Thursday, June 26, 2014

Choose Your Own Adventure Tweetup

This past weekend was Tweetup number four on the roster of attended Tweetups. It's likely to have been the last (98% sure it is...ya always have to maintain some wiggle room).

After a great time at the Detroit Tweetup in 2012, the appetite for Tweetups was whetted. What followed was a fairly disappointing one in 2013, which took place in Minneapolis, then shortly following that a fun one in London, Ontario where we got to see @CanadianCyn again, and meet her sister @CanadianCheri. We met some other nice people at that Tweetup, but considered it to be a potential final Tweetup tadoo because of the general experience. When the Tweetup for the following year was starting to be organized by Cheri, and Cyn said she was going to be there, and it was slated for Toronto, Canada, we marked the calender.

But then something came up and Cheri handed off the undertaking to @ArrogantTwat and @BlondeCalamity - who turned out to be a great host and hostess, and made people feel welcome. They deserve many thanks for their effort.

Tweetups can be a mixed bag. For the truly awkward, they can be...truly truly awkward. Especially if you aren't part of any of the Instagram and KIK "cliques" that develop on Twitter and then go behind "closed doors" and talk about whatever it is people in cliques talk about. Create joke formats for Twitter and talk about other people...maybe? Sext? Share boob and food pictures? Who knows. Ultimately if you attend one of these functions and you don't have "connections" you could find yourself out in the cold, awkwardly speaking. It's not a big deal unless you make it a big deal though.

The first night is usually the most friendly, as most everybody makes attempts to introduce themselves/meet the faces behind the accounts. That's fairly short-lived, depending on how loud and busy the venue is. The first venue for Friday night of the Toronto Tweetup was the Bier Markt near the St. Lawrence Market in Old Toronto, across the street from the hotel where a portion of the attendees stayed. Drink prices were decent, the food...well...who eats the first night of a Tweetup?! (James did, and whatever it was looked great, and the tiny bite sampled was pretty good). The drinks were reasonably priced (for Toronto), at about $6.50-7.00 each for a Gin and water. The band that night was amazing. Aaaa-Mazing. (Not sure who it was though)

The most memorable part of the night was meeting @BlareBare's friend...The Serial Killer. Okay, so he probably has an actual name.

Javier Bardem
He isn't really on Twitter, and he was at the event as designated driver for Blare. He was off standing by the entrance, watching the soccer (football) [World Cup] game across the tops of the heads of all the drunk people...looking like a creepy guy. Think Javier Bardem in No Country For Old Men...

So, we walk up to him and ask him what he was doing (and then he tells us about being there for Blare and watching the game - also, he doesn't drink).
Then the conversation goes something like "I'm gonna be honest with you. Some straight-up Twitter honesty. You're standing over here looking like a serial killer and it's kinda creepy".

We go on to tell him that he should mingle, and have a good time, maybe get closer to the TV. Maybe talk to some of the liquor lubricated Twitter ladies. He took it well and went off into the crowd. After that he seemed to have a good time, and even went to the second night's event which he hadn't planned to do.

Around 12:30-ish we skipped out to go to try to find something to eat. When Skittles (@ClubNette) asked if she could come along, the answer was a resounding yes.

We have been following Skittles on Twitter for years now, and her us. She writes poetic and intriguing Tweets and when we tried to get her to come to London last year, promising to hide under tables and drink vodka and eat Skittles with her, she passed. But this year...this year she collected all of her braveness and as soon as she walked into the bar, we screamed her name and enveloped her in a giant hug. It was like insta-friends.
(As a side note, her nickname officially became "Skittles" at the Toronto Tweetup, thanks to James and us)

So we grabbed Skittles and @Sythesised, who we met at the London Tweetup last year, and have become very friendly with, and went off to do our own stuff. We wandered around a bit in Old Toronto, breifly played in a fountain, got lost, made jokes, had a lot of laughs, found some food and got to know each other.

The following day we took Skittles and James to St. Lawrence Market (we'd been to Toronto about five years prior and became familiar with the awesomeness that is the market) where the lot of us wandered around, looking at food, mesmerized, drinking delicious Italian coffee. James bought a bit of obscenely expensive unpasteurized cheese (because unpasteurized cheese is not available in the states), and we bought a raisin butter tart so James could sample the greatness that is a butter tart...and then the food mecca was discovered.

For $8 you can get thick fresh sliced bacon (your choice of from which part of the pig) on a perfectly moist roll. It was nearly a religious experience.

Bacon selection at Carnicero's in the St. Lawrence Market
After that we met up with the Tweetup at a sports bar downtown. We didn't stay long...because of the awkwardness, but did get to meet and have a chat with @stranded_in_to and @MrsStranded. A very lovely couple.

The plan was to go to the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, so off we headed. All in all, from the Market to the museum, it was a two and a half mile walk. It seemed like forever. And then the museum was closed. The disappointment was brief, as they appeared to be setting up for an event, and one of the men there invited us to come back later that night for an opening of Over The Rainbow: Seduction and Identity, which was featuring late hours, staying open until 1am.

So we headed back to get ready to go out for the night. A few stops in shops on the way, a designer label consignment shop, and a store dedicated solely to socks.

We took a side street after seeing some graffiti and stumbled upon an entire alley full of graffiti artists working on a project for the North by Northeast art project. Score. It was some of the best graffiti art you could hope to see, the alley smelled of fresh spray paint, and it was full of shirtless artists. 

Finally, about half way back, we boarded a trolley, and right at the stop we got off at was this amazing place called Craft Dogs, which makes handmade small-batch wieners with awesome seasonal and fresh ingredients. Who can pass that up?! If you go to Toronto, you have to try their wieners.

It was a nearly perfect day.

The Mennonite Smokey
(pork shoulder, cheese curds, apples and sage)
fancy mustard, smoked tomato ketchup, spicy corn relish, kraut
Later we headed off towards the Tweetup venue with Skittles on the trolley, and James stayed on and went to a rugby game that was taking place in the city. We ended up missing our stop, and had to backtrack, which was the whole point of taking the get to the venue quickly. Fail. At this point it would have been quicker to walk. We got a half a block away and got intercepted by a cab going to a stand-up comedy Twitter event at
Theatre Passe Muraille, and they cajoled us (with lies) to squish into the back of the cab.

We got there...the awkward girls. Synthesised was nowhere to be found, so we stood around awkwardly, like awkward girls do. The people who had convinced us to get into the cab were off doing something, and the people we were left with...well...let's just say...not everybody on Twitter is as friendly or nice as they may portray themselves.

They weren't letting people into the venue site, so we kinda wandered a bit with Skittles, standing on the fringes...

It didn't take long to start conspiring. Peeing was something long overdue, and so the decision was made that when people started going into the theater, we'd run away to go find a bathroom and head back to hang out with all of the other people (who we had been mislead to believe would be where we currently were), which was just under a mile walk. So much walking!

Finally we go to the bar, stood in line and joined everybody. It was loud and hard to hear people talk unless you were just about sitting in their lap. We stayed probably an hour or so, James showed up and off we went, the same little group from the night before, to the gallery opening.

The art for the opening was from the collection of Salah Bachir and Jacob Yerex, who have the second largest Andy Warhol collection, among other interesting and stunning works, like this one by Andy Fabo...

We got what amounted to an amazing personal "tour" from Brett Despotovich (hereby nicknamed Dapper Man by Skittles), Head of Gallery Operations and Visitor Services and artist ( Brett was very interesting and provided some interesting information on various pieces of art and portraits, including Richard Gere's penis.

We closed down the gallery, admiring the eclectic mix of pieces as we walked out, each getting a hug and kissed on both cheeks by Brett, and an invitation to come back the following morning.

Ever the adventurers, the group of us took a stroll through Trinity Park on Queen St, then stumbled through the alley from earlier in the day, emerging in front of Hero Certified Burgers. Certified, as in 100% Angus beef - hormone, antibiotic and gluten-free (of course, the buns aren't gluten free). Magical. This is another place you have to try if you make it to Toronto. 

We cabbed it the rest of the way back to the hotel, and everybody took out their respective contact lenses, put on comfortable clothes and then we sat around and talked until 4am.

The next morning we met in Synthesised's room for coffee and Bailey's and Mimosas, and then went back the the gallery for a talk by Andy Fabo...which we actually missed because of the drinking. The day slowly came to a close after lunch at a local pace called Eggsmart; Synth had to go pick up his daughter and Skittles had to catch a train at about 4pm.

The rest of the day was just us and James, wandering around down by the lake, then to the CN Tower, a nice dinner at Fionn MacCool's and then relaxed in the room and got ready for our 7am bus departure.

Despite the horrific experience getting to the Tweetup: an hour drive to the airport, flight cancellations which forced us to get to the airport over six hours early to try to get an earlier flight, delays involving sitting in a plane on the tarmac for an hour in Chicago, luggage that got sent on the wrong place, getting into the motel room after nearly fourteen hours of travel only to get four hours of sleep before getting on a bus for over three hours to get to Toronto, and then a mile walk to the was totally worth it.

All in all the Tweetup was what we made it. It was a choose-your-own-adventure experience. Sometimes Tweetups are just a good excuse to travel, to have new experiences that have very little to do with Twitter, and forge great relationships with great people, even if it is a select few who understand what true awkwardness in social situations feels like...and everyone involved can appreciate the mutual awkwardness. 

And the best outcome? Skittles is coming to visit us in a couple of weeks! This adds the third person met from Twitter to be a house guest at Chez Frankie. She is included in a small group of people who we consider friends, many of who we have met at Tweetups, or through a stop on the way traveling to Tweetups. 

Not all Tweetups, or social events originating from social media, are going to be positive experiences. It's like life. Take the good parts and make something of it, and you'll find it's worth going out on a limb. You just might meet some fellow awkward adventurers.

The Adventurers <3

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Guinea Pigs

Tonight is the second Thursday in a row we're taking part in a medical-related food consumption study.

We got accepted to the program about a month ago after seeing a sign on campus and applying.
The draw was the subject (it's food/health related) and the money.
Mostly, the money.
It pays half of the amount we make at work in a month; it's basically paying for the trip to Toronto next week (a combination Tweetup/anniversary celebration/summer vacation trip). Couldn't really pass it up.

After the initial meet which involves a blood draw after 12 hours of fasting, and a second two hour meeting (following another 12 hour fasting) which measures body composition (how much fat versus muscle your body is made up of) using a dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) machine and then a test to determine RMR (Resting Metabolic Rate), which is basically the base amount of calories your body needs to function. That involves putting a big space-helmet-like hood over your head for about 45 minutes while you lay very still and it collects your exhaled breath and analyses it.
It's kinda weird.

It's all very interesting to someone who loves learning new things. Hopefully they release both of the results after the study is over. That kind of information would be really empowering to someone with a lifetime of battling weight issues.

The study requires the subject to not be on medication (we're four years clean this month!), not be on birth control (no problem there!), and be free of health conditions (such as high blood pressure and low blood sugar/diabetes) - on that front we're as healthy as a horse.

The study also includes staying three separate nights at their facility, at least a week apart. Before each stay the test subject (that's us!) is required to record everything consumed for the three days prior. EVERYTHING. All foods and coffee, water, alcohol too. It gets recorded using a program and then it spits out detailed calorie information for the day. It's quit interesting, not really being too much of a calorie counter when it comes to a whole day of eating, only individual items and recipes, (we were studying human nutritional science at one point in time) to find out how few calories, on average, we actually consume in a day. Also interesting, it became apparent that 25-30% of calories a day is from alcohol. That's not very good.

1200 calories of food.
Once checked into the facility they provide a meal. It's the same menu and amount every time (it's also three times the calories we generally consume for dinner, so we don't finish it all and some of it we don't even eat) and has to be consumed by 7 pm. After 7 pm there is no food aloud, only water.

The room.
Each room is private, with a TV, a bed (that's more like a flat rock with bedding, sadly) and a shared bathroom (but there's never a full house). There's a pool table, and a big commons area with big comfy couches and a large television with cable - plus free wireless (which is terribly slow and glitchy). But it's comfortable, and has air conditioning (which we don't have at home). We don't have to cook, or clean, or talk to anybody...just hang out. It's kind of like a mini vacation.

Six am starts the day, with a half an hour for showering and...stuff...
Then they insert the arterial catheter into the inner elbow and there it stays for over four hours while they periodically draw blood following the consumption of breakfast (which is sickly sweet strawberry Greek yogurt). They leave us in a small room with a monitor, which provides questions after each blood draw, and provide water as much as requested (though however much water you drink during the first of the three sessions is how much you'll be allowed the final two sessions).
Other than that it's a good time to catch up on reading, or watching Netflix - last week we watched 'Butter' and 'The Best and the Brightest' (both hilarious movies, by the way).

At about 11:30 am they take out the catheter and bring lunch and place it on a scale that looks like a giant mouse pad so they measure how much you eat, and likely how fast you eat it. They say to eat as much as you like until full/satisfied. It's a GIANT glass casserole dish, and it's chicken (clearly canned), cream of mushroom soup (clearly from a can), and egg noodles with some hint of some sort of cheese product (could be Velveeta?). It's atrocious [but the first few bites are delicious if hungry enough]...and unlike dinner where everything is labeled with the calorie content, this is just screaming death into a calorie abyss (egg noodles are severely high in calories, not to mention cream of mushroom soup...and whatever that cheese is).

After that they send you home. This is where the request for coffee comes in, because until then it's not allowed.

It might sound weird to do such a thing like take part in medical-related studies, but since we're not allowed to donate blood, or take part in medication testing (which, is probably for the better), this is an easy and interesting way to earn some extra cash through the summer. It's been a good learning experience. After tonight we have one more stay to go before the big "pay out".

If you ever need some extra cash, search local government and private organizations that do various types of studies and check out if they're "hiring" guinea pigs. You never know what you might learn.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Papillon Nymphe: A Painting [for Cheri]

When an artist friend Cheri suggested we do an art swap when we meet up in Toronto at the end of June, we were nervous.
Nobody, outside of mother, owns any of our paintings (and hers are on loan, really).
Bee Kind
18 x 24
140 lb Cold Pressed Paper
But then she posted this beauty on Facebook ...which we love.
And we told her so...
And then she said this would be ours in the trade. 
How exciting!
But damn.
Now the bar was set.
This past weekend (Thursday afternoon, actually) the painting for trade began and ended (today).

Most of the painting we do tend to nature. Dark and a little on the disturbing side. We didn't want her to hang something like that on her wall. She's so full of optimism that it didn't feel right. So we thought about her, driving back and forth to work the last couple of weeks and had an image. A couple actually. And when we sat down to the easel, it grew and morphed, like so many of our paintings do, and it turned into something that still holds the essence of many of our paintings, but in a new...optimistic way.
It was inspired by her.

Papillon Nymphe
42" x 42"
Acrylic on canvas.

Selected Section Views

For more of our artwork:

Hopefully Cheri likes it and finds it somewhere near an equal trade.

Don't forget to visit Cheri on
Her website:
Or Twitter:
She's super friendly and nice. And she's a real artist (sells her work and everything!)