this is going to be another one of my recipe posts. For those of you that have said in the past my recipe posts are boring ... too bad! You're going to sit there, eat it, and like it! So there.

Flashback to a few weeks ago. I had promised a friend I'd cook her dinner (you know, because I have more ways than just my chiseled good looks to impress girls and cooking happens to be one of them), but I got hung up at the office and didn't have time to run to the supermarket to pick up groceries. Stuck with only what I had in my fridge, a crisis was looming ... but thanks to a little focus, luck, and the availability of two turkey fillets in my darkest hour, a groundbreaking new recipe from the dingobear kitchen was born! I like to call it my Wednesday Night Salt 'n' Pepper Turkey Fillets with Reduction Orange Glaze. (And yes, I fully appreciate the irony of naming the dish my Wednesday Night Salt 'n' Pepper Turkey Fillets with Reduction Orange Glaze even though I'm writing this post on a Saturday morning, so no need for you to point anything out. You smart ass, you.)

Ok, back to the story. My new recipe passed the first test when neither I, nor my aforementioned friend, contracted food poisoning. This is always a bonus. But I knew I really had a winner on my hands when my friend finished everything on her plate and said, "mmmm, that was good." Well, actually, it wasn't so much what she said that was the indication because, let's face it, these days girls will say anything to take advantage of honest, innocent guys like me (and quite frankly, I'm tired of being a victim - but hey, this is fodder for another post). However, in this case, I think she really was being sincere plus, I enjoyed the meal myself. Anyway, long, boring story made short: crisis averted, turkey should be thanked and, in the spirit of generosity, I'm sharing my recipe here so you can avert any similar future crises of your own. Gobble, gobble!

Wednesday Night Salt 'n' Pepper Turkey Fillets with Reduction Orange Glaze
2 boneless, skinless turkey breast fillets
50-75mL freshly-squeezed orange juice
50-75mL sodium-reduced chicken broth
1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 teaspoons freshly grated orange zest (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon fresh thyme (optional)
unbleached flour for dredging

Start by prepping the ingredients for your orange glaze. What I like to do first is take a small, California navel orange and zest the peel. A tip: when zesting, try to avoid getting any of the white, pithy part of the orange peel because this is the bitter-tasting part that'll cause your dinner guest to make scrunchy faces at you. (While this may be entertaining for you, your guest will enjoy the meal less - trust me). Set your orange zest aside for now.

Next, cut your orange into wedges and squeeze the juice out of it into a large measuring cup. Based on the the size of the California oranges we get here, this tends to net me about 50mL of juice, give or take a mL here and there. The reason I recommend using navel oranges is it'll save you the step of having to pick out all of the seeds from your glaze. Next, add the sodium-reduced chicken broth to your measuring cup. How much you add depends on how much orange juice you've squeezed - I'd suggest aiming for a one-to-one ratio so if you have 50mL of juice, pour in 50mL of chicken broth. Toss the orange zest you've set aside into the measuring cup, and also the fresh thyme. Of course, you can use dried thyme instead or no thyme at all: the only reason I suggest fresh is because I happen to have the stuff growing on my windowsill. (It's much easier to grow and better-tasting than pot). Anyway, the contents for your glaze are now pretty much done. Easy, huh?

Ok, now it's time to prepare your turkey fillets. Sprinkle both sides with salt and ground black pepper. Next, dredge the turkey fillets in the flour and coat them lightly. Besides giving it some flavour, the salt, pepper and flour will also serve to seal in all the juices in the turkey fillets while you're cooking it, thereby keep them moist and delicious.

In a large saucepan, melt the tablespoon of butter with your extra virgin olive oil over medium-high heat. When the butter is fully melted and begins to foam, add the turkey fillets to the pan. It'll depend on thickness, but you'll want to sear them about 2 to 4 minutes on each side. By this time, the fillets should have formed a nice, goldie-brown crust on both sides and your entire kitchen should smell y-u-m-m-y. Using a pair of tongs, transfer the turkey fillets onto a plate for the time being.

Next, pour in the ingredients of the orange glaze you prepared earlier into the same saucepan. As the mixture sizzles, immediately scrape the flavour-packed brown bits off the bottom of the pan using a wooden spatula. Return the turkey fillets back to the pan, cover and reduce heat to medium. Simmer for approximately 5 minutes or until the turkey is just cooked through. By this time, your orange glaze will have also reduced nicely into a rich, thick, scrumptious sauce.

When done, using tongs, transfer the turkey onto a plate - a nice plate, if you're cooking for somebody else. Pour the orange glaze on top of the turkey. Serving this entrée with a side of grilled vegetables and risotto or spaghetti is highly recommended. Bon appétit and gobble, gobble!

More dingobear kitchen recipes available by clicking here, here, or also here.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

the bus stops here

... at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan, with a championship in Super Bowl XL. It's always nice to see one of the truly good guys go out on top. Enjoy retirement, Jerome Bettis.

The Bus celebrates a fourth quarter touchdown pass from Antwaan Randle El to Hines Ward, en route to the Pittsburgh Steelers' 21-10 win over the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XL (2006). In his final game, Jerome Bettis goes out a champion.

Friday, February 03, 2006

my simulated reality tv life: episode nine

Despite being the most popular simulated reality series on the globe, My Simulated Reality TV Life was unceremoniously passed over for a Golden Globe last month. Initially, we had attributed this gross injustice to the "retarded tendencies" of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association but it has since been pointed out to us that the HFPA doesn't give out an award statue for "Best Simulated Reality Series." Nevertheless, we stand by our original statement - because we're principled that way!

In any event, it's all water under the bridge now because it's time for an all-new, Emmy-winning episode of My Simulated Reality TV Life. If you missed the last episode, click here for a rerun. If you're completely new to the series and don't have a clue what we're talking about, welcome back from space! (And feel free to click here to start at the very first episode ... you've got some catching up to do). Now, don't touch that remote, tonight's episode starts in two seconds.

The swingin' (haha, swingin', how clever is that?) life in suburbia: simulated Felix and Bridgette in a scene so gaggingly puke-errific it's almost fitting for an after-school special.

Episode Nine
Somehow, someway ... life for the simulated me has devolved into a kind of plain vanilla existence, lost somewhere in the midst of the banality that you know as suburbia. Long gone are the days of an aspiring career in medicine, unrestrained violence against frisky llamas, and trafficking booze at a fair-but-healthy markup to the neighbors. But what's scary about all this is that I seem to be ok with it. In fact, I seem to be better than ok with it: I think I'm actually enjoying it. Have the pressures of being a simulated husband and parent finally broken the simulated me to a point where there's nothing left except a boring suburbanite with a really great body?

Maybe so. But you can't deny that everything is in perfect balance these days. The house is neat and spotless. Baby Felicia is happy and curious, and growing like a weed. Bridgette and I are spending lots of time together and really seem to be enjoying each other's company. But most important of all, I still have a really great body. Truly, simulated life doesn't get any better than this, folks.

Playing peek-a-boo with the parents is something of a universal rite of passage for all babies, Felicia included. Personally, I've always wondered why more babies aren't completely terrified of adults who suddenly emerge from behind their hands with funny, twisted faces. What can I say? Although cute, babies can be kinda weird.

TRA-MAM-PO-LINE!! I mean, trampoline! Sometimes, it's not about all of the cool, expensive stuff you may never own but rather maximizing the fun out of the stuff you do have. Here, the simulated me and Bridgette are having a ball jumping up-and-down on the living room couch. Who knew Bridgette could do backflips?

More fun with Felicia's toys. Teddy bear to simulated Felix: "I'm not normally into that kind of thing but that female grizzly was so furry, I just couldn't help myself."

A wise man once said: "When you have everything, you have everything to lose." But this couldn't actually apply to the simulated me, could it? After all, I have such a great body! But then, one night after the baby's been tucked in, Bridgette corners the simulated me in the kitchen and, with a very serious face, utters those five words than one dreads to hear: "Honey, we need to talk." And as she delivers her shocking news, my jaw drops in utter disbelief ...

What bomb did Bridgette just drop on simulated Felix? You'll have to tune in to the next episode of My Simulated Reality TV Life to find out!

Bridgette delivers some shocking news. What could it be?