18 for ’18: The Totem Project

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One of my photography goals this year was to work on a project that documented totem poles. I didn’t have any reason for this other than I am fascinated with First Nations art and having a project to work on keeps my brain and body active. It encourages me to explore parts of my city or country that I hadn’t been to before.

I had to do some research on where to find them. I knew about two in Edmonton, and one of those was removed from CFRN. So that left one, the totem pole at Government House. fullsizeoutput_21b9I had seen it in passing so I was aware of it. I learned the CRFN Sunwapta pole was restored and will be apart of the new Royal Alberta Museum when it opens (it could be a rumour, but I have a reliable source). I was surprised to learn there was a totem pole on the grounds of the Alberta Legislature. fullsizeoutput_23f5I went there all the time and wasn’t aware of it. Captain and I trudged through the snow to see it. It is 50 years old and is ageing well. I suspect the Province will take it down as it becomes more decrepit rather than let it die a natural death or even restore it. I went to the Stollery children’s hospital to do some research for a piece I am writing and discovered the Totem Pole there!fullsizeoutput_244b It was covered in butterflies and was beautiful. It will live a long and healthy life by being placed indoors. On that same trip, I went to the healing garden in the Mazankowski Hospital. A pole is placed there only it isn’t First Nations, but rather from India. It also was beautiful and not technically what I was looking for, I photographed it because it was beautiful. IMG_9198The last pole I found in Edmonton was the mighty Thunderbird located at the home of the Thunderbird’s, Ross Shepherd High School. I realized I was also aware of this guy but never entered it into my consciousness. fullsizeoutput_268cIt is located next to Coronation Pool and the Telus World of Science, so I often drive by it, but as with so many things, you see things but never notice them. This is why I like working on these projects. I want to notice everything and not just see them in passing.

My travels in the spring took me to the west coast. This part of the country is filled with totem poles. I visited the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre and learned why First Nation’s art is so prolific on the west coast. It was logically explained to me. When the ocean tide rolls out, the ground is laid out in a banquet of seafood. More than you could possibly eat in a day. When food is there and not needing to be worked for, there is time and energy to be creative. This is why the art is plentiful. It was a beautiful concept. I learned the history of the poles and why they are rarely restored and often left to die where they stand. It isn’t from neglect, it is because the tree has a spirit and it lends itself to the carving. Out of respect and thanks, it is left to live out its natural life and die when it is ready. fullsizeoutput_2510I imagine some poles have been reclaimed by the land throughout the forests and they lay there becoming homes for plants and small critters. fullsizeoutput_2412We explored the Museum of Anthropology at University of British Columbia, fullsizeoutput_24f3saw the totems at Brockton Point in Stanley Park, fullsizeoutput_2489stumbled onto one on Granville Island, fullsizeoutput_24ecwent into the Fairmont Pacific Rim to see the three totems in the lobby fullsizeoutput_25c4and looked at Capilano Suspension bridge’s extensive private collection. We drove the Sea to Sky Highway and found more along the way and in Whistler. fullsizeoutput_2591Welcome Poles were placed around the village, and then we found one at the Cultural Centre. fullsizeoutput_264dI decided I have favourites. The ones I am attracted to poles that are without paint. The beauty of the wood on its own was enough for me. As someone who has an irrational fear of birds, the irony of being drawn to Raven is not lost on me. I purchased Raven art and a bookmark to keep him with me.
My entire project can be found here or over on Instagram by searching #totemproject.

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The Halfway Point

2018 is just about halfway completed. I have been reflecting on my goals and actions and wonder if I am putting my best foot forward. For me, I find having goals to reach for important to my motivation. Without them I just plod along allowing life to happen to me rather than me living my life. I have been excited about a few things this year.

  1. 18 in 2018
  2.  Scrivener Software
  3.  Totem Project

18 in 2018 is primarily a to-do list. But I have outlined it as a series of goals and achievements that assist me with the fundamental purpose of living life. I have two lists. A personal list and an Edmonton Tourist list. I have discovered my personal list to be much more fun for me. Somethings are so mundane you might think I am dead boring. For example, one thing on my list was a series of declutter projects, my closet, the kitchen drawers, my personal hygiene space in the bathroom, my bedside drawer and the cupboard under the stairs. The last one was looked upon with dread. I did not want to face that at all. One morning I enlisted help from my hubs and we got to work. The most shocking thing happened. Apparently, we had completed this task last year, and the cupboard was fantastic. That was an easy item to cross off the list. I was surprised and how light I felt after the decluttering process. My drawers and baskets all still look fresh and clean, my closet has copious amounts of empty hangers but need some rearranging because my summer wardrobe is not easily accessible. Basically, I need to thank my mom for forcing me to endure the process as a child. I never felt as good as she claimed cleaning would make me feel, but now that I am older, simplifying my life is energizing.

I have a brunch jar, a mason jar that holds bottle return money saved for brunches! We used the cash from the jar to explore restaurants in Edmonton. Our criteria are simple, we have had to either heard great things about these places or learn of new places that we are curious about. Then we visit the restaurant. So far we have ventured off the beaten path. My next brunch place I wan to visit is Pip in Old Strathcona. My jar is ready for me to empty it! I jest need to find the time.

I have only read 14 books so far this year. I say only because my goal is 40 and in six months, I am off my target of by one book. I am currently reading Eleanor Oilphant is completely fine, and I am enjoying her quirkiness. I have read some great books this year! I started following the Hello Sunshine book club (Reese Whitherspoon), she showcases women authors and mixed genres. My favourite so far is You think it, I’ll say it by Curtis Sittenfeld. I loved the compelling characters in this book and wished I could get to know them in a novel. Hopefully one of them will pop up in a novel for my reading pleasure. I don’t usually think of myself as someone who reads short stories, but Elizabeth Strout and Maeve Binchy are stellar short story authors who I have read and thoroughly have enjoyed their offerings. So maybe I do enjoy short stories? I remember reading O. Henry in grade five (Thanks Mrs. Malone!) and his stories stuck with me. I found them compelling and riveting. All those authors have inspired me to try my hand at the short story genre. Which lead me to my second thing I have been excited about this year.

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Scrivener software and Office Lense have inspired me uncreative ways I didn’t think possible from software! I usually write in my notebook at cafes or parks because Judy Blume does. (Taking her Master Writing Class was a big deal for me, and I learned so much!) Often, I write using Word on my desktop because it is 2018. I was watching an author video on Hello Sunshine Book Club page with Jill Santopolo, author of The Light We Lost, and she mentioned using Scrivener, so I looked it up and downloaded the one-month free option. This rocked my world and cured me of wanting a smartboard in my office. I combine it with Office Lense, an app a colleague encouraged me to try, and I can convert my notes to documents and move sections around Scrivener. Its keeps notes in an easy to find section or on the bulletin board beside my main document. The simplicity of this and the usability of this has rocked my world. Uploading handwritten notes to make them useful is something I dreamed about since 1988, when I was in University for the first time. Clearly, I was ahead of my time. Now if I could combine it with software from recorded notes (maybe Dragon Speech?) my life will be complete.

Photography and visual arts is a big part of my life. I love to document my adventures through digital photography. Every now and then I like to have a purpose to my photo adventures or I find I continue to capture the same things endlessly. Trees, nature paths, architecture and my dog are my favourite things to capture. I like choosing a specific subject to photograph and create a project around it. IMG_E7974Last year I focused on the Red Chair project. A series of red Muskoka chairs were captured. The purpose was to explore the offerings of Parks Canada during the Canada 150 free entry into national parks. These chairs are off the beaten path or in well-traveled places. Finding them became a fun pursuit for me. I sat in every chair I photographed to experience the view and take in the purpose of the chair. Some of the captures can be found on Instagram by using #redchairproject or by scrolling through my feed @edmonton_tourist I am considering putting the entire collection on my Edmonton Tourist Facebook page. I enjoyed the red chair project so much, I decided to photograph totem poles. It began because as a kid I remembered poles around Edmonton and was fascinated with them, I loved the Sunwapta Pole at CRFN Television station, and the poles in Jasper. fullsizeoutput_238bI even remember having a tiny one that I bought in Banff as a child. This project became much more involved than I expected and deserves its own post, so watch for that one next Sunday.

I looked at my list and I have completed 8 items. Not bad for six months! I have 10 more to attempt. Now it is summer, I can safely explore some of the ravines with my pal Captain. The small town exploration begins next Friday, I have the day off (Thanks Flex Time!) and intend to visit Lacombe and the Farmer’s Market. Calmar and Vegerville are also on that list. It is nice to have things to look forward to. So how do you organize your goals and plan your time?

The Macaron Challenge

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When my daughter was 15, she visited Paris for the second time in her life. It was experienced by her best friends from, all of whom were in French Class. Their guide recommended they visit Ladurée because it was known for making the best macarons in the world. Up until that moment, she had never had one. After tasting one, she knew it was the best thing she had ever tasted and had always searched for a similar experience here in Canada. She brought home a small box and would not let any of us try it. They were hers. She has since learned, macarons need to be eaten fresh, the same day they are made or they lose their delightful texture and taste.

I have raised a macaron connoisseur purely by accident.

For her birthday adventure, we wanted to try different macarons available at bakeries or pâtisseries in Edmonton. We were curious to know who had the best ones. We decided on 3 different places.

  1. Bon Ton Bakery because it is my favourite bread and cookie bakery
  2. Dutchess Bake Shop because it is a classic French pâtisserie.
  3. Fan Fan Pâtisserie because it is also a classic pâtisserie.

We began our day in west Edmonton at Bon Ton and worked our way east.

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We had to take a number. I like this, you can then browse and not have to queue up.

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It was busier than it looked, I just waited a long while for an empty shot.

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We chose classic vanilla because we figured that would be the most common flavour. Vanilla is my favourite, it is complex yet fairly neutral.

We bought two and a loaf of cinnamon bread because it is my favourite bread bakery. Their carrot current nut is my favourite but I wasn’t early enough today to procure a loaf.

Macarons $2.25 ea

Total cost: $11.23

Next stop, Dutchess Bake Shop.

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This bakery once was listed at the top 23 bakeries to visit in the world and for good reason. But since that day the Buzz feed article was released, the line-ups have been out the door.

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We arrived at 10:15 am. 15 minutes after opening. By the time we left, the line was around the shop, out the door and down the street.

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Again we selected two classic vanilla macarons, Tart Amelie, L’Amour croissant, Brioche Pepin and two raspberry rose lemonades.

Macarons $2.00 ea

Total cost $28.88

Nest stop Fan Fan Pâtisserie.

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The shop was tiny but smelled like a bakery and the chef came out to greet us. She was friendly and patient because we could not decide on a flavour. Why you ask? She didn’t have the classic vanilla. So we decided on a classic French flavour and chose honey lavender. We purchased two.

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Macarons $2.25 each.

We took our purchases home and set up a taste testing booth.

 

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This package was from Bon Ton, a cute little white paper bag.

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This package was from Dutchess Bake Shop, a non-descript white bag. Other items were packaged in a Dutchess box with a gold and white Dutchess label.

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A lovely branded clear bag with a sticker from Fan Fan Pâtisserie.

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From left to right: Bon Ton, Dutchess, and Fan Fan.

The Bon Ton had vanilla beans on the macaron. First, we smelled the macaron, it was a non-descript cracker type smell. We both bit into it and it was a crunchy texture. The flavour was mild, could barely tell it was vanilla.

We smelled the Dutchess, it was an intense vanilla flavour. Our first bite was surprising. Light and soft with an incredible vanilla taste. If you ever had a vanilla bean vs vanilla extract, you know the difference. The Dutchess had a vanilla bean essence. This macaron was creamy.

We knew the Fan Fan was going to be a different flavour, so we were judging it based on smell and texture. It also had a non-descript smell but the texture was soft and light. It was not as creamy as the Dutchess but it was fantastic. The flavour was bolder than expected for lavender, but it was lovely.

Our favourite was Dutchess. My daughter claims it is not as good as Ladurée but it is a close second. The price is better too. $2 vs 3 euros but Laurée has nicer packaging and they sell them at the airport in France if you are just catching a connection or didn’t make it to central Paris.

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The gal at the Strathcona Farmers market needs to get honourable mention. Her’s are flavourful but not as soft. We didn’t visit her today but have in the past. Her macarons are $1 ea. Easily the best price.

Our favourite was the Dutchess but I don’t always feel like driving that far nor do I think waiting in line is super fun, but I would make the effort to visit Fan Fan Pâtisserie. It is closer, small and located in Old Strathcona. But I would consider taking a class at Dutchess to learn how to make them and they sell the mix for the shells for $20 at their provisions shop. I suspect it is 10% ingredients and 90% technique to make the perfect macaron.

So tell me, where is your favourite macaron?

 

Rainy Days or the Ohana Donuterie Day

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I love a rainy day. Curling up by the window with a cosy quilt and a great book, I am lost in the coolness of the day. Or give me an umbrella and I am ready to walk and explore my neighbourhoods to see what people are up to when they are not outside enjoying the sunshine. Both are good rainy days.

Yesterday was a rainy day. This was an especially nice alternative to the snowy day we had one week prior. I was sitting on the love seat in my room, gazing outside through the rain splattered window and had the urge to go exploring. I bought an umbrella in Vancouver two years ago and love to use it every chance I get. This may seem odd, but it doesn’t seem to rain enough to use it here in Edmonton. We get rain, often at night with accompanying thundershowers, short downpours that last 10 minutes at most. A long slow rain is my favourite and it calls to me.

I had finished reading and decided to go try a doughnut place in Old Strathcona that I heard about but had not yet explored. I called to my daughter, she was game and then asked the hubs if he wanted to join. I didn’t feel like driving and he is often game. I told him the name and let him look it up on the map. I also didn’t feel like navigating.

Chatter Box and I grabbed our umbrellas and hopped into the car. Soon we were navigating the streets of Old Strathcona when I asked, “Do you know where it is?”

He said, “It seems to be in a back alley, which is odd but I might be wrong.”

He wasn’t wrong. Ohana Donuterie is indeed in a back alley – sort of. 10347-80 Ave, Edmonton, AB. Lots of parking out front. You will understand when you arrive, its an alley but it’s not. It’s the kind of place I would take friends from out of town. It’s warm and welcoming, unusual and delicious.

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Walking into the space, I immediately like the bike rack, it obviously understands the clientele.

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I looked around the room and decided it felt like a ‘new’ Hawaiian shop. It is a new distressed shop. I loved the palet, I loved the decor and I loved the smell of coffee and sugar when I walked in.

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I had heard this place made doughnuts to order while you waited. That meant they would be warm when they arrived on your plate. On a rainy day, warm doughnuts are the perfect snack, pair it with coffee and I am a willing participant!

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Chatterbox ordered: Vanilla Dip with Coconut Cream and a Chai latté with coconut milk and cinnamon. The Hubs ordered Vanilla Dip with Chocolate Cream and a latté. I ordered a Vanilla Dip with Chocolate Custard and a latté. For my son, we ordered a Chocolate Dip to go.

We wandered over to the window to watch them make our doughnuts.

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I have many friends who have visited Honolulu and RAVE about Hawaiian Donuts. They were originally Portuguese malasadas. Long story short, when you go to Hawaii you are asked if you had a donut. If you haven’t, people moan and are sad for you because apparently, they are life changing. I wouldn’t say that, but they are delicious!

These are just as delicious.

But it isn’t fast food. You cannot come here hoping to order a dozen and be on your way – that place is called Tim Hortons and it comes with a drive-thru. Ohana’s is slow food. Just like Hawaii. Things are slow and worth the wait. Except my coffee came after my donut. I like my coffee WITH my donut. I could have waited but there is a very good reason I didn’t.

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The doughnuts come warm. Fresh from the fryer. Yes, warm doughnuts are better. I had a chocolate custard and it was cold. It tasted like Laura Secord Pudding (does anyone remember what that tasted like? I was instantly transported!) I wanted to eat it while it was warm. My coffee came way later and it was just okay. It doesn’t make my top ten coffee list. BUT, its a really decent cup of coffee. Way better than typical donut shop coffee.

I wanted to try the other fillings because they had cream. No one would let me stick my finger in their cream filling. Probably a good call on their part.

I suspect they use a granulated sugar for this confectionary because of the gritty texture. It isn’t smooth like liquid sugar. It made it taste homemade – which it kind of was.

It was the perfect snack for a cool rainy day. It would also be a great late night snack and a snowy day snack. There is also a food truck so, probably a really great festival snack too. It can’t be compared to Doughnut Party because they are different. equally great, but VERY different. While eating this all I could think of was my mom and her love of the Bismark. Do you remember those? Essentially a jelly doughnut covered in icing sugar. They came from the bakery at a time before donut shops in Sherwood Park. The warm would appeal to her too.

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18 for 18: Workshop Eatery

It seems like all I do is go out for breakfast. Not true…well sort of true. I do have a brunch date in April with my pal Karen and I did go out with Rena yesterday but in my defence, it’s fairly icy at the parks around town so my 18 in 18 list is currently being checked off by visiting indoor type activities.

By participating in the challenge I learned something about myself, I like outdoor stuff. I like picnics in the parks, I like explore outdoor places with my pal Captain, I like photographing unusual things. I have two 18 lists. One for The Edmonton Tourist and one for private me. Private me has crossed a few things off the list too. I am even cool with sharing the not-so-private things. I completed the Master Writing Class with Judy Blume. She was the JK Rowling of my generation. Early 70’s I read everything she published, twice. I wrote her a thank you note at the end of the class AND SHE WROTE ME BACK! I cried and squealed and my friend Krista had me print the letter and frame it. I have a copy at work and one on my desk at home. She signed it, Love Judy. LOVE JUDY!!! She knows who I am and now I want to go to her non-profit bookstore in the Florida Keys because JUDY BLUME!!!

I also started a photo series called the Totem Pole Project. You can find that project on instagram #totempoleproject. I have completed private things that are weird cleaning projects but de-cluttering makes me happy. Thanks Mom. I still have over 10 things on that list and 14 on my Edmonton Tourist List but I am finding this project to be strangely fulfilling. It is satisfying to cross stuff off the list.

That brings me to #4, have Brunch at Workshop Eatery. ( South Edmonton is definitely on the prairies) They have their own gardens out front. I love that in a restaurant!

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My pal Warren told me this was a place I would enjoy. He has never steered me wrong, so I made a reservation for a Saturday morning not knowing who would come with me. I left that for the Universe to decide. As luck would have it, my University friend Rena said, “Hey, want to do brunch?” I said, “ABSOLUTELY and I have a reservation!”

I arrived 5 minutes late and she was waiting in the lobby with these beautiful treats! We brought our own eggs to brunch. The staff found that funny.

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She has chickens in her yard. Part of me is jealous and part of me remembers how terrified of chickens I am. I do love eggs and these are my breakfast. I will boil some for Easter because they are already decorated, thanks Mother Nature! I also think they will become meringues with lemon curd nested on top or I will attempt to recreate the meringues from Café Linnea.

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We had the first reservation of the day, the place filled up fast and with good reason. They post on the website “Our menu is small and our food takes time. This is intentional. We would rather do few things and do them well. Be patient, good things come to those who wait!” I have to agree, although I didn’t think I had to wait longer than anywhere else for food, but it was delicious. I can’t always say that at restaurants where the wait is long.

I had a latté (obviously – hello? Do you even know me?), my companion had Alberta peppermint tea.

Coffee was fine, not in my top 10 but better than Starbucks so it was good in my books! ( I like Starbucks) The tea infuser was cool, and pepperment tea is always nice.

I ordered off the menu.

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Huevos Benedicto and the cornbread made this meal perfection.

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Rena had something…something Benedict (I want to say pastrami hash) It was on the specials chalk board.

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Bread comes from Bon Ton, best Jewish bakery in the city and my personal favourite bakery of all time. She also ordered a side of Mimosa. Apparently it was delicious. I am not sure why I didn’t. Mostly because I thought she just ordered juice, it didn’t occur to me to order drinks. Strange but true.

We dined for about an hour and a half in front of the big window. I am surprised great food is located this for south in the burbs of Summerside because usually its just chain restaurants. This is one of the top resturants in the city and I would likely take out-of-town visitors here to wow them. I would definitely eat here again, likely several times. I want to try dinner and come here for my birthday breakfast, but honestly, I swear I do not eat out that often. Maybe once a month, it just seems like more.

Put this on your list and make reservations. Go check out their menu. I was inspired to buy furniture after breakfast, so proceed with caution.

2003 91 St SW, Edmonton.

I recommend going with Rena, she is always inspirational and makes me think. I like that in a friend. She is one of my people. On second thought, find your own Rena. I am sure you have people you would love to dine with.

18 for 18: Brunch at Café Linnea

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A few years ago my parents sold everything they owned and became Hobos. They travel the world by housesitting for people in Europe. It’s a fairly cool gig. They are submerged into the culture of other places, they learned how to feed and care for chickens and goats, they have lived on vineyards and champagne (farms? champangeyard?) estates. We skype weekly to keep in touch and I taught them about fun filters and share features on icloud, I sent epub books for Christmas and photos of my adventures. They returned to Canada for the nice non-winter parts when Edmonton shines its brightest and has the best festivals to play in. Both my mom and I think Edmonton is the best summer city in the world. Lots of people are angered by their leaving for long stretches at a time but the best advice my dad ever gave was this: “No one is forcing you to do what you don’t want to do. Say no, do what you want to do and is what right for you.” It only took me 50 years to live by that. My Epic 50th Year is taking me places I could not imagine for myself yet here I am living my best life. My parents are living their best life. This past year I said no to things that would shock you. But I slept better afterwards. I have my parents to thank for that.

They returned last week after a 5-month hiatus that felt like 6. It was an In like a Lion moment for March where the temperatures plummeted and the snow came down all at once. We were blessed with an additional foot of snow. Welcome, Home! No, I don’t want to hear about daisies blooming unless you brought some. But thanks for the bottle of Bordeaux! Now it feels like winter is gone! Okay, I do like hearing about the meadow blossoms and the fields of green. I also like seeing some of the bad-ass stuff my dad does like this fun photo from my sister (she went to visit them in France) That’s my dad, breaking rules like a boss since 1948. Those are the fun things I like about travel.

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Where was I? Right…they came home!

It was Mom’s birthday this week and what do you get the person who doesn’t want to own anything but only likes experiences? Breakfast of course! We needed a long newsy visit to catch up. I like to take my parents to places they have not been before. Not easy to do for these people. But I succeed every time. I decided to cross off one of my 18 for 18 items while I was at it. We drove down 119 street when my dad said, “How have I lived here all my life and have never been on this street?” SCORE! I did it!

I booked the private dining room at Café Linnea and we were the first to arrive at the restaurant.  I was struck by the sunshine in this place. This is the old garment district. The restaurant is converted warehouse space. They did a fantastic job making it feel warm and comfortable.

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I grew up with those chairs and tables. We lived in the 70’s with the teak modern style. What I would GIVE for those chairs today!

The private dining room looks like it would hold 12 people comfortably. I booked it for 6 and we had space to sit and visit. It was perfect for the welcome home birthday brunch!

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I heard the drinks menu was delicious but we stuck with coffee.

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This was a good latté. It is not my favourite in the city but I did enjoy it. (favourite goes to Mandolin Books and Café Bicyclette) That meringue on the side was chocolate flavoured with melted chocolate concealed within and is now my favourite treat of all time. It was perfection!

We lingered over coffee and tea (apparently the Provence tea was a delight!)  We struggled with the menu trying to decide what would be the best choice. Mom ordered strictly sides because it was her birthday and you can do what you want when you are celebrating. Everyone else ordered a main.

 

The bacon, the sourdough bread and pickled mushrooms were exquisite, everything else was just delicious. We thought about dessert because they told us about the feature, bread pudding french toast. Bread pudding is my Dad’s favourite of all time. He claims the best is found in New Orleans. My parents are experts at world travel so I believe him. In the end, we decided to take mom to Doughnut Party because she had never been before and had only read about it here on my blog, it was also conveniently located next door.  We all bought doughnuts to take home for later.

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Just an FYI, the chocolate banana was life-changing.

Was Café Linnea worth it? Absolutely. Would I go again? YES! I want to try a couple more things on the menu. Maybe take my sister there to celebrate a thing we are planning. Her and I will obviously try the drinks menu.

Go. It is located at 119 Street Northwest #10932, visit their website here for menu and info.

18 for 18: Adult Night at the Muttart

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There is this new trend, or maybe it is just new to me, Adult Night. There was a time where I was looking for family things to do. Now that my kids are adults themselves, I find the less I am around children, the better it is for me to focus on different things. I get very distracted by children, especially clever and hilarious ones. So an evening without them in the room allows me to see beyond and allow the silence in my head to relax me.

I was looking for a new class or something I hadn’t done before and I came across a meditation class at Edmonton’s Muttart Conservatory. I meditate as a daily practice and today marks my 440th consecutive day. I thought experiencing a different way to practice might be interesting. I like learning from other’s perspectives. This class was held on a scheduled Adult Night. Every Wednesday from 5-9 pm the Muttart Conservatory closes its doors to children. I added this to my 18 for 18 list early on, knowing I wanted to experience this. I am glad I made the list, I was tired and didn’t feel like going out but I made myself accountable to the list. So here I am.

I arrived at 5 and had decided to purchase an annual pass. I hadn’t been here since I was a child but had fond memories of going with my family at Christmas to see the Feature Pavilion. It changes with the seasons. An Adult pass is $45.00. Visit 4 times and its paid for. I anticipate visiting on Adult nights and want to go to the concert series this summer. So having an annual pass makes sense for me and ensures I return. I like to get value for my money.

I had time to visit a pavilion before the meditation class began. I decided to go clockwise and began with the Arid Pavillion.IMG_9038

I attended Catholic School as a kid and remember this pavilion from a field trip. The Crown of Thorns plant made quite an impression on me. But I couldn’t find it this visit. I was too busy watching my time so I didn’t miss the start of the meditation session.

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I arrived at 5:30 for the session to begin. The website information was different than the information the instructor gave. I was led to believe this was a 30 min session with 4 sessions that evening so people could come and go. It was one long session where people joined us. I wasn’t prepared for two hours of mindful meditation. Mostly because it involves the instructor talking. When I meditate, I want to sit in silence. However, she also led us on a meditation walk in the Temperate Pavillion. The sites and sounds were like an Edmonton Spring. We have had some extreme cold here this winter so this was a welcome visit.

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The method for the meditation walk was extremely slow. Slower than walking a Bride down the aisle, slower than walking in a crowd. It is akin to walking with a toddler who is just learning. Tiny even deliberate steps. I have severe arthritis in my knees and found this to be an effort to walk this slow, but it was calming and peaceful. It kept me mindful of my steps and breathing, which is the purpose of mindfulness. I can see me revisiting this method especially after a particularly stressful or busy day at work.

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We returned back to the classroom for what I call Savasana or corpse pose. I continued to sit in my chair because of my mobility issues but it was more my speed. The instructor read a short essay from a Buddhist monk that I found to be calming.

At 6:30 we were given a 30-minute break. Who needs a break from resting? I thought that was odd. But I decided to leave and not return for more mindfulness. I had already meditated for 2 hours that day. Time to experience life rather than contemplate it.

I went to Culina the restaurant in the Conservatory that receives rave reviews from Avenue. I think pretentious vegetarian food needs to be called out. The food was fine but I was disappointed. I ordered Shepherds Pie. I received a vegetable medley in gravy (?) topped with sweet potato. I prefer my Shepherds Pie to be traditional. If it isn’t, say so on the menu. The salad was too oily for someone who prefers dressing on the side. This place was full of ladies-who-lunch out for a women’s night because wine was $25 a bottle. I looked at the selection and passed. A single bottle is too much for a single person. Younger me would have felt out of place. While I was the only person dining alone, I wasn’t dressed trendy enough. Business casual was too casual. All I could think was, Avenue Magazine has a distinct set of followers of which I am not one of them. I tend to hang out with people who are comfortable in their own skin, not sitting somewhere hoping to be seen.

I sincerely doubt I will dine there again with so many other opportunities to try delicious cuisine in Edmonton.

After dinner, I turned right and went to the Tropical Pavillion.

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It was getting dark and the pavilion was lit up with soft lighting. Lovely but difficult for photography.

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The humidity was lovely. The room was filled with the sound of water and I thought birds, but I could be mistaken. I stopped to enjoy the orchid house.

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One of my favourite things about Muttart is the way they showcase artists. There was an exhibit in the centre with a No Photos signs. But I took my time to enjoy the installation. The very centre of the Conservatory is a glass fish installation – this was lovely from below.

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I finally made my way into the Feature Pavilion that changes with the seasons. Currently, it is set up for Chinese New Year. Early March it changes again.

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Red and yellow in a garden is one of my favourite combinations.

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It was beautiful. I sat and looked around for a while.

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I can see myself visiting Muttart Conservatory everytime they change the feature pavilion. My next visit will be mid-March. I’ll keep an eye out for classes and concerts but mostly, I want to come here and sit on a bench to read. That sounds like my idea of heaven.

 

18 for 18: Ice Castles

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I am crossing the first item off the list – I went to visit Edmonton’s Ice Castles. Full disclosure, I received tickets from a friend so I did receive a free entry. Honestly, I am not altogether sure I would have paid to enter. $16.95 for Adults, it really doesn’t look all that special on the outside. I did go with an open mind. As I moved closer, it became more spectacular.

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I timed my visit so I could hit the magic hour of sunset. 5:00 pm on the day we went. I wanted to capture photos before and after so I could catch the different light. I am glad I did.

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Different coloured flood lights(?) LED lights (?), I am unsure of the tech, were lighting up the icicles. The time of day made for a very flat light and it was hard to see definition out in the open. As we explored caves and walkways the detail showed itself to be amazing.

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I took time to speak to one of the staff about how they created this giant ice castle. He explained they grew the icicles by running the water then moving the small icicle to where it was supposed to go, then they built upon that by adding more water. The amount of water needed for this was staggering. I am not going to lie, it does concern me.

Environmental concerns aside, I let myself be swept up in the beauty of the art installation.   We wandered through the tunnels and found the fireplace in the centre of the castle.

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Soot was clinging to the ice and the hearth was melting but it was so cold -25C so the warmth was welcome. I didn’t dress nearly warm enough, I needed 2 leg layers but only had one. I had forgotten how much I love the smell of a wood fire. It was heavenly!

We kept meandering around and located the fountain room. This was beautiful.

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As the night became darker the greens and pinks from the lights became more dominant.

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We left to search for the slides, only one was finished when we went through.

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The line was long and I didn’t think my rear end needed to sit on ice. Maybe if I had worn my snow plants, but I passed on that opportunity. You would think Canadians would not find ice so novel, but we did! To the left, we found a throne and I quickly snapped a photo before the next couple sat down. Again, there were massive lines.

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Not interested in sitting on ice, I did that plenty when I worked as a ski lift operator, or ‘lifty’. I remember it well and I have no desire to relive that, but LOOKing at it was so beautiful. I was very happy I decided to go and experience the beauty of the ice.

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Sunset was happening by this time. I looked up and there was the moon. Cold, crisp and beautiful.

BUT SO MANY PEOPLE! I would wait a long time for a shot clear of people.

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I would shoot up or close, fewer people in the frame.

We spent about 45 minutes and saw everything at least twice. There was a lot of waiting while parents were pulling their children through the tiny spots. People were polite and took turns with the exception of a few who knocked my camera over while pushing their way ahead of me. For a crowd this size, I was honestly surprised at the amount kind and considerate people there.

For the most part I found this to be a worthwhile experience. I do realize many families could not afford to participate in this activity but there are other free and beautiful things to do during Edmonton’s WInter. (Honourable mention to Victoria’s Skating Oval. The lights there are also beautiful and its free) Yet Ice Castles is an instagram photographer’s dream.

For times visit the website for more information.

 

18 for ’18

 

 

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Lethbridge overlooking the Oldman River

 

I have been scouring the podcast world for new and meaningful content, well, meaningful for me. I spend a lot of time on the road lately and use podcasts as a way to spend my time. On my way home from Lethbridge, Alberta, I was listening to SuperSoul Sunday. SuperSoul is my church. I spend Sunday mornings listening to thought leaders and their perspective on things. On this particular episode, Gretchen Rubin was a guest and was talking about finding joy in little things. This is something I have been intentional about. So I listened just a little bit harder. I am always looking for easy things to do that will increase my joy. For example, when someone asks me how I am, I used to say the truth. More often than not I would get trapped in a spiral of dark depressing feelings. I now say, “I am great!” or some other positive adjective whether I am or not. I did this as an experiment.  I found when I said great and smiled, I did feel a little bit great or happy or whatever adjective I used. The more I said it, the truer it became. I also decided to say affirmations before bed. I always say “I am happy” along with a few other ones. Every time I say to myself “I am happy’ I  smile involuntarily. Going to sleep happy made me wake up happy. Not happy…more like joyful. It is a far better way to start the day than dreading the rest of it.

I digress…

So back to the podcast. I looked up Gretchen Rubin’s Happier Podcast. She co-hosts it with her sister Elizabeth Craft. I discovered Liz Craft is my Spirit Animal. She gets me on another level. This led to Liz Craft hosting another podcast called Happier in Hollywood with her writing partner Sarah Fain. Again, these are my people! Regular moms who work and aim for happier outlooks in a world that is more dark and depressed than ever. Liz and Sarah introduced me to By the Book. If you do nothing else this year but listen to this podcast, it is worth it. They read a self-help book and follow it for two weeks. It is inciteful and hilarious. You’re welcome. So Oprah led me to 3 new (to me) podcasts and that gives me hours of joyful listening on the road. YAY!

One listener on Happier decided to do a list for 2018 of things she wanted to do. It was called 18 for 18. On this list of non-resolution type things were clean out the junk drawer, hike once a month. Try the new cafe. All things that people say they want to do but never get around to it. She posted the list in her bathroom where she sees it every day. When she feels down, she does something on the list then crosses it off. A simple way to create happiness in her life. It is now a thing or movement, the community is doing it.

I LOVE LISTS! I especially find crossing things off my list super satisfying. I pulled out my Bullet Journal – best moment of my life was finding about this type of journaling, okay so I exaggerate, but it has revolutionalized my work projects and achieved my goal of becoming less tied to technology. I am the type of person who goes big. So I created two lists, an 18 for me filled with new recipes I want to try, little declutter projects and classes I want to take, as well as some private items that I have been meaning to do. The other list is for my Edmonton Tourist Project.

I have been struggling with what is left for the tourist to explore. I had visited all the River Valley Parks in Edmonton – except one. I have been to all the festivals at least once and some I plan to never repeat. I found my favourite cup of coffee – shout out to Mandolin! I know where I love to eat breakfast most often but there are little things I still want to explore. I get lots of recommendations that I should try from you guys and from other friends whose opinion I value. This leaves lots of things to do the Edmonton!

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I made the list. The rules for my 18 in 18: Edmonton Tourist are simple. Do something on the list, blog about it then cross it off. Deadline is December 31, 2018.

  1. Visit Ice Castles √
  2. Have brunch at Café Linnea √
  3. Wine Tasting – ambiguous but there are lots of places to try it including the big Wine Expo.
  4. Have brunch at the Workshop Eatery √
  5. Visit Muttart Conservatory’s Adult Night √
  6. Go to the last park on my list Hermitage Park
  7. Explore MacKinnon Ravine
  8. Explore MacKenzie Ravine
  9. Walk from Fort Edmonton Bridge to Terwillegar Bridge (it’s about a 5k walk)
  10. Go to a board game café like Table Top or something similar
  11. Have Brunch at Rockin Robyn’s Diner
  12. Try Geocaching
  13. Visit 3 small towns in the Edmonton Area and see what they have to offer(bonus points if I find a farmer’s market!)
    1. Lacombe√
  14. Visit the Royal Alberta Museum (when it finally opens)
  15. Go to the Farmer’s Market in the French Quarter the is no longer a thing! What??? So I am revising this and bring over an item from my personal list Photography: The Totem Project  √
  16. Visit the St. Albert Farmer’s Market
  17. Visit the Callingwood Farmer’s Market
  18. Visit the Millwoods Farmer’s Market

I will be visiting this page from time to time to cross things off the list and link to the blog post. It should be a fun year!