Mandy Stobo is the best bad artist in Calgary. And she loves it that way.
The woman behind Bad Portraits is making a career of making people look horrible.
In the past six months, Stobo has created more than 800 Bad Portraits: stacks of splashy neon watercolour renderings of people, ranging from the famous to pretty much anyone who asks.
She spends about 45 minutes on each portrait, and then sells the original watercolour for $100.
So far, she has sold about 150, a few dozen of which have been purchased by the “Twitterati”—celebs and lesser-knowns who have large followings on Twitter.
*cough* Twitterati *cough*, so I emailed Mandy and got the above of my boys and this one of me.
The one of the boys is deliciously bad. I love it. The one of me is actually almost a bang on portrait (does that mean I’m really bad in real life?)
“Bad Portraits is a project to say that you are rad,”writes Mandy on her website. “It is a test of social media. And it is a way for me to gain my 10000 hours in a relatively inexpensive, but super inspirational way.”
For my wife’s 40th birthday we took one of those “once-in-a-lifetime” trips on a helicopter ride to the Grand Canyon.
Depending on the package you choose, it can be an early morning wake up call. We chose the first flight in the morning, which meant a 6:05 pick up at our hotel before driving out to Papillon‘s Boulder City aeroplex.
It is getting more difficult to find a tour operator flying out of Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon because the airport authority is expanding and pushing the tours to smaller outlying airports. The coach ride to Boulder City is quick and painless.
The entire pick-up to drop-off experience runs about 4 hours. When you get to the Papillon Aeorplex be prepared to “weigh in”. No passenger can weigh more than 274 pounds and each helicopter needs to be properly balanced for weight.
After a quick safety video you’re introduced to your pilot and walked out to the waiting tarmac. Papillon‘s photographer will take pictures of each couple in front of the chopper (to resell later in the gift shop for $20), but your pilot will also offer to take a picture for you as well.
The 30 minute ride out goes over the Hoover Dam, Joshua Tree forests and dormant volcanoes before plunging into the canyon. You fly past the Hopi Indian skywalk with the pilot offering facts and trivia the whole way.
After landing in the canyon, small picnics are opened with a snack and a sip of champagne. You spend about 30 minutes in the Grand Canyon and it’s total free time. You can wander, take pictures and just take in the awe of the area. The flight back goes over deserted mines, ghost towns and the Colorado canyon.
TIPS: Book in advance.
Despite all the deals you see on the strip offering “half price flights”, they all end up costing about the same. To make sure you get the flight time you want, do it ahead of time.
Bring your own champagne.
We picked up a couple of small bottles of Nicolas Feuillate at the ABC store. I packed them in ice in a freezer bag and tossed them in the backpack for the trip. While Papillon provides little snack baskets, the bubble is not all that, so BYOB.
The early morning flight goes due east, directly into the rising sun. The lighting makes it hard to take pictures or see what’s going
Get the front seat.
Each helicopter carries 6 people. For an extra $50 per person fee you can reserve the front seats on your ride. It’s not confirmed that it will happen until you check in, but it’s worth it to watch the entire canyon open up in front of you.
There’s something about the Bellagio’s Conservatory that makes me smile. 5 times a year a gorgeous display of flowers and models is created to reflect the season. From penguins and polar bears in winter, to huge pumpkins for fall, I love this greenhouse just off the lobby of the Bellagio.
Specially designed lighting spotlights every flower to accentuate its best features. To ensure the Conservatory & Botanical Gardens maintains magnificence 365 days a year, 140 expert horticulturists theatrically arrange gazebos, bridges, ponds, and water features uniquely for each season. Treat yourself to this unrivaled attraction’s ever changing personality for the Holidays, Chinese New Year, spring, summer, and fall.
Some of my other favorite places (the back steps of Versailles, the Douglas Fir trail in Calgary, and Ferguson Point in Vancouver) are loved because they’re quiet places to think.
The Conservatory at the Bellagio, however, has become a favorite because of the imagination and creativity and colour in the room. There was a time when it was a quiet place, not anymore – but in my nearly 2 dozen visits to Las Vegas, I always make time to visit the Conservatory and see the latest colors.
Banff is just a quick 75 minute drive from the west side of Calgary and it’s an easy escape for a half day visit with the kids. When the chinooks are blowing in town and there’s no snow to be found, pop into the mountains for a day of sliding, skating and relaxing in the hot springs.
There are a few places to go sliding in Banff. There’s a small hill for younger kids at the Cascade Pond picnic area near Lake Minnewanka.
For those who want some variety, check out the hill behind the Banff Springs Hotel. Just park next to the Bow Falls and walk around behind the hotel to find the hill. It’s in a gorgeous setting next to the Spray River and a large pond for outdoor skating. This is the postcard Canada experience of winter.
If you’ve forgotten your gear, you can rent toboggans and skates in the ski shop at the Fairmont Banff Springs.
There’s outdoor skating at The Fenlands, Banff Recreation Centre on Norquay Road.
When conditions permit, there is a track cleared for skating on the Bow River, accessible from Central Park in downtown Banff.
The pond beside the toboggan hill at the Banff Springs Hotel is gorgeous. There’s a warming hut and often a bonfire at the Waldhaus Rink, located beside the Spray River.
After you’ve spent a couple of hours of fun, unwind with a dip in the Upper Banff Hot Springs. The Banff Upper Hot Springs is one of Banff’s most famous attractions, and oldest, it was discovered in 1884. The air may be crisp, but the water is always 39 degrees when you go for a relaxing dip.
The above itinerary is guaranteed to put a smile on your kids’ face and wear them out for a solid snooze the entire ride back to Calgary. We had a beautiful Sunday in the Rockies and are making plans to do it again next month.
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The world is a big place. You’re just a small piece of it. If you want to make your life better, if you want to enrich yourself you need to explore. I’ve been to just 14 countries a number that’s good but not great. A friend of mine is trying to get to 60 countries before she’s 60 and this week, at 43, said “Hola” to Costa Rica and number 40.
Need a push to be inspired to change things up, take a challenge and move outside your usual all-inclusive or flight to Vegas? Watch this:
Three friends spent forty-four days touring eleven countries and travelling thirty-eight thousand miles to shoot a few videos of inspiration. Andrew Lees is the start of the short films, Rick Mereki and Tim White were on the crew while the music is by Kelsey James.
Eating the same thing for dinner tonight? Don’t know how to cook, bake or fry? Stuck with a boring palate that knows nothing more than a few foods?
Look down the multicultural aisle of your grocery store, don’t skip it. Follow someone who speaks another language or has a different colour skin. Watch where they go in the aisle, see what they pick up and then ask them how to cook it.