Don’t cry because it’s over.
Smile because it happened.

Unknown Context

Theodor Seuss Geisel

April 6. Sunday.

I have to admit that over the past couple of years my ability to surprise and rise to occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries has not been stellar. It is not nonexistent, of course, that would be a heinous crime, but rather with the pace of our lives increasing at what seems like an exponential pace, it is harder than ever to keep up. Casualties have included Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries, and not only Nicole but also my family have been affected. However, this time I was determined not to allow myself to get behind the 8 ball and came up with a weekend that was simple in it’s conception and ultimately provided the desired result… Tears of joy.

Nicole’s birthday was on Sunday, so for dinner Saturday we invited her parents to come with us to Fire and Ice, a restaurant close to us in Hwy. 7 in Markham. The place is unique in it’s fare, the idea is that you pick a protein or two or three, depending on what you feel like. This could be a steak, a chicken breast or a mixed grill with sausage, chicken and steak pieces which was what I chose. Once you have told the waitress what you want, she gives you a ticket with your choice and sends you to the vegetable bar where you line up a little like a salad bar and choose come veggies to have as a stir fry. Once you get to the end of the line, a plate full of such tasty morsels as green and red peppers, onions, bok choy, bean sprouts and mushrooms, the guy asks you what kind of sauce you would like. The idea is that they stirfry your protein and your veggies in teriyaki, sweet n sour or peppercorn garlic (there were a couple of others too) and bring it to your table once done. I chose peppercorn garlic since I was having among others sausage and steak. We grabbed a small plate with some salad and a very small and limited salad bar (common sense there for once) and headed back to the table. It didn’t take long for the food to arrive, just long enough for Nicole to dive into a couple of bags of presents that her parents had brought from themselves and her aunt including a lovely selection of tulips (her favourite) from their shop.

The food itself was excellent. The portions were large, although that was determined to a large degree by the amount of veggies you chose, which brought about an interesting point. We had seen almost everyone leaving with doggie bags, which when tied to the fact that most plates being cooked were loaded and piled high with veggies said to us that the idea is not just to have a plate full of food for the dinner, but also to take advantage of the system to provide you with at least another meal the following day. Next time…

I took leave during the meal to track down our waitress to inform her of Nicole’s special day and once the meal was done several of the waitstaff with a huge boom-box and an incredibly sinful chocolate caramel ice cream brownie thing came over and sang happy birthday. Somehow it just isn’t a birthday without public humiliation, but the dessert was definitely worth it. All in all, an exceptional meal, due in large part to the participation (a little like Marché, but not as fancy) and the excellent quality of the meats. The pricing was reasonable for what you got and I am sure we will be back on more than one more occasion to sample some of the other delights on offer. As a coincidence, we had been reading lately about Diet Delivery and the Zone diet, and this particular restaurant was exactly what the diet called for, lots of protein, lots of veggies and very little starch. This, however, was only a prelude to what Nicole would endure the next day.

Sunday morning came and we were up early at my request to head downtown to Fran’s for some breakfast. We are big Fran’s fans, not only because it gives us a chance to go downtown, but also because anywhere that gives you lots of food at bargain pricing is a winner to us. Breakfast of course being our meal of choice for eating out means that a trip to Fran’s is a special and titillating experience and was the perfect way to start the day. Nicole had no idea what was in store for her, and frankly neither did I… All I knew was where to drop her off and when to be back. We left Fran’s and drove around for a while, taking in the ragged serenity of Toronto’s early morning. There is definitely a special feel to Yonge street at 8 on a Sunday that reveals its soft underbelly and invites you to have a tickle. At 8:25 we pulled up in front of The Elmwood Spa and I led a thoroughly confused Nicole up the regal stairs and through the massive wood double doors into the tastefully appointed foyer. The first point of business was for her to fill out the requisite waivers and release forms including of course one determining that she was not exposed to SARS in the past 10 days. After that, and telling the very friendly and helpful staff that not only was this her first time, but it was also a complete surprise, she was led into an elevator to be whisked away into paradise for almost 4 hours. As the lady at the desk said, all she had to do was not think for the next 4 hours. That sounded perfect to me.

As far as what went on in that building, I am not entirely sure, however she didn’t get the haircut she was promised and as a result came out to the car with a gift certificate for a return visit. Now I am not really up on the latest and greatest techniques that they use in these places and in fact personally I have never actually had a massage or a facial, but I have to admit that Nicole not only looked like a million dollars and smelled like a spring garden, but her skin was a soft as butter. Her hands were nothing short of spectacular and felt like velvet, it really was quite amazing and that, along with the beaming smile on her face, made all the preparations worthwhile. It just goes to show that no matter how much they beg and cajole, how they cry and stamp their feet, there is nothing like a really genuine surprise to put the sparkle in the eye of the woman you love. So take it from me… Don’t even hint, just shut up and do it.